Rob Zacny

Episode 203: Classic Career Analysis with Chris Taylor

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Gas Powered Games' Chris Taylor joins Rob, Troy, and Julian to talk about Total Annihilation and the Supreme Commander series, as well the problems currently facing Gas Powered and their Wildman Kickstarter.

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We also didn't talk about Dungeon Siege. Our interest in Taylor's work was pretty specific with this episode. Taylor admits it's their weakest game, but not sure why it would come up here. Also, come on, Taylor and GPG have a pretty solid batting average.

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I meant in the list of credits at the beginning (where Dungeon Siege was mentioned), it just tickles my funny bone how that game is omitted everywhere.

Great episode, I love hearing Chris talk about the Good Old Days of programming.

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sclpls   

Total Annihilation is probably my favorite RTS of all time (granted I haven't downloaded it off of GOG because I'm kind of afraid that something I look back on with such fondness won't hold up... maybe this episode will change my mind...). Very sad that it looks like GPG will be shutting its doors. I'm a little nervous about listening to this episode.

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jeremywc   

I meant in the list of credits at the beginning (where Dungeon Siege was mentioned), it just tickles my funny bone how that game is omitted everywhere.

Great episode, I love hearing Chris talk about the Good Old Days of programming.

I think it's still technically true when talking about Chris anyway, as he only served as Lead Designer on Supreme Commander and Dungeon Siege. Probably not a coincidence that those are also the best two games they've put out.

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I think it's still technically true when talking about Chris anyway, as he only served as Lead Designer on Supreme Commander and Dungeon Siege. Probably not a coincidence that those are also the best two games they've put out.

That's as may be but Space Siege was specifically marketed with Chris' name all over it. I understand why they did so but the consequent complete disowning (while completely sensible) amuses me.

Look at the enthusiasm in this trailer!

Anyway I don't want to belabour the point and I honestly wish Chris all the best even though GPG's latest offerings haven't really charmed me.

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Mygaffer   

Great episode and great to hear Chris talk about what is going on with him and the Kickstarter.

I have already backed Wildman even though it is not trending to hit its goal. Such a shame, Wildman sounds amazing and is something different. No wonder it hasn't garnered a lot of backers. No wonder publishers won't touch new IP and new genres.

We bring it on ourselves.

There is still time for interested parties to back Wildman.

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Shinan   

I have to admit I had discounted Wildman, thinking it was not really "my kind of game". But apparently I had just skimmed through all the stuff about it since I did not know it was a single player game until Taylor said so. In fact I was convinced it was mainly a MP title until he explicitly said "90% of people play single player". It must have been the Lords Management-thing being thrown around because that has Multiplayer in the title that made me just assume that it was primarily a multiplayer game (with a probable single player component)

I wonder if there are other people who are as dumb as me (proably not and now I've outed myself). I'll definitely take a second look at Wildman now. Because when I first saw it I literally thought "what a cool concept, too bad it's a multiplayer game".

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I have already backed Wildman even though it is not trending to hit its goal. Such a shame, Wildman sounds amazing and is something different. No wonder it hasn't garnered a lot of backers. No wonder publishers won't touch new IP and new genres.

We bring it on ourselves.

There is still time for interested parties to back Wildman.

I would assume that parties interested in Wildman have already done so. There's no bringing anything on anyone; the campaign has had more than its share of publicity by now. If people aren't interested then they aren't.

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sclpls   

I have to admit I had discounted Wildman, thinking it was not really "my kind of game". But apparently I had just skimmed through all the stuff about it since I did not know it was a single player game until Taylor said so. In fact I was convinced it was mainly a MP title until he explicitly said "90% of people play single player". It must have been the Lords Management-thing being thrown around because that has Multiplayer in the title that made me just assume that it was primarily a multiplayer game (with a probable single player component)

I wonder if there are other people who are as dumb as me (proably not and now I've outed myself). I'll definitely take a second look at Wildman now. Because when I first saw it I literally thought "what a cool concept, too bad it's a multiplayer game".

This threw me off too. I assumed the combination of RTS and ARPG just meant it was going to be a LOMA which didn't appeal to me. The game he described on this episode sounded a lot more appealing, and I've gone ahead and backed it.

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I'm in the same bucket, this looked like yet another time sink Lords Management that you can't do anything less than completely involve yourself in to hope to compete on a multiplayer level.

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It really saddens me that the Wildman kickstarter is not going well. I hate what it means for GPG and it's employees. I hate that we miss out on an interesting game idea.

We might miss out on a Chris Taylor/GPG SC3, Kings & Castles, or whatever other ideas they had.

I wish they had been able to get the IP for TA back as I think that would have done gangbusters on kickstarter, but I understand that they couldn't a/o didn't want to.

My biggest hope is that he doesn't follow so many of our strategy heroes into social gaming. I still hold hope that we'll get Brian Reynolds back some day.

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I picked up Supreme Commander 2 not knowing anything about the game or the franchise or strategy games as a whole. The moment I "figured out" the AI was when I accidentally left the game running while I went to class. When I came back, not only had I not lost, but my automated manufacturing had hit the unit cap, and in front of my base was a line of wreckage from repeated attempted assaults by the other faction. I zoomed all the way out to strategic mode, selected my entire army and marched them right into the enemy base, which was completely pitiful and desolate, having whittled itself down to the barest scraps with its own ill-planned attacks.

So anyway, that's how to beat Supreme Commander 2 I guess. I still had fun and it was gorgeous.

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jeremywc   

I picked up Supreme Commander 2 not knowing anything about the game or the franchise or strategy games as a whole. The moment I "figured out" the AI was when I accidentally left the game running while I went to class. When I came back, not only had I not lost, but my automated manufacturing had hit the unit cap, and in front of my base was a line of wreckage from repeated attempted assaults by the other faction. I zoomed all the way out to strategic mode, selected my entire army and marched them right into the enemy base, which was completely pitiful and desolate, having whittled itself down to the barest scraps with its own ill-planned attacks.

So anyway, that's how to beat Supreme Commander 2 I guess. I still had fun and it was gorgeous.

Ha! That's an awesome story. I love that aspect of Supreme Commander - the automation tools are so great that you can easily get to a point where your forces are just doing their own thing and you're just pushing forces at certain points to apply pressure. The first Dungeon Siege offered a lot of automation for a ARPG too. By the end of the game, I could usually just drag my party into an area and wait for them to demolish the room. I guess in a way that takes some of the challenge away, but it's such a satisfying feeling to me to watch this force I crafted to just move in and demolish everything in their path.

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Just finished listening to this and then donating to Chris' kickstarter. I was already thrilled to listen to a developer interview with such charisma and candor, but to experience Chris flipping Wildman in my mind from yet another Lords Management I couldn't care less about into the best RPG/RTS hybrid since Warcraft III was nothing short of magical.

I really hope this gets the word out, because I have several friends who are big fans of Gas Powered Games but have written off Wildman the exact same way I had.

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france   

Heard cast, pledged. It feels unreachable though... still pledged and still hoping other will do so. It's the only way.

cheers.

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hexgrid   

I have to admit, my first reaction to WIldman was "Oh, god, another Lords Management. Do Not Want.", followed by "Damn, it's a Lords Management by Chris Taylor, kind of wish I wanted since I like his stuff, but... Lords Management.", and eventually "Maybe it's not completely Lords Management? And it's Chris Taylor..." and eventually I talked myself into backing it. I love strategy games, but the Lords Management stuff leaves me largely cold.

Odd. I used M followed by O, B and A, and somehow it became "Lords Management" all through the post. Makes me wonder how it would respond to fnord.

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Thanks for the episode. Chris Taylor and GPG's situation is sad, but this was a great episode. It was nice to hear about the evolution of early RTSs from an insider and game designer's perspective. I'm hoping TMA will do more shows in this vein in the future.

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hexgrid   

The kickstarter just got cancelled. I really hope things work out for GPG; this would be a sad end for them. I can't say I was hugely enthusiastic about the idea of Wildman per se, but given who was making it I was prepared to give it a shot, and I backed it. I hope we have some good news from them soon, or at least a new kickstarter with a more realistic target. As it stands, if they'd asked for half a million (and designed a game they could make at that budget), they'd be over their target today.

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jeremywc   

As it stands, if they'd asked for half a million (and designed a game they could make at that budget), they'd be over their target today.

Probably, but I don't know if it's possible for Chris Taylor to think small. Look at how even Dungeon Siege took the roguelike formula and added tactical elements. It's like his projects need this middle tier of budget that's too big and experimental to get funded on Kickstarter but semi-niche and therefore too small to get interest from AAA publishers. I mean, let's face it, for all the going on about how Kickstarter is funding innovation, I can't think of a single $1 million+ project that wasn't a rehash of something already done. The expermental stuff normally doesn't even get a sniff at that kind of money, if even gets funded at all. Look at Mak if you need another example of something that seemed to have a lot of promise and didn't get anything.

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But strangely enough, almost every explanation on forums or comment threads as to why they wouldn't support Chris' kickstarter was either "I can't believe Gas-Powered Games has sold out and is making a Lords Management" or "I'm still mad about Demigod, Supreme Commander 2, or Space Siege". There's not much to be done about the latter, but the former could have been easily avoided by making clear that mechanics are being borrowed from the Lords Management genre to make something different, rather than just being a straight DOTA clone. It seems like Chris' kickstarter pitch focused more on how they'd hitched their wagon to this exciting new genre, when he should have been emphasizing what made it different.

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jeremywc   

But strangely enough, almost every explanation on forums or comment threads as to why they wouldn't support Chris' kickstarter was either "I can't believe Gas-Powered Games has sold out and is making a Lords Management" or "I'm still mad about Demigod, Supreme Commander 2, or Space Siege". There's not much to be done about the latter, but the former could have been easily avoided by making clear that mechanics are being borrowed from the Lords Management genre to make something different, rather than just being a straight DOTA clone. It seems like Chris' kickstarter pitch focused more on how they'd hitched their wagon to this exciting new genre, when he should have been emphasizing what made it different.

Go back and watch the Kickstarter video again. The first thing he says is "Wildman takes one of our favorite genres, action RPGs, and combines it with the elements we love from real-time strategy." Shortly there after he says, "At it's heart, Wildman is an action RPG." They were playing up the ARPG and RTS elements from the start and at no point were they ever really pitching it as a Lords Management-style game. The press heard Lords Management and ran with it.

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