Chris Taylor On The Brink

By Nathan Grayson on February 10th, 2013 at 3:00 pm.

Chris Taylor just roared in my face. Neon dance lights are pulsing, loud, bass-heavy music is thumping, and Taylor’s sudden vocal-chord-straining shout is reverberating off our empty corner of a DICE after-party.

Intense. That’s how I’d describe the scene. It’s also how I’d describe Chris Taylor.

“BRING IT ON,” he bellows savagely, veins in his forehead and arms wriggling as though trying to escape. In actuality, he’s only acting out how he sometimes feels in his day-to-day life, but he could’ve fooled me. There’s a powerful authenticity to his demonstration – in spite of the fact that he’s definitely embellishing it by noting it’s how he’d react if 50 ninjas showed up at his front door – and it’s tough not to feel a little fight-or-flight-y. But instead of heading for the hills, I whimper out a nervous laugh.

“I’m very emotional,” he explains, collecting himself. “It’s kind of missing from the world, I think. We could use a little more of it.”

But honestly, this very second, Taylor has every right to be feeling a little hot under the collar. His company’s great white hope, Wildman, is in the absolute deepest of waters. Its Kickstarter’s not even halfway to its goal, and its once spacious month-long time limit has withered to a week. And sadly, the stakes haven’t changed a bit.

“Oh, I shut the company down,” he fires back, un-hesitant, when I ask him about the worst case scenario. “No question. And I’m emotionally prepared to do that now. It’s like unplugging someone who’s on life support. You just have to do it. So the company breaks down to an entity, and I focus on something really small and low-cost. We turn the page and do something new.”

He offers up solo work on mad-looking (in a good way) mod toolset Project Mercury as an option, but that’s akin to tossing his baby and getting to keep the bathwater. It’s small consolation for a company he’s prided himself on for more than a decade.

“I’ve been doing this a long time,” he offers wearily, boisterous presence almost shrinking. “I’ve been fighting on the field for 15 years as an independent developer. I don’t want to sell my soul. I’ve turned down all these opportunities to do it, and it wasn’t exactly to the devil, but it wasn’t a golden ticket either. I knew if I sold, I’d probably be shut down in three-to-five years. I didn’t want that. I want Gas Powered Games to go on for decades. So I’ve been fighting and fighting and fighting.”

Very recently, however, he has won a few small victories. Wildman may not be garnering the interest it needs from fans, but the “evolutionary” RTS-RPG’s attracted attention from a few friends in high places.

“We’ve gotten a lot of phone calls from people who are interested in publishing Wildman,” says Taylor. “But they would love to see us raise the money on Kickstarter, and then they’ll take us the rest of the way. So we still need to fund it, but it probably means we won’t have $1.1 million minus the fees. We’ll have $2 or $3 million, at least. So we have an opportunity here to actually make a much bigger and better game if the fans vote yes in the first place.”

But with less than a week to go, that initial hill’s looking more and more like Mt Everest every day. He admits that previous Kickstarters have rallied to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars in their final hours, but he also has serious doubts about Wildman’s ability to manage a repeat performance. In fact, it’s why the whole layoff fiasco happened in the first place.

“The numbers were not there,” he insists, eyes shifting downward. “They weren’t even close. 75K on the first day. Other comparable Kickstarters have done 300k, 700k. Feargus and Obsidian made their goal in 24 hours. We were off by over an order of magnitude.”

“So a friend with way more experience in this business than me – 30 years – said, ‘You’ve got to shut the Kickstarter down. It’s gonna leak that you did the layoffs, and people are gonna wonder why the Kickstarter’s still going.’ But another friend of mine made a really impassioned point to me. He said, ‘You know, the people who backed you are going to be super upset. They’re gonna be pissed about this.’”

“I decided to do a video and let them decide. That’s where all of this came from. There was no master plan. It was just in the moment. I could never, ever, ever calculate something like this.”

It was, perhaps, a slightly flawed course of action, given that backers had already voted an emphatic “yes” with their wallets. They might have been a teensy bit biased. But Taylor stuck to his word, so here we are. Unfortunately, however, “here” is still quite a way off from where Taylor wants to be.

“I’m mixed,” he says of his feelings when the topic shifts to Wildman’s present chances. “I feel like I’m in one of these weird election things where they’re still tabulating votes. And it could go our way, but you’re looking at the colors of red and blue going up all over the US map, and it looks like there’s a whole lot more of one color. We know that some really amazing things could happen. People [at DICE] have come up to me and said, ‘I’ll put another $8,000 in.’ But what do you say to that?”

So honestly, what’s left to do? Well, in the past, Taylor let his feelings lead the way. It’s not just that he doesn’t try to hide his less glamorous moments, either. When his gears stop churning and start spurting molten oil, he revels in it.

“I gave a talk at DICE one year,” he explains, voice quivering slightly. “The last talk I gave, I stood up on stage and said this industry makes me cry. I cried when I couldn’t find anyone to fund Kings and Castles. I had times when I was so down that I was just a wreck emotionally, and I gave a talk on it, is what I’m trying to say. I’m not shy. I’m not hiding. I cry at my grandmother when I give her a card. She’s gone now, but she’d cry. I’d cry. Every time I look at this picture of my son on my phone and I think about how beautiful he is, I cry. I’m starting to get a little teary right now. This is incredible.”

But those feelings can be a double-edged sword. Sometimes, they produce a strong DICE talk or an on-the-verge-of-tears Kickstarter video that rallies people to action. Other times, well, they erupt into white hot panic, and Kickstarters get declared DOA, people get laid off, and we end up where we are today. Naturally, it’s all left Taylor feeling slightly unsure.

“I think I could really turn the heat up to a level of emotional power where I’m out there, and I’m really laying it on the line,” he offers as a potential method of drawing in more Kickstarter backers. “But I don’t know if I want to do it. Part of me says, ‘Why don’t I save it for raising money for cancer research?’ I mean, it’s a videogame. I get really wrapped up in it, but every once in a while, I have to step back. I’m really into it because it’s my career, but it’s not everybody else’s career. So let it simmer a little bit. Back off a little.”

“There’s part of me that thinks I get a little too intense. I’m an intense person. There’s a real power that goes on. But I’m getting old. I’ve been doing this a long time.”

Some days, you get the ninjas. Other days, the ninjas get you. But Taylor’s not throwing in the towel. Not yet, anyway. He’s seeing this one to the end – bitter or not.

“At this point, we’re just gonna keep doing the updates and see where it goes. With anything in life, you just have to do the best you can. See what happens.”

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111 Comments »

  1. ZIGS says:

    Well, goodbye GPG

    • SelfEsteemFund says:

      [Meanwhile] shitty, uninspired sequels that are barely games continue to make ridiculous amounts of dosh, fucking tragic.

      If you’ve bought anything published by EA/Activision in the last year & you didn’t throw in a few quid to GPG you don’t deserve to breathe to be honest.

      • Lanfranc says:

        If they want my money, they need to make something that I actually want. That’s how the market works, simple as that.

      • woodsey says:

        Shockingly enough, we don’t all have enough money to throw a few quid at every small-sized developer struggling to get by.

        • El_Emmental says:

          Surprisingly enough, most people do have the £40 every single year to throw at the latest CoD from the biggest publisher feeding its stockholders. Same with the additional £35 for the DLCs.

          With these £75, you could fund 5 to 7 indie projects.

      • Filden says:

        SelfEsteemFund: “If you’ve bought anything published by EA/Activision in the last year & you didn’t throw in a few quid to GPG you don’t deserve to breathe to be honest.”

        People that don’t value the games I value deserve to die!

        ARPG/RTS hybrids are well represented, and I got enough action-rpg experience over the last year to last me some time ( a little goes a long way). And frankly, I just don’t find cavemen a particularly sexy concept, artistically speaking.

        I wish GPG the best, and don’t wish to see anyone out of a job, but at the end of the day the thing that is missing from this narrative is a truly compelling game concept that really needs the kickstarter audience. I Kickstarted a number of games over the last year, all of which I felt were more deserving concepts that I really wouldn’t otherwise see from a mainstream publisher. Mr. Taylor simply isn’t selling something I want to buy.

        I do hope enough other people find the idea interesting, and it works out for everyone.

      • Laketown says:

        Maybe if they had made good games I wanted to play I would’ve thrown money at them, but they didn’t so I didn’t.

        Also I love the implication that if you don’t like anything GPG has done then you automatically love activision/EA, real logic right there

        • stupid_mcgee says:

          Also I love the implication that if you don’t like anything GPG has done then you automatically love activision/EA, real logic right there

          I don’t entirely agree with SelfEsteemFund’s post, but you’re overreaching and supplanting a meaning that was in no way, shape or form expressed. It was quit clearly that if one buys EA or Activision games that they should also help fund GPG. The notion of, if you don’t fund GPG then you love EA/Acti, is a straw man.

          • Laketown says:

            That’s not the point though. If he wanted to say the independent game developers in general then fine, I’d almost agree with his post, but he specifically said GPG as though I’m supposed to care about them in particular. There are plenty of other indie developers I’d rather support, ones that don’t gamble their entire company on a kickstarter, for example (I know it’s more intricate than that but you get my point).

            I mean I bought MW2 last november or something with my remaining amazon money when it was hella cheap and thus can’t fund GPG even if I wanted to (because I am broke).

            and as someone with breathing problems it was more than a little rude

          • El_Emmental says:

            “There are plenty of other indie developers I’d rather support, ones that don’t gamble their entire company on a kickstarter, for example (I know it’s more intricate than that but you get my point).”
            Oh the low blow !

            Nice one there mate, a guy, when the company is shutting down, pour all his energy in a last attempt at not selling out the IPs and laying off everyone *right now*, and you call that “gambling” ? GPG is crawling in the mud since SupCom 2 (2010), yet he managed to keep it afloat for 2 more years and give it a chance with a new RTS IP (Kings and Castles) and a new TPS IP (Wildman).

            You can criticize the man for believing in the hardcore/non-casual RTS market (nb: existing IPs relying on consumer awareness are NOT a sign of a healthy growth – Starcraft II sold well because of Starcraft I, not because of the current demand in RTS), or for the failure of Demigod (too broken, too little, too soon), but you seriously can’t insinuate the Wildman Kickstarter is a gamble made with a healthy company.

      • GuybrushThreepwood says:

        The problem here is that EA/Activision/large popularly-despised game publisher is actually selling a finished game that I can take and play immediately. I can read reviews before that to see if the game is something I might like. And you’re being disingenuous if you say that neither EA nor Activision/Blizzard has ever published a game you liked and played.

        Kickstarters are leaps of faith. You have to take the mindset that you’re throwing your money at these projects and you’re not expecting anything back. Because there’s a very real chance that you won’t. We put our faith in Double Fine and inXile and Obsidian because of their track record, the nostalgia surrounding the title and organizations that are in a position to deliver the game they’re promising. We back FTL and Banner Saga and Grim Dawn because they have working parts of their games to show us that they can do it and how it’s going to look like.

        I still don’t understand the decision of Taylor and GPG to kickstart a game in a a genre they’ve never been in before, at a time when we’ve gotten so many of them. They could have gone “Project Eternity” with a spiritual successor to Supreme Commander and that would have most likely done a lot better.

        Regardless, I wish them the best, but I do feel that a lot of wrong choices were made.

        • El_Emmental says:

          I kinda agree with everything you wrote, however a spiritual successor to SupCom wouldn’t have worked at all – it’s such a niche it couldn’t have raised the minimum amount of money required to make that kind of RTS.

          • Xennlander says:

            Except, you know, Planetary Annihilation and its $2,229,344 Kickstarter haul beg to differ.

          • El_Emmental says:

            Well, I pledged for Planetary Annihilation because it spoke to me and is the kind of RTS I’m very likely to play (= try to enjoy).

            Meanwhile, SupCom is really the last RTS I might play (= try to enjoy): I’m not good at all at RTS games and find tons of its “rules” (the genre rules) not worth the effort, and SupCom is going full throttle in that direction with its higher scale.

            It’s really not my thing. It’s like AI War, I’m not good at that genre enough to dig the rabbit hole so deep.

        • RecycledDoom says:

          You’re forgetting Dungeon Siege. Not only do they have experience in the genre they are pretty darn good at it. Think of the game as a prehistoric mix of Dungeon Siege with Mass RTS elements like supcom.

          I think his biggest problem is he’s doing a horrible job of explaining exactly what the game is.

      • jrodman says:

        The fact that I’ve not enjoyed a single Chris Taylor game despite trying on several: irrelevant?

        • drewski says:

          This.

          Although to be fair, I don’t like BlizzEActivision games either.

          • jrodman says:

            I enjoyed Warcraft 2 played on slow time with some amount of save/load in the single player campaign!

            I played a lot of WoW in some 2006-2008 slice. I think I enjoyed some of that. I’m vaguely embarassed about it, but it’s true.

      • reggiep says:

        So, in your eyes, someone who gives to, say, cancer research instead of some charity fund for a badly managed game studio doesn’t deserve to breathe?

        GPG is in the situation it’s in by their own doing. Companies die. The talent they have will go elsewhere. Cancer research on the other hand has the potential to actually save lives.

        Also, who the hell told them to make a Kickstarter with a ridiculous goal? They could have made a bunch of much smaller goals. The fact they went about it the way they did gives me less confidence in their success overall.

  2. sidhellfire says:

    I cannot read while he’s looking at me like that.

  3. Kestilla says:

    People Googling ‘staring eyes’ will not be brought to this page. Instead, they will be directed to Bobby Kotick. That’s not right.

    • BlackestTea says:

      I had no clue the “staring eyes” tag on RPS was so big! Just when I read “staringest eyes”, I realized that there must be more of those in the archives.

  4. Cooper says:

    Making men who are heads of small game studios cry?

    Is this what you do now, Nathan?

    • The Random One says:

      I’ve heard of worse life goals.

    • Low Life says:

      I wonder who’s next. Maybe Warren Spector starts a new small studio, that’d fit well.

      • SwobyJ says:

        I would actually enjoy Spector making a game and would Kickstart back it, if it wasn’t more lighthearted like Epic Mickey.

        Go all Deus Ex on our asses and you got my vote!

  5. Koozer says:

    Is it just me or does he look like Captain Kirk’s brother in the header image?

  6. Tacroy says:

    You forgot the Staring Eyes tag. Oh god, the staring eyes.

  7. Mario Figueiredo says:

    “So the company breaks down to an entity, and I focus on something really small and low-cost. We turn the page and do something new.”

    Seems the sensible thing to do. If the project didn’t succeed and the company structure can’t handle this failure, it’s the right thing to do too.

    It may be tough, but Chris will make it. I don’t see my daughters for 7 months and they are beautiful too. I exiled myself from my own country in Europe into this tiny hole in Africa to try and provide for them. I’m unemployed and the only time I can actually work on my startup project here is when I turn the generator on because over here the constant power cuts mean I only get electricity 2-7 hours a day. I teach the local kids, to make ends meet and pay for gas and food. For the first time I pirated a game, Minecraft, to be able to provide these kids with a form of entertainment they never witnessed before and maintain the promise of fun so they actually come to class.

    I managed to stay afloat. And I’ve not achieved in life even half of what what Chris Taylor did. So I’m sure he’ll manage too. Good luck out there.

  8. Mbaya says:

    A very passionate, open and talented game developer.

    I really hope Wildman somehow manages to succeed, not just to keep the company afloat, but because I actually have an interest in the setting, the gameplay (which isn’t a MOBA despite what so, so many people seem to think still) and the community that’s already sprung up over the Kickstarter is a pleasure to be a part of.

    Many people have requested more work be done on Kings and Castles or a Supreme Commander sequel, the success of Wildman may allow them to pursue those goals in the future.

    It seems they’ve been terribly unlucky with cancelled projects from publishers that led to this situation, it’s a shame.

    I wish them all the best, no matter the outcome.

  9. Jimbo says:

    ‘Some days, you get the ninjas. Other days, the ninjas get you.’

    God, that is so true. When was the last time GPG ‘got the ninjas’ though? SupCom1?

    • fish99 says:

      The expansion, Forged Alliance.

    • elevown says:

      Yeah, that would be FA – which is alot better than supcom in various ways.

    • Lorc says:

      After the patch that reverted the horrible pay-to-queue construction system to a more TA-like style, Supreme Commander 2 turned out to be a very fun game. I enjoyed the campaign a lot more than I expected to, and I play the multiplayer to this day (I can recommend the DLC experimentals).

      • Teovald says:

        I remember enjoying some of the levels of the campaign a lot, like the one when you have to fight against a mass of engineer-thingys building things very rapidly.
        The story telling was catastrophic though. They removed everything that worked in SC/FA and added many things that did not work… The worst part is that apparently this character centered narration style was introduced because of Square, the publisher, that is supposed to have a lot of experience with story-telling (admittedly, this style works for Chrono Trigger, but this is a rts, not a jprg..)

      • fish99 says:

        It’s still a much simpler game than SupCom/FA. They took most of the depth out of the economy.

  10. MayhemMike says:

    This is so sad.

  11. Tyrone Slothrop. says:

    Strong men also cry… strong men also cry.

  12. malkav11 says:

    I don’t get on with GPG’s games, but I do wish them luck all the same. It’s never fun when studios have to close their doors.

  13. Lemming says:

    Thems the breaks, as callous as that sounds. I loved TA, but this Wildman thing just didn’t seem that great a pitch to begin with, and I found the Supreme Commander series too dense for my tastes. Maybe something better will eventually rise from the ashes, who knows.

    I think that’s enough attention given to him now, right? No need to keep pushing the sympathy factor towards his KS (even unintentionally).

    • skinlo says:

      I haven’t seen him mentioned for a few weeks now. Its a fairly big thing when a well established gaming figure does or doesn’t reach a kickstarter target.

    • iucounu says:

      I wasn’t remotely interested in it. I don’t play a lot of RTS games, but I did enjoy messing about in stuff like Age of Empires and especially Age of Mythology; this seemed less enticing than just reinstalling either of those. I don’t know whether they aren’t selling it well enough, or whether it’s too niche?

  14. Hunchback says:

    He should team up with Molyneux and start some great independent studio, then produce games till they burnout, retire and move to Hawai…

    • abandonhope says:

      In a darkness illuminated by a column of light I can see Molyneux dancing around Taylor like an insane wizard, pointing at Lovecraftian horrors just out of vision, sighing with pleasure, and Taylor just standing, his chest expanding and contracting, eyes moistened by a touching birthday card we can never see, periodically growling and snapping at Molyneux, who reacts with fits of giggly laughter.

      • Josh W says:

        What a bizzare image! Although perhaps molyneux should instead be juggling and opening boxes full of other boxes full of strange things, talking about the strange and magical things that are in them, but jumping from example to example, like a mix of circus conductor and chaotic shoe-shop owner.

        • abandonhope says:

          Yeah, that’s way better. My imagination wasn’t sure what Molyneux should be doing.

      • spacevagrant says:

        That was beautiful, just beautiful.

      • Hunchback says:

        Ah, that’s why reading comments on RPS is worth the time!

  15. Hoaxfish says:

    We’ve gotten a lot of phone calls from people who are interested in publishing Wildman

    Are these the same people who approached Obsdian with the offer of “give us total control of the IP, the game and everything else, and we’ll publish it for you even though you’ve already done all the work” or the people who he had to sell all his previous IPs to in order to keep GPG afloat?

    As much as I’d love to see GPG and this game somehow make it, this really just comes across as a bit of a self-sacrifice too far.

    “Go on without me! I’ll fight them off!”
    “but the doors just here, all you have to do is walk through it, and we’ll all be able to escape vaguely intact”
    “No! If I don’t futility stand here we won’t last the next 5 minutes until they blow up this facility!”

  16. pupsikaso says:

    I feel like someone at RPS really really wants this kickstarter to succeed, otherwise why so much coverage of this? And constantly that tone to appeal to people’s kindness, as if kickstarter is a charity you go to when you studio fails. And GPG failed bad. I in fact did not like any of the games they have produced and will not be supporting Wildman.

    • TsunamiWombat says:

      Well, I don’t know about all that. But I am still petty and bitter about SupCom 2. So yeah, not interested

    • jalf says:

      This particular KS does come across as more of a charity/guilt trip thing than a “help me fund this awesome game” kind of thing.

      It’s pretty clear that it was approached back to front: “I need money to keep my company afloat” (which is, to be fair, a noble enough goal), ” and all sorts of industry veterans are getting free cash from Kickstarter, I need to get in on that. So here I am, hat in hand, please give me money and I promise I’ll make you a cool game in return”

      And most of the coverage (whether this is CT’s fault or the press or something else, I don’t know) seems to be about how sad it’ll be for him and for GPG if they don’t get the money, how much nostalgia people have tied up in the company’s games and so on, rather than just being about “Wildman is going to be amazing, please help fund it”.

      I don’t blame RPS for wanting this KS to succeed, and I think it’s great that they’re using their influence and outreach to try to push gamers in the direction they want, even if I personally don’t care so much about GPG’s games. It’s great that RPS does.

      But this KS is not, and has never been, *about* Wildman. It is about giving Chris Taylor enough money to keep his company intact. The game is basically just one of the reward tiers.

      And that’s a major reason why I haven’t bothered supporting it. For a Kickstarter to grab my attention, I want to see that the developer is actually excited about the game, that it’s the center of the universe and everything that matters.

      If I get the impression that “this is about something completely different, but sure, if you want we’ll make a game too, as long as you save our butts”, then, eh… It doesn’t really do much to hype up the game.

      • Shuck says:

        “I need money to keep my company afloat”
        That’s most Kickstarters, really. Except the ones that get knocked because the company doesn’t actually need the money. Game development is largely a hand-to-mouth existence, where teams get just enough money (at best) to finish a project, then it’s back to grubbing around desperately for the funds to keep going.

        • SwobyJ says:

          To be fair, developers also tend to be the opposite of good with money.

          Publishers may suck, but they keep the business continuing.

          • Joshua Northey says:

            This cannot be said enough. For every developer who was put out of business by getting screwed over by a publisher, there are a dozen who went out of business because the decision makers at the developer were game developers and coders with no financial sense who ran the company into the ground.

            They get these big pay days, staff up, gamble everything on the next big game, and then if that doesn’t work out everything falls apart. Developers are generally way way too aggressive with their ambitions.

          • El_Emmental says:

            well, Joshua Northey, the developers “gamble everything on the next big game” because they simply can NOT fund nor develop multiple games at the same time (unless they’re mobile phone/facebook games).

            Meanwhile, the publishers (who never stay small – they ALWAYS grow bigger and bigger, through M&A, to simply survive) can afford shotgunning with 5+ studios, and compensating all the failures/barely even budgets with the very few hits.

            If the developers could do that, they would be able to compensate things like SupCom 2 with some DE:HR, and all that talk about devs being dumb in business wouldn’t take place.

            Publishers do a shitload of business mistakes and burn money on very stupid crap all the time, but their size allow them to survive (or die after a few years – see THQ, who burned so many millions on Homefront marketing and the uDraw tablet) – and they can easily sell off IPs and studios to make quick cash.

            Meanwhile, devs can (almost) never sell their own studios or IPs unless it’s at a discount price (when they’re about to shutdown), and most of them will get fired (and a few hired back at intern wages) if they manage to finally be bought out.

            You do not have the same choices with a budget of 3-to-5 millions of dollars and a budget of 50-to-100 millions of dollars.

          • Joshua Northey says:

            “can afford shotgunning with 5+ studios, and compensating all the failures/barely even budgets with the very few hits.”

            Developers could easily afford to shotgun 5 titles serially (rather than in parallel) if they kept their ambitions in check. You can make very successful games for very small amounts of money.

            “If the developers could do that, they would be able to compensate things like SupCom 2″

            Wanting to complete something like SupCom2 when you don’t have just a giant pile of cash you are sitting on is exactly the type of over ambition I am talking about. You should be risking 5 or 10% of your capital on a project, not 70%.

            “Publishers do a shitload of business mistakes and burn money on very stupid crap all the time, but their size allow them to survive”

            Exactly, see my above comment. Your projects need to be scaled to the size of your resources.

            “Meanwhile, devs can (almost) never sell their own studios or IPs”

            If the past 3 years have taught us anything it is that this is total BS. Plenty of tiny tiny games have had plenty of sales. You just need to match up your expenses with your projected revenues.

            “You do not have the same choices with a budget of 3-to-5 millions of dollars and a budget of 50-to-100 millions of dollars.”

            Absolutely, but if you only have say 100$ million dollars you should not be doing $50-100 million dollar games unless you have a guaranteed income from the publisher.

            Look if you are risking your whole business even on bets with 85% chance of success (which is extremely high for a video game) you are very quickly going to go out of business, because there is a 1 in 6 chance each one fails. So you need to not be risking the business with each title. Not using all your resources to make it the best most amazing thing you can, because that is a foolish way to run a business.

            Look at what happened to Kerberos, who had a very solid franchise they had slowly built in SotS, and then pissed it all away on a giant sequel with a totally new engine and totally new mechanics, and totally new assets, and a much much larger budget. Soon there are overruns and layoffs, and then the project never gets finished, and now the whole thing is basically collapsed. You just do an actual sequel with only incremental improvements and the fans are happy, and the business is still alive.

            Of course such limited ambitions are no way to become famous and the “new hawtness” like Chris Taylor once was, but it is a way to prudently run a business.

    • Teovald says:

      A video game blog covering a video game kickstarter, what an outrage !

  17. Muzman says:

    This is at least the second time some random video frame of the subject looking terrible has headed an article lately. Is it intentional?
    (It’s kinda funny if it is. Should go all out and get those drunken blinky moments too. Sort of anti-PR imagery as an aesthetic)

    • Droopy The Dog says:

      I thought that the header just looks like normal CT. Having watched his kings and castles video diaries, crazy is the default look I imagine on his face now.

  18. RogB says:

    sexytime eyes

  19. Jack-Dandy says:

    Poor guy…

  20. Faxmachinen says:

    Cancer research is animal cruelty[1]. The goal will cause further increase in overpopulation[2]. It’s good for one, bad for many. Now, what about video games?

    [1] http://scienceblog.cancerresearchuk.org/2011/06/21/animal-research-is-helping-us-beat-cancer/
    [2] http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs297/en/ (hard to find neutral source on cancer vs. overpopulation, so draw your own conclusion)

    • MattM says:

      Great medical care reduces population. When the odds are very good that all your children will live you have fewer. When its chancy, people have more kids to make sure a few survive. Most of the wealthier nations have to offer tax subsidies for kids just to keep the birth rate high enough to maintain population. Refusing to treat cancer would be a terrible way to control population. It’s cruel and would mostly kill people after they have had kids anyway.
      Animal researchers do attempt to minimize the suffering of the test animals, but yes it is often cruel. It is hardly the only way we prioritize human life over animals. Even if you follow a strict vegan diet, you contribute to pollution that kills animals and you use goods and services made in buildings that displaced animals from their habitat. In all the ways we exploit or harm animals, I think research is the only one in which any serious consideration is given to their comfort and to the value of their lives.

      • El_Emmental says:

        *slow clap*

        You said everything that needed to be said, thank you MattM.

      • Faxmachinen says:

        My comment was mostly intended as a jab at the Appeal To Worse Problems trope, but since we’re making a discussion out of it:

        When the odds are very good that all your children will live you have fewer.

        Most of the wealthier nations have to offer tax subsidies for kids just to keep the birth rate high enough to maintain population.

        [citation needed]

        Even if you follow a strict vegan diet, you contribute to pollution that kills animals and you use goods and services made in buildings that displaced animals from their habitat.

        Absolutely. Lowering the population is much more effective than having everyone eat vegan.

        In all the ways we exploit or harm animals, I think research is the only one in which any serious consideration is given to their comfort and to the value of their lives.

        Most farm animals have a much better time of being exploited than any research animal[1]. And pets have it even better (yes, that’s exploitation too).

        [1] http://www.defra.gov.uk/food-farm/animals/welfare/on-farm/cattle-welfare/

    • reggiep says:

      Of course, you or someone you love may develop cancer. I’m sure you’d be singing a different tune in that situation. For now, I’m sure you’re happy being an ignorant 13 year old.

  21. Brainkite says:

    Raised my pledge from 30 to 60$ yesterday, can’t go any further for the time beeing. Don’t care so much about wildman succeeding right now even if i’d love to see it coming out. But I really hope the man can go one his crazy fun projetcs and have a less dramatic situation after that.

  22. SuperNashwanPower says:

    Next video:

    “I don’t wanna do it. I’m a good man. Fought in ‘nam. But sometimes a good man has no choice but to do bad things… Pledge, or I HAVE to MURDER more KITTENS. **camera zooms out** HUUAGGGGHHHH **plunges knife into kitten** **shakes manically whilst staring into camera and arterial kitty blood splatters his face** (now crying) Please .. I don’t want it to be this way……**kitty paw falls lifelessly** Pledge, for god’s sake … pledge … “

  23. jack4cc says:

    He will fail, because he makes good games, and those rarely sell well.

    • Xardas Kane says:

      He will fail, because, (Kickstarter pitch problems aside, which have already been listed by others in this thread) he hasn’t made a good game in half a decade. Space Siege was pathetic, Supreme Commander 2 was nowhere near as good as the first one, let alone TA; Demigod was executed poorly, Age of Empires Online was mediocre.

      Don’t get me wrong, I do feel bad that GPG is basically no more, but let’s not pretend all their games are good.

  24. Wonderboy2402 says:

    Why i think this Kickstarter was destined to fail.

    1. Laying out a game that looks comparatively like a MOBA or DOTA. Already games in this genre way ahead of this title and working great. I think you would have been better doing a project on something you have proven to know, similar to a Supreme commander / dungeon siege. Not a radically new IP.
    2. Creating a pitch video / follow ups where you come off as desperate, cynical, ready to close shop (almost sounding already wanting it to die). OH, and you laid off a bunch of staff which was awful timing. Maybe necessary but worst timing imaginable.
    3. Asking for 1.1 million, perhaps a bare minimum for your project. But you compared successful kickstarters such as Wasteland 2 and Project eternity. THESE GAMES are targeted at a genre and style of game not seen in the last ten years, that fans are desperately hungry for. Also, fan confidence in these developers was very high by looking at their portfolio of quality games. Also, many legends of the CRPG industry stepped up to participate in their creation. An allstar team assembled, based on a golden age of CRPG, promising a continuation of what alot of people miss about RPGs.
    4. There may even be a slight bit of Kickstarter fatigue kicking in. Personally I have done about six now. I will continue to contribute to games where I think the developers can deliver the product polished and the sort of game is of interest to me.

    Kickstarter is not a normal means of getting a game. People need to evaluate alot of factors before they decide to chip in. We are investing in a product’s development and there is not necessarily a sure guarantee the end product will be delivered in a satisfactory fashion. I expect there to be some real stinkers released from Kickstarter in the coming months, with some outrage yet to come. People must be smart about what they fund, and not exclusively out of charity. You railed against having your fans donate because of charity, beyond their normal means, and I have to give you credit for that. But you presented this kickstarter and followup updates / interviews in a way that put off alot of outside people.

    The new torment kickstarter is in the works, I will guess it sales past $3 million easy. Probably hitting its goal in under 48hrs. Because? Because of the fan service, the lack of games of its sort on the market, and the creative minds behind it.

    • Christo4 says:

      Couldn’t have said it better myself. I think the first time i saw their kickstarter there were 25 days or so to go and they already had 300.000$. After that they laid off a bunch of people and made videos that didn’t really inspire ME to plegde for them.

      Now they have half when I’m pretty sure this kickstarter could have succeded if they KEPT THEIR MOUTHS SHUT! and offered better information about what the style of the game is going to be. They could have just said that it will be like warband but in prehistoric times with armies of dinosaurs and mystic creatures. I would have pledged for that!

      • Wonderboy2402 says:

        The initial launch of the kickstart was not a “knock out of the ballpark.” It was just an OK start. But the time in between, we learned of all the fallout and the state of the company. That is what KILLED this kickstarter project. And the fund total barely crawled upwards and here it sits at not even 50% with five days remaining…

        I think they would have barely scraped by if they had their community step up their pledges AND continued shouting on high the unique features of their game. Instead of moving this story away from the innovative or cool features of what they were designing, the story became the fall of a passionate man and his company. That has been the focus in the last few weeks and this article today… with the followup article in a week of why this has failed and the closing of the company.

  25. Navagon says:

    I was a massive, massive fan of Total Annihilation back in the day. Then Starcraft came out and I looked at it and thought ‘meh’. TA eclipsed it. Just as it eclipses most base building RTS.

    Well, to me it does. You need only take a look at how RTS have developed since then to realise which game has exerted the greatest influence on the genre. And now we’re faced with another example of Chris Taylor just not managing to gain the popular vote.

    • Strangerator says:

      I’m the same way, I wound up playing Total Annihilation before I played Starcraft. With SC it was kinda like, “where’s the rest of the game?”

      I think a big problem for Chris was the timing. Not just Kickstarter fatigue, but the fact that many of the TA and SupComm/FA devotees were scooped up by Planetary Annihilation and Uber. RTS gamers, in my experience, tend to pick fewer games and master them, rather than sample many. So PA becomes the next great hope, and where does that leave Chris Taylor? He was out big-visioned and out pitched by PA, who also beat him to the punch timing wise.

      He’d have had more luck with Kings and Castles, since it could be compared to TA in medieval times. That type of RTS, grand-scale with base building, has not been done that I can recall. You’ve got your Total War games, which extract the base building up into the strategic layer, and you’ve got more “zoomed in” type RTS games like Warcraft. Can’t think of one on the scale of Kings and Castles. I’d likely have backed K&C, but Wildman never won me over.

      I think for games like Wildman, which make claims of introducing a brand new type of gameplay, you need to begin your kickstarter further into the development. You need to be able to show off more gameplay to give people an idea of what you are talking about, or they will assume you are putting new packaging on something old. I can’t say I blame people for being naturally skeptical, since so many times claims of new types of gameplay turn out being repackaged elements of games we’ve played a hundred times.

      Sorry to see you go GPG. Thanks for some good games.

      • Maniac says:

        Worse yet is the fact that most people at Uber (all the various directors, for one thing) were basically trainees of Chris in GPG once upon a time. and PA is an obvious spiritual successor / heritage to TA…
        So it really must suck, this. But sadly most of their great IPs (Kings and Castles for one thing) would require capital that goes way beyond the means of KS, in the range of atleast 6+ millions…
        I just hope GPG survives, somehow. It’d be a shame if they didnt.

  26. askarr says:

    I feel very bad for GPG going under. I hope they do find a way to turn things around, or quit in a positive style. I am always upset when independent developers go under, especially when they’ve done some great games. Whatever happens, Mr Taylor, I wish you the best of luck.

    Unfortunately, I think the dice were loaded for a number of reasons. Kickstarter isn’t necessarily a place to turn your company around; plenty of backers are incredibly risk averse and only get on bandwagons once they have got going. THQ adequately demonstrated that no matter what you do, if the company’s finances are in deep trouble, it’s very hard for individual players to stop the collapse.

    Wildman is a totally new pitch. It’s very hard to capitalise on existing fans of prior work with a totally new idea. Worse, not all of Chris’ fans fit the new demographics he’s trying to target. I’d consider myself a huge Chris Taylor fan, but primarily because of work like Total Annihilation and Supreme Commander. I’m not even a business consideration, because much as *I* love singleplayer epic RTSes, they just don’t sell very well. Wildman for me just didn’t push buttons; I can’t throw money at something I don’t believe in.

    Also the timing couldn’t have been worse. Elite, Project Eternity, Star Citizen; people have expended their free capital on these and others like them already.

    All that said, I applaud Chris for stating that he wants people to fund the game on its merit, not out of pity or sympathy.

    • lcy says:

      Says it all about Kickstarter when new ideas can’t succeed.

      • jrodman says:

        I see a lot of new ideas succeeding on kickstarter.
        However, I see them succeeding at the 10k-40k level, not the 700k to millions level.

      • Joshua Northey says:

        What exactly are the new ideas here?

  27. Grim_22 says:

    I feel the need to express my love for Nathans writing. Sadly I find myself thinking “Why is this good a writer working with games journalism?”. but then I’m just thankful that he is.

    Honestly, ever since I discovered RPS, it’s become annoyingly obvious how bad the writers are at most other gaming sites.

    • flashmanandy says:

      The quality of articles is slipping across the board, from gaming sites to big news groups. It is a rare thing to see someone write so clearly.

      Chris Taylor I love you and I will back you again and again

  28. Gurrah says:

    I just love Chris Taylor and every game he’s ever made was a day one purchase for me (except Space Siege, what happened there, right?) – and I was disappointed about SupCom2 – however every other game that cam out of GPG was just brilliant and I wouldn’t want to count the hours I spent playing Dungeon Siege and its successor. Sadly, Wildman doesn not interest me at all and as harsh as it may sound shelling out for a prodcut that’s not even there yet and which doesn’t interest me is not something I’m prepared to do. I just hope the end of GPG is not the end of Chris Taylor as a designer, because he does have a brilliant track-record in my eyes.

    All the best!

  29. kupofatu says:

    my roomate’s step-sister makes $67 an hour on the computer. She has been without a job for eight months but last month her paycheck was $12786 just working on the computer for a few hours. Read more here http://www.Cloud65.com

  30. Josh W says:

    It’s funny, I suspect that Chris didn’t risk his company with this kickstarter, but just before it. All those games cancelled in the last few years that could have been kickstarted, if only he’d got here before it was too late.

    Personally, wildman doesn’t interest me, because I have no particular love of MOBA games, non-coop action rpgs, etc. Maybe he’ll make something cool out of it anyway, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they had a number of much more ambitious games in the studio before, that have never seen the light of day.

  31. WebFusion says:

    Well, here’s what you do, Chris.

    Make the game that your fans want. That’s a new-generation, 64-bit, multi-threaded RTS that can SCALE to any size system based on memory and number of cores available. I want an RTS that can scan my system, see all 6 cores and 24GB of memory, and allow me to have 100k units on the screen.

    Make that…offer that…and the $$$ will come a runnin’.

    Business 101 – find a need, fill a need. I don’t want to fund YOUR dream game, I want to fund MY dream game.

    • Beybars says:

      SupCom did just that back in the day, and it was a complete financial failure. Which forced SquarEnix to consolize SupCom 2.

      • Bhazor says:

        I’d argue Sup Com was just ahead of the curve. Same problem as the original Crysis, they hype up all the tech to the point many consumers simply don’t think they can run it. Which was a shame as the game was highly scalable and there were a lot of optimising improvements after release.

        I think complete failure is a bit harsh. There were no official numbers but in an interview before the release of Sup Com 2 he said they’d sold a million copies of the original.

        • Filden says:

          Well, my problem with Sup Com was that I really couldn’t run it well enough to enjoy. I realized that no matter how much I scaled back graphics, I was still bottlenecking at my CPU of that era.

          I really need to revisit SC with a modern quad core and abundance of Ram.

        • Moraven says:

          Oh man, I just remembered playing SupCom 1. Most frustrating 2nd half a game ever. Last mission I was less than 10 fps. How patient I was with that. Had to beat it.

  32. Davie says:

    This does make me really sad, because all of Gas Powered’s previous offerings I’ve greatly enjoyed, and they have such potential to make interesting strategy games, but Wildman is…not that. I can’t justify paying money for a game I have absolutely no interest in playing, but at the same time I really want to just in the hope that GPG survives. I wish Kings and Castles was still their big project; it seemed like they had such momentum there, and it was exactly the sort of thing GPG fans would love.

  33. Jenks says:

    I think Chris Taylor is a great guy, but I haven’t really enjoyed anything he’s made since TA. TA 2 was terrible, and Dungeon Siege felt like the result of someone trying to make the most generic ARPG possible. He’ll still get my money for whatever he does next.

  34. P-Dazzle says:

    I so hope this fails it’s kickstarter. This guy is horrible!

  35. GuybrushThreepwood says:

    Look at the way The Longest Journey/Dreamfall’s sequel’s Kickstarter was put together.

    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/redthread/dreamfall-chapters-the-longest-journey

    It’s a game that a LOT of people who played TLJ have been asking for. Even if DF itself wasn’t the great, referencing TLJ (only one of the greatest point and clickers of all time) was enough to get it 9,400 backers and $540k in 3 days. That’s more backers and dollars than Wildman has. Do we know THAT much about Red Thread Games and Ragnar Tornquist? Has Tornquist ever stared at us with sad, intense eyes? He’s never needed to. He just put together a KS pitch that appealed to his core audience, with a product that’s almost as anticipated as Wasteland 2 and “Project Eternity”.

    • SwobyJ says:

      “Has Tornquist ever stared at us with sad, intense eyes?”

      Kinda. Their video was very “Donate to a developer, save a child” in tone towards the end, and my boyfriend and I laughed about that yesterday.

      But they still got $20 from me, and I might up that to $50 or so if the stretch goals interest me. And I’m a student with some limited funds, not someone making $100,000+/yr with a flexible budget.

      Why? Because even with their video, I saw a dedication from them instead of desperation. Plans instead of just pitches. (Sadly this works –> ) Fanservice to people instead of “What’s this? I’ve seen better in this genre.”

      The problem with Wildman is that I, and many others, just don’t care about the game they’re talking about. Kickstarter isn’t a purely ‘I’ll make what I want to make’ system. You have to propose something that the ‘unofficial investors’ (aka ‘backers’) want to financially support.

      Chris, in a video interview recently, acted like Kickstarter was only a vote of support for the developer and company. No. It’s only partially that. You need to propose and detail a game that people will still buy, or you’ll only get pity donations, not backing investments.

    • El_Emmental says:

      The best being the final shot: 8:24 to 8:30, 6 full seconds of “Tornquist starring at us with sad, intense eyes” :P

      But yeah, their KS is much better made and sounds like a real project, with a game they truly want to make and provide to their fans.

  36. Engonge says:

    A man dies and suddenly he is a saint.
    A game company dies and suddenly all of their games are underappreciated art pieces.

  37. Matindo says:

    After reading so much about this game on RPS I still really have no idea what kind of game they are trying to make, nor am I even interested in finding out from the screenshots shown.

  38. rockman29 says:

    I wish people would just fund this.

    It looks like a fun ARPG. After TL2 and D3 have disappointed the heck out of me… maybe GPG can show me something better!

    At least some small publisher pick them up. Medium sized publisher??? How many other projects from the big publishers look as interesting as this? Not half of them imo :)

  39. Puppy says:

    Great piece Nathan.

  40. crinkles esq. says:

    I guess I still feel the same. I like Chris — or my perception of Chris, having never met him. He will always have my respect for TA. I’ve enjoyed a few other of his games. And I hope I’ll like a few more, down the road. But Wildman is not a concept which stirs my soul. I just don’t believe in it. I think it’s a game that could have mediocre success, maybe make back the dev costs, but then GPG would still be limping along.

    I imagine Chris will land on his feet; he’s talented, experienced, and I’d wager has many friends in the industry. If Wildman somehow succeeds, then I wish Chris/GPG the best on it, and perhaps I’ll be proved wrong. But if not, then I hope to see another concept from Chris that I’d really like to play.

  41. Zorn says:

    It’s a little bit like with Obsidian Entertainment, I have a lot of sympathy with parts of their previous
    work, like quiet some of their guys and their ideals, but I’m afraid they haven’t produced a game
    which I like to play. It’s like having a idea that sounds great, but struggling with transporting it
    from the idea-world to reality.

  42. Iskariot says:

    I will always revere Chris Taylor for TA, SupCom and most of all SupCom Forged Alliance, my all time favorite RTS game.
    SupCom FA is the most epic RTS I ever played. I will keep a PC running till the end of days just for this one single game.
    -
    I was sooo terribly disappointed by Supreme Commander 2. I felt it betrayed virtually everything SupCom/FA stood for. It betrayed the spirit of the original game that featured huge battlefields, incredibly diverse armies, incredible wonderful systematic and coherent base building, complete land, sea and air armies, and in general a feeling of true epic scale. It should have been so easy to build the best ever Supcom on this awesome legacy, but instead we got SupCom 2. A game that was good on its own merits, but a disaster as a SupCom sequel.
    -
    I still hope that someday Chris Taylor will do justice to Supreme Commander/FA and give it the sequel it really deserves. He has to, because nobody else is doing RTS like SupCom. SupCom is a totally unique beast that spoiled me for virtually every other RTS.

  43. drewski says:

    Chris Taylor seems like a dedicated, passionate guy. Sad to see him possibly have to shut down his company, but them is the breaks.

  44. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    It seems to me that his passion would make him good at inspiring people but not as good at actually getting the planning and financial matters and overseeing an entire project thing working as much. You know, a bit of guidance. I could be wrong, though.

    A shame GPG is going under, but on the other hand I wonder who their target audience is and if GPG are/were aware how to reach out to those.

  45. optimus_hippo says:

    The Kickstarter campaign has been cancelled