We know how EA CEO John Riccitiello feels about publicizing a video game developer's name at the expense of the rest of the creative team, but I'm going to defy his expectations. And I'm going to defy the message of the press release I got from EA on Tuesday to promote a new early-2009 Nintendo DS game called "Henry Hatsworth In The Puzzling Adventure."
The reason, as a reporter, that I care about this new game isn't because it's an original EA DS game, a hybrid of top-screen action-game and bottom-screen puzzle game. It's not because in the press release, the game's executive producer promises that the title is "an incredibly unique game."
No, I'm interested because "Henry Hatsworth" is the brainchild of Kyle Gray, a young game designer at "Madden"-studio Tiburon who had a crowd at Game Developer's Conference in the palm of his hand when he first presented the game as an unnamed project that he dreamed up. He was co-presenting with Kyle Gabler, his friend and member of the tiny development team for forthcoming WiiWare game "World of Goo." (Gray isn't mentioned in EA's announcement of the game but is working on the title.)
Here's what I wrote about Gray's game in February:
EA Tiburon developer Kyle Gray showed a flash demo ... and then a snippet of real gameplay of an unnamed but wholly original Nintendo DS title. It features a tea-drinking British explorer slashing a sword through waves of attacking monkeys (though the monkeys may not be in the final game) and fighting giant robots in a mech made out of a transformed Big Ben. And that’s just on the top screen. The bottom screen is a color-matching puzzle game that collects the color-coded vestiges of defeated enemies from the top screen. Players can switch to the bottom-screen puzzle game to activate power-ups for their British hero. The game doesn’t have a name and this one is an internal EA project, not an endeavor that appears to have involved Nintendo outreach. But still, I very rarely see an American game designer showing off an original game for the DS. I typically expect that kind of thing to come from Japan.
New screenshots of the game don't show the monkeys or the Big Ben boss. But the game still looks promising. It seems that EA has a great story to tell in Gray concocting this idea in the midst of a studio known more as a factory for football games. They've already been telling the story of a successful creative insurrection that brought about "Dead Space." Will EA give Gray's creative adventure the spotlight, too? We'll see, but it's the knowledge that this game started as such a personal vision that is going to make me watch it closely as it approaches release early next year.
(Watch videos of Gray's GDC demo at GameVideos.com via this DS Fanboy link.)