Chris Taylor on why he couldn't go back from free-to-play

Chris Taylor on free-to-play

Chris Taylor designed two of the world's cleverest strategy games: Total Annihilation and Supreme Commander. More recently, he and his company Gas Powered Games took over development of Age of Empires Online, a free-to-play version of the old classic.

But far from being a stopgap between full-priced games, Chris says that working with the free-to-play model has convinced him it's the future of the entire real-time strategy genre, and gaming in general. He says whatever he makes next will inevitably end up using it too. I tackled him to the ground in London recently, and demanded to know why.

PC Gamer: Are you just totally sold on that [free-to-play] model now?

Chris Taylor: I am so sold on that model! I am so ready to tell you that this is the future. Games will never be the same again now that we're onto this way of approaching it.

And it changes, believe it or not, the way we design from the beginning. Not just the way we think about the game after, it changes the way we build the game to start with.

PC Gamer: So if you were making the next game in the logical sequence from Total Annihilation to Supreme Commander, you would do it as a free to play thing?

Chris Taylor: No matter what I tried to do, I would end up here. Because it's the right way to go. I mean, people would be so crushed to hear they can't play co-operative quests, to hear they couldn't play all these modes we've got. They're just going to ask for them. They're just going to flat-out say, "Where are they?"

You play a quest - let's say you don't win. It happens. But you got all the stuff you collected, all the experience points you get, you get it all. So it's cumulative. So the more you play, the more stuff you get.

It's a great experience, very rewarding. I saw that model emerging in other places, it was popping up here and there, it was bursting through. It's like nature, it's just coming through all the cracks and crevices. But to see it full on now, it's pretty clear. I don't want to play a game and set the game down and have nothing to show for it. I have to have accumulated something for all that investment of time.

PC Gamer: So is AoEO what Gas Powered are doing for the next X years?

Chris Taylor: Yeah. We have other things, smaller things but other things going on. The great bulk of the company is working on Age of Empires Online, and we will be for, hopefully, years and years to come. There's no telling, there's no seeing totally into the future, but that's the plan.

We'll have Chris's thoughts on the state of PC gaming tomorrow.