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Interview: Gas Powered Games' Chris Taylor talks about Age of Empires Online and more

age of empires online
The game development world got a bit of a surprise late in February when it was revealed that Gas Powered Games was taking over as the primary developer of Age of Empires Online, the upcoming online free-to-play RTS game from Microsoft Games Studios.

So what does this mean for the game's development? Big Download went right to the source and got in touch with Gas Powered's founder and CEO Chris Taylor to find out more about how this switch came about, if the team will ever go back to its previously announced RTS game Kings and Castles and more.
First we have to talk about Kings and Castles. Last October in the last of your video blogs on the game you stated that you were going to take a break from the blogs while the game went into production. With this past week's announcement on Age of Empires Online we have to ask: was Kings and Castles simply not shaping up to be as good as you or Gas Powered wanted it to be?

Last fall we had an incredible opportunity to work on one of our favorite game franchises, and we took it. Kings and Castles is on hold, but we felt it was for a very good reason, and perhaps one day we'll return to it, we just don't know when that will be.

How did you and Gas Powered hook up with Microsoft to work on the Age of Empires Online content packs?

Our relationship with Microsoft goes back all the way to the original Dungeon Siege. We had a great relationship, and we've sustained that with them over the years. I think when they went searching for a developer to work on the franchise, we were on the list... and of course being local, it was an easy conversation to start up.

Did you know that Robot Entertainment was looking to hand off development of the game to another developer when Gas Powered started working on the packs?

At first we were approached to make content, and we didn't get too deep into the agreement between Microsoft and Robot, nor should we have. As the relationship evolved, this was talked about, and we embraced the opportunity to be the lead developer.

When and how did Microsoft come to you to ask if Gas Powered could take over full development of the game?

I was parachuting in eastern Canada when the phone call came... seriously, I think it just came up a few months ago.

How smooth has the transition been like so far?

To answer that question fairly, it would help if I'd ever been involved in something like this before... and since I haven't, well... It's the smoothest yet! Lol... seriously, it's been a true pleasure to work with both Microsoft and Robot through this transition.

Age of Empires Online is being designed as a persistant MMO RTS game. Do you find yourself working on the game differently than working on a standard RTS game?

Oh sure, there's lots of differences in the design, but also plenty of similarities. We're finding that the creative challenges are really fun to work on, and see this as the beginning of something very big for the genre.

What is the current production status on Age of Empires Online?

We're very close to being code complete, and then there's a LOT of testing and preparation before the game goes live later this year.

Dungeon Siege III
is due out in late May. As a consultant are you happy with what Obsidian are doing with your former game franchise?

I wished I could be a consultant all the time, especially if I'm working with people as talented as the crew at Obsidian... happiness is easily attainable.

You talked in an interview a few months ago about a possible sequel to Demigod. Is that still on the table, especially with all of these action-RTS game that are now popping up?

Things are moving so quickly in the business, anything is possible, and we've explored this in particular on and off over the past year. Right now, I don't have anything new to tell you, but don't be surprised if that changes too!

Finally is there anything else you wish to say about Gas Powered in general and Age of Empires Online in particular?

We're super excited about this project, and that's putting it lightly. It's a rare opportunity to be able to work on a franchise that has sold 25 million copies!

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