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Tom Hall: Games need to be "democratized like MP3s"

The id veteran also talks about his Commander Keen inspired Secret Spaceship Club

Tom Hall desperately wanted to work on his old properties, Anachronox or Commander Keen, for a new game, but the current owners of the IPs (Square Enix and Zenimax, respectively) are not looking to work with outside partners. So, Hall conceived a new Keen-esque game, Secret Spaceship Club, using his new creation tool called Worlds of Wander, a platform game creator designed to adapt to any number of settings.

"The cool thing about Worlds of Wander is that it can do a Western game - you can change the theme and the whole world could change. All the art packs will have everything thing you'd need to put in the game and will auto-decorate," described Hall. "We want to curate it, because I don't want the community to look like MySpace. If there's a good art pack we want to include it - a good example would be Minecraft, which has about 10 art packs that are really done well. We'd like to see art packs that bubble up and are rated high and they are approved for use. If we add something new like a bullwhip, all the art packs have to support that - there has to be a commitment to keeping that alive."

Naturally, a platform game creator is going to draw comparisons to what Media Molecule has crafted. When probed about the similarities to LittleBigPlanet, Hall responded, "LittleBigPlanet is brilliant. Someone made some of the beginning levels of Keen in LittleBigPlanet and it was more awesome than we originally implemented! I want tools like that, but I had a sense that the game needed a simple and advanced mode. The simple mode gets you used to the concept of editing stuff, and the advanced mode is for people who wanted to drill down into the details."

"I think those tools need to be on whatever device is near. I want to continue to create in an environment that's device agnostic and want the players to know the feeling of being a creator. I hope there's an era where games are democratized like with MP3s. Digital cameras let people take and share photos easily, regardless of if you have a Canon or a Nikon, and I think that's the sort of convenience that should be there for games. And I'd like to enable fun universes because I like to play fun games!"

When it comes to Kickstarter, Hall seems particularly enamored, having floated two projects himself. "It seems to provide a cool platform for games, if there are enough players interested in an odd idea that a publisher might not think will be a big AAA title in Unreal Engine 4," he noted. "It takes a new idea that people want to exist and lets them execute on it. So it's a special corner of the market and if it works that's great, if not it's over in a month! It's a cool way to try out a new idea."

Hall's first Kickstarter project, Shaker, did not raise the funds it needed. Hall thinks that the approach by Loot Drop to Kickstarter misidentified how consumers tend to view the crowdfunding platform.

"I thought, 'let's come together and work with the community and people who loved those games to make what they'd really love to see.' We came forward with more of a collaborative process in mind," said Hall. "That's not what the platform is for - it's more for 'Oh, this is cool; we'll support it' than crowdsourcing."

Sadly, Hall's Worlds of Wander Kickstarter did not reach its funding goal, but Hall has a plan B. "We'll work on it the background - it will become a pet project. Adapt and improve, that's what I say!"

Read the full interview on [a]list.

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David Radd avatar

David Radd

Writer - GamesIndustry International/[a]list

David Radd has worked as a gaming journalist since 2004 at sites such as GamerFeed, Gigex and GameDaily Biz. He was previously senior editor at IndustryGamers.