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Taylor details "dark side" of running own studio

Ten year's since the birth of Gas Powered Games, Chris Taylor details the struggle between creativity and the business grind

Chris Taylor, founder of Supreme Commander and Dungeon Siege developer Gas Powered Games, has spoken to about his motivation for setting up the respected studio, the grind of the daily business and how the pay-off is like "finally getting the rocket launcher".

Taylor admits his initial enthusiasm to start the company in 1998 may have led to some naivety as the individual focus of game design was lost to the day-to-day grind of running a business.

"I had that dream really from the day I first walked into my first full time job as a games programmer. I wanted to be the guy running the company. I was a little foolish in that thinking, because the work it takes to run a company is a hundred times more than your imagination can even begin to speculate on," said Taylor in an exclusive interview published today.

"I just didn't understand that running a games studio was getting away from the singular focus that you have when you're an individual working inside a company - your focus becomes so broad, you have to keep track of so many different things, and your day is not dictated by your own creative whim. Your day is instead dictated by the business demands.

"That's a little bit of the darker side, but on the positive side we've created our own original IPs consistently. Some are great, some are not so great, but the fact is you have to keep throwing darts at that board," he said.

Gas Powered Games is currently working on three new projects – the action RPG Demigod, a separate project already signed to a publisher, and a third title in the early stages of production.

For Taylor, creating and experimenting with new IP is central to the independent studio ethic, the freedom to work on new ideas that just isn't possible for developers within larger corporations.

"You have to keep trying to make great stuff, and you can't do that if you're inside of a large megalithic organisation to the same degree...unless you can navigate that organisation.

"But when you have your own company, that's the return - that's the deal you make. You accept you'll bore your own brains out with complexity and solving problems that aren't the problems you used to solve - they're not game design problems, they're banking problems, they're legal problems, they're accounting problems," he said.

"On the flipside the games I'm working on are the games I want to make. Everything comes with a price. It's like good game design - it comes with a price. You don't give your player the rocket launcher and allow them to shoot rockets like bullets - it shoots less frequently. It's got to have its downsides, even though when people get it, they're like, "Yes! I've got the rocket launcher!" That was like me with Gas Powered Games...I finally got the rocket launcher."

Development around the globe have been suffering in the past six months, with lay-offs affecting in-house teams at publishers such as Midway, Atari, NCsoft and LucasArts, and the closure of studios such as Pivotal, Venom and Flagship to name a few.

But Taylor is confident he would do it l again, suggesting that the business has always been brutal, and it's the developer that must react quickly to the changing landscape in order to succeed.

"You develop muscles, and certainly eyes-wide-open now I'd know what I was getting into. I might approach things a little differently - I might outsource more, for example," he said. "It's the difference between jumping from the riverboat and being swept downriver, and surviving to make the bottom, or going white-water rafting with all the right equipment.

"The river is the same river, no matter how big the drop-offs are and ultimately how dangerous it is, that's the business. But at the end of the day I do feel like I've developed a skill set for this. Of course there are days when I could use a break, but then I'd get right back on the horse again," he concluded.

Chris Taylor will be at the Leipzig GC Developers Conference this week. Today, he will join a panel with David Perry and Michael Capps to discuss Best Selling Games, and on Wednesday he will present a session entitled The Struggle for Independence and the Making of Demigod.

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Matt Martin avatar
Matt Martin: Matt Martin joined GamesIndustry in 2006 and was made editor of the site in 2008. With over ten years experience in journalism, he has written for multiple trade, consumer, contract and business-to-business publications in the games, retail and technology sectors.
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