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Interview: Orson Scott Card talks about games, including his own dream project

By John Gaudiosi

Bestselling author Orson Scott Card has won an endless array of awards for his Ender's Game novels. His most recent endeavor, Empire, was a smash hit based on a video game concept from Epic Games-owned Chair Entertainment. The second novel in that trilogy, Hidden Empire, hits bookstores next month. The recent Xbox Live Arcade game Shadow Complex is a prequel to these new sci-fi novels that focus on a modern day Civil War between the red and the blue states.

In this exclusive interview, Card took some time away from working on the screenplay for Paramount Pictures big screen adaption of Ender's Game to talk about his love of video games and his own personal dream game project. After all, Card ended up working on his newest trilogy because of a relationship that grew from his first video game work on Advent Rising (developed by the founders of Chair Entertainment when they worked at GlyphX Games).

What was it that attracted you to video games?

I have to say, this is like a 12 step program. I am a computer game addict. And it's not under control. But at least I learned my pattern. I did the standard old story of how do you get off of opium? You take morphine. How do you get off of morphine? Heroin will cure it every time. And that's what I was doing with computer games. I discovered the kind of game that I like to play when I first played Romance of the Three Kingdoms. It's a war game, but with a lot more complexity to it and without any of the tedium. The individual battles are not terribly interesting. It's the set-up leading to them. It's the strategy and your basic plans.

What did you play after that game?

I played Sid Meier's Railroad Tycoon incessantly because it wasn't just about the economics of building railroads. You actually got to put the rails down from city to city. What I loved about the original Railroad Tycoon was the accidental cheat that automatically gave you an endless amount of money. So you could spend all of your time building the darn railroad, which is what I loved. I didn't really care about the money. It was just a tedious thing that I had to deal with in the game.

Did you stick with Sid Meier after that?

Yes. Then there was Colonization, where first of all you play it with the Americas. But that quickly became boring and so you get to play it with new worlds every time and you really are discovering new stuff. You know who your rivals are, so that in that sense the game is the same game. But the terrain is different every time. And I began to realize, this is what I love -- to have different varied terrains. At that time, I was pitching to several game companies my concept for a game that creates itself on the fly, where there is no world. Basically this is what Sid Meier does in Civilization II. He creates world after world each time you play it.

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