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Cooking with Gas

Gas Powered Games CEO Chris Taylor talks next-gen gaming.

It's been almost exactly nine years since Chris Taylor founded Gas Powered Games, and five years since the studio enjoyed commercial and critical success with hit RPG Dungeon Siege. But more recently GPG has topped the charts with Supreme Commander, a THQ-published real-time strategy game for PC.

But GPG won't be focusing its attentions solely on PC in the future. As confirmed last week, the studio is working on a next-gen console project. In fact, as Taylor suggests in this exclusive interview, there may be more than one console game in the works.

GamesIndustry.biz: How do you feel about the response to Supreme Commander so far?

So far, so good. It's been out for a few weeks and we've had great feedback from everyone; people are enjoying the game. We had one issue with a patch on one of the Nvidia drivers and we've got a fix for that, so we're really on top of that sort of stuff.

Those little things... You lose a little more sleep than you'd think because you want things to be perfect, you want everyone to be having a really great time, and when you're putting out updates and patches it's disappointing.

But at the same time we know it's very temporary and no sooner do we fix that, there's something new that comes up in the PC space. The PC is such a complicated platform.

So have you already started work on your next project?

We have; many new projects.

How many?

Inside the company I believe we have a total of four, and one extra that we're working on - so that makes five. They're across platforms, we have everything from 360 to Wii to PC, we have all kinds of stuff going on.

How are you finding developing for the different consoles?

Consoles are, in my opinion, way easier to develop for than the PC. The PC has way too many moving parts, and things can change even after you deliver your game to the market - whereas consoles don't change. That makes a world of difference when you're developing software.

What differences are you finding between, say, the PS3 and 360?

We haven't actually been working on the PS3. Going from what I've heard, though, the PS3 is an order of magnitude more complex to work on in order to squeeze out the perf. But that's second hand, that's just listening to other people.

You've got to have smart engineers and when you have smart engineers, usually technology challenges don't matter so much. We've got some incredibly smart people so I don't ever lay awake lying about tech; I think about game design.

You said you do lose sleep over the patches, though...

Yeah, you're right - thanks [laughs]. I definitely do lose sleep over some crazy issue that comes up and you don't even realise it until you put it out there to 100,000 people, or whatever the number is at the time, and it crops up.

How do you think the PlayStation 3 has done in the US so far?

It sounds to me like people are certainly registering their enthusiasm for the platform. I don't know, I can't answer that. I think people are saying, 'You know, when it comes to a home entertainment system, the price is a little steep.' The price is what's killing people.

Otherwise they love the platform, but because it's got the Blu-ray tech built in, it means it's a bigger commitment, and it's going to take people some time to build up for that. It's not like you go into the store, there it is, let's pick it out. The Wii checks that box perfectly, so the Wii is really coming out the winner.

Over 360 as well?

A month ago, I would have said second to the 360, but in the past four weeks I think the tide is really shifting in Wii's favour. It's mind-boggling.

What's causing that?

The success of the controller and the retail price point, combined, are really capturing people. Nintendo is a games company, they believe in games. I've been at the Nintendo offices, they're all about games, through and through.

The rest of the industry, business and making money is a much bigger part of what it's all about. You don't get that sense with Nintendo - obviously money's important, but it's like games come first. You just can't get around that, how it translates to the end customer; they can feel it.

Like, if you buy a Ford, you're buying transportation. If you buy a BMW, you're buying a car that's for a driver, it's to be driven fast, you're buying a car for people that care about cars.

What consoles do you have at home?

Everything. Well, I had a PS3, but I took it into the office so everybody can play it. We have the 360 and the Wii side by side, but the PS3 was one I couldn't justify keeping at home because it wasn't doing anything. We played the games, and we're waiting, and now everyone else gets to play it.

Going back to what you said about how the Wii has overtaken 360...

In mind share, not in market share. The projection is that it will overtake in the market share some time in the next 18 to 24 months.

So that's a trend you see continuing?

Yes, because pulling the trigger and making that investment, that's a big deal. We can't fool ourselves into thinking that money doesn't matter, to a consumer, what they have to spend to get into these things.

If Blu-ray was not in the PS3, for example, it would probably go a long, long way to helping the PS3. It's just that extra cost is putting it a little bit over the top and just out of the range of making it a whimsical purchase. It's just a little too much.

In theory, if you sat around with a bunch of people and said, 'You know, really would it matter? $400, $500, $600?", you would think it wouldn't matter. But it does. At some level it really does, and I'm blown away by that.

Chris Taylor is CEO of Gas Powered Games. Interview by Ellie Gibson.

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Ellie Gibson


Ellie spent nearly a decade working at Eurogamer, specialising in hard-hitting executive interviews and nob jokes. These days she does a comedy show and podcast. She pops back now and again to write the odd article and steal our biscuits.