Gas Powered Games’ Chris Taylor Talks Working with Square Enix, Challenges in the New Economy, Going Digital, and More

Chris TaylorFrom Total Annihilation to Dungeon Siege to Supreme Commander, Chris Taylor has a long and storied history with real-time strategy games. Gas Powered Games’ founder and lead designer on the upcoming Supreme Commander 2 is one of the most important creators in gaming, continually taking the RTS genre to new heights. He also happens to be ridiculously funny (sometimes it hurts hanging out with him, from all the laughing) and super sharp. I recently caught up with Taylor to ask him about working with Square Enix, running a development studio during an economic downturn, downloadable content, and more.

Raymond Padilla: Hey Chris! How is the funniest man in game development doing these days?

Chris Taylor: Keeping the dream alive, as I like to say!

RP: You’re hard at work on Supreme Commander 2. While lots of people are excited about the game, I’m really interested in your experiences working with Square Enix. From your dealings, what are the differences between working with a Western publisher and a Japanese one?

CT: They’ve been really great to work with, and they’ve easily been among the best publishers we’ve ever worked with. Truly a pleasure.

RP: Did you ever get the “token white guy” feeling during business meetings with Square Enix?

CT: LOL… Come here Ray… can I have a hug?

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Gas Powered Games’ Chris Taylor on How Gaming Has Changed

Chris TaylorYou’d never know this from his boyish good looks, but Gas Powered Games founder Chris Taylor has been in game development for more than two decades. Starting way back in 1988, someone thought it would be funny to hire a Canadian guy to work on baseball games. Since then, Taylor has made a huge name for himself with games like Total Annihilation, Dungeon Siege, and Supreme Commander.

Chris and his team are busy working on Supreme Commander 2, but he generously gave me some time to answer a few questions. Talking about the changes he’s seen in 21 years in the business, Taylor said:

Well, our target market has changed. The whole business has opened up to include many new types of players. It used to be 18-35 yr. old males, and now the rest of the world is playing games. This is a very good thing, but it also means that we have to think differently about what gaming is. We also play online now more than ever, but not in a competitive way, it’s actually about playing together, which I think is a great change. We also play on more devices than ever, and are focusing less and less about technology whizbang, and more on the actual gameplay, characters and story. And I guess I would be insane not to mention the increase in computing power, and visuals. I started out on a TRS-80 with 128×48 pixels, that were black and white no less…

My full interview Grandmaster Sexay Chris Taylor will run on Monday. Be sure to come back and check it out!

Supreme Commander 2 Walkthrough with Chris Taylor

Gas Powered Games founder and lead designer Chris Taylor — the funniest man in game development — gives an excellent walkthrough of his upcoming game, Supreme Commander 2. Check out this video, narrated by Taylor, that details the game’s terrain, units, weapons, and more.

I’ve been chatting with Chris lately and I will have a full interview with this handsome man soon. In the meantime, let me know what you think of this walkthrough video.

Lorne Lanning Talks Oddworld’s Future, Reaching New Fans Through Digital Distribution, Citizen Siege, Social Gaming, and More

Lorne LanningOne of the most wonderfully imaginative developers in the business, Oddworld Inhabitants (Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee, Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath) has been a little quiet for the last few years. Its recent PSN releases indicate that the company is ready to make a move. Oddworld looks poised to shake things up in the near future, doing it with its trademark creativity and independence (naturally!). I recently caught up with company co-founder Lorne Lanning to talk about what’s going on with Oddworld, what the PSN releases mean to him, social gaming, being a creative developer in a harsh economic climate, the status of Citizen Siege, working with Electronic Arts, and more. While he didn’t say anything outright, it’s pretty clear where he thinks the gaming business is going and how he thinks Oddworld should approach it.

Raymond Padilla: First off, how are you doing? What’s new and exciting with you, Lorne?

Lorne Lanning: Doing great, in spite of the economy, which definitely makes all efforts more challenging.

We’re working on something new / something different, but we haven’t been able to talk about it yet — hope to in the not too distant future.

RP: With Abe’s Oddysee and Abe’s Exoddus hitting the PlayStation Network, your games have a chance to reach a whole new generation of players. How does it feel to introduce Abe to gamers that could barely hold a controller when the games were originally released?

LL: You mean, beyond feeling old?!? Beyond that, of course it’s a joy to see the fan mail from new players that have just discovered these games. A bit time machine’ish I should say. The feedback is fresh, it’s new to them, so there’s something that feels very much like it did when the games first came out. A lot of people got passionate about Abe. Now we’re seeing it again, and it’s the same vibe and reaction of newness, but a different generation. A bit Déjà to the last millennium.

When I see them write, “I remember my father used to play, but I was too young” it’s a serious testament to just how quickly time flies and how quickly the times change. We’re thrilled that the Abe games are finding a new audience, especially considering that we didn’t even foresee the future of digital distribution back when we originally built these games. I mean, most people still didn’t know what www.com meant back in ‘94 when we started building Abe. Strange how different a world it already is today.

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Final Fantasy XIII Release Date and Developer Announcement Video

As many of you expected, Square Enix has announced the North American release date for Final Fantasy XIII: March 9, 2010!!! To bolster the announcement, the company released a video featuring Producer Yoshinori Kitase, director Motomu Toriyama, art director Isamu Kamikokuryo, and battle director Yuji Abe. Check it out!

Aside from being hosted by a total tool, the video is pretty slick. I love that it features the game and its creators. March 9, 2010 is just around the corner. I’m pretty sure I’ll have Dragon Age out of my system by the time FFXIII is released. I can’t wait!

Are you psyched for FFXIII? Is it a day one purchase for you? What did you think of the developer video?

Oddworld’s Lorne Lanning on Reaching a New Audience on PSN

A few weeks ago, I wrote about Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee and Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus hitting Sony’s PlayStation Network. These are two fantastic games from one of the most creative and imaginative developers in the business: Oddworld Inhabitants. I recently asked company co-founder Lorne Lanning what it was like reaching a whole new generation of gamers through PSN. He told me:

It’s a joy to see the fan mail from new players that have just discovered these games. A bit time machine’ish I should say. The feedback is fresh, it’s new to them, so there’s something that feels very much like it did when the games first came out. A lot of people got passionate about Abe. Now we’re seeing it again, and it’s the same vibe and reaction of newness, but a different generation. A bit Déjà to the last millenium.

When I see them write, “I remember my father used to play, but I was too young” it’s a serious testament to just how quickly time flies and how quickly the times change. We’re thrilled that the Abe games are finding a new audience, especially considering that we didn’t even foresee the future of digital distribution back when we originally built these games. I mean, most people still didn’t know what www.com meant back in ’94 when we started building Abe. Strange how different a world it already is today.

Oddworld Abe 2

Strange? How about odd?!? Bwahahahahaha!!! Seriously though, this is just a snippet from my conversation with Lorne. He went over a wide variety of topics with me and his answers were most interesting (some of them even juicy!). Stay tuned for my full interview with Oddworld Inhabitants’ Lorne Lanning!

For now, I wanted to see if any of you have downloaded these Abe re-releases or if you’re planning to. Anyone digging the Oddworld universe more than a decade after it was revealed? Are you excited by the possibilities of more Oddworld games in the future?

Tarver Games’ Chris Cross Talks Going from Consoles to iPhone, Ghosts Attack, Little Helmet Heads, and More!

Chris CrossChris Cross achieved a great deal of notoriety in the gaming business from his work on the Medal of Honor series. You’d expect a game designer that had success on big-budget console-games would continue to work on big-budget console-games, but Cross has gone in a different direction — iPhone gaming. He recently started up a new development house — Tarver Games — and has a few iPhone/iPod Touch products in the works. Tarver’s first game, Ghosts Attack, has been submitted to Apple for approval and should be out shortly. I recently interviewed Cross to learn more about Tarver Games, get the skinny on Ghosts Attack, ask him why he went from consoles to iPhone, and to ask him some of your questions.

Cross is an excellent and entertaining person. Check out everything he has to say and be sure to hit the break for an exclusive Ghosts Attack video.

Raymond Padilla: Chris, you’ve had tremendous success on home consoles. Why head to the iPhone? Is it the excitement of undiscovered territory? A new challenge?

Chris Cross: Thanks Ray — Yes, I have had success on home consoles and who is to say I won’t again? But for the moment, we (Tarver) have decided to bring our first IP — Ghosts Attack — to the iPhone. Just take a look at what’s going on today with games, budgets, platforms, and accessibility. The iPhone offers both developers and consumers an incredible chance at amazing products and apps for a fraction of the cost of console products.

RP: Some of my readers might need a primer on your upcoming game, Ghosts Attack. Would kindly give a brief primer on the game?

CC: Ghosts Attack is an alternate reality/FPS with a twisting — and a bit twisted :) — storyline. Ghosts Attacks integrates Google Maps technology with a dynamic alternate reality gaming experience. You explore a parallel world that was accidentally discovered by a group of scientists 40 years ago. Using the Map Kit in the iPhone SDK we let you use our own world map as your guide. There are mysteries to uncover, hostile enemies to fight, fast shooting action, a remote rover to pilot and a whole lot more.

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How Warren Spector Ended up with Disney’s Epic Mickey

Warren Spector is one of the most creative game developers in America, but it seems odd that the man who worked on Thief and Deus Ex would be crafting a Mickey Mouse game for Disney. Yet here he is, working on Epic Mickey for Wii. Spector told Develop how his agent, CAA’s Seamus Blackley (who really ought to sign me), set him up with a meeting with Disney. He was reluctant to take it, but it worked out well.

So I’m stood there in a room full of Disney Interactive execs, and midway through my pitch I see they are all looking down at their BlackBerrys checking their email. I thought: ‘I was right! I am going kill Seamus’.

What was actually going on was that they were interested, but they were texting each other, asking ‘Shall we ask him if he’s interested in this Mickey game?’ It gets to the end of my pitch and they ask me how I felt about licensed games I said, ‘Actually, I am really interested in them’.

Epic Mickey

While I would never have predicted a Warren Spector/Mickey Mouse pairing, I have to admit that the possibilities are tremendous. Spector makes fantastic games and I can’t wait to see what he can do with an iconic character like Mickey Mouse. Who would have guessed that “the Deus Ex guy” + Mickey Mouse = the most anticipated Wii game of 2010.

[And Seamus, if your assistant happens to send this your way, you should really round out your stable of world class game developers with some guy writing a game blog. If anyone could get this site funding, it’s you. Ha!]

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Shigeru Miyamoto Discusses His Design Goals for Zelda Wii

During a recent investor Q&A session, Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto shared some of his design goals for the next Legend of Zelda game for Wii. As you know, the game will likely be significantly different from its predecessors due to its use of Wii MotionPlus. While some of you are down on the game and down on Miyamoto, I’m pretty sure the next Zelda for Wii will be great. Anyway, here’s what the game-design legend had to say:

Of course we are preparing gorgeous graphics for the sake of users’ anticipation for a grand role-playing adventure. But what I believe is very important is the realistic, actual feeling players have experienced themselves; the feeling to have really been on an adventure, to have explored the unknown terrains, to have solved the puzzle through trial and errors, to have themselves grown through various experiences! In that sense, a personal sense of creativity is becoming important among us. We have assembled one of the most creative team for the recent Zelda for DS, and we want to be as creative as possible for upcoming Wii Zelda.

Zelda Twilight Princess 2

A lot of Miyamoto’s design philosophies reminded me of my exchange with Rpadholic “LarcenousLaugh” in yesterday’s Coffee Talk. Miyamoto’s games aren’t about heavy-handed storytelling; they’re about the experience. While many modern games have been successful with strong storytelling, Miyamoto’s games succeed with their transparency, allowing gamers to feel like they’re the star of their videogame adventure. Some players might think this style is old fashioned, but I think it still works today.

As always, I want to know your opinion on Miyamoto’s style and what you expect from the next Zelda Wii. Do you prefer heavy-handed storytelling (Kojima games) or do you like transparency (Miyamoto games)?

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Warren Spector Still Has Deus Ex Stories to Tell

Deus Ex

Although Junction Point president & creative director Warren Spector has his hands full with Epic Mickey, he’s still thinking about a franchise that’s near and dear to his heart: Deus Ex. Longtime Spector fans will be pleased to learn that he’s not done with the series. He told Gamasutra:

There were and still are Deus Ex stories I would like to tell. That story is not done for me.

This is completely awesome news. Deus Ex is a top franchise and Warren Spector is a top creator. While I’m really looking forward to Epic Mickey, I’d love to dive back into the Deus Ex universe. How about you guys and dolls?

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