Chris Taylor is making a habit of this. Wrenching our hearts, I mean – pulling them this way and that, littering the ground about his feet with an Autumnal sheet of flaccid, spent organs. Er.
“There’s multiple games that we got almost to the finish line on,” Taylor told Eurogamer. NDAs prevented the Gas Powered Games chief from revealing too much. But he said enough.
“We got a phone call from the publisher and they said, ‘We’re terminating.’,” said Taylor. “And we’re like, ‘Yeah but we’re only a month away from beta!’ And they’re like, ‘Yeah we’re still terminating.’ And we’re like, ‘OK’.”
The story is the same we hear time and again: a tale of revolving roles at major publishers, of projects falling in and out of favour.
“We’re creating original titles, we’re pitching original games, getting people excited at publishers,” explains Taylor. “Management changes over a few times, the person who signed it is gone – the person who championed it is gone. New management comes in and says, ‘What the hell is this?’ And this happens across the industry.
“It shows when people are up on stage at awards shows and they’re thanking people for supporting the game, because what they did was, when everyone else in the office was down on it and kicking it and saying ‘this will never work; nobody wants to play this’, that person bet their career on it and said ‘I believe in this’. So when those games make it to market, those people truly are to be held up and thanked because they really made the game possible.
“In an industry that is going through the changes that our industry is going through this last five years with the economy and going to digital and retail disappearing and the uncertainties of this and that, you really need some people with some backbone,” Taylor continued.
“You need people to really slam their fist; guys like Steve Jobs, you know, who are a**holes because they believe so vehemently in what they’re doing they will f***ing – f*** bending the spoon with their mind, they’ll just snatch it out of your hand and bend it in half and stuff it up your ass! Take that! Let’s get back to work!”
Brilliant. Taylor also alluded, though, to a moment at the dawn of time when publishers might not have been conservative by nature. All have been burned, however, by what he calls “naughty developers”.
He explained: “If you went to summer camp and said, ‘Hey can we go out and play on the swing?’ And someone said, ‘Well no – someone turned the swing into a slingshot and killed one of the camp councillors. No one goes on the swings any more.’ It’s just a process of 25 years of people being naughty and the room for manoeuvre just gets smaller and smaller.”
Microsoft pulled the plug on ongoing Age of Empires Online development, for which GPG was responsible, earlier this month. That leaves “multiple” projects still unaccounted for, though. Care to hazard a guess at what Taylor and his team were working on?