Just in time for the holidays, the happy little elves at MacSoft have brought us Big Huge Gamesí revolutionary RTS title, Rise of Nations: Gold Edition. Recently, I had the chance to chat it up with Tim Train, the VP of Development at Big Huge Games, about RoNís journey to Mac OS X and the genesis of Big Huge Games. So, read on for the real deal on this RTS hit.
Michael Phillips: First, could you tell us a bit about yourself and your role at Big Huge Games?
Tim Train: I am VP of Development at Big Huge, and the Executive Producer for our titles. I've been kicking around the industry in various roles since starting as a tester on the original Civilization back in 1991, and have been happily working with fellow BHG partners Jason Coleman and Brian Reynolds since 1994, and Dave Inscore since '96.
MP: Word is you minored in psychology at Johns Hopkins. Has that field of study had any influence on your work in the games industry?
TT: I'd like to pretend that I obtained some great insight into human nature and gaming from my college studies, but the truth is that I realized I had enough electives for a minor, so I made it official with the registrar just prior to graduation :-). What *has* had a lot of influence on my career is an interest in a lot of random things that I've been happy to learn about. Gaming can be a great place for people who are "jacks of all trades", as it's such a multidisciplinary endeavor.
MP: So, you've had various roles working on a multitude of high profile, critically acclaimed games. What moved you to go out and start your own "thang"?
TT: As our team was finishing work on Alpha Centuari, we realized that the games we were playing most were not turn-based strategy games--we were hooked on RTS classics like Starcraft and Age of Kings. It became clear that starting our own company was the best way to realize our vision for innovation in RTS games. We were very fortunate that Microsoft shared our vision, and signed us up to our multi-title contract.
MP: Rise of Nations, as your company name prophetically implies, was a big huge success. What sets it apart from the rest of the pack?
TT: We'd like to think we hit a sweet spot where we added a bunch of new things to the classic RTS formula, while retaining the cool aspects of the genre. National borders, multiple cities as the hubs of your empire, and strongly differentiated nations all add great twists to the genre. Above all, the open-endedness of the "Conquer the World" single-player campaign game gives players the endless replayability they desire.
MP: Rise of Nations has been a wild success critically and commercially on the PC. Was that a factor when deciding to do a Mac version, or was this title always OS X bound?
TT: We don't really have a say in which platforms the game gets ported to--that is really a Microsoft decision.
MP: So, you guys developed a hybrid 2D/3D engine to bring Rise of Nations to life and yet keep hardware demands down. Will we see more of this engine in your future games or maybe licensed to 3rd-party developers?
TT: We're building on the Rise of Nations engine for our next title, but we're definitely aiming for the most mind-blowing graphics ever seen in an RTS!