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Interview: Chris Taylor on Supreme Commander 2, publisher Square Enix and RTS on consoles

Note: This interview was published earlier today, but featured a broken link to the second half. It has now been corrected. We're sorry for the goof-up -- enjoy the conclusion to our interview!

Showcasing his team's upcoming RTS, Gas Powered Games CEO Chris Taylor sat down with us at E3 2009 to discuss Supreme Commander 2, console RTS releases and the concepts that didn't work in the original title. Prior to our lengthy chat, Taylor demoed the planned 2010 RTS on hardware we were told was a two year old PC with a new video card.

In our short demo we had the opportunity to see advancements made to the game's engine, including new shader and texture technology that Gas Powered Games created in-house. According to Taylor, a major goal for the team at Gas Powered was to create a high performance game, that will "run on 2, 3, 4 maybe 5 year old hardware." While Taylor admits the original title asked for a lot of processing power -- especially in later areas of the game -- the sequel will look better while actually using less polygons than units in the first Supreme Commander.

Even in its Alpha build state, Supreme Commander 2 was an impressive title to watch. But how has the series evolved and how will Gas Powered Games improve the franchise? Check after the break for our complete interview Gas Powered CEO, Chris Taylor.

How does Supreme Commander 2 get hooked up with Square Enix as its publisher?

They actually were expanding into the western market and they found us and we were quite thrilled. We were like, "It's a great pleasure to enter into a relationship with them." So, we were quite excited.

"I felt bad the developer who did the Xbox 360 version just did not have the time or the resources. It was a hair on fire mission."

Obviously, both companies are coming from two opposite sides of the world. How does the Gas Powered Games development philosophy mesh with the Square Enix philosophy.

Well, one of the things that we took as a queue from Square Enix was the way they embrace character and story. We were all into that, so that was easy. When we asked them, "How should we develop our game to work with their philosophy?" They said, "Don't do that because we want you to do what you do. You make games for the Western market and we're interested in making games for the Western market." So, if we changed... we would be missing the point.

Which was terrific because that meant we could do what we loved to do, make great RTS games -- with the notion that the game was probably going to be well received in North America, in Europe. Countries like Germany -- because we already have a lot of momentum in those markets with our games and if we try to change them in anyway we'd be moving away from the goal. Which is to produce games for those markets.

Going back to Supreme Commander (the original, published by THQ), how would you measure that game's level of success?

Some people measure a game's success based on the units sold. The more accurate measure is its revenue. "Did it make money or not?" Of course it was -- I would argue -- quite successful. But we believe the success in this industry comes from continuing to evolve your games and to make them better and to build a momentum with your customer. Keep delivering more and more, building on things that they love. So, I think looking ahead to the future is where the excitement is right now for Supreme Commander.

Supreme Commander was very well received on PC. On the Xbox 360 it didn't fare as well. What is it about the Xbox 360 version of Supreme Commander 2 that you're going to change to bring it up to the same quality bar that you're setting for the PC version of the game?

Good question. One of the things, I felt bad the developer who did the Xbox 360 version (Hellbent Games) just did not have the time or the resources. It was a hair on fire mission.

Now, we're taking our time with the Xbox 360 version, focusing on all the things that worked and things that didn't work. Getting it right. We're doing it in-house and giving it a lot more time and a lot more resources. So, we're pretty bullish that it's going to be a really nice evolution in console RTS and I would be very surprised if it didn't do as well as the PC version.

"The nerd in me died a little bit ... they were cool concepts that didn't quite work."

What do you think the original title was lacking? You mentioned things that didn't work. What are you working on to answer those issues in the sequel?

There were some things -- and when someone asked me the same I said "The nerd in me died a little bit" on a couple of the things. Because they were cool concepts that didn't quite work. 'Coordinated Attack' didn't quite work, a little too much for this kind of game. We've taken the economy and we've improved it so that players can't get snookered early on. Those who aren't quite familiar with the game end up "mortgaging their future," so to speak and finding themselves in a bad place so they can't recover from it in time to enjoy the game. So, we're making that a lot easier and it's a big change that I think will really help the game.

The technology, the hardware penetration, is going to go a long way to allow the game to perform on a wider range of hardware. But, we liked a lot of our innovations like the dual screen, we liked our big maps and big crazy over-the-top battles with lots of units. The massive energy model. All of those things, keeping them and continuing to expand in many ways onto what we love.

The three tech levels was an area that we said, "Let's go to our tech tree upgrade system." We think that's a better way of approaching. You know, it gets you kind of the same thing but in a way better style. Like, you don't burn through three different levels of tanks, you take one tank through those evolutions. So that, we think is a big improvement. And it will play better on the Xbox 360, frankly.

And the engine scales well on the Xbox 360? You're showing the PC version here at E3.

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