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Interview: Orson Scott Card talks about his love of games Three


Have you ever talked to Chair Entertainment about your dream game as a possible collaboration?

Well, they're doing a different kind of game. I don't think they have the slightest interest in doing the kind of game I love to play. I look at what they did using the Unreal Engine from Epic and Shadow Complex is amazing. It's a side-scroller that looks like a 3D game. The artistry in this is gorgeous. And you can explore the world. You don't have to relentlessly play the game. You could wander around and find cool stuff. And they reward you for it. It becomes part of the gameplay if you want it to be. So I'm thrilled with what they've done with that. But I like the turn-based strategy game. And there aren't very many of those made, and most of them are made badly. Really Sid Meier is the only guy who does it reliably. And I wish more people would learn the lessons from the way he does it. Because I've looked at some of the other offerings and they emphasize the tedium and the fog of war. You have to fight these endless battles. And I don't want to play war. I want to play Civilization. And Civilization, you have to be able to fight, you have to be prepared to fight, but the main business of Civilization is being civilized --creating stuff, building. That's what I want to do.

Do you think with your clout in entertainment that we'll ever see your dream game?

Nobody's going do it exactly the way that I want it done. So it's not like I can come and say, "Well, I've had these hit games, now create this one that I have in mind." I haven't had any hit games, so I'm just a novelist saying, "Gee, I wish I could play this one." And what they say is. "Wow, this is not the kind of thing that anybody's created." What everybody does is they have artists create the levels and scenes. And so they're beautiful and wonderful. I'm saying, "No, I want you to create the pieces out of which that will be made." Now, they do that with textures already. But they don't do it with buildings, they don't do it with artifacts. I'm saying, "You want to be able to say you have 136 different architectural styles and you'll decide that this region will have this particular style, but you'll combine it with color schemes so that you could actually use the same architectural styles somewhere else with a whole different set of appropriate colors. And it'll feel like a new place." So you'd end up with hundreds of different places with different levels of development, different size towns, and different kinds of people living in it.

Why don't you think the current game business would go for this?

What you're doing is turning the game back over to the computer programmer to a degree that would be loathsome to many game designers. Most game designers now keep a pet computer programmer to fix a few things that you need to have fixed. But everybody relies on game engines that were created by programmers. And then they work within whatever that engine is designed to do. Well, I'm asking for something that doesn't already have its engine. I'm asking for a new engine to create worlds on the fly. And that puts it back in the hands of the programmer. Now it used to be that games were all done by programmers. Guys who would sit there hacking things out in BASIC, or the really cool guys would use machine code. And put in their source code and compile. This was back in the days of the 6502 processor and when it didn't have to be a team effort for computing. But now that investment, when you don't know that it's going pay off, is something no one wants to risk.

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