This AMA is part of the Big GameDev AMA Series. For more info check: https://moleman4.com/ama/christaylor/

Chris Taylor is a Canadian video game developer/designer/entrepreneur most famous for developing Total Annihilation and the Dungeon Siege series and for founding Gas Powered Games. Chris was born in British Columbia, Canada, and started out at a small video games company called Distinctive Software where he developed early PC games Hardball II, 4D boxing and worked on the Test Drive and Fifa Soccer franchises. Chris left in 1995 and moved to Seattle where he designed and developed Total Annihilation and later founded Gas Powered Games. At GPG Chris and his team developed the Dungeon Siege and Supreme Commander franchises before selling the company to Wargaming.net, makers of World of Tanks. Chris left Wargaming in 2016 to start a new company, this time as an indie developer to once again return to the world of RTS gaming.

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If you would like to watch the GDC video game documentary Moleman 4 - Longplay, recommended by Chris Taylor visit: https://moleman4.com

Proof: https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6413418790268342272/

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UPDATE 03 July 2018: - The AMA is over for today but leave your questions here, Chris may answer those later.

"Well, that's it for me today, but I'll check back and answer more questions if I can in the coming days. Have a great day everyone!

Chris"

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UPDATE 04 July 2018: During the Big GameDev AMA Series get Moleman 4 and all the extras at a 64% OFF - $4.99 (Original price: 13.8$)

https://vimeo.com/ondemand/moleman4dev

Comments: 200 • Responses: 72  • Date: 

TheManCrab50 karma

Any plans for further games in the Supreme Commander series? Though I'd happily sell a testicle for a full TA reboot, SC is everything I like in a RTS

The_Big_GameDev_AMA52 karma

Laughably, I also sold Supreme Commander to Square Enix, so there's also pretty much zero chance that I'll ever work on that Franchise as well. I laugh, because when you sell something, you don't realize that you're sort of condemning it to a sort of unaccessible fate.

The_Big_GameDev_AMA30 karma

Hello, good morning!!

IceDreamer28 karma

IceDreamer, Game Councillor for the Forged Alliance Forever project here. Thanks for such an incredible game!

My question: Are you intending your new zero-friction RTS to appeal strongly to fans of your previous hyper-complex games like TA and SC? Have you found some way to smooth the learning and power curve between the casual RTS player at the start of the zero-friction experience, and the super-hardcore fans who crave complexity?

The_Big_GameDev_AMA31 karma

Wow, that's so spot-on in terms of the key question that I asked myself last year when putting the design together. And the answer is, yes, I sure hope the fans like what I'm doing, but it's entirely possible they'll hate it as well. But the thing to remember is, I'm coding it all myself and I'm at the start of a great journey and will be doing a lot with my platform in the years ahead. When I enter beta I'll be looking forward to getting comments and feedback and taking that input to heart as I complete the first in this new series of play it anywhere, anytime with anyone RTS games.

xiiinon2 karma

Thank you for taking your time to answer our questions, Chris. Just a follow up in case you do come back later: does your current project involve a gnu/linux version as well? And if yes, have you been following the development of universal packaging solutions like Appimage, Snaps/Flatpaks enabling you to distribute your product across all Linux flavors and versions at once?

The_Big_GameDev_AMA3 karma

Short answer is, yes, you'll be able to play on Linux... but the reason is slightly different, but I need to be a little secretive on this front yet.

Sloopher21 karma

How does the RTS genre need to evolve to be relevant in an era of SaaS and social media?

The_Big_GameDev_AMA27 karma

I'm working on solving that exact problem and trying to answer the question with the new project I'm working on. I've got a few things I can say, and the first one is, accessibility is key and keeping the friction to getting new players on board needs to be super low, what I call zero-friction. You literally cannot have any friction at all. Which is a tall order. And the next thing regarding accessibility is allowing people to play any game you make on any device. You can't dictate the device anymore, those days are gone.

coryrenton17 karma

In your opinion, what is the best designed game that ended up being not that much fun and what is the worst designed game that somehow manages to be quite fun?

The_Big_GameDev_AMA29 karma

I think No Man's Sky would get the award in recent years, but I don't like to be harsh on that team, as they had a great concept and they worked hard to make it happen, but it does serve as a good example. I think a game like that or perhaps a sequel, could end up delivering on that promise. I think Minecraft, if you really take a look at it, was one of those games where it was almost immediately dismissed as being a shitty 8 bit game and it blew everyone's mind. I think indie games do that quite a bit these days... we're starting to see that the graphics and the gameplay are two different things, and if you have fantastic gameplay that graphics don't matter anywhere near as much as we thought they did... sad as that may be for those working on insanely amazing graphics today!

Peasantine12 karma

If you could share some learning experiences with younger designers: What is the one thing you've done in this industry that payed off the most and what is the one thing you've done in this industry that you regret the most?

The_Big_GameDev_AMA22 karma

I think when you're an aspiring designer, you have to really focus yourself on design, and not get distracted by the business of making games, the technology, or all the other stuff that can distract you and get in between you and the process of design. You have to love the details of it and really practice working those details over and over. And you can't 'phone it in', you just have to do the work and own it completely.

As for regrets... probably the way I chose publishing partners. I should have held off and not entered into deals because I needed the cash infusion to make payroll. Better to lay people off than sign on with a bad publishing partner.

AMemoryofEternity11 karma

What games by super small studios or solo devs have made you stand up and take notice? Like as in a "holy crap, I can't believe they did that with three people and a budget that can barely afford a happy meal?"

The_Big_GameDev_AMA14 karma

hahaha... funny. Not always possible to know how much money the developer had when you play a game, or how many people on the team went without pay (like if the team was working remotely while they all had day jobs). And it's not evident how long it took to make something. It's possible the developer eventually shares all of this info, but the thing about a game is, you can't really tell by looking at it. But... having said all that... the one guy who stands out from the rest of the crowd to me is Zach Barth. I really love and appreciate his passion for game creation and feel that he's had the right approach all along.

AMemoryofEternity3 karma

He's the guy behind Shenzhen I/O right? Neat, I might give his games a look. I feel like with the current game development scene, developers are a lot more open and collaborative, especially with how many hobbyists there are.

On the flip side, the industry from the perspective of an indie is very saturated right now. Still, there is plenty of space for competitors and I agree that as jaded as everything has become, a lot of passion can go a long way.

The_Big_GameDev_AMA2 karma

Totally right. Well said.

The_Big_GameDev_AMA11 karma

Well, that's it for me today, but I'll check back and answer more questions if I can in the coming days. Have a great day everyone!

Chris

FredSaberhagen1 karma

Sorry I missed this at first - if you do have time to come back, I'd like to ask if you've played much Planetary Annihilation and what are your thoughts as to it playing as a spiritual successor to TA? Thanks!!

The_Big_GameDev_AMA1 karma

I don't really think it's a spiritual successor. I think that there wasn't enough of the original team, and from what I remember, there was like two people from the original team... out of 30.

drkeyser10 karma

being a fan on Sup Com, i really like RTS that have really in-depth mechanism.

I heard you are working on a RTS that allow a switch to the phone. I'm wondering how in-depth can be such a game, knowing the limitation of phone. Can you share your thought on this topic ?

The_Big_GameDev_AMA10 karma

I'm a lot like you in that regard. Years ago we called these games, easy to learn, hard to master. I suppose I would change that and say, easy to learn, extremely hard to master. lol... as that to me is what makes a great game. And yes, I'm working on a new gaming platform that will allow players to access the same game from almost any device, numbering around 2.5 Billion today. It's important that people can play a game quickly, easily and at any time and even with a lousy connection to the internet. I will be sacrificing graphics to do this, but from what i can tell, that's the right thing to sacrifice to make those other things a possibility.

spacetimecowboy7 karma

What are your thoughts on Jon Blow’s Jai programming language?

What programming language, platform and tools do you do your development with?

What do you like about the games industry these days?

What do you dislike about the industry these days?

What advice can you give/lessons you have learned about successfully releasing a high quality game?

Career highlight so far?

Toughest moment in your career and how you got through it?

Thanks for TA and Dungeon Siege - I was a huge fan of both! And thanks for doing this AMA!

The_Big_GameDev_AMA12 karma

Wow, that's a lot of questions, but I'll try and whip through them...

  1. I haven't read much about Jon Blow's new programming language, but he's such a smart and interesting guy, it's a good reminder that I should go and read up on what he's doing. I had seen his talk at Reboot Develop last year but hadn't looked into it much since then.
  2. I love C and C++, and recently on the server side Node.js is really quite powerful if used to solve the right problems. I won't do heavy problem solving in any scripting language, ever.
  3. Lots to love about the business, like the shrinking influence of the publishers and the rise of independent game development. Let the good times roll.
  4. I'm not disliking much to be honest, but things are going to get really exciting when the entire planet can access the internet and whatever game they want and on any device they happen to have. Crazy exciting.
  5. To make a great game means to have an original vision and to stay true to it. Don't let others interfere with that vision and though you do need to get it made in a timely manner, know the different between expediency to market and rushing it out!
  6. My career highlight was making TA. Nothing has ever beat that, as I reflect back on the past 30 years.
  7. Toughest moment was almost going bankrupt on the Kickstarter... I think I was pretty much at the end of my rope on that one. And thankfully Wargaming came along at just the right time.
  8. You're so welcome, and I'm glad you have enjoyed the games. Made by many incredibly talented people that I've had the pleasure to work with over the years. Though GPG has now officially ended, as with the closing of Wargaming Seattle, all of those talented and creative people are still out there making games and doing great work. I can only hope that we all might have a chance to work together again some day.

ragnarspoonbrok7 karma

Loved dungeon siege years ago played 1 2 and 3. Any chance of a new one coming to console ? Or am I going to have to buy a pc again ? Also what RTS games have you got coming out ? I've been missing my RTS fix since c&c was killed by ea

The_Big_GameDev_AMA13 karma

I sold the IP rights to Dungeon Siege to Square Enix back during the recession that almost wiped out GPG. The only company that can sequel it is Square Enix, and I think that's a pretty narrow possibility by my estimate. I'm working on a new RTS game now, and I hope to reveal more about that when it's ready for some beta testing.

Peasantine4 karma

What about a game similar to Dungeon Siege using a new IP? Anything in the works?

The_Big_GameDev_AMA9 karma

I think making an RPG is such a huge undertaking that I would really need the right circumstance to do it, so for now, I would say that it's not happening. However, I think something like Wildman still intrigues me and could happen.

axel12xy6 karma

Did you know there is still an active community that keeps up servers and framework to play Suprem Commander Forged Alliance online? Seems like it is still quite popoular.
They even supply patches(to balance the game), mods ,maps, host tournaments and lots of other stuff. It is called Forged Alliance Forever

The_Big_GameDev_AMA2 karma

Yes, and as each year passes, this is more and more impressive!

kemgame6 karma

If you could choose any IP to make a sequel for it which one would it be?

The_Big_GameDev_AMA22 karma

Total Annihilation would be my first choice. But you know, as much as it is alluring to make a sequel, there's also something pretty cool about creating new stuff. That's where I'm headed now... new stuff!

Dire_Finkelstein5 karma

Greetings Chris! Total Annihilation for me was the pinnacle of RTS games, and nothing has ever come close. I hope there’s a small chance in the future to return to the world of TA. Which leads me to my question: If there was going to be a Total Annihilation 2, what would become of the Arm and Core forces?

Also, what is your weirdest unit idea?

Thanks in advance!

The_Big_GameDev_AMA3 karma

Thank you, nice of you to give such high praise... the game is now over 20 years old, hard to believe. I don't know for sure if there will ever be a sequel, but it is highly unlikely that it will be designed by me, as I have now moved on and am creating a new RTS.

As for weirdest, I think some of the units in SupCom2 were pretty damn weird! The Bomb Bouncer and Weedoboth were pretty weird! This is such a great site... http://supcom2.wikia.com/wiki/Weedoboth_Fighter_/_Bomber

dataispower5 karma

What do you think are some of the flaws in Starcraft 2? Starcraft is arguably the largest player in the RTS genre and is still doing very well, so what should new RTS games focus on to give their game an edge over Starcraft?

The_Big_GameDev_AMA15 karma

I'm not a subject matter expert on Starcraft, or Starcraft 2. There was just something about it I never really liked. Maybe it was all the twitchy gameplay, or the fact that it was more tactical than strategic. I would be doing a disservice trying to answer this question in a meaningful way.

WodtheHunter2 karma

Which is why Supreme Commander works so well. Even at high level gameplay the APM is tiny compared to starcraft, and the massive quantities of units and unit variation make economy, terrain, and unit choice the crux of the battle. Wonderful game Chris.

The_Big_GameDev_AMA4 karma

Thank you, it's really nice to hear from players who appreciate the approach to a strategy game!

suaveitguy5 karma

How could you create a character-study kind of videogame? If someone licensed you Citizen Kane, or One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest - how could you faithfully adapt that kind of narrative without just taking the superficial look and sound of the films?

The_Big_GameDev_AMA14 karma

To adapt something like a classic movie takes some real skill that I think few possess. You can't just convert characters over and give them some dialog, you need to really step back, 30,000 feet and ask some hard questions about the original story, the intent of the storytelling and director. And you really can't tell the same story, as that's already been told, you need to find a way to tell a new story, a story that is just as good, but that is connected and that people who love the original will appreciate. Honestly, that's so hard I am not sure I would know where to begin on that.

TheBadgerLegion4 karma

Hey Chris! I grew up playing Dungeon Siege a lot as a kid. There are so many moments in that game that still give me chills and chuckles. However, I was saddened to see that the 2nd and 3rd installment did not have the same level of gravity as the 1st one had for me those years ago.

My question for you, is what changed between DS1 and the next two installments?

The_Big_GameDev_AMA5 karma

A lot changed. The first game was truly a labour of love, in ways that is hard to describe. The whole company was devoted to the game and that's all we worked on, day in and day out. When we started working on DS2 we created two different teams, one for DS2 and one for Supreme Commander. This is where so many companies fail, and we were not able to successful split the company into two teams. There is a lot more to it than that, but in short, it's very hard to maintain the focus on two big games at the same time, and I believe in this case, our focus shifted to Supreme Commander, and the other team didn't get the love and attention it rightfully deserved.

xiiinon4 karma

Many ask for your advice on how to become a developer or designer, I, however, wonder - from your experience, what are the main requirements for the composer role these days? How often do they send you drafts, when in the development process do they start working on the soundtrack and how long does it take to get it finished for a game like Supreme Commander for example? Are live instruments a must have these days or game composers still use virtual instruments fairly often?

The_Big_GameDev_AMA13 karma

Music composition is tough, because back in the early days, when I met up with Jeremy Soule, he did such an impressive job on the Total Annihilation soundtrack that I continued to work with him on many of the games at GPG. Kinda like the way that George Lucas worked with John Williams, we had the same sort of relationship. So, I guess if you are a composer, you really probably want to team up with a designer and form a partnership that can last throughout your career.

The_Big_GameDev_AMA9 karma

Oh, and it's possible for composers to do things in several months, but in my experience, giving them a full year or more will produce much better results. These things should not be rushed!

no_flares3 karma

A follow up to that question, why did music change so much between original Supreme Commander and its standalone Forged Alliance expansion?

The_Big_GameDev_AMA6 karma

You have good ears, and though I can't remember the details of how or why Jeremey wasn't available, Howard Mostrom ended up doing the score, or perhaps amending the score...

https://www.imdb.com/name/nm3180627/

Peasantine3 karma

Have you ever designed games in other mediums? Card games, board games, etc?

The_Big_GameDev_AMA7 karma

Only when I was in my teens... friends and I designed a new, expanded version of RISK on a table with the net removed for Table Tennis. It took months to play it, quite ridiculous but we were kids and we didn't care!

Doh0423 karma

Hi Chris, do you have recommendation for how to approach a publisher and try to get that very important first contact?

I'm moonlighting on an indie strategy game, so I have an idea of the publishers that could be interested in it, but I am drawing blank on how to get their attention to get the conversation going.

The_Big_GameDev_AMA8 karma

Well, given my experience, I wouldn't try and attract financial or publishing support from a publisher per se. I think they had their place at one point, but those days are coming to an end. If you did want to get involved with a publisher it will only be with an absolutely fantastic demo, but if you can get it that far, find a way to get it the rest of the way. That's my honest answer, hope it doesn't steer you wrong.

suaveitguy3 karma

Were you involved with the production of Uwe Boll's In the Name of the King? Was that an interesting collaboration? It had a great cast.

The_Big_GameDev_AMA9 karma

At the very beginning of that project I thought there might be a little more collaboration, but soon after we signed the deal it was apparent that they weren't terribly interested in having us play a role. At the time I was actually fine with it because GPG was a very busy place. I was so busy in fact that I was only able to visit the set once. Looking back on it, I do wish I could have helped more but that might not have mattered... movies are quite the beasts, and someone poking their nose in from the side probably doesn't help much.

rob_merritt3 karma

With the knowledge you have now, would there be anything different you would have done in promoting and making the eventual on hold, on canceled Kings and Castles? Was 2010 just too early for the crowd funding craze?

The_Big_GameDev_AMA8 karma

Ya, I sure did learn a lot from that whole crazy crowd funding thing. I think the thing that people don't realize is how much the game content costs to make. This is why so many indie games use the 8bit art style, the costs are insanely low compared to state-of-the-art content that so many people kinda expect today. So there was no way we could raise the money on Kickstarter to fund Kings and Castles, and frankly, even funding Wildman was a stretch, that's why I cancelled it. It was all just going to a bad place.

suaveitguy3 karma

What videogames were your watershed games? What was it about them, that impressed you as a youngster?

The_Big_GameDev_AMA10 karma

It was the arcade. Space Invaders, Asteroids, Battlezone. That was really the start. I mean, sure, there was Atari 2600, Intellivision, and Sears Pong... lol... but nothing could beat walking into an arcade and playing those early coin-op games. That was when I knew I wanted to develop games.

suaveitguy3 karma

What is the funniest videogame ever? What are the heirs to Monkey Island?

The_Big_GameDev_AMA8 karma

As my personality is somewhat ridiculous and I spend a lot of time laughing, you'd really think that I'd be drawn to games that are funny like Ron Gilbert's games. And believe me, Ron is a very funny guy, I laughed a lot when I worked with him. But the thing is, I don't really play funny games. I did enjoy his latest game, Thimbleweed Park. I do recommend it if you like the Monkey Island games!

xiiinon3 karma

Do you think the projects that you worked on at Wargaming could be compared in style and gameplay to what you're currently working on as an independent developer? What do you think of microtransactions/DLCs as a way to fund the development of your game post-release?

The_Big_GameDev_AMA9 karma

I did learn quite a bit about the world of free2play, but what I am doing now is a world away from anything that I was working on back at Wargaming Seattle. Had a lot of fun, learned a bunch, but my passions are taking me in a very different direction.

KarlJay0012 karma

What's your stack (engine, language, etc...)

What's your code reuse %? We're all taught that code reuse is king, but how much is actually reused in the real world from one game to another game?

I used to hit very, very high percentages, but that was custom business software.

The_Big_GameDev_AMA4 karma

I am kind of old school when it comes to game development, and even today, with all the new tech flying around, I still mostly prefer C, but I code in C++ so that I can use many of the features of C++, but I don't completely embrace the whole language. For example, I only allocate memory, I don't free it. Crazy as that sounds, if you want a really stable game, you allocate what you need and you use it. Old school to say the least.

When I write code I always think about whether something is a function or module that I can use again elsewhere, but I don't obsess over it. I'm happy to prototype something and then pull that code into a library at a later date if the need arises. I wouldn't really have a percentage, but I like to be efficient about it all and do make an effort in that regard.

LastoftheBoomers2 karma

Are you working on anything video game related now? Or is pottery good enough for the time being?

The_Big_GameDev_AMA8 karma

I'm working very hard on a new game, and it's actually going to be delivered on a new platform. My goal is to allow people to play games on any device they have, and to open up that platform for other indie developers. Pottery is a lot of fun, and it clears the mind and gets me away from technology, but my first and true love is game development and that is where I spend most of my time. I do need to get out and mow the lawn today however!

xiiinon2 karma

In the context of your new game being accessible on any platform - what do you think about the upcoming streaming services announced at this E3? Do you think developers will switch entirely to such model in the future and won't release/optimize their games for anything but server hardware?

The_Big_GameDev_AMA8 karma

If they intend to render on the cloud and pipe it down using video compression, I think it's still too early to pull that off. Too many people still have shitty internet, but hey, one day that will be possible.

ZMareBeaux2 karma

I'm sure you hear this question often, so pardon my redundancy, but what is your best advice for someone who wishes to try to join the gaming industry without having prior experience in it?

The_Big_GameDev_AMA8 karma

That's actually a great question, and the answer is surprisingly simple. First, you probably want to identify the city that is closest to you that you wouldn't mind living in that has a thriving game development industry. That for me is Seattle, Vancouver, SanFran, etc. Then, you want to ask yourself, do you want to pursue technology, art, production, or perhaps finance/management etc. After you kind of know what direction you want to go, which is super important, you want to get your foot in the door. That sounds hard, but it's mostly something made possible by taking a very low wage. Companies are always happy to hire smart, ambitious people who put opportunity ahead of income and will work crazy hard to prove themselves. Believe me, if you do that, you'll go anyplace you want to go... in video games or any industry for that matter.

ZMareBeaux2 karma

That's amazing advice, thank you so much. Your first note is also very encouraging, given that Austin (where I currently am) has already put forth effort towards creating a game development industry of their own. I appreciate you taking the time to respond!

The_Big_GameDev_AMA5 karma

My pleasure, and best of luck to you!

Unhappy_Owl2 karma

Hey Chris, love your game Supreme Commander. Forged Alliance is still played by thousands of people, and growing. Crazy to see the game survived THQ and GPG.

Anyway can you tell us more stuff about Seton's Clutch? The iconic map that people revere to this day and call the "holiest place of RTS gaming"?

Where does the name come from, what changed from beta testing etc.

Thanks.

The_Big_GameDev_AMA2 karma

That's crazy when you put it like that. I can't remember who designed that map... but hopefully they might read this AMA and answer. There SO MUCH content and stuff in SupCom it is very hard to remember who did what! That's the truth of it.

JTheDoc2 karma

Surprised to see no mention of Total Annihilation: Kingdoms... This was a fantastic game. I actually remember playing this on my first PC aged 7! Totally blew my mind how visually appealing and gripping it was.

My question... Will you ever consider working on the Kingdoms games again? They had a really detailed lore that for a kid didn't actually bore me. The styled artwork and music really lives deep in my memory! I remember my disc specifically being scratched at one point and made most of my games take forever to load. It was still worth the wait!

The levelling up with gold armour is something you rarely see anymore? Why does unit experience get left out in so many games? Having an OP mage archer destroy enemies from such a range, and freezing them with various different spells, whilst also being easily destroyed and squishy itself just like the other units gave the game a complete unique challenge that you don't see in a lot of point click rts games... I mostly had a special forces unit that was super experienced. I remember even just lucky goblins getting pretty menacing!

Maybe make the child in me go crazy and give me some secrets, history or info about the game? I recall the credits showing everyone working on this game whilst running the soundtrack. I bet if you looked now you'd see some old faces, whilst also feeling rather old yourself! Do you remember them adding such things to the game? Giving me a new insight to how that game was made, or memorable moments or achievements would really make my day after so long of it being an old fond memory... If you had some old memorabilia you could send a picture/screenshot of or something also? :) It had a beautiful style and art, and used mana so perfectly! All the objects in the game, the buildings, the scenery!

My favourite strategy was converting other build mages to your team and getting the enemy tech! So I always got to have my favourite mage archer and trebuchets. They were admittedly the most over powered units. Just aim for the king/queen with a gold level trebuchet and game over.

When I was a child, it opened me up to the computing world I've spent my whole life involved with since! 1999 was when I was born into computing. All because I saw the making of this game ever so briefly and knew from that point on, PC gaming was the real master race. I even remember playing that game at 1024x768 resolution after building my first pc around 8 as an upgrade! Looked amazing still!

Even if you don't answer, which would break my heart, I hope you really take with you how much that game meant to me as a kid.

I still never got to play it online though... I just made maps and tried to destroy myself with never ending swarms of enemies whilst building this huge siege castle.

Thank you and to those responsible for such a memorable game!!! Much love :) I'm aware you didn't work on the game, but in some way you must have some connection to it I hope! Sorry I'm asking so much, it's a huge nostalgia overload, and I never usually take the chance to ask questions in AMAs as comments get so buried, so I wanted this to be worth it!

Cheers! -The young child in me.

The_Big_GameDev_AMA4 karma

Wow, that's quite a message!! Well, as you said there right at the end, I never worked on it. I left Cavedog shortly after work completed on The Core Contingency. I bet Clayton Kauzlaric would love to hear this. I could send him your message if you like. And I can tell you this, he'll love to read this great bit of nostalgia from you. He only lives about 5 minutes from my house, can you believe that. Pretty cool.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clayton_Kauzlaric

tillD2t2 karma

I love TA and SC. I am looking for more RTS games to play but all don't have the touch as those games have. The last RTS I have played was PA: Titian. I enjoyed it and I did had my ups and downs but over all an A rated game for me.

Would love to see a RTS on the Switch. I don't care for super power gameplay and graphics, just want to play on the go.

Anyways, just wanted to thank you for sharing and creating games. I love them, I have played them, and still enjoy them to this day.

The_Big_GameDev_AMA2 karma

I agree, and am working on a game which you can play on touchscreen and desktop systems. It's pretty challenging to make a UI that works on both!

ManWithYourPlan1 karma

Not quite the same, but have you tried They Are Billions? RTS survival game that I quite enjoy. Randomly generated maps every time you play, as well as community challenge maps.

The_Big_GameDev_AMA2 karma

No, but I'll give it a look!

thunabrain2 karma

This might be a bit dicey since it concerns someone else's game, but what are your thoughts about Planetary Annihilation? As much as I want to love that game, I'm still disappointed about it - it has so many elements that are amazingly cool individually but don't come together very well.

The_Big_GameDev_AMA5 karma

As you can guess, it's not good form for me to pass my judgement publicly on the game, but the one thing I will say is that the idea of playing on a sphere was a pretty hard thing to pull off. You just never know which direction the attack can come from. I think the other challenge was that it was crowd funded and was rushed out the door, which kind of ruined a lot of people's first impression. It's a tough business in that regard, you don't really get a second chance.

Peasantine1 karma

What's your favorite game of all-time, other than the games you have worked on? Why?

The_Big_GameDev_AMA9 karma

That's such a huge question for me, because I take the idea that there is a single favorite very seriously. On the one hand you could just go by total hours played, and then it's like the original Battlefield 1942, which I played every day for a year, or you could say Minecraft, which I played for years, but not every single day. And it's too painful to leave out Duke Nukem, Populous and SimCity!!

rent-a-spoon1 karma

Where can I find your latest project? Why did you sell the rights of supreme commander? I loved that as much as TA, planetary annihilation not so much

The_Big_GameDev_AMA2 karma

I sold the rights to Dungeon Siege and Supreme Commander during the 2006-2007 recession where we almost went broke and owed the bank a pant load of money... a scary amount of money actually. Back was totally against the wall on that one. I was sad about it for awhile, but I got over it, because ultimately, a creative team really wants to make new stuff, not go and make the same game over and over again. And you see that happens when others make the sequels, it very seldom captures the same spirit and energy as the original. Movies are the same way... sequels can be great, but they often tend to be less successful that the first one in the series.

Shim_Hutch1 karma

I had a cousin named Chris Taylor. I have not spoken to him since 2013.

Are you him? If so, prove you are!

If not, prove you are not!

The_Big_GameDev_AMA2 karma

No it's me. How you been? Say hi to Jimmy... is he out of prison yet?

dooblevay1 karma

Hi Chris! TA got me in to game development! I still remember the wide eyed 15 year old me creating units, learning about art pipelines and mods. So thanks for that, 20 years later I've been in the industry for quite a while, and you had some part to play. And I still play FAForever to this day (About to fire it up!)

My question is if your new gig has you staying up here in the Seattle area? I always wanted to work at GPG but I didn't move up from the Bay until after things went down.

Good luck!

The_Big_GameDev_AMA3 karma

Awesome to hear that TA made an impression on you, love that! I'm out in Woodinville, 30-40 minutes from Seattle near the Ste. Michelle Winery (I can hear the concerts that play there from my house). I'm working from home and loving it... traffic is tragic in Seattle this past few years.

HydroPaxon1 karma

Is there any truth to the movie “Grandma’s Boy” at all?!?

The_Big_GameDev_AMA2 karma

hahahahahahhaa... funny. I think.

MicroArchitecture1 karma

Another person that is a big fan of TA here. Any plans of a source leak? ;)

The_Big_GameDev_AMA2 karma

If you mean the source code for TA? Only Wargaming, at this point, could make that happen, as I believe they are the only company in possession of the source code at this point.

Aipy551 karma

How much time (average) do you spend to create a game?

The_Big_GameDev_AMA3 karma

The average, over a 30 year career looks to be about 3 years. But I would like to speed that up quite a bit as I get older... that way I can make more games!

vehementi1 karma

Are you moving back to BC?

The_Big_GameDev_AMA2 karma

I should!! :) . I'll leave it at that.

Halcyon13781 karma

Is your next game going to be native 64bit?

I always ran into issues despite having computers that beat the snot out of recommended specs for your games. Like most games, I'd hit the memory limit and things would slow down.

The_Big_GameDev_AMA3 karma

I promise not to do that to your computer again... this time i actually mean it! hahahhaha...

deulamco1 karma

Hi Chris !

I'm a very young indie developer, that have been a fanboy of the 1st "Dungeon Siege" game, since I was still a little boy.
And this game ( the 1st version ), until now, still is one of my favorite action RPG of all time in term of atmosphere, gameplay and level design.

Can you share some memorable experience with "Dungeon Siege" development or any inspiration that you want to tell other young developers ?

Thank you so much !

The_Big_GameDev_AMA2 karma

That game took 4 years to make. So many stories, so much insanity. I think the craziest part of it was how hard we worked... literally 7 days a week, 12 hours a day for most of the development. We loved it!!

WisconsinSobriety1 karma

Hey Chris let’s talk for a minute about your greatest accomplishment. The sound track to Total Annihilation! That shit was epic and was the sound track to my childhood gaming regardless of game. Did it ever get released as a stand alone CD? Can i still get them?

zeitgeist01901 karma

The whole soundtrack is on the game CD I believe in RedBook format, so it should play in any commercial CD player as far as i know!

The_Big_GameDev_AMA3 karma

Check out Jeremy Soule's website, learn all about Jeremy and I think he, if anyone, can tell you where to get a CD of his music!

https://www.facebook.com/OfficialJeremySoule/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeremy_Soule

Tzunamitom1 karma

Chris, no question, but just wanted to say thank you for everything you've done for the gaming world. Total Annihilation is the first game I remember obsessing about in high school after being raised on a diet of Dune 2, Red Alert and Age of Empires (I've just checked and you guys actually released *before* AoE, which blows my mind). I remember carrying this 20-odd page pull out feature advertisement mag (from PC Gamer?) around with me everywhere, studying it and reading about the new physics-based gameplay you were building into the game.

Unlike many hyped releases these days, you guys actually delivered - I think RTS gamers today don't understand just how fundamentally TA changed the genre from a "resource collection simulator" to a genuinely strategic game that opened up creative options for players to handle challenges in the way that best suited their style. I'll never forget one of my early online multiplayer game against a high-ranked opponent where I threw everything into building a small fleet of Atlas carriers to rush to pick up the enemy commander and hold him hostage to dispose of at my leisure. That kind of experience is found in too few games these days (Kerbal Space Program maybe?) and really made it something special. So thank you!

The_Big_GameDev_AMA3 karma

You are very welcome, from me and the whole TA team. We love to hear stories like that!!

catnamedkitty1 karma

Any plans for something similar to TA ? Still fire it up to play some metal heck

The_Big_GameDev_AMA2 karma

I'm working on a new RTS but not related to TA. I am actually working on a game delivery platform, so my new RTS is an indie game as first in a series of games that will be completely written by me. Ambitious, but super fun, I'm having a blast. More details in the coming year, I promise!! :)

Bigram031 karma

What game kind of game would make if you had a billion dollars, full creative control, and a undefined time line?

The_Big_GameDev_AMA3 karma

I might actually try and create a VR game that simulates what it would be like to be a famous person of your choice. That would literally cost 1 billion to make.

SeafoodNoodles1 karma

What taught or influenced your games the most that wasnt related to gaming?

The_Big_GameDev_AMA2 karma

I think it was board games, but I suppose that is in fact related to gaming. I think the next best choice is all those science fiction and fantasy books I read. Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and Stephen R Donaldson were a few favorites.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_Asimov

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_A._Heinlein

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_R._Donaldson

Roanapura1 karma

Total annihilation on anything but easy is unplayable right now because AI cheats and start the game with 100 times the usual amount of resources. Can you do something ?

The_Big_GameDev_AMA2 karma

I'm not in a position to make any development changes on the code, so unfortunately no, there is nothing I can do to address your question.

BlooFlea1 karma

I think this is what i should do for my first career, i cant imagine anything else, but i live rural and have a few commitments, how should i start my way to creating my own masterpieces for people like me to explore and play?

The_Big_GameDev_AMA3 karma

Start with a simple idea, get it done in a month or two. Just do it all on your own. Once you create the first game, you'll learn so much, you'll have a better strategy for approaching the next one. Look at games like Agar.io . amazing when you think about it, and look at how many people play that relatively simple game! Go and read the story on the creation of it.

contorta_1 karma

Sort of a statement in the form of a question:

When did you realise (or did you realise) how much of an impact some of your games (children?) have on people?

I remember playing TA as a child, I'm talking like 9 or 10, and loving it so much. my friends or my brothers friends would come over and we would set up our 2 or 3 PCs and play on LAN. we would play the all metal maps and just go to super end-game to the point where it would be 1 frame every 20 seconds. it would have been one of the games that started my passion for not only video games, but showed me that setting up the networking to get it going was cool (the area I now have a job in).

so yeah, thanks!

The_Big_GameDev_AMA3 karma

That's a great story, I love to hear stuff like that. 1 frame every 20 seconds... oh the pain!!! LOL... Well, I just loved to make games, but TA, wow, it's the best experience to have made a game that so many people enjoy, and 20+ years later no less!!

zeddyzed1 karma

"I'm working very hard on a new game, and it's actually going to be deliver on a new platform. My goal is to allow people to play games on any device they have, and to open up that platform for other indie developers."

Could it be that what you are doing is similar to a dream I've had for a long time, a cross-platform middleware runtime for games?!?

(ie. something like a cross between a console emulator and Flash)

The_Big_GameDev_AMA2 karma

Well, I want to do a big announcement at some point, but I'll tell you this much. The entire simulation runs on a cloud, which is a critical component to making this system work. And it also allows you to have a ton of other amazing features as well like having people join/leave a game at any time. I'm pretty excited by the possibilities and can't wait to release all the juicy info!

temotodochi1 karma

I spent countless hours with total annihilation and all the mods for it. Thanks.

Maybe not a question, but when massive multi-touch screens arrived to the market i immediately saw them as the most epic controllers for TA or SC style games. Even with local multiplayer where many players can easily share the same screen set up as a war room table. I'm of course talking about screens like this https://youtu.be/2oCamjdTgpQ?t=1m46s (demo for perceptive pixel screen, bought by microsoft, currently sold probably with some other brand to enterprise and defence markets)

I don't think this will happen ever, but it would be fun to see.

The_Big_GameDev_AMA3 karma

I'm with you and that it would be cool to play RTS on big touchscreen devices, but this would not be something accessible to a wide audience. Having said that, I think it's exciting to look at what can be done on things like an iPad, and especially an iPad Pro. So cool to be able to play on something like that.

Inukii1 karma

Hello Chris Taylor!

I'm a big RTS player but I left my work within the RTS scene following the trending of the MoBA genre.

My question is about RTS as a spectator sport. I have a many answers of my own since this is the realm that I work in but would love to hear your thoughts and perspective.

What do you think needs to change, if anything, within the gameplay elements of an RTS title for it become a spectator sport in 2018 and onward?

The_Big_GameDev_AMA3 karma

We're learning more and more all the time about what makes a game a candidate for eSports and spectating in general. I think the true RTS has got a lot of the elements, but it needs a few elements adjusted. For example, it needs to focus more on team, and it needs to be shorter in length. And the action needs to take place in only one or two places on the map at a time, as the audience doesn't want to have that camera moving constantly. For example, take soccer, hockey, football, basketball, the camera generally likes to follow the ball, but if you had 20 balls, it would be pretty weird. Anyhow, those are some quick thoughts on the subject... and it's a huge subject.

Inukii1 karma

Amazing!

One of my priorities for a new RTS candidate was team focused play. The reasoning for this is as follows;

It's not because Team based play is more or less interesting. People find 1v1 more stressful, more anxiety inducing, for some more 'intense' which is what they may be after. Toxicity is something that pops up a lot and comparing RTS and MoBA we know that MoBA has a more toxic environment but strangely enough I think a larger chunk of a MoBA's population wants that toxicity.

In a 1v1, you can blame only two things. Yourself, and the game (overpowered factions, cheese strategies). There isn't much obscurity into what went wrong and whose fault it is. Where as in a MoBA that is what I would like to call skill obscurity. There is a lot of blame being thrown around and most of the time nobody can really know whose fault it was that a game was lost. Even if a game was lost due to person A's performance, Person A can leave the game thinking that it was the fault of someone else and even though they come out of that game with a negative experience. That person is able to re-queue into the next game because they have confidence in themselves.

As we know, players are the first step to eSport. You have to have players that take the game seriously. In a natural environment, the next step would be players with creative skills to create content to be watched before the last and slow steps of moving into the more professional broadcast production standards and setting. However, quite a few games recently have skipped that middle step and thrown money to try and create an eSport. Sometimes working and sometimes not.

By focusing on team based play for an RTS game we can keep many more players interested partly because of that skill obscurity. Though the difficulty of focusing on team based play, let's say 4v4 in an RTS, is that balance will suffer for 1v1 / 2v2 / 3v3.

I also think identity is something that needs bringing into an RTS. One of the things with Starcraft is are you a Terran, a Zerg, or a Protoss. Very strong identities. I feel like this has not been explored enough in games. There was a game called Company of Heroes Online which I think was looking to explore this but unfortunately at the time THQ was going under and the project was cancelled.

If we're going for a team based RTS. I think a game should look at classes. In the case of Company of Heroes Online this was divided into many different things but we could categorise it as infantry, armor and air support. I think an idea to modernize the RTS genre would be to have these types of roles/classes for team building. Though it is a balance nightmare, one of the reasons Company of Heroes could get away with it was because the fundamentals of the game were more important than any single unit or ability. Positioning units behind walls, in the right cover, in the right place, and flanking from the right angle were the major factors in deciding a single battle.


Not having the Camera move around is my speciality!I think having the action appear in only 1 or 2 places is an easy one to accomplish. However, as far as presenting a game to an audience. A caster / camera operator should be able to see what action is more valuable just by the allocation of units to an area. The more resources devoted, the more important that battle is likely to be. I've noticed some aspiring RTS casters flick the camera around too much which makes it difficult to follow the action or the 'story' of the game. This is just because the casters are treating the game as if they are players. Unfortunately, we miss so much beauty of the game by doing this and the viewing experience is decreased.

I would say that keeping action to 1 or 2 places at a time isn't so important from a gameplay design point of view, or one that needs to be addressed through gameplay design, but one that needs to be addressed from a casting / presentation point of view.Though if there is action happening in 4+ places all with significance then I do believe that would be a problem.

But one of the fantastic things of aiming for action in ~2 places at once is that if the game is a team based 4v4 match up. Teamwork is going to be forced and present everywhere. I think part of the problem with many team based RTS games is that there is most of the time no team work. A 2v2 will be treated as 2 1v1's or one giant 1v1. A 3v3 becomes a lane with left/middle/right. And 4v4 is either divided into 4 1v1's or a 2v2 with left and right.

This is why I think some kind of class system would be a way to push players into roles on the battlefield. A person who focuses more on support may work on the back lines. Healing up injured units, firing low damage but long range guns, building emplacements, or support with cheap/weak units. Anything that falls outside of raw combat. An infantry focused class would be the front line. Taking cover, moving up, capturing points, holding on to them for as long as possible. Armored players who have weak infantry units but provide the means to destroy other armored units. Air support with abilities to call in strafing runs and bombing runs. Paratroopers to infilitrate backlines. Thinking of different offensive and defensive type abilities to give players.


Certainly though, there is a lot to explore and I understand it is a huge subject! I think the RS genre has so much room to grow. A quick last but I feel sad mention is that I think Warhammer 40k has a lot of potential as a game to be developed as a competitive RTS. It has that identity similar to Starcraft but much more fleshed out and far more identities. Sadly, the last two attempts suffered from poor balancing and the recent one just decided to not try a modern RTS at all.

The_Big_GameDev_AMA2 karma

Wow, you did a good job covering a great many of the complexities. Interesting topic for sure!

amapatzer1 karma

Hi Chris, I remember as a kid reading about Total Annihilation in a Amiga gaming magazine, and I was fascinated by it, especially with the graphics which were in a sense revolutionary at the time.

I never played the full game as I couldn't afford it at the time but I did try the demo which came with the magazine and for some reason it caught my imagination.

To me it seems that the RTS has been exhausted in terms of gameplay, i can't imagine anything truly new coming out of it. Do you think that there is any other revolutions hiding in the RTS genre and in what way could it manifest itself?

Thank you for giving wings to my childish imagination and know that your creativity has reached into every corner of the world.

The_Big_GameDev_AMA2 karma

I hear you, but you know what, League of Legends was inspired from Warcraft 3's mod called DOTA, which is an RTS. So, if you think about it, RTS gave birth to one of the biggest developments in the world of gaming, which is now a huge part of eSports. So, I think it's fair to say that RTS lives on, but I think it may come back in its original form again too. Anything is possible, and those possibilities are exciting!

ChosenCharacter1 karma

I missed this, but if you do come back I'd love to know what did end up happening to Kings and Castles? I followed the development really closely, pre-production wrapped up, then... Gone. Did the idea just not pan out? Was it a corporate thing or you guys just weren't feeling it anymore?

The_Big_GameDev_AMA2 karma

We loved the game, the concept, and really wanted to do it, but we were out of money, simple as that, and if you remember, the economy was in shambles back then as well. Gas Powered Games was millions of dollars in debt, which I had personally guaranteed to the bank. We did find a publisher for it, but the budget was too small, and the risk was too high, so I instead decided to work on something equally as exciting but much more financially stable and took on the Age of Empires Online project. In hindsight the transition was terrible, but alas, we live and learn and I would have done a lot more to explain what happened if I could go back and do it again.

Bob0021 karma

I just wanna say that I really loved TA. What was the inspiration for the custom built units that you could import?

The_Big_GameDev_AMA2 karma

Well, the first game that I ever did was called Hardball II, a sequel to Hardball back in 1989. All the baseball teams were sets of data that got loaded into the game at startup. This was the genesis of the idea that all the units and weapons and things in TA should be data-driven. So as it goes, once you are loading up data you can allow that data to be modified and new units created, so as a result the game was "modable". I think that's a pretty succinct and accurate accounting of it all.

Cz20181 karma

Hi Chris, What advice would you give to someone who wanted to start a game company? My husband who is in IT is a game addict, so I’m encouraging him to follow his passion. He would be hiring game developers etc. Thanks.

The_Big_GameDev_AMA3 karma

Well, first of all, you don't actually need to start a company to make a game. That process just adds a lot of overhead to the game, so I say, just make the game! If the game makes money, you can start the company afterwards. And get this, you can Copyright and Trademark something without starting a company, pretty cool.

suaveitguy1 karma

Pound for pound, best gaming platform in history?

The_Big_GameDev_AMA11 karma

That's kinda hard to answer, because the technology evolved so much the past 40 years, but to try and answer that, it would be the Sega Genesis. I think that kicked ass. It was inexpensive and was really powerful. When I worked on Test Drive II I wrote the sprite driver code in 68000 assembly and couldn't believe how fast it was. And of course the famous Herzog Zwei was like the start of RTS in a lot of ways.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herzog_Zwei

suaveitguy1 karma

What is the best film adaptation videogame?

The_Big_GameDev_AMA3 karma

That's a great question that I honestly haven't thought about, and have been, like so many, pretty disappointed with the quality of the movies made from video games. Having said that, I did enjoy the Hitman movies, as cliche as they are, they were fun to watch.

Fingolf6451 karma

Hi Chris, I'm a huge fan of supreme commander. It's beside the early Total War games my favorite strategy game. Was there ever an attempt to make it an esport?

The_Big_GameDev_AMA2 karma

eSports came along afterward, for the most part, so no, we didn't really put a lot of thought into it.