Chris Taylor’s 180: Bigger Equals Better “Flawed Thinking”

By Nathan Grayson on January 16th, 2013 at 9:00 pm.

Yesterday, Chris Taylor announced his new evolution-thwacking prehistoric RTS-RPG Wildman, so naturally, we talked about that until we, ourselves, evolved extra mouths so we could more efficiently talk about evolution. But what about, well, everything else? In ye olde year of 2010, after all, Taylor and co debuted Kings and Castles, a “biggest ever” fantasy RTS with dragons, chickens, and hopefully – for the sake of competition – a few things in between. But then it went on hold and dropped off the face of the Earth. So, is it dead along with the “old Chris” who focused on size to the detriment of substance? In addition, we discuss Planetary Annihilation, a GPG-developed, Supreme-Commander-inspired mod platform/operating system called Project Mercury, and why he certainly doesn’t plan on being the first high-profile Kickstarter to fail on the follow-through.

RPS: So then, what’s the deal with Kings and Castles? Is it still on hold, or has a more unfortunate fate befallen it?

Chris Taylor: What happened there was, we were working on Kings and Castles. We were having a hard time finding a publisher. If you remember, I said in the first blog that we wanted to build the biggest RTS game ever. Well, that was part of my mentality. I was still sort of in the past, where bigger was better. We wanted to deliver more of everything to the customer. Bigger armies and bigger maps. That was my frame of mind throughout most of the ‘90s. It became clear to us that that was going to take us much longer to find a publishing partner for.

Now, Microsoft came along with Age of Empires Online, and we said, “Well, we have a business to take care of here, so we’re going to have to take a break from Kings and Castles.” Due in no small part to the fact that we didn’t have a publisher for it, and we didn’t have our own money to fund it. We were going to have to wait until those stars aligned. Plus, working on Age of Empires was fantastic. We were all big fans of the franchise. It seemed like, “Yeah, let’s definitely work on something cool while we sort that out in the background.” Age of Empires got bigger and bigger in terms of our commitment to it. It took up more and more of our time and focus.

Meanwhile, I started noodling around at home on a special secret project called Project Mercury. Mercury was an entirely web-based gaming platform. It was all written in Javascript on Canvas. I was just thrilled with how powerful the platform was. So I started working on a game design for Project Mercury called Wildman. I was going to actually do some RTS stuff inside of that. But then what I realized was is that the nature of web is that you have a big pipe, a streaming pipe, but you don’t have a big install footprint. You have to work with a small data set, because otherwise you have the customer waiting to fill up their memory every time they go to play.

I started looking at action-RPG. I said, “Oh, yeah, this makes way more sense. I want action-RPG and I’m going to bring some RTS elements in.” Then we said, “Well, heck. This is really exciting.” Kickstarter, last year, just kept growing in momentum, and we said, “You know what? I’ll bet you we can get out there and Kickstarter this and people would really dig what we’re doing.But we kind of intuitively knew that people would wonder about Kings and Castles. We want to be really honest and say, “Look. Kings and Castles… It’s sort of like, we don’t know how big the Kickstarter funds could go with the project. We don’t think we could raise $5 to $10 million on Kickstarter.” It was just an honest question we had to answer.

But we think we can do a game that starts smaller and grows over time as we get more and more people involved in the project. When you go Kickstarter, you have to make a commitment and deliver the game. You can’t just make stuff up. You have to commit to what you think you can. So that’s where the Kings and Castles versus Wildman debate started and ended. It comes down to what we thought we could fund. We still believe that. We still confidently believe in that decision.

But it’s very sad for me, because of course Kings and Castles… I was just so excited. We started the Kings and Castles video blog, and I was like… The greatest thing ever was to share the development, to go around and talk to the team members with a camera and all those things we couldn’t do with a regular publisher. If you talked to a regular publisher’s PR and marketing team, they would have a frickin’ heart attack if you were gonna show stuff off and you weren’t going to make it all exclusive and do all that regular stuff. You were just gonna take a camera round and show people what was going on in development.

The real truth of it is is that those video blogs were just fabulous. They were doing what I always wanted to do. So Kickstarter comes along, and one of the things with Kickstarter, especially when Tim Schafer did his Double Fine Adventure, is like, “We’re going to be showing you what’s going on!” And I’m thinking, “Yeah! That’s awesome. We’re with you.” Kings and Castles was a little early. The idea was early by a couple of years. But Wildman is going to hit that right on the head. We’re going to go out. We’re going to Kickstarter. We’ll expose the game’s development just like we did. Lots of updates. Lots of involvement with folks.

RPS: You were saying that, for the longest time, your approach to design and things like that was going bigger and bigger and making things as enormous as possible. Do you think that, ultimately, that sort of approach to game development leads to this end point, where it’s just too big to be feasible? Or it’s too big for people to stay creative. There’s too many risks involved.

Chris Taylor: Yeah. It’s flawed thinking. You grow as an individual. When I was in my 20s and 30s, I was very much into bigger, because things were small. It’s like transistor counts on a chip. If you design a chip and you’ve got 2,000 transistors, it’s easy to go to 4,000 or 8,000 or 16,000. But when you’re at 1.2 billion, you don’t just go to 2 billion. You cap out. I call it the S curve. The S is kind of skewed.

You go up this steep part, and then you flatten out at the top, and you realize that bigger isn’t better. More isn’t better. So you have to retreat to your roots and say, “What’s great gameplay mechanics?” Minecraft taught everyone in the industry a very valuable lesson, that a singular vision, a passion for something, doesn’t have to have state-of-the-art graphics. It just has to have fabulous gameplay. It also reminded us of where we began. People don’t just want high polygon counts [laughs]. Which we were really wrapped around for a while. We were all about the poly counts. It seems like there was a 10-year stretch where all anyone wanted to see was more. They wanted to see water and refraction, lighting models and shit, and you were just like, “We gotta have more.” And eventually somebody hit the reset switch. We came back to reality and said, “Uh, no, gameplay is what we really want. Gameplay mechanics, rules systems, the way that all these systems interrelate, these are what’s important.” Frankly, they’re way more fun to design, too.

RPS: It does bring us to an interesting point, though. You’re going off and creating a new world and a new set of mechanics and things like that. Meanwhile, someone Kickstartered a project that’s in a very similar vein to what you used to work on, Planetary Annihilation. Which is sort of taking what you did with Total Annihilation and Supreme Commander up to an even bigger place.

Chris Taylor: Yeah. When I saw that, I kind of saw the old Chris, you know? I’ve been a firm believer that multiple battlefields is not a good idea. You look at chess and you try to go to 3D chess, it just blows your mind. The brain is powerful, but the brain has limits. Only savant genius type of people can play on multiple boards at once.

Of course, I have no details as far as what they’re doing. I just saw the video like you did, and I can only infer. But that was the old Chris thinking. One of the things we’re doing in Wildman is single-player. It’s the central focus of the game. We believe that the majority of the people out there that are on the PC right now are solo players. Then you leave the door open and you go into a multiplayer game. That multiplayer game is PvE. It’s a cooperative multiplayer game. Folks are getting together and playing against the computer. Then there’s a third phase, down the road, where you can play against other humans.

But that’s a small percentage. It’s in the 10 to 20 percent range. If you look at the number of copies of a given game, like a Diablo III, that are sold, and how many people are online playing even multiplayer, let alone the PvP, the numbers drop off very rapidly. Our goal is to entertain the largest number of people. It’s a core belief that you have to follow your customers and give them what they want to play. You can’t just go and make something because you want to get together with your friends and play it.

The old adage goes, “I designed this game for me.” It sounds good. It sounds good politically. It sounds like you’re an artist with a vision and you’re building the game for yourself. But it’s actually not quite right. I’m not going to say it’s dead wrong, but I’m going to say that when you’re building a product… When you jump in your car and turn the key, you really hope that they were thinking of you when they designed the car [laughs]. So that’s my way of looking at it.

RPS: So then, Kings and Castles – is that also a relic of the old Chris? Or do you want to eventually release it?

Chris Taylor: There’s some great aspects of the game that don’t relate to its size. We can easily manage the size element, the scope of the battlefields and so on. But there’s a lot of love for Kings and Castles here. I don’t think it’s dead. I think it’s actually going to be… Put it this way. If we move forward with Wildman, one of the questions that will come up invariably in the many dialogues we have with the community is going to be, “Do you guys want to see Kings and Castles? Should we open that up for discussion and see if we can raise the money?” They’ll have the answer to that question. I think, ultimately, I’m just going to put the question to the folks who would be buying and playing the game. It’s a pretty closed system at that point. If they say they want it, we’re going to try to figure out how to build it.

RPS: You said that Mercury is a platform. But is it mainly just a map or scenario editing tool for Wildman, or is there more to it than that?

Chris Taylor: It’s actually an operating system. Would you believe that when I sat down to create it, I realized that I can launch apps realtime, just pull them off the server and launch them? So it’s a whole operating system. You can have a word processor running in it. You can run an emulator for a 6502-based game. You could play solitaire while chatting with your friends. It’s a full-on platform. You could log in anywhere and get access to your virtual desktop.

In fact, the very first name I gave it was “the Infinite Desktop.” It’s basically a scrollable, zoomable thing, just like Supreme Commander. You can zoom and zoom out. You can have 5,000 different apps running all over this desktop. The one that you’re zoomed in on is the one that’s actually sucking up the CPU. This was a secret project of mine, and I’m just like, “This is awesome, but I need content for it.” I’d show it to people who are my friends in the industry and they’d say, “Well, Chris, nobody wants a platform. They want a game. They want an application. They don’t just want to run around on an empty desktop.”

Well, that’s when I started getting more serious about what Wildman was going to be on the platform. That’s where Wildman really came from. When folks go to use the mod tool for Wildman, what they’re going to do is launch an app. They’re going to log in. They’re going to be on the desktop. They’ll be able to scroll around and they’ll see this big, wide-open infinite space. Geometrically, it’s infinite, or near infinite. I use the double-precision floating-point value, which means that if you scroll, you’d scroll for a thousand years to get to the end. The app you would launch is the mod tool app, and if you closed your web browser and logged in on another computer, it would appear exactly where you left it.

It’s a completely persistent work space. It’s probably one of the coolest damn things I’ve ever hacked together. To be honest with you. I was sitting there going, “Holy shit, this is really amazing.” I didn’t really come up with an application until I put all these pieces together and I said, “Oh, wait. If we go Kickstarter with Wildman as a compile C app, now we can use this whole system here as a development tool platform. And then what we can do is open it up to the community, and the community can start developing apps on here. That’s even better! Then we’ll have some real synergy as to how all these pieces fit together.” I hope that makes sense.

RPS: Sort of. So it’s a full-blown operating system? When and how do you plan to release it?

Chris Taylor: We’re hoping that, with this Kickstarter, I’m going to be able to turn this up and we’re going to be able to have a real reason to be supporting it now with the demand that’s placed on it from the Kickstarter community. From the backers, frankly, that want to start modding the game. It would happen six, seven, eight months into the development, when we release our first beta set of tools for folks. But the whole thing is that we’d release the stuff as soon as people wanted to play with it. Gone are the old rules of, “Wait until it’s really perfect and polished.” If you tell people, “Hey, listen, if you want to wade into this and fiddle around with it in an unfinished state, go for it,” they can become part of the development effort on it. It’s kind of a crowdsourced development effort.

We could spend all day going through the variables and how they interrelate and what this is going to do to the business. It’s so exciting. Nobody really knows what’s going to happen in the next couple of years in game development. I tend to think all good things, because by nature I’m a positive person, but there might be some disasters that are going to happen too. I just don’t know.

RPS: Yeah, certainly. I don’t think that we’ve had the first real major Kickstarter flop yet, or the one that comes away with a million dollars from its campaign and then never materializes.

Chris Taylor: Yeah. Well, it ain’t gonna be me [laughs]. We really have a sense of ethics, business ethics. Most everything that we’ve worked on, going back for years now, has shipped on time and on budget. We’ve got a great reputation. Plus, for us, it’s not about money. It’s about game-making. Gas Powered Games has been very focused on its art and its craft rather than on the dollar. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve chosen the art over the dollar. Yes, it hurt me as a businessman, but as a creative person and as an artistic person, that’s what allows me to sleep at night, when I know I make decisions that are creatively driven and not financially driven.

I hope people recognize that we’re not going for an old classic, because we feel that… For us, creatively, we enjoy creating things that are new. We also… There’s a bias… These are all influences, right? Nothing is an absolute black or white. But there’s an influences that pushes us a little bit away from doing an old classic game, or a sequel to something, because there’s a lot of that going around.

We think that the Kickstarter audience has evolved over this last year very quickly, and their appetite is increasing for new content and for stuff that’s a little more out-there and fresh and dangerous and innovative and risky. All of these things that feel like, “Hey, I want to plop some money down on something new.” We hope that folks do recognize that, because we’re very aware of it. It’s a critical part of the messaging of our campaign. We want to do something new and exciting.

RPS: Thank you for your time.

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84 Comments »

  1. mehteh says:

    Just give me SupCom3 and not dumbed down for consoles like SupCom2 was or abandoned(ignoring annoying bugs) like in SupCom:FA. I hope Planetary Annihilation will be the SupCom2 that should have been, and some!

    • emilyaustin8 says:

      til I looked at the draft which was of $5774, I didn’t believe that my best friend had been realey receiving money part-time on there computar.. there sisters neighbour had bean doing this 4 only about 8 months and a short time ago repaid the mortgage on their house and got a great new Infiniti. go to..http://cl.lk/263ekzh

    • Wezz6400 says:

      Not gonna happen. SupCom1 made a huge loss, GPG had to fire half its personnel in the summer of 2008 to survive. That’s also why THQ didn’t want to pay for more patches and it was abandoned, no point throwing more money in a lossleader. SupCom2 was a flop as well, once again leading to abandoning (surely they planned for more than just that one DLC).

      No publisher is going to want to put money into a franchise that has proven twice already it’s unprofitable. You might think Kickstarter, but if the public doesn’t buy enough copies to make a game sustainable turning to them for funding of a sequel isn’t going to work out very well either.

      We were very lucky to get SupCom2, but they screwed up and now the franchise is dead and berried. I’d be very, very surprised to ever see another iteration in that franchise.

      • Iskariot says:

        Lol, I would not want to say we were lucky to get SupCom 2. The reason being that it destroyed virtually everything that made SupCom /FA such an epic and unique RTS. After all these years I am still spending a lot of time with Supcom FA every week. I abandoned the very average SupCom2 within a week or two.

  2. Beelzebud says:

    Frankly I found that interview odd. He goes from talking about the “old Chris” who wanted to do everything big, and then ends it by talking about how the first thing he did for Wildman was to start programming an OS for it to run on?

    It doesn’t even make sense to be quite honest. What does having an OS that can multi-task word processors, text messaging, etc, etc, etc, have to do with the game he’s asking us to fund? We already have OS’s that do all of this. Why reinvent the wheel to build a video game?

    I’m perplexed.

    • ScubaMonster says:

      Not to mention who would want to run an OS just for his game anyway? It all sounds like a lot of quackery and actually has me even less confident about any kickstarter he might have.

    • LionsPhil says:

      He seems to have come down with a bad case of the Molyneuxs.

    • FakeAssName says:

      Wow .. i mean did you … but if … how can … *sigh*

      The OS was his own hobbiest project he put together at home, and he was just fucking around with streaming server stuff (probably started working on it to test out ideas for AOAO). It was only after he had built the thing that he realised he had put together a virtual OS that could stream any kind of program instead of just games.

      It was after that point that he started working on Wildman so that he had something to play on it.

      • Beelzebud says:

        Remote desktops have been around for years. I stand by what I said.

        • SwiftRanger says:

          It could be more than that and be a perfect modding platform. Project Mercury didn’t come after Wildman was conceived, it was the other way around.

          • Beelzebud says:

            “We’re hoping that, with this Kickstarter, I’m going to be able to turn this up and we’re going to be able to have a real reason to be supporting it now with the demand that’s placed on it from the Kickstarter community”

            He’s talking about using kickstarter funds to develop it, right there. What does that have to do with Wildman? I stand by what I said.

          • SwiftRanger says:

            “He’s talking about using kickstarter funds to develop it, right there.”

            *sigh*, he says it’s going to be useful to develop it even further when the Wildman kickstarter goes through as the community will likely want a full-on modding platform for that game (like duh). So for the last time, Project Mercury was already developed by CT before Wildman was conceived, you misread his words. You’re making it sound like it’s a scheme to pour funds into a thing “which has been done before” and “which doesn’t have anything to do with Wildman” while in reality it’s a thing “which every modern PC game should have”, that includes Wildman if it ever gets the funds it needs.

  3. JayC1407 says:

    Personally I liked old Chris. If SupCom:FA is old Chris, and SupCom2 plus everything above is new Chris, I’d suspect a sizable number of PC gamers want old Chris back.

    • realityflaw says:

      I had really hoped when SupComm came out that we were closer to seeing a game along the lines of Galactic Conquest modernized into an RTS instead of a puzzle game.

      Instead the influence of Company of Heroes with it’s smaller more tactical battles has grown to encompass most of what’s left of the genre.

      • FriendlyFire says:

        Um, how about no?

        What happened is Starcraft 2 ate everything and C&C transformed in a big pile of shit, leaving us with nothing but CoH/DoW, MoW and TW as RTS franchises (and yes, I’m totally waiting for the reply telling me I’ve missed a really obvious franchise). I’d argue that TW hasn’t exactly down-scoped itself, now has it?

        CoH is a lot more tactical than SupCom, and thus the two have no real relation. It’s just that Relic endured while most other RTS devs disappeared or “refocused” due to RTS games being a somewhat unpopular or stagnant (depending on your perspective) genre.

    • LintMan says:

      Well, “Kings and Castles” Chris is, by his own stated definition “old Chris”, but that certainly comes after “SC:FA” Chris and even after “SupCom 2″ Chris. So it’s hard to say for sure. I think what we want is “really really old Chris”, because we want to keep rewinding past SupCom2. But then, K&C sounded good, so “old Chris” would be alright, also.

    • neonordnance says:

      Apparently the New Chris also thinks it’s ok to take a massive dump on the people who are creating a spiritual successor to his greatest achievement. Is it just me, or is the New Chris kind of an ass?

      Wildman still looks great, but he should be supporting Uber (and the fans who want more SupCom!) rather than flat-out saying that the game “won’t work.”

      • SwiftRanger says:

        Questioning the feasibility of a feature which haven’t been useful for multiple RTSs in the past is taking a dump now? To me that’s constructive criticism, especially when the developer has only showed pure conceptual work. They better think a UI through first.

        He isn’t in a position to gloat extensively about a competitor, he wants Wildman to get all the attention it needs and boy, does it need some.

        • neonordnance says:

          How is it constructive criticism? He isn’t talking about polish or UI, he is rubbishing the core feature of the game– the number 1 reason why the game is being made. It’s called “Planetary Annihilation” for a reason.

          I understand that he needs to get publicity for his game, but Uber and the people that backed them are putting their time and money in because they love Chris Taylor. They love his ideas, they love TA and SupCom, and they want a game which both fully realizes and builds on his core philosophies. For Taylor to turn around and say that the foremost evolution which the game presents to his original ideas won’t work is to condemn the entire game, because the game is built upon that idea.

          Lots of developers have seen their classic games updated, remade and remixed, and the response from the vast majority of them– at least the best of them– is at the very least to wish them luck on their endeavor. There’s no well-wishing in that quote, there’s no ambiguity– he says in very stark terms that the idea (and therefore the game) WILL NOT WORK.

          That is quite simply an insult to the intelligence of Uber and the people that backed them. It’s graceless, needless, and selfishly motivated. Just because Chris Taylor is a rockstar in PC gaming terms doesn’t mean he gets to be an asshole.

          • SwiftRanger says:

            He isn’t rubbishing it, he says multiple battlefields are not a good idea as is it too much intel for a brain to process. That isn’t an insult but a rightful concern if you know what happened in past RTSs that tried it and if you realize what’s already going on on a regular TA/SupCom map (it’s an overload of information, which is one of the most common criticisms of both TA and SupCom).
            It’s a challenge for Uber to make it work and that challenge lies almost solely in the UI (which is as much a cornerstone of this game as slamming planets into each other, no decent UI = no decent TA/SupCom-clone).

            The number 1 reason the game is being made and got funded is because it’s a remake of a classic (which you concur it is), the fact Uber call PA a spiritual successor to TA only proves that again. Smashing planets into each other? That’s a potential gimmick. No-one is sure it could work out, just like with strategic zoom and experimentals in SupCom (luckily those both did work out). Planetary destruction looks great in the concept trailer but how to incorporate it or more imporantly control that in-game is another thing entirely.

            It’s still an interview about CT’s own game. I can’t blame him for switching subject after a few sentences. Not wishing Uber well is being an asshole? He doesn’t wish them harm, now does he? I don’t even know if the split (during Demigod development) has been that amicable.

    • Iskariot says:

      Yes, I want old Chris back. SupCom FA is the most epic RTS ever created. Nothing comes close.
      What killed it is that the engine clogged down very fast. They should have released it with a much better engine. Many people were unable to enjoy the game as it should be enjoyed.

  4. Dariune says:

    I think I disliked about 90% of what the guy said. Bigger doesn’t always mean better but, depending on the game, it can work. It’s just a bit tricky to code at times.

    Having said that, more options and more tactics are almost always better.

    I wont be holding out many hopes for the games ‘New Chris’ makes I think.

  5. Bhazor says:

    “Minecraft taught everyone in the industry a very valuable lesson, that a singular vision, a passion for something, doesn’t have to have state-of-the-art graphics. It just has to have fabulous gameplay.”

    Sadly in this case it translates to “Copying what’s popular now”. Another MOBA to add to the dozens of copy cats out there.

    • LintMan says:

      Well, to be fair, it sounds like more of a genre blend than a straight out MOBA. And with the fact they’ve now promised it to be:
      - single player focused (co-op MP will come second) Can any other MOBA claim that?
      - NOT F2P (unlike every MOBA out there)
      - DRM free
      - playable offline

      All that said, I’m sold.

    • byteCrunch says:

      The developers have explicitly stated its not a MOBA. In any case MOBA is just a sub-genre, Wildman just happens to share similar a root, namely it combines RTS/ARPG.

      Anyway could be interesting but I shall wait for some actual gameplay, or at least a more detailed breakdown of the gameplay.

  6. Morcane says:

    Sigh, another Kickstarter. How interesting.

    I can understand a bedroom indie programmer create a Kickstarter for a game he’s working on (like the FTL peeps), but all these established companies…come on.

    • MellowKrogoth says:

      Established dev studios have to find someone to pay for their projects. It’s publishers that typically pay devs and get to keep the end result. What he’s doing is replacing the publisher by the end users because publishers are not interested.

    • P.Funk says:

      You’re an idiot then. Development firms are not rolling in cash. Publishers have the money and to make the games they have to sell out to the publisher’s desires and irrational beliefs, hence the desire to kickstart most new projects, because it allows the developer to sell the idea to the people he wants to actually sell it to then build it around their input and expectations.

      The point of kickstarter isn’t to fund only tiny projects, its to grow and fund ever larger ones, because thats how you get the monkey off your back. You gotta feed the monkey right? Well what if we shoot the monkey instead?

      Kickstarter just makes sense if you believe in the developer. Pay $40 or $60, fund a project that has a Reddit question period level of fan criticism every day, and you end up funding the project directly without suits involved so that $40 to $60 covers a lot more than it does in a traditional game where only a fraction of that is meant for developers, development, and support and follow on content. Games from big publishers spend absurd money on advertizing, hiring consultants, and of course paying the board.

      Kickstarter lets you be the consultant, but I guess being cynical is better. Go back to hating the state of gaming AND hating kickstarter at the same time.

      Doesn’t mean I don’t have my own things to say about CT since I don’t think I’m as in love with him as I wanted to be when I saw the article, but doesn’t mean Kickstarter isn’t the godsend we needed.

      • Morcane says:

        It’s sad you have to start off by calling me an idiot and being cynical, when you have some good arguments in the rest of your post.

        Thing is, I see too many ‘established’ developers turning to Kickstarter for their games. In some cases, this could be valid (eg., Schafer doing an adventure game; a small to very small market and not interesting for publishers). I pledged for both FTL and Schafer’s adventure game in the past.

        In this case, we have a well-known developer with a string of excellent to okay’ ish titles to his name (in fact, the only really good title Taylor made was TA). It all looks awfully similar to Peter Molyneux and David Braben’s Kickstarters; hinging on past glory and long monologues. Also, the comments he makes on gameplay vs. graphics…duh.
        who the hell didn’t know this? Indie developers sure did. It’s taken him ages to come to this conclusion. In short, he doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence in me, by restating stuff indie devs (and gamers) already know for years.

        But I could very well be wrong, and Wildman turns out to be a very good game. Perhaps it’s a case of ‘Kickstarter fatigue ‘ for me.

        • wu wei says:

          I have KickStarter-fatigue fatigue.

          Can we all stop acting like armchair economists?

          • lijenstina says:

            Real economists sit on a throne made of skulls and gold with small dollar and percentage signs ornaments daydreaming about Credit Default Swaps. :)

          • Otter says:

            Lij has been peeking!

    • SwiftRanger says:

      In case you haven’t noticed, mid-tier developers are vanishing or are being bought up by bigger fish for the past few years.

      If you really think GPG have made enough profit on their own then watch this: http://www.g4tv.com/thefeed/blog/post/702706/dice-2010-hot-topics-adam-sessler-discusses-indie-games-with-chris-taylor-and-mike-capps/ . It’s quite enlightening, too bad KaC didn’t work out either in the end due to lack of publisher interest.

  7. DK says:

    Atleast he’s the first RTS dev who’s acknowledged the facts – the vast overwhelming majority of people play singleplayer. It doesn’t matter how much you want your game to be multiplayer or how much you market it as such.
    People. Want. Singleplayer.
    Hence it makes no sense to focus on multiplayer to the detriment of the part of the game that’s the only thing 80% of your playerbase is interested in.

    • LintMan says:

      Yes, this. So much this.

      • Kamos says:

        This ^ 2.

        Originally (aka a long, long time ago) multiplayer was a relatively cheap way to add extra value to a game that already stood on its own (single player) legs. Later it became a way to sell shitty, overly-hyped, low production value games. More game designers need to understand that often, the basis for a good multiplayer game is a good singleplayer game.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Well, of the modern era, perhaps.

      Westwood in their pre-disassembly-by-EA heyday were always pretty strong on singleplayer campaigns, and C&C was a definitive enough title to spawn a surge of clones; the DOOM of RTSes.

      • Bhazor says:

        Credit where its due, the Starcraft 2 campaign had a lot of effort put in.
        Relic also tend to put Single Player first and foremost.

        • MattM says:

          I really did like the SC2 campaign. Pretty much every mission kept you on your toes. A lot of rts missions involve building a base while fending off a few minor attacks, massing a single high-survivability unit, and then rolling over an excessively large and expensive, but highly passive enemy base. There were so few of those missions in the SC2 campaign that I actually wished for a few more of them.

        • Noise says:

          Starcraft 2′s campaign is probably the best one out there (gameplay wise, not story wise!).

    • neonordnance says:

      I wouldn’t say that this is true across the board. The best games provide a solid experience on both levels. For instance, I’ve been soloing through Borderlands 2 and I love it, but I also know that it would be just as good to play with a friend.

      Games like Mass Effect, Skyrim, Spec Ops: The Line and others have been either exclusively single-player or single-player focused. Games like Borderlands 2, Dead Island, Company of Heroes and Starcraft II have all put a solid amount of time in to making sure both experiences are worth while.

      There are bucketloads of other examples, but these are just games from the past few years which I enjoyed.

      • Bhazor says:

        He’s talking about RTS games.

        • malkav11 says:

          What makes a good singleplayer RTS is very different from what makes a good multiplayer RTS. It’s certainly possible to be both, but I think Dawn of War II and Starcraft II have shown that the best way to do that is to make them essentially different games, which is not how it’s been handled in the past. I mean, RTS campaign modes are certainly not the same gameplay experience as skirmishes/multiplayer, but they’ve usually been using the same units and game mechanics, while Dawn of War II’s singleplayer had loot drops and levelups that were completely absent from the multiplayer and of course SCII’s campaign had plenty of units and powers that weren’t in multiplayer for balance reasons.

      • DK says:

        Relic games from Company of Heroes’ post-relase support onward suffered terribly from the multiplayer focus. They got progressively more obsessed with “balance” and “competitive multiplayer” and less and less polished in terms of singleplayer content.

        And absolutely no surpise – the one multiplayer portion that *really* took off? It was coop PvE – The Last Stand.

        • P.Funk says:

          Which I think is funny because CoH has always been woefully Axis OP. Even BK mod maintained and even in some ways made this worse.

          • neonordnance says:

            That’s not really true. Maybe post-release it was, but by the time I played the most, racking up 200 hours or so playing online, the sides were exquisitely balanced.

            It took them a while, but their CoH post-release support was EXCELLENT. They released a balance patch years after the game came out!

    • MellowKrogoth says:

      Yes, that’s one awesome lesson learned. There was so much bitching by a tiny vocal fraction of players about “balance” for Supcom. You know, the multiplayer “community” who look down on you if you don’t want to get good at competitive multiplayer. Those people always want to monopolize the developer’s attention, while most players would just like their single player or coop game to get some improvements.

      That, and complaints about the AI “cheating”. I hope GPG do a AI War-inspired RTS, where the AI is there to give you a good challenge by whatever means necessary, not to try and emulate a human player.

      • MattM says:

        How much AI cheating bothers me depends on the context. When the AI is controlling something that is presented as an equal player I want it to cheat less. If reasonable strategies can’t work only because the AI cheats that is also really annoying. In Mount and Blade I got mad when I was trying to finish off another kingdom. Instead of having to gather and train troops like I did the AI just got free armies every few days. It caused it to become more powerful as it lost territory by concentrating more and more troops into defending each city I tried to take. The strategy for defeating the AI became counter-intuitive. Don’t bother weakening his production or whittling down his army, instead mass a huge army and attack all remaining cities at once. Let him grab additional territory if necessary in order to spread out his army.

  8. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    Because of the previous blog post I read the title as Kittens and Castles. Which sounds so much better, really.

  9. Joshua Northey says:

    Hmmmm…. I think it is funny a lot of the things he recently “learned” were things the core of the gaming community has been talking about for 15+ years.

    The preference for gameplay over graphics is not a new development. It has always been there. It just took the current ecosystem to get to a point where a individual project like Minecraft really caught on and went viral. People were hungering for Minecraft like things 10 years ago, but ten years ago very little game purchases or interest were indies, and the studios and reviewers are all in the pocket of BIG HARDWARE.

    I say that a bit tongue in cheek, but really I have no idea why literally dozens of what otherwise could be great games all fell into this obvious trap. Way too many resources into cutting edge graphics comapred to playtesting/bugs, gameplay/balance, and general polish. The list is endless.

    • MellowKrogoth says:

      You’d be surprised at the number of people that paint Minecraft as an isolated phenomenon you shouldn’t even try to explain. The lesson about providing good gameplay over shiny graphics seems to have been lost on many.

    • Felixader says:

      Perhabs it has something to do with that it is harder to see oneself.
      When your primary Feedback is PR and PR demands MORE, BETTER, SHINIER, than that could be a hindrance at seeing your own problems, maybe?

      So that possibly can attribute to it taking a bit longer to see the truth.

    • MattM says:

      I think games can be great by really excelling in different ways and that graphics is only one of those. I don’t think that cutting edge graphics are needed for every game, but I when a game does have great technical graphics and uses them to present great art then it can really make that game better. I really enjoyed Metro 2033 and the Witcher 2 in part because they had great graphics. I also enjoyed games like FTL or Dungeons of Dredmor for different reasons.
      I also think that a lot of complaints about graphics are generated by a lack of a final polishing step. Stuff like AA, AF, unlocked FPS, FOV, and resolution settings aren’t big budget items (compared to high poly models and high res texture art) but they can make a big difference in how your game looks. They don’t make a game good, but help the graphics issue get out of the way and allow the good parts of a game come through clearer. Games from 15 years ago with small budgets included these things so when a modern game doesn’t, it feels a bit annoying. Kinda like not having re-mappable controls or having the mouselook inverted/not inverted with no way to switch it.

  10. Bobtree says:

    “Quantity has a quality all its own” -Joseph Stalin

    Bigger can be interesting and different, but without a future-proof interface that fully scales up you will eventually get stuck. Queuing orders for units has inherent limitations, and Supcom never truly got away from micromanagement despite all the useful control features.

  11. Scroll says:

    I would Kickstart Kings and Castles but I would still want it to be big, I want the old chris vision of Kings and Castles.

  12. P.Funk says:

    I thought that that was a surprisingly luke warm reaction to the question about Planetary Annihilation. Not even a “wish them the best”.

    Might be a harmless glossing over, but still… I heard Mavor express a hope that Chris would see their project in a positive light, but I dunno, maybe Chris is secretly peeved someone stole his Annihilation away from him.

    • Trithne says:

      I dunno. I’ll admit to kinda skimming through the article, but what I got from the mention of Planetary Annihilation was my exact sentiment when the Kickstarter first appeared, which was ‘They better have a damn good interface the likes of which has never been seen, or no-one’s going to enjoy playing it.’

  13. wolfinexile says:

    After a long list of disappointments from GPG, starting from the dumbed down SupCom2, Space Siege, Demigod, its hard to have hope that Chris Taylor can actually come up with something really good.

    Now, Planetary Annihilation’s team has many of the former devs who worked on Total Annihilation and Supreme Commander, seem to be on the right track, so we’ll have to just wait and see how Wildman and Planetary Annihilation shape up as RTS games.

    Chris doesn’t seem very happy about PA at all though, couldn’t help but notice how he’s dismissive of the multiple planet mechanic, and then quickly changes the subject to Wildman.

  14. zbeeblebrox says:

    “We believe that the majority of the people out there that are on the PC right now are solo players. ”

    More devs need to get this. I’m tired of seeing single player games wasting their resources on bad multiplayer that nobody plays

  15. SwiftRanger says:

    He has every right to question multiple battlefields as Planetary Annihilation tries to do in some ways. Earth 2150, Dragonshard, Metal Fatigue, Armies of Exigo, etc. decent RTS games but the multi-layer maps didn’t come with a decent UI to keep a good overview of the battlefield at all times (and yeah, overview is the most important thing in an RTS, it’s what GPG really hammered down in every RTS they made through the strategic zoom feature ). I’d rather have him say this than being all giddy about PA, especially when we haven’t seen anything else than concepts of that game. Developers should criticize game design.

    Good thing he doesn’t close down the door on Kings and Castles aka “Old Chris coming back” (if you watched the video blogs it definitely was Old Chris). As for Project Mercury; if this gives modders access to more or less the same tools as GPG for making the game then this is the kind of thing that could come in handy for any future project of them as well. Hopefully it’s less buggy than GPGnet.

  16. Parge says:

    Man, I really don’t like the look of Wildman. If you look at what the fans have really enjoyed from GPG, it’s been the SupCom series. No one is still playing Demigod or Dungeon Siege, which are certainly closer to Wildman as far as I can tell.

    Also, making single player the central focus of the game? “We believe that the majority of the people out there that are on the PC right now are solo players!”. Really? Wow. The only single player game I’ve enjoyed in about 3 years has been Dishonoured which is a really special game.

    • Sian says:

      When someone’s talking about a majority of any kind, arguing that one person – yourself – doesn’t share this opinion is kind of pointless. Usually, when business people say something about the majority, there has been at least some research behind their statement. Maybe the research wasn’t done right, but it’s still more than what you probably did.

      Their first Kickstarter update talked about coop, though, at least for the battle zones, so there’s probably going to be some form of multiplayer. They just don’t want to build the game on multiplayer and then tack on singleplayer. I agree with this very much. While I do enjoy playing games with friends, my friends don’t always have time or are more inclined to play something else, so I, and I guess I’m not alone in this, need games to have a good singleplayer aspect.

      • Parge says:

        Thanks for your clear and concise analysis of the validity of various kinds of research methods Sian. As you have keenly noticed, I haven’t done a wide ranging survey of all PC gamers, and can only speak for myself, my friends, and people I speak to on forums, which is what I have done. As a result of this experience it’s my fundamental belief that he is incorrect if he thinks most people playing on PC are playing single player games, or at least that per hour spent gaming, more is spent on single player games.

        I believe the problem lies in that developers often feel the need to include both a triple A single and multiplayer in games, and this is usually where they fall down, and the quality of one, or both slips. I can’t think of many games that have both. Games like Bioshock, or the aforementioned dishonoured, are better off being Singleplayer games, with all of the development time being put towards this, games like Battlefield 3 would be better off just dismissing the single player campaign in its entirety and focusing all the development time on multiplayer.

        • askarr says:

          I’d have quite the opposing point of view, though I won’t stoop to suggesting that all my friends share it. Every publisher today seems obsessed with multiplayer, social, mobile, in a manner that suggests that somehow they want me playing an RTS on an iPad with people I have never met but inexplicably will call friends. Not going to happen. They want my money? Give me a solid singleplayer RTS experience on a PC that doesn’t break the moment my Internet hiccups. That doesn’t mean it has to be a dramatic campaign per se; just a good singleplayer experience. If you can do it offline, extra points & I might even pre-order. Feel free to tack on multiplayer if you like; I just won’t particularly care.

          For sure I object to this blanket assertion that a given type of game should have no singleplayer just because one person likes the multiplayer more. Besides, there was a time games had both as a high quality experience; why should we lower standards?

          Perhaps I just miss (really?) old Chris.

    • Beybars says:

      And I would like a real sequel to SupCom too, but SupCom was a commercial failure, so I doubt there would be one.

  17. Emeraude says:

    Enough to make me regret I decided to wait for Kickstarted projects I backed up to be released, the better to evaluate the model, before I further invest in any of those.

    Not enough to make me reconsider, sadly.

    I hope they do well, I really like what I’m reading here.

  18. Strangerator says:

    Very sad interview, “new Chris” sounds like he’s going to make crappy games that he doesn’t really believe in, but that might sell well.

    His attitude towards Planetary Annihilation was almost like, “people are too dumb to enjoy managing war on such a grand scale!” It sounds like the dreamer inside of him has been crushed by his big vision games failing to meet sales expectations. For me, the only thing about SupCom that was a failure was the single player campaign. It just never engaged me to carry me all the way through. Chris appears to have learned that single-player lesson, but he is throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

    EDIT: Just watched some of the video blogs for Kings and Castles, and now I’m sad he’s backing away from it. He was definitely going through a Jace Hall phase when shooting those videos. Kings and Castles looks to be a fantasy version of TA/SupCom scale battle.

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