Smartie has the answers: Derek Smart on Line of Defense

Wish u were here, Geoff.
Derek Smart is either famous or infamous, depending on who edited Wikipedia last. He’s either been making games for twenty years or making the same game for twenty years, and he’s either a maverick indie genius or mad fool, depending on who you ask. But he has never stopped making games. We caught up with him to talk about his new game, Line of Defense, a remarkably ambitious MMOFPS. It was pitched to us as a challenger to Planetside 2, and we asked him more about that.

RPS: For our readers who haven’t time to read your FAQ, what’s the deal with Line of Defense? I understand it’s a bit like Planetside.

Smart: Yes, but the only reason people are comparing it to Planetside is that it’s one of two games like Planetside that are high end and tailored to a more niche FPS market. Outside of Planetside, there haven’t been any games in the MMO space that do that. Line of Defense is being compared to Planetside simply because it’s an MMO, but anyone who’s played my previous games, particularly my 2009 All-Aspect Warfare will recognise that it takes some elements of that game and all we’ve done really is started from scratch and built a new game, sort of targeted it towards the MMO market and because Planetside is already there, we’re getting these comparisons.

RPS: What’s the big conceptual difference between Planetside, Firefall and your games then?

Smart: Well, there’s a lot. For one thing, our worlds are different – much, much larger, we have a lot more assets, we have a lot more gameplay features, and we have the added space combat areas. In Line of Defense, you can do combat in fighters in space, around a planet, you can dock with star stations in space and fight your way through them, and the same thing in a derelict carrier. Firefall is dedicated towards resource collection and stats and all that, Line of Defense is purely about combat. If you can’t handle a weapon, whether that’s a first person weapon, or a vehicle or an aircraft…

RPS: SWTOR has its own limited space combat and Eve is out there, crossing over with Dust 514, will you be doing something similar with Galactic Command?

Smart: Well, I’m just going to flat out say it: the space aspects in both of those games is just rubbish. Eve is more of an accountant’s spreadsheet in a space setting. When you look at the traditional space combat games, anyone who calls Eve one needs to be taken out back and shot. Eve targets a specific market and they’re very good at it – it’s a good game, don’t get me wrong. I just hate when people compare it to what WE have come to know as a space combat shooter, especially someone like me who’s spent 20-odd years developing those games.

Dust 514, that’s just going to fail. There’s no ifs, maybes or buts about it. The proper way I think that would have been done would have been to do an Eve sequel and bolt Dust 514 into it. That’s the problem when you start in one direction, your user base clamours for something they’re expecting and you can’t shoehorn it into what you have right now and you really can’t go back to the drawing board. The thing is, as you probably know, all my games have had this planetary aspect to them. You just can’t have an all-encompassing space combat game where you have planets and you can’t enter them. In my very first game, Battlecruiser 3000, we had that, even though it was patently rubbish, because the technology just wasn’t there. If you trace all my games from that first one in ’96, you’ll see that with every derivative version, every sequel, it’s always progressed, to put more attention on the Planetside aspects of it. All-Aspect Warfare is predominantly about planet-side combat, with a space element. Galactic Command Online is just a kind of game, that takes all that, and adds the complexity from my previous games. It’s Eve plus Dust 514 on steroids, the difference being I’ve spent twenty years doing that. Galactic Command Online won’t be anything like Eve or Dust, because I’m not tacking anything on. Every single thing about planet-side combat, trading, exploration, space combat, going inside stations… it’s all built in. You get to see a preview of Galactic Command Online in Line of Defense because both games share that engine we’re building. I’ve never started from scratch if I haven’t had to, why reinvent the wheel?

RPS: So you always iterate on the existing engine, are there still bits of code in there from your first game?

Smart: For Line of Defense? We actually wanted to build it off the All-Aspect Warfare engine, but one of the biggest problems with that game, in my opinion and that of my install base, was that the world was too large. You cannot populate such a large area and really do it justice, and still not have performance issues. Though that game sold, I wanted to do more on the planets, worlds and regions but couldn’t. We built a prototype engine off All-Aspect Warfare, a few months later, I looked at it and thought “you know, I’m trying to shoehorn legacy tech in with new tech. You can spend twelve months trying to shoehorn these techs together or you can spend twelve months doing something else.”

We just scrapped the whole thing and went and licensed the Trinergy Vision engine, now called the Havok engine, and rebooted the project. Anything to do with logic or AI, like weapons-handling from All-Aspect Warfare, we used, if it had to be done from scratch, we did it from scratch. The most important thing in LoD, I wanted to build an all-Aspect Warfare on steroids but this time do it properly in how the worlds were built. To populate them properly, I needed a very, very powerful engine and I didn’t want to build one.

RPS: You hoped the game would be out in 2011. How far did working with the new engine set you back?

Smart: It set us back four months, it wasn’t such a big deal. The thing with licensing a really good engine is that all you bring are your assets and your logic. For us, because there was nothing in the prototype we could rescue with minimum effort, we ported what we could, trashed what we couldn’t, and licensed a whole bunch of Middleware, Speedtree for the trees, something else for the animation. In my estimation it set us back about six months. I wanted it out for Christmas 2011 but I pushed it back to June 2012, there was no incentive for me to release it as I didn’t need the money. One of those luxuries being an indie: I didn’t want to do All-Aspect Warfare 1.5. With the feedback we’re getting from the stuff we’ve shown, I think I made a good decision there, but we’ll have to wait and see.

RPS: You’re doing your battles in limited areas and with population caps of 256. Is this decision taken from All-Aspect Warfare essentially being a beta for this game?

Smart: In a way, yes. I wanted to make sure the planet-bound worlds were detailed enough to make them interesting. Anyone who compares a base in All-Aspect Warfare to a base in Line of Defense will automatically see that they’re night and day. But all those things come at a price, the more detailed you make a world, the more hassles you’re going to get in terms of performance, and if it’s a multiplayer game, well, all bets are off. This time I decided not to compromise on the world but on the multiplayer experience – because I don’t really need a million people in one small 250 square kilometre base, but if I had 256 people who love the world they’re playing in and we can go over the top in populating it, I think that’s a better trade off.

RPS: Could you give me an example of a good space combat game, if you think Eve is a bad one?

Smart: X-wing Vs Tie-Fighter!

RPS: Do you think there’s been anything since X-Wing that’s matched up to it?

Smart: No, no. Wing Commander was okay, but that was a different kind of game. All these games have an audience and all go their own way.

RPS: Freespace?

Smart: Yes, I was coming to that. Freespace 2. There have been a few, but gamers are finicky, you know? When you want to build these kind of games, you really have to know your audience, because you really can’t please everyone. Someone who plays Freespace or Eve, there’s always something they want “why I can’t go onto a planet?” or “Why can’t we have Newtonian physics?” Independence War was a really, really good one, which had really nice environments and a good space combat engine. You can’t really compare them, they each have their own audience and we like them all equally.

RPS: And a good MMOFPS? Has anything beaten Planetside?

Smart: Well, the original I thought was good. The problem with the original was, in my opinion, that it was way ahead of its time. It had its problems, but back then everyone was crazy over Orcs and Elves. It kind of petered out. I’m a big fan of all games, I have an exceptionally, unhealthily large library, and I chatted with some of the Planetside developers about this, my biggest concern is that they’re looking to do Planetside 1.5 and I think they’ll regret it. From what I’ve seen and heard, I don’t think they’ve gone far enough. Just because it was ahead of its time, it doesn’t mean that Planetside is going to work in 2012. Gamers expect more. I’m sure it’ll do the numbers, but only this time it won’t be ahead of its time, this time, it won’t be able to compete.

RPS: Planetside is a fairly egalitarian game: everyone can compete after completing training. Your game is more elitist, you’ve described how there’s an ultimate load-out in your game and if you saw him, you’d want to run away.

Smart: The reason I mentioned that is, you have the ability to build your character anyway you want. You’re going to be the guy who’s going to get access to all the best vehicles and items, have all this crap falling off him, but also there might be another guy like me who’s spent all his resources on a high-powered sniper rifle with an X-64 scope and a jetpack, and I’m the guy who’s at the top of a building who can take your head off with one shot and that character you spent all that time building is now worthless. That’s how I want the game to play out, so that no-one feels intimidated by something somebody else has, which is what’s good about having a game based on twitch, not based on skills that you buy.

RPS: Assuming the game has matured, a new person coming into the game won’t find this a level playing field?

Smart: Absolutely not. Everybody has the ability to stand out on his own. Let’s face it, games are not competition, if you take competition what’s the point. You have someone who wins and you have someone who loses. If I’m a new player and I started off with a shotgun and a few grenades, I’m certainly not going to engage with guys running around with rocket launchers. I mean you don’t that in a regular FPS, it’s foolish. I don’t expect anyone to do that in this game, but this isn’t a game where hit or miss is determined by rolling the dice. It’s not a game where you can buy a skill that makes you shoot straight; if you remember Planetside, because of the technology at the time, firing was based on a curve. So even if you had the best weapon and tech, you still had to compensate for that firing curve. In this game, someone starting off who wants to be involved in high-level combat anytime, anywhere has to use his senses and know his limitations. A man’s got to know his limitations.

RPS: Do you think you know your limitations, Dr Smart?

Smart: No, I don’t. Being aware of my limitations would mean I set a goal for myself that’s unachievable. If I did think about them I wouldn’t still be doing games that very few people play. The fact of the matter is I do games and I do design. Sometimes, you think “can I do this?”; of course I bloody well can. The more you aspire to excel at something, the more you’re good at something that you really believe in, the limitations go out the door, because you get blind-sided by what you’re doing and common sense takes a back seat.

RPS: Other people go “we’ve been told that doesn’t work” and don’t do it. You go right ahead and find that out for yourself.

Smart: Yep. When I started out, people kept telling me it can’t be done. Then there were people all over the internet, knocking the technology, of course I released the game and all that chatter ended up being rubbish because, 20 years and 14 games later, I’m doing the same damn game. Because I perfected what I started out doing, I just ended up iterating in different forms over the years. And I got good at it.

RPS: The industry has come full circle from people programming in their bedrooms to having to work for massive publishers because there was no other way of getting games out there, to back to people making mobile games in tiny teams. You’ve been doing it all the time; do you feel vindicated in your model?

Smart: In a sense, yes, but I don’t consider it vindication. It’s like the internet; we all started out on crap modems and by the time we were 56K, it just exploded, designing different types of games. Eventually, everything comes full circle. For me, as you know, I’ve never ever worked for a publisher, I’ve never had a job. That’s because of the choices I made from the start. I got a lucky break on my very first game and, over the years, because I know where all the skeletons are buried, I know pretty much how everything is done, I was careful to use that for my advantage. One of the things that got hammered into my head was; if you want to build the game that you want to play, you have to build it; you have to fund it. I have to stay indie, to do what I want to do. If I lose that capability, I’m done. The thing about it is, the indies doing it today; they have it easy. They have all these free and cheap tools; they have exceptionally good delivery medium. There was only so much you could do back in the day; you still needed a publisher for a few things. As you know, I’ve had my share of publisher aggravation; it was just a necessary evil. Nowadays, the whole Indie revolution is back in full swing, for the same reason that companies like Atari are going to the dustbin and recycling their properties onto mobile.

RPS: Does the current publisher model have any long term lifespan?

Smart: It’s only dead for the companies that really needed publisher support. Publishers have always made their own games. The thing that’s changed is that, now if they want a game or a team, they just buy them. They come in-house, recycle one or two games, then get rid of them. It’s just another way of the bad behaviour that publishers are notorious for, that hasn’t changed. The old model isn’t going anywhere, it’s just going to the part where we’re not going to bother giving you a million dollars and two years to do a game; we’re just going to buy you and then we call the shots, and everything comes in-house. That model, they know it’s unsustainable, but let’s face it, for every publisher-developer game there’s a thousand independent games and the funny thing is; everyone makes money regardless. I don’t think there any independent developers left who have any way of getting meaningful publisher support without giving up their socks and kitchen sink. Because everyone needs the money. Even with all these tools out there, you still have to get the expertise. If you want to spend two thousand dollars building a mobile game, trust me, there’s someone out there who can spend $100,000 building the same game. But they’ll beat you, even if their game is worse than yours, because it’s all about metrics and marketing.

RPS: Going back to the game, you have persistent vehicles that can be destroyed; is that totally, or can they be repaired later.

Smart: No, they can’t be totally destroyed; that’s because we wanted people to be attached to their assets. They all degrade, weapons degrade, vehicles too. The concept of a destroyed vehicles just means it’s totally unusable.

RPS: The factions; obviously in your universe you have 13 alien races; you’ve chosen to go with just one, humans, and have civil war inside that one. Why and what’s the differentiation between them?

Smart: I didn’t want to throw everything in there; those races all appear in my lore and in Galactic Command Online. By starting with those two factions, it’ll give me a chance to see what works and what doesn’t. Because it’s an MMO and we can always build upon it, we’ll try it and see how it goes; if it goes well, we’ll start introducing other races and factions. Plus the issue of creating assets.. you can spend a quite a lot of time building a front end that allows players to customise their characters to the hilt. But guess what; that gets very old and it doesn’t make the game any better. All Points Bulletin is proof of that. I didn’t think that throwing in all thirteen races plus their factions would make this a better game; two factions, make them as best as you can, do really good assets, throw it out there, gave it feedback, and stagger releasing things by expansion packs.

RPS: I don’t quite understand the imprinting system; can you explain it?

Smart: I have to go back to the FAQ and clean it up. Imagine you have a car; the keys are your imprint. Or your cellphone that requires your thumbprint or your biometrics. If you buy a weapon and you don’t imprint it, you get killed, someone can take it. But if you really like it, you’ve built it up and you have all the attachments, scope, silencer, tracer, the whole nine yards, then you imprint it, that means your biometrics are used to imprint that weapon, so it can’t be stolen.

RPS: Are there customised items that can be stolen? Why would anyone want to steal an item that hadn’t been customised?

Smart: Well, you won’t find any uncustomised items in the world and blueprinting something is very expensive. So you really can’t buy something and say I’m going to imprint this right now. Well, you can, but it’s really expensive. What happens if you buy a sniper rifle, that you can afford today, and you pay the money for it to be imprinted, and play for a few more weeks then think I’m better off buying this other rifle and go and customise that… guess what, imprints are non-refundable.

RPS: So it’s a very expensive save. Eve has the same thing with clones and insurance… any game where you have to buy insurance…

Smart: Haha! Well, it’s all optional. Unlike Eve, it’s not cheap; I don’t want everyone doing it. You can only imprint high-value assets. Those assets take time to build and take time to get used to. If you’ve got to the point where you have enough money to imprint your favourite weapon, your jetpack, your wingsuit, I mean I want them to do it, but they’re expensive to acquire and hard to find.

RPS: You have AI players in the game as well, in case players want to work in a squad or fireteam without necessarily playing with other people.

Smart: It works the same as All-Aspect Warfare. They’re typically companions with a brain. Anyone who’s ever played All-Aspect Warfare with AI squadmates knows that they’re highly intelligent and bring that over to Line of Defense. They’re very, very expensive; they’re like companions, not everyone is going to have them.

RPS: Will you be able to buy them in a cash shop?

Smart: Yes, yes. In the cash shop or you can have them manufactured for you, custom-made.

RPS: Is this your first experience with a F2P game?

Smart: Not really; I run Alganon over at my other company, Quest Online. That was subscription, I came in and made it F2P and the rest is history. The reason I have a hybrid model for Line of Defense is that I really wasn’t sure what direction to take. There are those who don’t like F2P, because they think it’s Pay-to-win, which is nonsense when you think about it, and there are those who just buy the game and have at it. Why the hell not, let’s give both options and they get to choose. The two models are: one you download the free client and you get a gun and a prayer; the other you download the client, and you get character and weapon selections, and off you go. The access to experience points, certifications, it’s all different when you buy the client as opposed to the free version. There’s no subscription whatsoever.

RPS: How do you see the free players competing against the high-end players? Is it like “how many five year olds you can fight?” Do you set them against each other or do you let it happen organically?

Smart: No, it’s organic. You have to remember, the difference between rifle A and B is down to whether it’s got a scope, a silencer, a grenade-launcher, whether it uses AP rounds and so on. It’s not an issue where noobs have access to inferior rifles. Noobs always have a chance. It’s not different to players who enter Call of Duty and Battlefield, it sucks to be the guy everyone picks on. But when you promote teamplay… because this game is absolutely not run and gun. Anyone who tries to play this game, or Planetside for that matter, as run and gun, is going to have a horrible time. When you start playing, join a squad or fireteam – don’t go off on your own because when you’re on a team, every bullet counts. Five noobs carrying a high-powered ZS10 rifle are perfectly matched to five top level players carrying ZS10s with grenade-launchers – because the latter might be terrible shots.

RPS: If you weren’t Derek Smart, but a man looking at Derek Smart from the outside, how would you describe Derek Smart? What would you hope Derek Smart will be in the future?

Smart: I would say I’m an eccentric, enigmatic person wrapped in a complete contradiction of the norm. I think about myself all the time, how did I get here, how did this happen? The only thing that keeps coming back to me is that I didn’t start doing this for fame and fortune, I did this because I wanted to make a living from something I love doing. The cool thing about this is that all creators, whether you’re writing a book or software, your works live on after you. When I retire, most people won’t remember Derek Smart as that guy who did those crazy games 30, 40, 50 years ago; they’ll think, oh that guy was fun, that guy was nuts. That’s how I’ll be remembered. My works will live on, and your name is attached to what you do.

RPS: Thanks for your time.


  1. RF says:

    Derek Smart, Derek Smart, Derek Smart.

    Why didn’t you introduce him as Doctor Derek Smart of Computerology? Since he’s got a PHD that no one else but him has seen but shhhh.

    I don’t think anyone’s ever called him a Maverick Indie Genius, since every person I know that has read anything about him or talked with him on forums has immediately gained an intense loathing of him. (For the reasons why, look at that last answer.)

    • hjarg says:

      You have summoned evil upon this forum by saying The Name You Shouldn’t Say 3 Times!
      The One Who Should Not Be Named will be upon us soon!

      Ahh, good times! :)

      And mr Smart here has a history of making ambtious games- but under closer inspection they are a bit on a brown side and smell badly

    • LionsPhil says:

      Funny thing is, Smart does post here from time to time…

      — Philip Boulain, Actual Real PhD

    • oldkc says:

      You said it 3 times! He’s coming to get you! Find a mirror, look into it and say “Biggy Smalls” 3 times, he’ll shoot him in the face for you…

    • westyfield says:

      High five, fellow UoS person!

    • moaspfh says:

      The Hyundai the A7 the Android 4.0, the Tablet PC 7 Inch, 8GB Camera HDMI Black U.S. $ 109.99 Free shipping! link to

    • gtb says:

      You know what? i’ve been making fun of Derek Smart and his Smart5000(tm) brand of asshattery for so long, i’m just tired of it. You here me Derek? You win, it’s just boring now.

  2. roryok says:

    We caught up with him to talk about his new game, Line of Defense, a remarkably ambitious MMOFPS

    I think you mean “overly ambitious”. It’s not remarkable when Derek Smart tries to do more than he can.

  3. Beelzebud says:

    “I think about myself all the time”


    • Urthman says:

      And really, who among us doesn’t think about Derek Smart all the time?

  4. Tei says:

    *takes popcorn*

    I like the ice planet image. It make me wish a game like that exist.

  5. ArtyFishal says:

    Have any of Smart’s games been playable/bearable? Fun?

  6. Jannakar says:

    Derek, don’t ever change.

    Am spoilt for choice for quotable stuff here

    “RPS: Do you think you know your limitations, Dr Smart?
    Smart: No, I don’t.”

    Unlike the rest of us, Derek, who are all too painfully aware.

  7. Jockie says:

    If you weren’t Derek Smart, but a man looking at Derek Smart from the outside, how would you describe Derek Smart?

    Are we allowed to answer that question, since we are in fact not Derek Smart, but men (and women), looking from the outside?

    He’s a game designer of not insignificant talent, huge ambitions and an ego the size of a planet. I think he’s entirely capable of making a great game and it’s admirable that seems to be what he’s striving for.

    Sadly his egomania has alienated so many gamers (myself included,), that even if he does make that great game there’s enough ill will towards him that it’ll still bomb.

    • Squirrelfanatic says:

      He’s still around though. So it can’t be that bad for him.

    • ffordesoon says:

      He’s the space game version of another D.S.: Dave Sim. Enormously talented, enormously intelligent, fiercely independent, utterly insufferable, narcissistic to a fault, and a fervent advocate of some very wacky opinions indeed.

      Much as with Sim, I don’t like Smart, but I am kind of glad he exists.

  8. RakeShark says:

    Y’know, I agree with him on citing XvT over Freespace 2. XvT was about the saturation point of complexity I could/can handle in a space flight shooter. Where as Freespace 2, while doing what it did well, became Echelon hard-difficulty in space.

    • WindWhale says:

      I LOVED me some XvT but a lot of times it felt more like a puzzle shooter (where do I need to be to prevent that next wave of Tie Fighters from nuking the ship I’m escorting). Have Freespace 2 but sadly never really played it much.

    • Blackcompany says:

      I am actually replying here because I am curious as to whether the “WindWhale” comes from where I think it comes from.
      For obvious reasons.

    • WindWhale says:

      Get off my back!


  9. Echo Black says:

    “Derek Smart is either famous or infamous, depending on who edited Wikipedia last”

    Famous if was Derek himself, infamous if it was anyone else.

    This is the man who typed up gems like:

    DrCrypt, my name is Derek Smart, Game Developer. Game industry contributor. You, as you very well know, are nobody. Here, let me emphasis that. ***YOU ARE NOBODY***. Just an idiot perprating tomfoolery from behind the safe confines of an internet alias. Coward.

    Next time you want to engage the likes of me in a flame war (I’m so out of your league, you should get that ego checked), be sure to bring sufficient ammo and an ample supply of bubblegum jackass. Because using material that isn’t even worth debating, is the mark of a loser clutching at straws and relying on falacies to give an edge.

    And then went on denying he ever said these when people wouldn’t forget about it. Yes, this is was on the BC3K days, but he was already a developer back then.

    Call me reactionary or whatever, I don’t care. I’m not buying/playing anything with Derek Smart’s name on it. I don’t feel like supporting this kind of ridiculous person.

    • FunkyBadger3 says:

      Do you carry that cut and paste snippet around with you always?

  10. Chris D says:

    Gaming’s answer to Charlie Sheen?

    • roryok says:

      Charlie Sheen has had success at some point in his career.

    • kavika says:

      Yep. This is exactly what I got from this interview. Unsubstantiated nonsense, and lots of boasting.

      Why people keep paying attention to people like this, I have no idea. This is my first exposure to DS, and it’s already gotten stale.

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      Say what you like about Smart (and his games), but he has managed to make a living from making and selling them for the last 20 years which surely must be considered some measure of success.

  11. roryok says:

    Seriously, we could quote the entire article. He’s so full of it.

    Smart: A man’s got to know his limitations.

    RPS: Do you think you know your limitations, Dr Smart?

    Smart: No, I don’t

    • Consumatopia says:

      That’s kind of profound, though. I mean, there’s at least one limitation that he knows.

    • roryok says:

      I never thought of that. Oh the irony!

    • TsunamiWombat says:

      Mind = Blown

    • wcanyon says:

      Know what’s great about me? I’m so humble.

      The only thing I don’t know is how to measure how great I am.

      And so on. This guy sounds like a colossal douche.

    • MisterT says:

      His only limit is finding his limits


  12. Blackcompany says:

    Is it just me, or does it seem like this is the sort of dude who would visit a lake every day just to look at his own reflection in the water?

    • lasikbear says:

      Yeah, but he’s been visiting the lake and looking at that water for over 20 years now, and there is no one else who can even compare to his expertise at doing so. That lake you once saw your reflection in? Its a puddle and it wasn’t even that reflective.

  13. deadpan says:

    In the interest of journalistic balance, stay tuned for RPS’s interview with the Coke machine.

  14. imallinson says:

    Dude kind of seems like a dick. His line, as far as I could read through without wanting to run halfway around the world and kick him in the balls, seemed to be Planetside, Firefall and Eve all suck and my game is better. It’s like a worse version of EA’s Battlefield 3 marketing.

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      RPS: And a good MMOFPS? Has anything beaten Planetside?
      Smart: Well, the original I thought was good

      Smart: Eve targets a specific market and they’re very good at it – it’s a good game, don’t get me wrong.

      So, no, that’s not what he said.

  15. Unaco says:

    I’ve always thought of Derek Smart as a Developer with great ambition, innovative ideas, and a willingness to take risks and not play it safe. Isn’t that what a lot of people are crying out for from Developers these days?

    • Beelzebud says:

      Have you ever actually played one of his games?

    • Unaco says:

      Yeah, I played a bunch of Battlecruiser 3000 (?) and some Universal Combat. Great ideas, huge, ambitious games, let down by poor execution unfortunately. Why do you ask?

    • RF says:

      Except for the fact that he’s self-obsessed, never delivers and has an ego the size of a planetoid, sure.

      One of those flaws, yeah, maybe. But when you’re saying you’ve created the greatest games ever because you are the greatest man in the world and you sell people a piece of shit for £30? Yeah, no.

    • Unaco says:


      What? I’m not talking about his ego etc., but the ambition and ideas he’s shown with previous games. He’s never played it safe, and is always willing to take risks… Something that a lot of gamers seem to be asking for. People could learn something from his ideas, ambition and outlook, even if they learn nothing from the actual implementation of those ideas that he’s done.

    • WindWhale says:


      I think the problem is that it isn’t innovative or or even particularly interesting risk-taking if you can never deliver on that vision. Execution and innovation need to go hand in hand otherwise, why bother?

    • Unaco says:

      Why bother? Maybe because some people have a different metric for success… it’s not the winning that counts, it’s the taking part. You’re saying that, if we can’t completely succeed, we shouldn’t try. That’s pretty pessimistic and negative, I think. We should be chasing our dreams.

    • SolaceAvatar says:

      I think the idea is that it’s better to chase a dream that you have some confidence you can actually accomplish, rather than deciding to build an aircraft carrier in your back yard, swiftly giving up, then expecting to be praised for the attempt.

    • Blackcompany says:

      Unaco has successfully made me feel (rightfully) ashamed of myself here. Poking fun aside, we should perhaps applaud a willingness to innovate and take risks. Rather try a thousand times and fail than never try at all, and all that, you know.
      Least this guy tries. He might not always get it right – hell, he might never get it right – but all it takes is one success. (For more on the just-one-success, Google on Notch and/or Minecraft. People probably told Notch he was nuts as well.)
      So yeah…maybe the guy has an ego. But as long as it inspires him to keep on keeping on – and to keep on trying new things, taking risks and innovating this past time of ours – more power to him. And his ego.
      Cause EA has shown us the alternative, and I don’t want to live in that world.

    • Zenicetus says:

      “….great ambition, innovative ideas, and a willingness to take risks and not play it safe. Isn’t that what a lot of people are crying out for from Developers these days?”

      That’s just the starting point. And it’s missing one key ingredient: a willingness to surround yourself with a creative team who can act as a buffer and feedback mechanism, so you’re not just living inside a bubble of your own great ideas. Without that reality check, an overly self-confident developer thinks every idea is wonderful. All the bugs and playability issues in your game are just minor nuisances, because there is nobody to tell you otherwise. It’s the curse of the solitary “genius.”

      For another example, consider Brad Wardell and what happened with Elemental: War of Magic.

    • Consumatopia says:

      I can’t help but think of this.

      May God bless this guy for keeping true to his vision. And I’m sure his finances are in better shape than Mr. Wood!

      May Satan screw this guy and anyone else who thinks an opinion needs to have some kind of credential or rank behind it to matter. I haven’t played any of his games–maybe they’re awesome. But the market has been known to reward crap before. If you think something is crap, even something that’s making money, even something the author sincerely believes in, you might be right.

    • WindWhale says:


      I’m all for the chasing dreams part. The problem is that you need to understand what you can shape out of the materials you have with the skills you offer. It might be innovative to say I’m going to make a balloon out of clay even though I’m a nursery school teacher. The better innovation is saying, ok, I’m a nursery school teacher with skillset X and I have clay, what can I make that will deliver compelling, new experiences to my audience.

      And yeah, some people swear by Smart and his games, which I sense is all Smart is aiming for and that’s fine. But most people have found his works to be hollow experiences at best and bug riddled messes at worst. That’s innovation most can live without.

      Now, compare that to, say, Dwarf Fortress or Mount & Blade or Minecraft or whatever your favorite indie game is. They deliver a compelling experience within the limitations of their skills and media.

      But, as you said, to each their own.

    • Nogo says:

      He’s been independently working on one game for the last 20 years, isn’t completely broke, has a niche audience that supports his vision and obviously knows a ton about what he does.

      His ego may be obnoxious, but he can certainly back it up.

    • Consumatopia says:

      But most people have found his works to be hollow experiences at best and bug riddled messes at worst. That’s innovation most can live without.

      I wouldn’t want to play them, but I’m really glad they exist. It’s, you know, Outsider art.

      I’m reminded of this verdict on another game: “There is absolutely nothing pleasurable or compelling about Katawa Shoujo, save for the fact it exists.”

    • Jockie says:

      Poor man’s Peter Molyneux, with about half the talent.

    • Droopy The Dog says:

      I reserve the right to respect his work and still think he has the personality of a urine soaked rag.

      Wouldn’t compare him to Brad Wardell though, he’s got the oposite problem. Personality wise he’s bearable albeit rather smarmy, work wise his design choices are just awful.

    • DodgyG33za says:

      If you look past that overinflated ego (and you might have to re-orient yourself to a different continent to do so) there is a developer who has great vision, but poor execution. I wonder how far away from the dwarf fortress developer TOADY ONE he is. I played Battlecruiser 3000 many moons ago, and found it interesting, hugely detailed but let down by baffling interfaces that made it nigh on impossible to work out what was going on, or order anything about. Dwarf Fortress- ditto. The difference with Dwarf Fortress is that there is the internet to help work out what to do.

      While I think that x-wing vs tie fighter was the pinnacle, I wonder why no-one has mentioned the x-tension series, which for me are first class space shooter/explorer/trader games (although admittedly the shooter element is the weakest).

  16. JerreyRough says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if he changed his name to have Smart in it.

    And those are quite some bold statements about his game. Especially the trailer was full of mediocre animations, after-effects explosions, and zero gameplay. You’d think they would explain their game in a video if they have nothing to show yet, ie many Insterstellar Marines videos.

    • Droopy The Dog says:

      Those animations remind me so much of the stop motion monsters in the old Jason and the argonauts films.

      If only it was intentional it’d be impressive how much to managed to make that trailer feel like Nick Park made it with little toy soldiers and spaceships.

  17. Bobby Oxygen says:

    Shine on you crazy diamond.

  18. TechWriterGeoff says:

    I bought Battlecruiser 3000AD when it came out. He owes me $50.

  19. Auru says:

    This fella does know good games though.. X-wing vs TIE fighter was ahead of it’s time as well.. with the expansion, 8 player co-op campaign across two factions… mission creation even.. my friends and I played HELL out of this game..

    ugh I skimmed the rest of the interview after he mentioned XvT .. now i’m in day dream mode :(

  20. hoobajoo says:

    link to

    Surprised no one posted this trailer for the classic Desktop Commander.

    • Beelzebud says:

      That just never gets old. LOL

      Fueled by the Souls of the Damned!

  21. SolaceAvatar says:

    So, it’s ok to buy power, because no one plays an FPS with a competitive mindset? That seems just slightly divorced from reality.

  22. MellowKrogoth says:

    Never tried any of Derek’s games. Are they a bit like Dwarf Fortress (with the difference that their author is hateable whereas Tarn Adams is likeable), with a lot of depth hidden behind a horrid interface, or are they just flatly uninteresting?

    • Unaco says:

      I’m not actually too familiar with his current, or recent, work… Mostly familiar with his Battlecruiser games and Universal Combat. I wouldn’t say an analogy to Dwarf Fortress isn’t that apt… those games aren’t so much about the hidden depth, as they are about the initial and obvious scope and scale – Somewhat simmy, large dynamic campaigns, huge fleets, space and planetary combat, and the ability to ‘pilot’ anything from small 1 man fighter craft, to Starship class, and command those fleets.

      Horrid interface it does share.

    • Harlander says:

      I’ve long held the conviction that Derek Smart is Tarn Adams’ evil twin.

    • soldant says:

      He has three claims to fame. The first is Battlecruiser 3000AD, which in spite of its terrible interface was a fairly cool carrier command game allowing you to operate a battlecruiser complete with fighters and transport shuttles (which you could fly yourself) while flying around both in space on planets. He then proceeded to release a few sequels which were basically the same game with a new engine and adding pointless new features that had no real use.

      His second claim is a bunch of crappy games released after the Battlecruiser series, which nobody really likes.

      His third and final claim to fame is possibly attacking an innocent Coke machine, as well as ranting and raving at any community that doesn’t like his games.

      He does release his older games for free, so you can go check them out if you’d like.

  23. Ashen says:

    I.. actually agree with pretty much everything Derek Smart has just said. What is this world coming to?

    • Stevostin says:

      Ah thank you. I don’t know this guy at all but everything he says here makes sense to me. Some people are focused on the seemingly arrogant things he says but he also says pretty harsh stuff on other aspects of his game – harshe than what you usually read in a dev interview.

      I get that his game entertain very few people, but I agree with Unaco : you can’t at the same time bash CoD and that guy. I am happy that someone actually tries to do that sort of game – and seems to get along with it for decades now.

  24. SirKicksalot says:

    Haters gonna hate. I like Derek Smart. Hell, I admire him. Eh does what he likes and doesn’t afraid of anything.

    • theleif says:

      People keep ridicule PR heavy press releases, and developers speaking for hours without actually saying anything. Here we have a developer that has no problem whatsoever to state his opinions on things most other developers would never dare do to speak of. And it seems whatever he actually is saying gets ignored, and all anyone comments on are his tone. Three pages of comments, and hardly one that’s actually about what he says. I mean, bringing up a decade old forum post just to prove something? Come on, that’s just ridiculous.
      I remember the huge flak he got when he said that most of the “Boycott MW2” crowd would buy the game anyway. Then what happened? I think we all remember the picture of the steam boycott group.
      You know, I don’t agree with all he’s saying, and I don’t play his games, but I’m damn happy that someone like him exists in this media. And, frankly I would like if even more developers where as outspoken about their convictions as he is.

      I can only think of one other topic on this site that brings out more irrational hate, and that’s sexism in video games. What conclusion to draw from that, I don’t know.

  25. Ohle says:

    Thanks to everyone for reading :) — I’m one of the PR folks working on Line of Defense with Derek and his team. I have to say that despite whatever thoughts you have about the man himself, it can’t be denied that what his team is doing here with just 11 people is pretty remarkable.

    It’s rare for indie studios to survive for extended periods of time, and Derek has managed to carve out a pretty interesting spot in the industry — the games are self-funded, the team makes its money back… and they’re still making ambitious games. Good on them, I say. (and yes, I realize my opinion can be seen as highly biased… but remember, I also had to say, “yes, Derek, we want to work with you” :) — we’re really enjoying the opportunity.

  26. Adekan says:

    “anyone who calls Eve one needs to be taken out back and shot.”

    I just love that he bashes games he’s obviously never played beyond the first 10 minutes to make his own terrible offerings look better.

    • MountainShouter says:

      Yeah, it sucks that a game as old as EVE still has lots of people playing it, you know.

      Yeah. Like, actual people.

    • Blackcompany says:

      In all fairness, he was not condemning EVE. He was, to be perfectly fair, condemning the description of EVE as a space combat game. Now, I am no EVE player – that’s more time investment than I have in my bank – but if everything I have read is correct, space combat is not EVE’s primary focus.
      I know, I know…there’s combat. In space, even. But fast-paced, Tie-fighter/X-wing style space combat was never EVE’s focus, unless I miss the mark here (not presuming to speak for EVE players, by any means.)
      The statement he made referred to people who refer to EVE as a space combat game, not to the quality of EVE itself.

    • ffordesoon says:

      Yeah, I actually completely agree with him about that. Even the head of the most powerful corporation in EVE has said the basic combat is boring crap.

    • Hendar23 says:

      He clearly says EVE is a great game. He is saying that it isn’t a real time space combat simulator in the vain of X-Wing or Freespace. He isn’t hating on EVE.

  27. roryok says:

    If anyone here is curious about how good Derek Smart’s games actually are, here’s a video of some gameplay from Universal Combat.

    link to

    It speaks for itself I think.

  28. Eclipse says:

    that trailer was really awful, but the game itself seems very promising, and as every Derek Smart game, very ambitious.
    I’ll be more than glad to give it a try, even if the guy has a gigantic ego

  29. noom says:

    Man, you just know Mr Smart’s gonna swing by here soon and all hell’s gonna break loose.

    *comments thread bookmarked*

    • Adekan says:

      I hope so, but I have a feeling his PR handler will have him on a leash.

    • LionsPhil says:

      The last comment on that post is Alec going “I’m going to lock the thread. Christ, I’m disappointed.”

    • Adekan says:

      Derek: “Someone talked about crashing in my game. Well, there are NO crashes in the game. NONE. Any crashes are on the user’s end – as was CLEARLY proven in that demo thread.

      I also made a bold statement that – as of that writing – there were NO bugs in the game. There weren’t. Not a single one.”

      That comments thread was gold. Thank you for linking it.

    • Sleepymatt says:

      I was keeping an open mind on the fella in this thread, having somehow missed his previous antics in the years of following RPS – right up until he called out Subedii on a particular quote he had made regarding Demigod; DS denying having ever said it, claiming that threads and forums are never lost on the internet, daring Subedii to prove the quote and essentially claiming it was all lies etc etc….

      …only to have another RPS’er post the link to the exact quote in a thread right here on RPS!

      Seems like one of his limitations is remembering what he said previously…

  30. KDR_11k says:

    Seems to me that Derek Smart always has a LOT of ambition but it’s the implementation that’s problematic. Possibly an issue of too many ideas, not enough manpower and maybe still following early 90s PC levels of accessibility but I’ve never heard of a Derek Smart game that wasn’t crazy ambitious.

  31. JackDandy says:

    Derek Smart?

    Frankly, I’ve only heard bad stuff about him.

    Didn’t he make a bunch of over-ambitious but ultimately buggy games, and started tons of flamewars on early message boards?

  32. Archangel says:

    Ugh. Fewer articles like this one, please. I thought we were supposed to ignore trolls, not feed them.

  33. TsunamiWombat says:

    I don’t know who the hell this gentleman is, or if I like him or not.

  34. Stellar Duck says:

    On paper Derek Smart would make my perfect games. He really, really would. And I keep hoping it’ll pan out. I remember the first time I read about BC3K back in the day. I still want to play that game.

    So whatever problems people have with him, personally, I say he should keep reaching for that game. If it succeeds it will be glorious. If not, hey, at least it’s more interesting than most of the bland games EA et al produces these days.

    • apa says:

      I haven’t played any of these games but the description just sounds like the game half of the posters here usually crave for. I know I’d like to play an open world MMO FPS with ground and air/space combat, trading and what else was there…

  35. andyhavens says:

    Just two things.

    1. I was really excited over BC3000 and was one of the early buyers who got a boxed game that just didn’t work. To be fair, Smart wasn’t at fault (it was a publisher thing, I believe) and he et al spent the next few years trying to make the damn thing work. I put it down for a couple years, and re-bought a later version that worked OK. It was just a kind of crappy game at that point with no decent tutorial and UI as unintuitive as Pagemaker circa 1992. When I posted on one of the boards something to the effect of, “A decent tutorial would have been really helpful,” Derek replied, basically, “It’s supposed to be hard” (to the tune of about 1,200 words), “and if you don’t like working for your games, go elsewhere.” So I did. I don’t mind complex games or even overly complex games, but there’s a difference between “working to understand how to play the game” and “working to understand how to interact with the game in order to even begin to play it a little.” So while his ongoing self-inflatory ego fest is amusing, I’m not sure I have the time for his brand of wit and wisdom.

    2. In one version of the game, if you wanted, as captain of a star ship, to go from the bridge to, let’s say, engineering, you had to walk there in first person. Down hallways, up ladders or elevators, etc. Now… reality is fine. And, yes, in Mass Effect we sometimes had to do the same thing (and it kinda pissed me off there, too). But if the fun is supposed to be the space combat… could I please just fast forward through the hallway walking? If something happens (explosion! cadet with amorous intent! burning droid!) that needs my attention, sure… bring me out of the FF. But it was just so… yeesh.

  36. Derek Smart says:

    I came. I saw. I left.

    As you were.

    • roryok says:

      What. A. Jerk.

    • Doomsayer says:

      Step 1: Be Derek Smart
      Step 2: ?????
      Step 3: Profit

      Please consider replacing ????? with ACTUALLY EXECUTE EXCEPTIONAL QUALITY before you die. Judging by the trailer in the article, you still neglect to realize the potential of your ideas and passion.

    • Tei says:

      good luck with the game, señor Derek.

    • westyfield says:

      Well, at least the summoning ritual worked.

    • Beelzebud says:

      I’m proud of you Derek. That is the most restraint I have ever witnessed from you. It only took nearly 2 decades, but you’ve made progress.

    • Nevard says:

      Of course the next step would be just not to reply at all

    • TsunamiWombat says:

      What a Shame

    • Artist says:

      Hail the king! Begone noob trolls! Derek forever!

    • TariqOne says:

      Couldn’t help himself, tight leash or no.

      Anyway, don’t worry — we know you’re reading. Indeed, we know you’re there feverishly F5ing while hoarsely repeating that mantra your flack gave you: “I’m too important to respond. I’m too important to respond.”

  37. BlitzThose says:

    Well done Derek for not adding any fuel to the fire… are you beginning to mellow in your old age?

    • TheMrSolaris says:


      Nah, I think it is more about harsh reality has finally caught up with Mr. Smart and he just isn’t making the millions of dollars like that whatshisface have been since 2009 with a small game called Minecraft.

      Regardless of what Ph.D Mr. Smart buys on the internet.

  38. dmastri says:

    17 years ago a 12-year old me was assigned a school project to interview someone in a field of work you were interested. Being a PC gaming nerd, I went with every boy’s dream of becoming a professional game maker.

    Derek Smart was kind enough to grant me an interview and answer my questions. I’ve respected him, for better or worse, since.

    Thanks Derek. You’ll be happy to know I now sell insurance.

  39. Brothabear says:

    Universal combat was absofuckiinglulty the worst “fps/simulator” game I have ever played. Bar none. However battlecruiser 3000ad Has a damn soundtrack that I can only compare to Pinkfloyd in spaaaace. It was amazing to just drift and listen. Then his titles after that lost every ounce of flare they had.

    and ROFLMAO he was talking mad shit about EVE, but I 100% agree with him. Spreadsheet online only appeals to a chosen few. then when they announced they would make an easy acess FPS DUST514 BUT make it for PS3 I thought “aww now you done fucked up!”

  40. Samuel Hill says:

    As a few people have mentioned I was also one of those people who bought a boxed copy of BC3000AD.

    Yes I am well aware of the fact he had publisher related problems but even back then the games he proposed always look fantastic on paper but are severely let down by their design and implementation.

    I applaud him for his willingness to go out on a limb and be ambitious with his games, the ideas for which I would really like to play, but in today’s world he would either need about 10-15 years to finish them or the backing of a major publisher.

    He could do with a decent PR manager as well.

  41. Kresh says:

    I’m just jealous of anyone who could actually get their copy of Battlecruiser: 3000AD to work. Other than that, Derek Smart does as he does. No skin off my back. I just know to not buy anything he makes without reviewing it first.

    It’s actually a good policy for anything you buy. So, thanks Derek Smart, you taught me to ignore the hype of advertisement, and to look carefully at what I was buying.

  42. Artist says:

    Lord Derek Smart vs. 1000 fool trolls: 1000:0! All your base are belong to Derek, fools!
    But continue to make me laugh, hehe!

  43. The_Great_Skratsby says:

    Mr Derek Smart, never change.

  44. subactuality says:

    Apparently he’s been doing this for 20 years. I’m surprised he didn’t mention that during the interview.

  45. Thants says:

    “Let’s face it, games are not competition…”

    I don’t… what?

  46. BobsLawnService says:

    I have a huge amount of respect for Smart. He has been self funding abitious, interesting (If flawed games) since before it was fashionable.

  47. Wret says:

    I live in terror of becoming Derek Smart (Or Peter Moneleuyx)

    • Apolloin says:

      I’m never quite sure how to feel about Derek Smart. Part of me applauds the fact that he never did what I did – compromise my principles and join a Corporate dev team, becoming a smaller and smaller cog in bigger and bigger projects until I burned out and wondered what I was even doing in the industry anymore.

      On the other hand the man has had free rein to work on awesome game concepts (I would love the hell out of a version of BC3K that actually works and was properly executed) and has yet to put one over the plate. Is that worse? To be endlessly trying the same business model again and again for 20 years. It clearly keeps him in spending money, but you have to wonder how many wrecks have been left by the roadside, don’t you?

  48. MadMatty says:

    As for Smart´s personality, i couldnt care less.

    As for the game, it looks interesting, and potentially limited enough in scope, that the team has time to fill the world with enough content, and bugfix stuff before release.

    Unlockable guns? Well if theyre as good as the free newbie guns, why would you want to upgrade at all?
    thats a no-game.
    Even a slight advantage does go a long way in such a COMPETITIVE FPS- and im just hoping it wont be pay2win.
    I´d fork 20-40 euros on the game if it was good.

  49. MadMatty says:

    As for Eve, technically its a big turd. Only reason to play it is that its the only almost-decent space MMO out there.

    Think about it, no newtonian physics, no planet landing, no real exploring (universe too small), ridicoulous skill system who awards frequent sub payers (instead of frequent PLAYERS).

    dont come with “its not feasible technically”, it most certainly is, Eve crew just dont have a good physics or engine programmer.

    Other things it does get right, but the pints above were kindof biggies.

    • Apolloin says:

      Eve caters to a niche audience and does so to the point where that audience is fanatically obsessed with it. It is guilty of often seeming WAY cooler on paper than it is to actually play, but some of the criticisms it has attracted here aren’t really supportable – claims of a small universe, for example.

      As for the concept of adding a newtonian physics system – why bother? Does anybody REALLY care to calculate proper trajectories for every single piece of high velocity metal? Not to mention the lasers which will all be shifting at light speed. Frankly I’d rather just see more life in each of the systems than slave to make a virtually invisible change which will do nothing but make the code crawl like a dog.

      Adding comets, making planets actually orbit, Oort Clouds – that sort of thing. Triple or even quadruple the NPC traffic in a system. Make Empire space seem more alive.

    • tentacle says:

      Newtonian physics is one of those things that sounds nice in principle but has always sucked in games.
      Truth is, realistic space combat would be incredibly boring. It’d be like naval battles, except even more boring. Combat between pixels on a radar screen. No cover, no fog of war, no tactics, no dogfights. Spaceships wouldn’t even have windows, why the hell should they? It’d resemble Air Traffic Control more than combat, I’m sure (cause I know – I’m a visitor from the spacey future).

      Return from tangent: Derek Smart may have arguably never delivered on his visions, but I WISH the industry had more people like him and less EAism. I can only wish bad games evoked a “great idea, shame it didnt work” feeling instead of the usual “yet another lousy soulless clone of Recent Hit(tm)”.

      As for whether he is an ass or not, I don’t care. I judge artists on their work, not words. Might draw the line at being a nazi or child rapist, though.

    • Unaco says:

      Not played either of the I-War games then? They both had Newtonian Physics modelled, and I-War 2 had some of the best space combat ever. Jousting!

  50. Dave says:

    :Derek Smart: