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Interviews

Taylor-made

We talk to Gas Powered Games' charismatic figurehead, and find out how games are Taylor-made

Most developers tend towards being a little on the quiet side. Chris Taylor is a glorious extrovert, trading obscene jokes with the worst of them, carelessly mentioning games he hasn't announced yet and casually trusting no one will abuse his confidence.

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He's also been involved with some of the most interesting games of recent years: Total Annihilation, Dungeon Siege and Supreme Commander. He contains contradictions: in my half-hour with him, he both expressed the opinion that the need for constant total reinvention is something we have to move past while rapturously extolling The New.

Two things are clear. Chris is fun to be around. Chris thinks a lot. At the moment, he's thinking about the newly released expansion pack to Supreme Commander, Forged Alliance.

Expansion packs and semi-standalone sequels - the 1.5 thing - are an odd phenomenon. You don't see that in any other medium, do you?

Chris Taylor: You see, one of the problems with a full sequel is people want a brand new game. But these days... well, I was playing BioShock. To be honest with you, I got all the way through BioShock and I don't want Ken Levine and the gang at Irrational to go away for four years to create another one. It's too long.

I'd rather have something in 18 months or a year, like Valve are doing with their episodes. It really is one of those things: do we have to go off an reinvent a brand new game, or do something closer to what is an old school expansion pack but with new units and content?

For example, if we did Supreme Commander 2, would we throw away all of the factions, and create a new story with four new factions you've never seen before?

You're a lot like the games you make, aren't you? I'm not trying to reach for something like Auteur Theory, but...

Taylor: First of all, I'm very hyper. Always have been, since I was very young. My parents worried about me when I was young - worried whether something was wrong. But I'm also very cerebral. I tend to think deeply about everything - which is why I appreciate your questions where you're searching for a much more complex answer than a number or a quick sentence.

The games reflect a chunk of that. The games are high energy. There's a lot going on. I'm pushing to go somewhere new. I mean, if you and I were going out for a drive for four hours, I don't want to tell you all the same shit you've heard from me for all my life.

You want to hear something new. I'm going to try and find stories you never heard. I'm going to try and shock you by creating scenarios with clowns and midgets you've never heard before.

I'm going to try and take you some place new. The stuff which we haven't announced is very much taking each of these traditional experiences somewhere radically new, as I'm getting tired of recycling the same old core games.

I think we pushed Supreme Commander as far as we could, and there's so much we changed... but this is a pretty fantastic art form, and we're really just getting started in ways of pushing the boundaries.

Have you read anything I wrote about punishment systems? We shouldn't be punishing our players. Punishment is not cool. I don't get punished when I watch a DVD or read a book... Why should I be punished playing interactive entertainment? It doesn't make sense.

Do you know Jonathan Smith? He's the Giant Entertainment guy who worked with Traveller's Tales on Lego Star Wars. He described watching kids' reactions to failing at games as almost like child abuse.

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