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Interview with Rick Goodman


The community

Socvazius: So apart from just the general gaming community, how do you view the online gaming community and its position in the establishment of a game?


Rick: One of our goals is to figure out how to crack the Blizzard enigma. No one, it seems, has been able to draw such a large online following as Blizzard. It’s a remarkable thing that they’ve been able to do, and if you look at the online gaming audience – the same people who go to your site, I think – there is everyone else, and then there’s Blizzard in terms of participants. We [at SSSI] try to focus our energies on developing and designing games that are going to attract a big online audience. So we spend a lot of time on your site, communicating with those people trying to get their feeling on that.


So it’s one of our goals to figure out how Blizzard’s been able to accomplish it. And I think that they’ve had 10 years to work on all of this; they’ve been shipping strategy games for a long time. So it’s something that I think we understand won’t happen overnight, but it’s a factor that’s largely responsible for their success. Take games like Diablo – hugely successful, cooperative games that are so much more fun with other people. So that’s a model that we like and respect, and we’re always trying to find out how to have games that will draw people online and get more people into the game and community. Do you have any good ideas?


Socvazius: Oh, good ideas? I think that just focusing on the community; seeing what they think would be the best. It seems like Blizzard has gotten a lot of hype by focusing on the core group of players, and that core group of players go and tell their friends, “oh, this game is great, you should check it out,” and it just keep spreading out. And I think that’s one thing I’ve seen you guys have done and I think that’s a really good way for you guys to go about things.


Rick: That being said, we’re the underdogs. This [Empires: Dawn of the Modern World] is a completely new brand that’s never been introduced before. So if you look at [SSSI as] a fairly new company in the [overall] scheme of things, I feel that we’re equivalent to Blizzard when they shipped Warcraft I. And that was a long route to go from that time to earn the respect they’ve won. That was back in 1995, I think. So we’re dealing with some really talented, top-quality developers and a very tough genre. I don’t equate us with them by any means; we just aspire to learn from their wisdom.

"...if we forget who our customers are, they’re going to forget about us."

Socvazius: Empire Earth in particular has used a number of designers from the community for the game, such as the strike teams. Have there been any plans to get more strike teams in the future?


Rick: We’ll continue to do something like that. Part of the philosophy that I had and continue to have is that we can’t forget who our customers are and they have to be involved in the process. How they’re involved in the process – whether it’s volunteer or not, singleplayer or multiplayer – I’m not sure, but I think it’s pretty important that we have some kinds of connections to them. And it might even be that we have an online site devoted to anyone who wants to come and contribute ideas to the next game. Or we’ve put our ideas on the site and they [ the customers] rank them, and anyone can participate. [So whether] a strike team or a large audience I’m not sure, but I’m pretty committed to the fact that if we forget who our customers are, they’re going to forget about us.


Socvazius: How has the feedback from the fans and the sales been for Empires: Dawn of the Modern World?


Rick: Well, we don’t discuss the sales figures, but I am very pleased with the feedback from the fans. I think it was great to have a demo out, because a lot of their feedback was for play balance. That was good; it gave them a taste of the game and it gave us some feedback for the game. And then coming out with the product after that was good, and I see a lot more positive feedback for the game than with the demo. The [multiplayer] demo had only three-fifths of one Age in it, so it prepared the audience, but I saw the kind of feedback [I’d expect] on the final game, which is good; everyone wants everything in the demo. So for me it has been a positive experience and I think the people are by and large pleased with the game. Where they are least happy is in the multiplayer lobby area, and since I listen to them and we do as a company, we’re fixing all of those areas and that will be good.

Next: The future...
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Empires: Dawn of the Modern World is a game by Stainless Steel Studios and published by Activision.