Paul Mithra, Lead Designer at Mass Media, talks to YPSH about Midway 3 and announces a huge new game for Home with REAL prizes! YPSH : Thanks Paul for taking some time out of your schedule to talk with us here at YourPSHome today! You first got exposed to games at FunHouse, a production group at Philips... tell us about that. Paul : FunHouse was a crazy group of misfits that created some gorgeous games for the cd-i system, led by game designer extraordinaire Cliff Johnson. Paul Mithra (in the second-to-last row on the left, behind the blue M hat) with the gang from Funhouse. YPSH : Then you moved on to Mass Media? Paul : After a brief stint doing freelance design for Inscape, I landed at Mass Media. I had worked with them while we were both developing for cd-i, since they were making the best set of development tools and a lot of games. YPSH : Mass Media, Inc. is a privately held California corporation. established to design and produce entertainment software. It was born out of "Cinemaware", am I right? Paul : That is correct. Our president was the technical director of CinemaWare and many of our engineers came from there as well. YPSH : In 1991 it pretty much became a production unit called Philips P.O.V. Entertainment Group for Philips Media, correct? Paul : The heyday of the cd-i revolution. We were on the cusp of that phenomena (what, you never heard of it?). P.O.V. created almost a dozen games for the platform, including "Voyeur," a mystery game that made the cover of Time Magazine! YPSH : Mass Media left Philips in 1995 to be an exclusive developer for Time Warner Interactive. Following the break up of Time Warner Interactive, Mass Media has been an independent developer. Mass Media is currently comprised of about how many employees? Paul : We've got a crack team of around twenty. YPSH : You've been with Mass Media a long time. Like 12 or 13 years right? Paul : More like 15 years. Seems like a lot longer. YPSH : Did you start out as a game designer with MM? Paul : The first game I was involved in when joining MM was The Game of Life for the PC. I started out as a hyphenate, designer-producer. Unbelievably we still get royalty checks for that game. Like a buck and half, but still... YPSH : Your name pops up all over the place when it comes to game design. Namco Museum, Pac-Man Collection, Muppets: Party Cruise, Game of Life, to name a few. You have been involved with quite a catalog of titles and on many platforms. CD-i, Dreamcast, Game Boy, GameCube, Nintendo64, PC, PS2, PS3, Xbox and more. What were some of your favorites? Paul : The real trick is being involved in creating the credits for those games. I enjoyed working on the kid-focused licensed titles because the characters are so interesting and have history. Also, licenses like The Muppets, SpongeBob Squarepants, The Simpsons, and Shrek give you the oportunity to work with brilliant people associated with the brand. We also just finished up the Jak and Daxter Collection for the PS3, which was another incredible license to be involved in. YPSH : These days, is Mass Media mainly focused on Sony platforms? Paul : We are platform agnostic, though we have been putting quite a bit of effort into PlayStation Home and the PS3. The PS3 is a particularly challenging platform that we have been involved in from the beginning and have gotten to do quite a few titles for. YPSH : I read this recently, "Mass Media has developed one of the first non-Sony PlayStation 3 implementations of fully SPU based GPU rendering command generation, significantly reducing rendering overhead on the main CPU (used in Saints Row 2 and subsequent PS3 titles)" For us non-tech types, can you put that in layman's terms? Paul : It means that we "hit the metal", which means that we get into the low levels of code to optimize our engine, taking advantage of the full capabilities of a particular hardware platform. I don't know if that qualifies as layman's terms... YPSH : That works We all know and love The Midway in PS Home, which of course, Mass Media developed. It gave us 10 mini-games with 100 rewards and a free personal space (Darla's Den). Was that the first project MM did for PS Home? Paul : Actually, we started with the Neptune Suite, which is a luxury suite situated under water in some tropical paradise, or maybe Dubai. Whales swim by out the huge picture windows. It also includes a couple of mini-games, Scramble and Blast Zone, which are technically the first games we created for Home. That's what led us to develop The Midway. YPSH : The Midway was introduced about two years ago if my memory serves me right. It quickly became one of PS Home's staples. The Green Ticket, used to play the games in Midway, is consistently the best selling item in PS3 Home. To what do you attribute Midways success? Paul : It's freaking awesome! But seriously, we focused on making it a fun place to hang out by paying attention to what you see as a spectator--people having fun! And by looking over people's shoulders you can get a sense of the game play before jumping in. Also, every fifteen minutes we have Free Play Frenzy and that's a pretty good incentive to hang around too. Even the special events, like Darla and Karla's photo opportunities, make it fun to catch the action. In a way we set out to create an entertaining way to get virtual items. Instead of just picking stuff out of a store and paying for it, you get to play for it! YPSH : What was your biggest challenge in developing Midway? Hardware limitiations? Software limitations? Paul : The PS3 is a very capable hardware platform, but to create environments in Home, you have to work within the system designed specifically for Home development. So, where ordinarily we would be programming in C and assembly language, the programming environment for Home is script-based LUA code. These means we are working at a much higher level to do things and it can be a challenge. Sony is, however, constantly improving the capabilities in Home which is much appreciated. We do seem to find ourselves pushing the envelope every time we try something new. YPSH : Where did the idea to build Midway come from? Paul : After creating the Neptune Suite, we wanted to expand our presence in Home and a collection of mini-games seemed like a natural fit for us. The carnival theme probably came from a brainstorming session; it's hard to say exactly who might have come up with that particular idea first. We are very collaborative around here, we listen to everyone's ideas (then we do what we wanted in the first place). YPSH : I'm going to guess that based on Midway's initial success, it was a no brainer to start right in on Midway 2? Paul : We had already started Midway 2 even before the Midway launched. From the beginning we imagined three Midway spaces, as long as the first was successful. YPSH : And Midway 2 continues to put the Green Ticket in the Top 10 Monthly items sold in PS Home. Congratulations! Paul : Thank you! I'm still trying to win my golden bat! YPSH : Now you have twenty mini-games in Midway and Midway 2, and here comes 10 more in Midway 3. First, when can we expect to see Midway 3 in PS Home? Paul: We expect to go live this week! We just completed the final stages of test. YPSH : Was it hard to come up with 10 more ideas for the mini-games? Tell us their names and a little about each. Paul : We've been designing collections of mini-games for quite a while. We have created something over 150 mini-games by now, so another 10 is a drop in the bucket! Besides, that's the fun part and there are a million carnival and arcade games that we can steal from, err, be inspired by! The best part is coming up with the names! The ten new mini-games in Midway 3 are -- 01 Pull My Finger: Drop a ball onto bombs and bounce until all the bombs have boomed! 02 Beans Beans Beans: Beanbag toss at rotating clown heads. Scary! 03 Ms. Fortune: Needs no introduction. Now with the same colors as always, but there are 10 new rewards. 04 Whack Off: Splat the lit bugs before they go dark. 05 Light Me Up: Light the dark lights but don't dark the light lights, all lights lit to move on! 06 Bigfoot: Use your big foot to kick the football through the goals. Looks easy! 07 Puck It!: Knock the teeth out of the goalie one at a time, get to the gums to win! 08 Scattershot: Alien invasion best stopped by an old fashioned ray gun! 09 Dead Ringer: Horseshoe toss to the center of a target, long and low, dead ringer for the center! 10 Penny Pincher: Toss (lots of tosses around here) a penny onto the colorful hexagons for points. YPSH : What differences can we expect to see in Midway 3 that will be a little different than what we have already seen in 1 and 2? Paul : We think this is an exceptional collection of games this time around, some of my favorite ever. We are happy to introduce Marla, the third "sister" of the series. She hosts our "Whack Off" game and if you win all 10 levels, you get a chance to be photographed in her fun and exciting "Den O' Pain." But there are also a couple of huge new things we are introducing with the Midway 3. We are releasing a new space called the "Hot Zone" that acts as a hub for all three Midway areas. In addition, it contains some multiplayer real-time games and a new way of getting rewards. In order to give the player some flexibility about what kind of rewards they want, we give players "Hot Zone Points" for playing the Hot Zone games. Then we have a "Lot O' Junk Redemption Center" with a bunch of fantastic new rewards that they can get by redeeming the Hot Zone Points! The first game we are introducing here is "Hot Streak Air Hockey." This is a two-player real-time game, it costs 3 plays from your Green Ticket to start a game but the winner plays for free as long as they keep winning! And each time someone wins, they increase their Hot Streak number. We have a scrolling leaderboard for win/loss/hot streak records for the top five players. Challengers win extra points for beating players with Hot Streaks; the longer the Hot Streak, the more bonus points they get! We will continue to introduce new games for the Hot Zone in the coming months. And that isn't all! We are also hosting, in cooperation with Sony, the Midway Cash Carnival Sweepstakes! Sony is providing cash and prizes worth around $50,000. There is one new prize to win every week for six months! Players sign up in the Hot Zone and then every time they pay to play any game in any Midway or the Hot Zone they get an entry into that week's contest drawing. The rules and signup spell out the details of the sweepstakes. This is incredibly exciting for us. These are really nice prizes, from 3D HDTVs, to Blu-ray players, to Video Cameras, to Sony Tablets! And, starting on week 16, each prize includes an additional $1,000 cash! And during the entire contest every entry you make counts toward winning the Grand Prize--an incredible $15,000. Don't be fooled--these are NOT VIRTUAL PRIZES. These are honest-to-goodness real prizes that will be sent to the winner's home! All of these prizes are shown in the Hot Zone and once you have entered the sweepstakes, we will also show your current entry status on a screen in the Hot Zone as well. We are so excited about this opportunity and wish everyone the best of luck! (The contest is only open to US residents, see the rules in the Hot Zone. We are interested in expanding this to other areas in the future.) YPSH : Wow! That's exciting news! REAL prizes! Home has never had a contest like this! I know a lot of us are anxious to jump right in when Midway 3 is released. I'm sure everyone will now Any cool standout virtual rewards you can tell us about? Paul : Everybody likes what they like, so we try to create a huge variety of rewards to appeal to a broad range of people. Personally, I like the "Vulture on Head" from Dead Ringer, BigFoot's "BigFootball Helmet," and the "Lima Bean Head" from Beans, Beans, Beans. We've added some really cool things in the Hot Zone Redemption Center, including exclusive Darla and Karla companions! Of course, the maniacs now have a new leather jacket to go for--the Ruby Jacket which is earned when all 30 Midway games are completed to level 10. Good luck! YPSH : Mass Media also introduced Weird Wear. Will we see additions to that line? Paul : We do want to keep introducing new items as we move forward, but for now all of our effort has been focused on releasing the Midway 3, the Hot Zone, and the Sweepstakes. YPSH : The Brimstone Poker Table seems to be very popular, as are the Brimstone Dancers. Any more additons to the Brimstone line? Paul : Stay tuned, we definitely have some plans for the Brimstone line. YPSH : As for personal spaces, Mass Media only did one (if you discount Darla's Den) and it was a big hit when it was released. Will we see another one someday? Paul : We loved doing that personal space and may get back to that avenue in the future. YPSH : As shown by the Weird Wear line, MM seems to have a penchant for fun items. Like the Sneak Attack. Any more fun items like that in the piepline? Paul : Again, stay tuned, we are always thinking about crazy and wacky things we can pull off in Home. YPSH : Before we go, would you care to share any tips we can use in Midway 3? Paul : Use the rhythm method for Lights Out. Take notes for Pull My Finger. You get a special reward for a perfect game of Penny Pincher, carry it with pride! YPSH : Thanks again for talking with us today Paul. I know I speak for all of us here at YPSH when I say we are looking forward to Midway 3 and more fun from Mass Media. And of now even more so with those Sony prizes! Paul : We aims to please.