Team Kaizen founders Josh and Trevor Hughes meet with video game insiders at E3
The Electronic Entertainment Expo today has become THE place to get the first look at the newest video games from the major companies such as Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, Ubisoft, Betheseda and Electronic Arts.
This year’s E3 was a monumental one due to the fact that fans got the first look at the the highly anticipated games such as Fallout 4, Halo 5, The Last Guardian, Shenmue 3 and, the remake of the ever-popular Final Fantasy VII.
For Great Falls game developers Josh and Trevor Hughes, however, E3 was memorable for another reason.
They both said this had to be their favorite E3 ever as they met with some of the minds behind huge video game franchises such as Mortal Kombat, Twisted Metal, Little Big Planet, Killzone, and others.
Trevor said they felt like they were accepted as valued colleagues for perhaps the first time. Team Kaizen is the only official independent games studio in Montana certified to develop games for Sony.
“It’s been slowly building over the years, but when the PlayStation Truck came here and they did a video, we first noticed a shift at PSX (a Sony-only expo in December), and they’ve (Sony) always been awesome with us. But, now we noticed how we were starting to be treated like colleagues or almost superstars,” he said.
The fact that they won the Road to Greatness contest last year by a large margin to bring the PlayStation Experience Bus to Great Falls helped pave the way toward their starting to earn their stripes as a legitimate game development company, both Josh and Trevor said.
Cyndi Hughes, who’s not as big of gamer as her sons, also traveled with them to E3 for the second time this year.
She reflected and mentioned that for her, the coolest thing was hearing from so many people about how impressed they were with Josh and Trevor as people and video game developers.
“I lost count at how many Sony execs came up to me and said ‘I want you to know what a wonderful job you did in raising these boys,” she said.
“One of which said to me and Josh, ‘This isn’t for you two to be smiling about, this is for your mom,’ she did a damn good job at raising you two,” Trevor said.
Trevor said with the new-found access came one of the biggest highlights of the expo for him. He said getting the chance to visit with David Jaffe, the lead video game designer for such games as the hugely popular Twisted Metal series and the God of War series of games, was an immensely rewarding experience. Both Josh and Trevor also got to see parts of Jaffe’s newest game, “Drawn to Death.”
“(Jaffe) spent over an hour talking to us and giving us pointers,” he said. “We saw him on show floor and talked to him a little bit, but there was a party outside so we wanted to leave him alone. He then gave us some free beer tickets and then one of the PlayStation MVPs came up to me and said ‘hey David Jaffe is looking for you guys, he wants to hear your guys’ story. And then mom’s like ‘he can come find us and all of the MVPs are like ‘ohhhh, you don’t say that about David Jaffe. But then we ran into him again and he was like, guys, your guys’ story is kind of a long one, so can I hear it? He also gave us some general pointers for our game, which was cool because he doesn’t do that all that often.”
PlayStation MVPs are Sony fans who get special access and offers at conventions and help grow the Sony brand, Trevor said. Both he and Josh were granted MVP status several years ago.
The Hughes’ said anytime they come back from E3 they’re able to bring back ideas and concepts that they can add to their games, the main one which right now is Shattered Soul, which they said they’re still working on completing a tech demo for. Their also still working on their mobile game Burst, which they’ve shown off to the public several times in the past few years.
Josh said with the tech demo, the various Sony executives who need to approve the game before it’s published can all see the same game in action, not simply a plan for how it will happen.
“Without a tech demo, you might have several people with many different ideas about how the game should be, but with one, they can see the art style and the creative direction we’re taking so everyone’s on the same page.”
Cyndi said even before they brought the Road to Greatness truck to Great Falls last year, people from Sony were happy to assist them.
“They spent hours talking to Josh and Trevor on the phone helping them out and they didn’t have to do any of that, so they’ve always treated us well,” she said.
This year, however, all three of them were rubbing shoulders with some of the biggest and most powerful people within Sony’s video game company such as Andrew House, the CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment, Shuhei Yoshida, President of Sony’s Worldwide Studios, and Shawn Layden, President of Sony Computer Entertainment America, among others.
After the Sony PlayStation Press Conference, which Josh, Trevor and Cyndi attended, the entire Team Kaizen/Add-a-Tudez Studio received an invitation to a very exclusive party featuring just 150 people, 48 of which were part of the previously mentioned MVP program within Sony.
“They invited our whole studio to the party, but what was funny is we couldn’t publicly say anything about the party until we were there at it,” Josh said.
Cyndi added that while Josh and Trevor did a lot of networking, she was able to network with several folks, as well.
“During the Sony Press Conference, I went outside to “get some fresh air” and there were these bodyguards standing there. I have this thing where I give key chains to people. Well, I saw them and gave them a key chain and we got to talking and they said, ‘If Trevor has any trouble out on the show floor as he was in a wheelchair, let us know we’ll get right on that,’ and they gave me their personal cell numbers. Well, afterward at the party, come to find out those were Shuhei Yoshida’s personal body guards. So really, we each networked in or own ways and I introduced the boys to people they didn’t know, too.”
Both Josh and Trevor said they’re also both still huge fans of video games and they don’t take for granted what being at E3 from a fan’s perspective is like, too.
Josh said as a fan his most memorable moment was being in the room when Square-Enix announced that they’ll be remaking Final Fantasy VII. He said some of the other folks with Team Kaizen were in tears at the announcement. He said he was over the moon when he heard the news, also.
Trevor said as a fan his favorite moment was interacting with the team behind from Guerrilla Games and seeing teasers of their new game “Horizon: Zero Dawn.” Guerrilla Games is the studio best known for the “Killzone” games.
Trevor added that he was later able to hang out with the team creating the game at the after party. He said the coolest part for him was the fact that the lead game designer gave him his official studio shirt a day after meeting him.
“He literally gave me the shirt off of his back,” Trevor said, “You could still smell the sweat. I made everyone smell it and said, ‘smell the game design, right here.’ Mom made me wash it before I could wear it, but that was really cool.”