Interview with Rick Goodman

The birth of SSSI

Socvazius: After the release of AoE, was there any reason in particular that you went to create your own gaming company to make your own game?

Rick: Nah.

Socvazius: Just seemed like the right thing to do, eh?

Rick: There are always reasons. You think someone would do this without any reasons? Toss of the die: snake eyes and I’m on my own, boxcars and I stay [Laughs]. Before we were finished with AoE, I was already thinking of what we ought to do as a step forward to make something bigger and better than AoE. And it occurred to me one time – it was 3 in the morning after a long night of work and I was walking home in pitch-black – it occurred to me that why not do a much more epic game? The same style, but why limit it to the Bronze age, Iron age? Why not Bronze age, Iron age, Dark ages, Middle ages, and all the way though, maybe even [to] the future.

And after giving that some thought, I felt that that was the great next step for the genre. That initial vision eventually became Empire Earth. Now, that vision was a different vision from [the one] the guys at Ensemble had. I knew that to execute the vision that I was sure would be the next great step for RTS [games] would take a bigger team, a longer period of time; we’d have to hire up those people anyway. So I decided to go ahead and do that on my own. Another reason is that I’m a very slow designer – games take a long time for me to work on. Ensemble wanted to do their next game in a year, and I told them that I wasn’t the kind of guy that could do a game in a year and I should probably go off and take whatever time I needed and let them take the time they needed. So I had a very different perspective on what the future should hold, so we were both happy and able to do what we wanted to do exactly how we wanted to do it.

"So I had a very different perspective on what the future should hold, so [Ensemble and I] were both happy and able to do what we wanted to do exactly how we wanted to do it."

Zen: Why Boston? Most of the publishers and many of the developers are on the west coast; what was attractive about Boston and the east coast to found a company here?

Rick: What happened was I had been living here [in the Boston area] for about 16 or 17 years, and I moved to Dallas to be with the team that we [at Ensemble] were building because I couldn’t have the team here. But I still paid rent on [my Boston] apartment during the whole 2 ½ year development cycle; so I still lived here. My friends would dig my car out of the snow because it sat out on the street for 2 ½ years and it got so covered with snow that it would disappear. So I actually have always lived here. I realized that to be of any value to the guys at Dallas that I would have to be there, and when the game was over I just came back to my apartment; it was cool.

Those were excellent questions, you’ve obviously been doing your homework. This is a fun trip but it almost seems like it’s all business for you guys, isn’t it?

Socvazius: Ehhh, we make it fun [Laughter]

Rick: It’s good that you stick to the job. You’re providing a great service to the community. It could be all fun but your readers wouldn’t get any of the benefit, but it seems like they’re really going to be at least as happy about you making the trip – finding out about what happens behind the scenes – as you are.

Next: Closing thoughts...
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