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Chris Taylor on SupCom

March 8th, 2007 by Troy Goodfellow · No Comments · Gas Powered Games, GDC

This morning, in a mostly rambling speech about the development of Supreme Commander, Chris Taylor came out looking like one of the most optimistic game designers out there. He once again talked about how the crunch-time/overtime filled development cycle is an unnecessary evil that produces worse games and bitter employees. He ridiculed the idea of limiting the camera in real time strategy games, since, as he put it, “Why should I tell you where the camera should be? You don’t want to zoom out, don’t zoom out.” And, predictably, he said that the RTS is a genre with a huge future ahead of it.

“The RTS is modern chess, and we’ve only just started,” Taylor said. Real innovation can be done, he argues, if designers let their creativity take over. That’s hopelessly vague, of course. Creativity and a nickel will get you a piece of candy. But Taylor did say things that could almost be considered real advice if you listen to the lessons he drew from the Supreme Commander experience.

Remember your audience: “Supreme Commander isn’t for your mom. It’s aimed at hardcore gamers.” Why try and make an RTS for everyone? What many people see as a lack of variety in the genre could be traced to everyone trying to hit the so-called general gamer. Not every RTS should be hardcore, and there is probably a lot of room for newbie RTS games, or ones designed entirely around single player.

Small changes, big effects: “When I have a group of tanks, I want to see the targets each one is tracking, their weapon ranges, their ETA. What if I could slow them down to quarter speed so that they mulch along into a base? That sort of thing would completely change the dynamic of attack and defense.” He also said that this sort of thing doesn’t sell games, but a little variety in how combat is executed could draw even further distinctions between military and economic focused RTSes.

Everybody has a job: “If you design your game from the start with balance in mind, you’re just constraining yourself. The balance guys and playtesters will work it out. And then you go live and find lots of stuff you missed.” While it sounds counter-intuitive for a genre that so heavily relies on keeping sides even, this sort of makes design sense. First build what you want to see in the game, what gives the game life and power. Then worry about how it will all wash out.


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