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X3F interviews James Silva, creator of Dishwasher: Dead Samurai

The annual Game Developer's Conference played host to something of a Cinderella story this year, plunging a once unknown game developer into the limelight. We're talking, of course, about James Silva, creator of Dishwasher: Dead Samurai and Microsoft's new poster child for XNA Community Games. We managed to catch up with James during the conference and ask him how things have changed since the last time we spoke. We also discussed just how James feels about Peter Molyneux and whether or not he's still considering the "Pulling a Peter Moore" achievement for Dishwasher's guitar segments (see 360 Fancast 044 at around 1:05:00). Find the interview after the break. The audio version of the interview is also available in our latest Fancast.

X3F: A couple months ago we talked to you on the 360 Fancast and this was before, obviously, all this. And now all of the sudden your on stage in front of GDC during Microsoft's Keynote. They put together a pretty nice little video, introduce everyone to you. How are you coping?


James Silva: I keep having to pinch myself to remind me that this is, in fact, real. I don't know, it's just been crazy. And, like, going on stage, I'm surprised that I didn't just sort of die. You know, my heart was just like "dun dun dun dun" you know, before going out. And, you know, I was afraid I was going to forget the lines or whatever. But yeah, it was awesome. In fact, now there's a problem, because this was my first GDC ever and I was on stage for the keynote, so I'm never going to have a GDC like this again probably. You know, keeping it all in perspective.

What's the process been like knowing that ... how long have you been building up to this moment right here? How long have they been talking about putting you in the keynote?

They like to surprise me [laughs]. I knew they wanted a trial, I think, about two ... they gave me about two weeks to put a trial together. And then, you know, they sort of ... they never really told me what was going to happen. You know, I just had the vaguest of ideas. And then, you know, the week I was out here, I got the big picture. And I was like, "Six thousand people?" you know, are you kidding me? So yeah.

Have they started talking to you about E3?


That's not that far away. How has reaction been to Dead Samurai? I'll tell you right now I haven't actually had time to play it yet.

I haven't either [laughs].

When I get home, I'm going to download all this stuff, because I'm excited to try it. But have people been telling you good things? What have you been hearing?

Oh yeah, it's great. The XNA lounge, Moscone North, there's like ... I love watching people play it, you know, and just try to sort of hear the reactions. Because, you know, not so many instantly say, "oh, there's the guy who did it," you know?


So, [I'm] not that famous yet. Yeah, the coolest thing, I was like, "Hey, what do you think of the game?" you know, and someone would be like, "Oh, it's crazy. I love the visual style. Whoever made this really put a lot of thought into it." And I'm like, "Yeah." [laughs].

Right now, I guess you're just trying to work on finishing the game I would imagine.


How far along is it?

It's really ... well ... I've been saying that it's been at about, you know, 95% for the last several months, and every time I do about 1% of work, 2% more crops up.


Stuff that needs to get done. So, yeah, it's really close though. You know, there are a lot of challenges with networking. Obviously, it's a game that just ... the action is just so fast that networking with any significant latency is not going to be very fun. But hopefully it'll ... the overall experience, you know, people will forgive the inherent issues.

But the final plan is to have online co-op?

Yeah, the co-op Arcade. And Arcade mode is something I kind of added a little bit late. That's sort of the blessing and the curse of being a one man development studio is you can say, "I have a crazy idea. Let's try it out."

Right now


Right, yeah. You know, I make everyone at Microsoft a little bit nervous every time I do that, because, you know, who knows what it'll do? But, yeah, the Arcade mode, I've made like 50 really short levels where it's just one room and it just throws a bunch of waves of enemies at you. And it's perfect for co-op because there's no ... you don't have to worry about character development like who's got more weapons upgraded than who, you know it's just sit down and play.

Have you looked at PVP kind of stuff, like versus? Or is it just co-op?

It's all co-op. The problem with the Dishwasher, the character, is that he's just ... he's so powerful, and if you had two of them fighting, it would just ... it would be a mess.

Okay. Obviously, you're one guy making this game, but usually we have to ask, the question is what you're going to do next. Because, you know, if you talk to someone at Lionhead, yeah, Fable 2 is coming out, but they know what they're making after Fable 2. Have you put much thought into that, or are you just all into Samurai right now?

Yeah, I mean, I'm just totally focused on getting it done, but I definitely have some thoughts about what to do next. You know, now and again throwing around the idea of a sequel or a trilogy or a series of seven games that's far more epic than anything people can imagine. That was a joke.


I don't know, I've made some old games that, you know, I'd sort of like to revisit. Like this sort of sandboxy survival horror online, you know, it would be like ... actually I can't do that anymore because Left 4 Dead beat me to it.


They indirectly compared you to Peter Molyneux during the keynote. Have you had a chance to actually meet him?

Yeah. You know in the video there's the part where -- it was all actresses and actors in the video, you know, the Hollywood smoke and mirrors -- but the woman who was my second grade teacher, she said, "I had James do a book report and he mentioned Peter Molyneux as his ..." you know [In the video, James had cited Molyneux as a "historical leader"]. And then we were rehearsing the keynote and that video showed. And, you know I had seen Peter Molyneux walking around and I was like, I want to say hi, but I'm too nervous. He's powerful, right? But after the video, I was chatting with some guys, and Peter Molyneux walks up and he goes, "That was a lie, wasn't it?"


So Peter Molyneux called me a liar. But he actually gave me a lot of advice. You know, he was talking to me a lot. It was pretty cool. I mean, he's an awesome guy. He's like a huge figurehead in the industry. I guess figurehead's not the right word. That means he has no power, when in fact he does have power. He's very powerful. Peter Molyneux could actually have me killed.

He's too nice.

Yeah, he is. He's too nice. But if he were not nice he could do it.

Ask him to start talking about his game and you'll be fine.

Well he is going to kill my dog. He told me that, told everyone that. He said, "I'm going to give you a dog, you're going to love it, and then I'm going to take it away."


So I don't know what to feel about him. No, he's an awesome guy. I got to meet CliffyB and Itagaki-san and some of the Bungie guys. It's just ... it's been awesome.

That's insane. To come up like that. i don't know how you really would deal with it.

Yeah, it's sort of like the reality of it is settling in. I think this is all happening, right?

Yeah, as far as I know.

It's definitely pretty sweet.

Do you have -- we ask everyone this -- but any idea when we might actually see Dishwasher, as far as complete?

I'm telling everyone "when it's done." Yeah, as soon as I get back home to dairy country upstate New York, you know, I'm just going to sit down in my bedroom office and get back to work, and hopefully I'll get this thing in awesome shape. I have been thinking about maybe hiring flunkies. You know I'm like five minutes from the university. A lot of people have thought about interning. Just in terms of testing and getting flow, because I am just getting so sick of testing the same level, you know, over and over again. It's an awesome game and I love it, but you know ....

I have to ask you this. Is there any progress on the "Pulling a Peter Moore" achievement?

I mentioned that to someone and they thought it was the greatest idea, and I was like, "I can't take credit." But yeah, that's ... I don't know if that would be a legal issue, you know. You know, you could say, "Be proud Mr. Moore," or something.

There you go. There you go. And you need to find a way to work that in there.


Somehow, somehow. I don't care how you get it in there.

Yeah that would be excellent. And then maybe make one in reference to Gears of War and then The Club and have one that was like, "Yeah, seriously," when you get like, what was it, 10,002 kills or something. It could just be obscure references with the achievements.

That's the best way to do achievements.

Obscure references.

Yeah. Obscure references that no one will understand. They don't care. They just want the points.


That's true.

Thanks for taking the time to do this. I really appreciate it.

Yeah, thanks for having me.

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