I have been making games of one sort or another since 1980, and proud to have been on the teams that made the original versions of Railroad Tycoon, Civilization, the Age of Empires series, and Castleville. I'm happy to be working with the talented crew at BonusXP, many of them worked on Age of Empires as well. We just released our new RTS game, The Incorruptibles, for iPad and iPhones. Ask me anything!

Proof: https://twitter.com/BonusXP/status/674711248068591616 More Proof: http://bonusxp.com/images/bruce_ama.jpg

Thanks for stopping by and for the good questions. I may check tomorrow for good ones I may have missed. If you try The Incorruptibles, we hope you find it engaging. Cheers.

Comments: 85 • Responses: 28  • Date: 

revanon15 karma

Thank you for the Age of Empires series, it was one of the most memorable and enjoyable game series in my childhood, right up there with series like the Legend of Zelda and Star Wars: Rogue Squadron.

How do you expect an RTS game like The Incorruptibles to compete in a marketplace that has changed from simply buying copies of games back in the AOE days to either subscriptions (like World of Warcraft) or buy-on content (like Ultimate Team in FIFA)?

BruceCShelley9 karma

Thanks for the kind words about AoE. They were a blast to make and all of us are proud to have worked on them. I can't say we expect The Incorruptibles to compete, but we believe it has a strong chance. It may be that people playing the big mobile strategy games are not typical or advanced gamers. We think there is an audience for true RTS on mobile and we took a carefully considered stab at it. It is free-to-play but you can accelerate your way through the content by paying a little bit.

CalamityCassie8 karma

First of all, I grew up playing the Age of Empires series, so thank you for being a part of that.

Presuming that you played the games you helped make, what was your favorite civilization to play out of the Age of Empires?

Additionally, is there anything you miss about the making of the older games versus newer ones?

BruceCShelley7 karma

Didn't have a favorite Civ in Age, sorry. We had to play them all and try to get them balanced. If one became a favorite it was probably overpowered and needed to be nerfed a little. I did like the Brits because of the archers, I remember. Making the older games was much simpler; less competition, smaller teams, less time involved in making them; you could finish and start something new, which was refreshing. Multi-years projects get to be a slog.

CalamityCassie3 karma

The Brits were always my favorite, too. Who doesn't love making a maxed-out army of archers? Thank you for the answer and it's great that you were part of such a great game series.

Is there any game in particular that was created that, looking back, you wish you had been a part of?

BruceCShelley4 karma

Playing a game and making it are different. I liked playing LoTRO but I don't know if working on it was fun. Thinking about it off hand I would say I would not change much. I got to work with great people on great games. That is true today with BonusXP. We just got listed on ITunes APP store as a featured game.

dinoscool37 karma

What is the biggest change you see between making games in the early days, I.e. the '80s, and making games today?

BruceCShelley14 karma

Much better technology, including graphics. The first PC game I worked on had 4 colors. The PC I used making Railroad Tycoon had a 30KB hard drive. Yow!

frincog7 karma

Will you and your crew ever work on an Age-of-Empires style RTS, with resources, economic units, buildings and military units?

BruceCShelley6 karma

The Incorruptibles, we just published with our partners at MaxPlay, is such a game, but redone to work on mobile. All of those things are in The Incorruptibles. It is playable fast, which we think the market demands today, but you will recognize is as clearly RTS.

Sanlear3 karma

Good timing. I just saw it on the App Store and was looking at reviews on Reddit before downloading. I think I'll give it a shot.

BruceCShelley5 karma

I hear The Incorruptibles was just listed by Apple as a featured new game of the week. Super news.

zomboromcom7 karma

Bruce - first, thanks for your work on some truly monumental games. Now on the subject of monuments... I have to ask (because no one else will) - in the original Civilization, the favourite feature among my entire circle of friends was the Palace. For the younglings, this was a purely symbolic reward whereby you'd get to choose a palace feature from a few different designs (eg, Euro castle, Taj Mahal) and add it to your palace across the game. The triggers for these reward pieces were uncertain, but by the gods we loved it for some reason. And of course as the Civ series moved on, that feature was never seen again (although we have "we love the king" day and others). Any insight? Was this feature a poorly-regarded lark? Did anyone argue in its favour?

BruceCShelley7 karma

I only worked on the CIV I and have no insight on why that feature was dropped in succeeding games. I will be moderating a panel of the CIV designers at DICE next year (25th anniversary of CIV I) and can ask. Always good to hear people have enjoyed your games. I remember it was very cool to go into a store and see something you had worked on being for sale.

svenser6 karma

Do you personally prefer to play games on PC (like the games you listed first) or iPads, in general?

BruceCShelley5 karma

Prefer different platforms for different games. For a bigger more absorbing experience I prefer the PC. For quick games and small games I prefer the iPad.

whszeubermensch6 karma


What is the secret for infinite replayability?

BruceCShelley8 karma

No secret. You created a world that is largely empty of units and let the players fill it in. The player writes the story with what he or she finds, builds, captures. Randomly generated maps and fog of war help with that.

gazerker6 karma

What was different (good, bad, etc.) about making an RTS for mobile devices, rather than PC?

BruceCShelley5 karma

Controlling units was an issue. With the PC you have the mouse and keyboard, which were excellent for lots of control. We chose to limit the number of actual units being controlled on mobile, but build out those units (heroes) with underlying squads. It was tricky converting the UI into being tap driven, versus hot key / mouse. That was a big one.

_Mondano_6 karma

What is your favourite game?

BruceCShelley11 karma

Too many to choose from and yesterday's favorite might not be tomorrow's. Of the ones I worked on probably Age of Empires II. It was a perfect storm. But CIV I was an incredible experience.

torgis309 karma

I absolutely loved Age of Empires II. It was just about the perfect LAN-party game.

You, sir, are responsible for hundreds of the best gaming hours of my life.

Can I ask which parts of AoE2 you were responsible for?

BruceCShelley19 karma

The Trebuchet was my idea. Very proud of that. :)

rockyourteeth6 karma

So, speaking of how The Incorruptibles is a quicker RTS experience, what are the challenges of cramming an hours-long style of RTS into a few minute game experience? What was fun about designing/playing it, and what sacrifices had to be made?

BruceCShelley4 karma

We made it much smaller. Smaller maps, fewer units, less stuff to manage. You really control only three fighting units (and their underlying squads), which makes RTS practical on mobile. It was an interesting challenge to make it work and see it come together. We don't have 200 units on screen at a time, so perhaps that was a sacrifice, but that could not be done.

Prophet6845 karma

Hello Mr. Shelley, I have to say thank you and I honor you for your working in the game industry especially in games like Age of Empires, Age of Mythology, The Settlers 7, Civilization, Halo Wars and so forth. These games say it all they made my childhood a dream come true! I have and still play these games all quite often as well with friends and family. I never am ceased to be amazed by the potential of the company BonusXP and the projects you have worked on. I have so many questions I wish I could ask as I have been collecting these games for over 15 years or 16 years as I started when I was really really young. I remember first playing the game Age of Empires II with either my mother and brother and the amount of fun I had with them. I still get that feeling of bliss each time! I was hoping to ask with the future of gaming do you feel the company of BonusXP might ever create a full on PC RTS with the long battles like Age of Empires again and so forth? BonusXP is one of the few companies I believe could truly succeed in this and evidence from the company in this as well as yourself is in games like Servo and Incorruptibles. I really hope that you and your team have the best of luck in the future and really appreciate your time answering this if you can!

Thank you again from a huge fan!

BruceCShelley3 karma

Thanks for the kind words. Many of us have been lucky to make the games we wanted to play and its great to hear that so many people wanted to play them also. As to whether we will ever make a big PC RTS game again, I could not say. We are a small team for starters. And maybe the world has passed on from big RTS. Players today seem to want short, intense games, and it is not clear if any publisher would pay for the development of a big game in that space. For the near term, I believe we will continue making smaller games and be a little experimental, but never is a long time.

Prophet6843 karma

Thank you very much Mr. Shelley! I really do hope that one day the funding might be there for I know I will be there buying the collectors edition day one! Best of luck to you and I hope to ask some more questions in the future!

BruceCShelley3 karma

You're welcome. Keep asking questions. I believe in lifetime learning.

JRP12905 karma

What do you find is the biggest challenge you face when making a game?

BruceCShelley2 karma

No single biggest challenge. There are loads of challenges. Find a topic the team really cares about. Scope it out such that we have the technical ability to make it. Be relatively certain that there is a business case for the game. Prototype it early to be sure it works and then build and keep a reasonable schedule. Iterate the game as you develop it to make it better. Polish it. Those are all big challenges.

carpy224 karma

Any chance of Railroad Tycoon 4 happening?

BruceCShelley2 karma

I had nothing to do with RT II and beyond. I would like to see it personally, but I would have to really convince everyone here at BonusXP it is a good idea. We make games we all can get behind. Also, I don't know who owns the Railroad Tycoon name. A new game would have to acquire that or name it something else.

kemb03 karma

Thanks. Some of my favourite childhood games and what led me to be a game designer today.

My question: is there a game idea you never made but wish you had?

BruceCShelley2 karma

Anyone in this industry has lots of game ideas, but most are not practical. I would like to see another good railroad game, as another questioner raised, but really, I have been incredibly fortunate with the people I have been able to work with and the games we made. Still true today at BonusXP.

platysaur3 karma

If there was one culture you would like to add to Age of Mythology, what would it have been? Thanks for the AMA!

BruceCShelley3 karma

We needed a mythology with a fair number of gods, but also at least a few spectacular creatures. I believe we were thinking of Chinese mythology and dragons as a possible addition.

platysaur2 karma

That's really interesting. I don't know if the ideas from Age of Mythology carried over to the HD directors because a new expansion for it is coming out with Chinese Gods, as you might know. I am very excited to see how it goes. And thanks for answering!

BruceCShelley2 karma

You're welcome. Thanks for stopping by.

TheAeolian3 karma

I have been a mythology fan since a very young age and I was very impressed with the collegiate-level understanding present in Age of Mythology. How did that happen? Did game designers like yourself do your own research?

Also, what's the story behind the Lazer Bear and Flying Purple Hippo?

BruceCShelley6 karma

Ian Fischer was the lead designer on Age of Mythology and largely responsible for the mythology we borrowed for that game. We did a lot of reading about mythology, chose rich cultures from which to borrow material, and built the game around those. You are not alone in liking that game. We hear from many people who think it is their favorite. Lazer Bear and the Flying Purple Hippo are things we call Easter Eggs that our artists put in games, like a signature. It's fun for them to sneak those into a game and then fun for gamers to find them. I remember Catapults in AGE I had license plates on the back. Harmless fun for the team and players who go looking for them.

Vistern3 karma

How did you get your start in designing video games? Do you have any advice for those that are interested in getting into the video game industry?

BruceCShelley3 karma

I started making paper and board games in 1980 but before that I was a volunteer unpaid playtester for a New York board game company. Later, when they had an opening, they remembered my volunteer work and it helped me get an internship with them. That helped my resume and lead to a real job. And one opportunity led to another. The industry always needs good programmers and good artists. If you don't have those skills get in the door as a playtester or something else. Once in, even if working for free, demonstrate your passion and ability at every turn, and a good studio will find a place for you.

Zedthewise2 karma

I've been thinking about AoE II recently, and I'm wondering what your thoughts are on creating games with the game's legacy in mind. I mean, I know people that still get together monthly to host AoE II LAN games (16-ish years after release?), and I'm wondering if the kind of legacy a game like that retains is something designers consider (if they consider it at all)? I suppose most creators want their thing to continue to find an audience and retain player interest, but has the development process changed on that front at all, especially since there are so many more developers making games than there were 15-20 years ago?

Or is it more simple than that? Is the goal more along the lines of "Create a game that people want to play now."?

I'm not a developer, just someone who likes reading and writing about games and is curious about how things have changed over the years.

BruceCShelley2 karma

I believe it fair to say we did not consider the idea that we were making a game that would still be played, as you describe, nearly two decades later. One strength of the Age games was their replayability and AGE II in particular was terrific game that had a huge audience. When you play AGE II you start with an empty page and write the "story" as you go. In that sense, it is timeless if you can get past the technology issues of the old operating system. I don't know if it is a game that will be evergreen, but we are very pleased that it is still played. Games that are linear story based don't have the same replayability.

Ecator2 karma

Do you have any plans or ideas for games in VR? I would imagine the next few years in game making will be exciting with a possible new medium coming up with the release of headsets like the oculus rift. I have seen a few of the demos some game designers have made early on and some look really promising. I am looking forward to see what creative game experiences people will come up with for the VR medium.

BruceCShelley2 karma

No plans for VR. Several of out ex-colleagues are active in that arena and we wish them the best. I have tried VR and its cool, but I don't see it being an important game platform in the next year or two.

Ecator2 karma

Yeah I suppose it does depend on the game, VR works great for games where your doing something like flying a plane or a spaceship. Thanks for the reply and for the work you have done on some great games. Spent a fair amount of time playing age of empires back in the day.

BruceCShelley2 karma

Thanks for the kind words on our games. Spent a fair amount of my life playing them also. :)

SashimiTuga2 karma

I'm 14 years old and I want to know a lot of things ! What do you need to become a Game Designer ? What motivated you to become one ? Do you think that an young boy like me should persue a game designer carrear or the risk that im taking is to big ? What was the experience while you were working at those big games ?

BruceCShelley3 karma

Designer is maybe the hardest position to prepare for as a career and then find as a studio. I got into games because I found that nothing so actively engaged my mind. I was a graduate student in economics when I helped start a game company with friends from our university game club. I got to the point that I would try making a living making games before I got a real job. Now 35 years have passed and I still don't have that real job. Things that helped me as a designer: play games and analyze what your like about them, don't like, and how you would make them better; learn to communicate well (writing, speaking); educate yourself (read, watch films; games need ideas and you get many ideas from media; be the person with answers when questions arise); learn to write computer code if that is still an option for you. Get involved at a game club at your school and college if you go in school. Game making is not an easy career because studios fail all the time, but I have enjoyed it.

UnstoppableStreletsy2 karma

Okay I have a few questions. One important one is was there ever a age of empires 4 idea? I know people like 2 and 3 mostly but I am curious of a aoe4 ever being thought up of by eso. To follow up have you heard of the aoe3 wars of liberty mod and if not would you be interested at checking it out and how revolutionary it is to preserve aoe3 as a game?

BruceCShelley2 karma

We never gave a lot of thought to a possible Age 4. Age 3 was hard to make and took all of our energy. We were going to think about Age 4 when we got to it, but never really did. Have not heard of the Wars of Liberty mod, sorry. Have not stayed up to date with AoE. It was a huge part of our lives and many of us wanted to move to new things.

[deleted]1 karma


BXP_Thunder1 karma

You believe incorrectly sir.

BruceCShelley3 karma

We licensed the Age engine to LucaArts, as I recall. The best part of that collaboration was getting to visit the Skywalker Ranch and get a tour. They basically took the AGe game and swapped their units and buildings for ours. Much more to it than that but it was a quick way for them to get a strategy game out of the Star Wars universe. Great that you liked it so much. I remember our contact with them was mostly on the technical side, making it work. They didn't need any help on the Star Wars content of the game.