The renowned Frontier founder gets the rapid-fire question treatment

FAQ: David Braben

There’s an air of quintessential Britishness about this week’s FAQ star, David Braben.

The mild-mannered Cambridge graduate clearly loves his country and, by extension, disapproves of those who currently govern it. He gets worked up by managing his development studio Frontier and relaxes by sailing around the coast.

His most famous work, Elite, celebrated its 25th anniversary this year. Yet unlike many veterans of the industry, Braben is still heavily involved in game development and has a thirst to continue.

What are you working on right now, and what stage is the project at?
Outsider, and two big and one small unannounced project.

What was your first job in the industry – and what was the first game you worked on?
Working on Elite with Ian Bell in 1982. It wasn’t really a job, but my first money-earning work.

What was the first video game you ever played?
The original Space Invader, in a pub.

What was the last game you played? Did you enjoy it?
Just started Forza III, after finishing Modern Warfare 2. I think both are great. Forza III is particularly well balanced in terms of its gradual learning curve, which I think is tricky to get right in a racing game.

How many hours a week do you get to spend playing games?
Too few! It varies, and ignoring playing our own games, around five-ten hours a week, I think.

What does your desk/window view look like?

What area of the industry (in any sense: gameplay, technical, business or other wise) needs more investment?
Gameplay. It is ignored far too often. A great many games are honed variants of what has been before; there is little experimentation that is apparent to me at least. When a great game that does innovate comes out, then it really stands out as a result (usually in a good way!)

What disappoints you about the industry?
Lack of innovation. Having said that, I have been impressed by the potential for innovation shown by Natal, and Sony’s wand, so I am very hopeful.

What do you enjoy most about working in the video game industry?
The range of things we get to do, and the rate the industry is changing. There has never been another industry that is so broad, and yet has changed so quickly.

Of all the games you have been involved with in the past, what has been your favourite, and why?
Probably "Elite" – because it was all so new.

What websites do you visit most regularly?, EDGE online, BBC News, Met Office (I go sailing a lot!) and Develop Online of course.

What do you do in your spare time that isn’t related to video games?
Sailing, play board games, watch films.

What’s your favourite book, movie or TV show, and album of all time?
Tricky. Patrick O’Brien’s Aubrey Maturin series of books, film: Apocalypse Now or Star Wars, TV Show: West Wing or Battlestar Galactica (the recent four series), Album: Pink Floyd – The Wall.

What game would you most like to have worked on?
It depends on whether I could have changed it. I am very glad to have worked on "Elite". If I could have changed it, I would love to have worked on "Star Wars: The Force Unleashed" – as I think this was a phenomenal missed opportunity. The richness of the world and story gave that game such a head start; it should have been astonishing.

Which other games developer do you most admire?
Shigeru Miyamoto.

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