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Chris Taylor Interview

In the video game industry, there aren't too many designers whose names are immediately recognizable to gamers, and within the strategy genre that number is even smaller. Chris Taylor, mastermind behind the acclaimed 1997 realtime strategy game Total Annihilation, is one among that number. After ditching RTS for a bit to work on the Dungeon Siege games, Taylor is returning to the large-scale strategic warfare segment in which he built his reputation.

Supreme Commander, developed by Taylor's studio Gas Powered Games, is one of the most anticipated titles in the strategy genre and, by just about all accounts, the most ambitious. The game promises to bring strategy back to realtime strategy, and give players the ability to wage simulated war on an unprecedented scale and with new degrees of realism and control. I recently had the chance to speak with Taylor about some of the game's features, what's wrong with most RTS games these days, why he does what he does, and how he ended up working on epic warfare games with adventure game icon Ron Gilbert.

Shack: What do you see as lacking on today's realtime strategy environment? You're known to be fairly opinionated on this matter, and Total Annihilation is known as being a very unique game within its segment. What's missing that you're trying to provide?

Chris Taylor: Well, it probably goes back to my teen years when I played a lot of Risk. You know, Risk was a board game but it was very much a strategy game, and you were playing on a world map. Strategy, I've come to believe, happens when you play on a large theater of war. It's hard to employ a strategy when you're in a tactical situation or a battle. See, I often say that strategy happens within a war context, and tactics happen within a battle context. RTS games are lacking strategy. You're fighting little skirmishes and little battles, and you really don't have enough time. If you and I sit down to play a game and we're on top of each other in five to six minutes in terms of our units, how could I have hatched some massive plan when I've only had a few minutes? But when you put me into a large theater of war and I've got fifteen or twenty minutes, and I see a scout fly ahead I can say, "Oh, they know my position!" then the options open up and I can start making much more strategic plans.

People worry and they say, "Well, does that mean Supreme Commander is going to be just huge long games on gigantic map?" Well, you have a choice of what size maps you play on. If you want, you can play on small maps and it becomes very tactical again, but you can also have incredibly large options available to you where the maps get bigger and bigger and bigger. You can play in an incredible theater of war and the game goes from being very tactical to very strategic. Then things like information war comes in, and you start thinking, "Well, if I put a base up here, my opponent won't think to look there, and then I have these control routes," and you start to have much more sophisticated plans that way.

Shack: Speaking of those kinds of broad strategies, we haven't heard too much in terms of how campaigns are going work. Are you planning on using the single-player to ease gamers into that kind of gameplay if they maybe aren't accustomed to that kind of RTS?

Chris Taylor: Well, we haven't talked about our campaigns because we have a stretch of time before now and launch and we have a PR campaign that has us releasing details of the game over time. We will be forthcoming at some point about the multiplayer and how the campaign is going to work in the coming months. We have a plan there. You don't want to throw the kimono off completely, it's part of launching a new IP.

Shack: So you mentioned recently that you're shooting for unit caps of about 500 per player. Have there been any difficulties getting this working with the enormous maps on the technical side, or in terms of making sure it's comprehensible to people?

Chris Taylor: The way we're working is that we have a pool of units, so that if you're playing with fewer people, you have more units [per person]. We've toyed with two to four thousand units in a pool. So let's say you and I play head to head and it was four thousand units, we'd get two thousand each. If we played eight player, we'd get five hundred each. What that final unit count is, it's not yet been decided, but in all fairness whatever it is when we launch the game in January it will be different in June. The powers of the machines will go up, it's fully moddable, people can change the number of units to whatever they want with a mod. So if you and I get together and we know a little something about how to mod the game, we can change it to ten thousand units each. There's really nothing about how the game is architected that limits that number. It's an arbitrary limit that will be set at release, and it will probably be within two and four thousand units total.

Shack: What kind of machines are you targeting at launch for the default values?

Chris Taylor: It will be something north of a 2GHz CPU. There will be a fairly wide range of video cards, probably north of 128MB cards. I would say that there will be a suggested system spec of somewhere closer to 3GHz machine with 256MB of video RAM or more. But we have got rendering detail settings and so forth, such that if you've got a lower end machine, you'll be able to play the game, you'll just have to dial it in so that it doesn't look as pretty. The game's CPU is dedicated to simulation of the very comprehensive gameplay. Because of the fidelity of the simulation, that has to be there no matter what. In multiplayer, we use a fully synchronous multiplayer model, which means everything that happens on your opponent's machine happens on your machine in lockstep. So, our choices are generally in visuals since it has no negative impact on gameplay. At the end of the day you'll get the game running on a 1.8GHz or an AMD 1600+, but the ideal experience is going to be had with a state of the art gaming rig.

Shack: And you guys have dual core support in there as well?

Chris Taylor: We do.

Shack: Going back to that gameplay aspect, stuff like fully simulating projectiles obviously has big gameplay ramifications. For some people, the weight of that may not strike them immediately; could you maybe give some hands on examples of how that impacts the game and what could happen using that model?

Chris Taylor: When you have a simulation, you have a byproduct which is fraught with what we call emergent gameplay. If you use a determinant system, a system whereby if a tank turns its turret and fires on another tank the only time it will fire is if the enemy tank is within range and in sight and is guaranteed to hit, in that old non-simulated system, when you see the tank shoot you've already subtracted the shell damage from the health of the opposing unit. Effectively, everything that happens and will happen all in one chunk.

When you simulate, if the tank sees another tank, it leads the tank by a certain amount and fires the cannon, the shell may hit the enemy unit, or maybe it hits a tree, or maybe another unit is driven in front which wasn't anticipated and takes the round instead. Maybe that other unit is stronger, or weaker, or maybe it's wreckage from another battle. It creates this total product of excitement, an emergent feast for the eyes. It's different, it's better, it's more interesting, and everybody knows it in their gut when they see it.

Remember the old physics, before we had physics, where everything would bounce and roll as if it was a sphere, and then one day someone showed us Havok and we all said "Ooh, that's the way it's supposed to be done." There's still a lot to be done there, but we were on the right path. Well, emergent gameplay behavior comes from simulation and we saw that in Battlefield 1942--well, we've had it games for years, it was in Total Annihilation and it goes back before that, but the reality is that nobody quite put this finger on it. Nobody could quite explain it. It was one of those situations where gameplay had evolved and nobody had the terminology to describe what was happening. Now we understand that emergent gameplay comes from simulated systems.

Shack: I've noticed that some people seem to think it's a marketing buzzword, and it can be hard to convince them it's not.

Chris Taylor: It sure sounds like a marketing buzzword, but it's a very real thing, and it's very tangible and it adds value to the game in a big way.

Continue to the next page for Chris Taylor's thoughts on RTS balance and more.


Shack: In terms of the balance side of gameplay, one thing you've frequently mentioned is that you're not a big fan of the rock/paper/scissors model of balance. Can you speak a bit on the distinctions between the three factions in Supreme Commander, both in gameplay and background?

Chris Taylor: Well, with rock/paper/scissors, you create a unit that very specifically has a weakness against another unit. Imagine in a computer wargame, you wouldn't really create a rock/paper/scissors, you'd create a circle that has twelve components, or ten components or eight components, and you'd say this beats this beats this, until it goes all the way around and the snake eats its own tail. That system means you have to look away from reality, and nothing can be superior just because. In real life, there are things--units and vehicles and equipment--that are completely superior. They have no weakness. There are examples, where if you have the XYZ, it's the best there is and nobody can beat that. And why do you have the XYZ? Because you have superior technology.

The Germans in World War II had all kinds of things that were just superior, hands down, to their Western counterparts. The reason they failed was that they had bad strategies, bad leadership, they were too ambitious. They thought they could do ten times what they could really do. That's what their fault was, but some of the equipment they had was fine. If you were trying to design the game that accurately reflected World War II, you would purposely make the panzer weak to such and such, because you'd say, "Well, it's a rock/paper/scissors game, we have to give the panzer a weakness!" But there were very few weaknesses of that tank, and it would be meaningless to capture those in a game so you'd have to create a meaningful weakness.

Do you know, offhand, what the weakness of the panzer was?

Shack: I can't say I do, off the top of my head.

Chris Taylor: It was called twenty Shermans banging on it at once, okay? [laughs] That's not a weakness! That's Western production superiority, that's what it's called. If you design a game based on rock/paper/scissors, you're stepping away from reality. You've moving away from reality to make something to fit a spreadsheet, and a good design does not belong on a spreadsheet.

Shack: So, presumably, the factions in Supreme Commander still have themes or, I suppose, gameplay tints to them. Can you speak about that?

Chris Taylor: Sure. So the United Earth Federation is effectively a future version of modern NATO today, so a person who really doesn't want to get too bogged down on a lot of alien units can jump right in and play UEF. The Aeon are the weirder spherical shapes with harder to recognize visual design, but I felt some people would really enjoy that. When you're playing the game and you're fighting that faction, you want to feel like you're fighting something that's very different from your own faction. The Cybran were enslaved by the institution that is the Earth with cybernetic augmentation, which is when you take a computer and implant it into a human to create a superhuman.

The fictional backstory of the world really supports the three more than pure arbitrary design. Our website has the whole timeline from beginning to end that you could probably read in fifteen minutes. It's so concisely and beautifully written out, that I would love it if you could point your readers towards it, hyperlink to our timeline, because it's good. We love our fictional universe and we've done so much work on it, but I'm not the guy to succinctly summarize that entire timeline, which takes place over a thousand years with all of these wonderful bits of fiction.

Shack: I'll be sure to send them in that direction. On to other things, can you say anything about the cooperative multiplayer?

Chris Taylor: We haven't officially made any statements about that. We're not not really talking about it yet.

Shack: This may also fall into the category of things you can't talk about yet, but in regards to both single- and multiplayer, what kind of other goals are you exploring rather than just "Destroy everything on the opponent's side"?

Chris Taylor: We have a lot of really cool things planned for our campaign to break it up from the routine that you're used to. I can't go into detail right now, but I can at least issue that teasing promise.

Continue to the next page to hear about aircraft and Supreme Commander's economic model.


Shack: Can you say anything about airborne combat? We haven't heard too much about that.

Chris Taylor: I like to call the game a fully functional land, sea, and air game. This means that we didn't just focus on tanks and throw a couple of planes in. You've got scouts, bombers, fighters, then you've got torpedo bombers, gunships, multiple technology transport systems, heavy bombers, and large reconaissance like the SR-71 Blackbird, which in our game's future is the spy planes which go way up high and fly recon on your opponent's position.

That ties heavily into what we call our intelligence war, which is where you can't truly play a game in a large theater of war unless you know what your opponent's up to. Why would you build a nuclear defense system unless your opponent is building nukes? Or, if your opponent is building nukes, by God you'd better get some anti-nuke protection. If your opponent builds heavy long range artillery, better reason than ever to put together a bomber group and nail that artillery when it comes online--but don't destroy it until it's almost online, because you want your opponent to invest maximum resources before you take it out. It's about having intelligence, not in the IQ sense but in terms of having knowledge. Isn't that a funny split in military nomenclature? Intelligence in the military really means knowledge. Knowledge of your opponent, actual facts. What your opponent is doing right this minute. We do that in spades, we have wonderful intelligence warfare systems.

And the CIA shouldn't be called the Central Intelligence Agency, it should be called the Central Knowledge Agency. It's funny I just realized that now, it just hit me today. Mark the calendar! Central Knowledge Agency. Make it so, make the change.

Shack: I'll be sure to put in that request. [laughs] So in terms of resources, you've got the infinite resources thing going again this time around. How's that work?

Chris Taylor: We do have infinite resources, because infinite resources are way more accurate to reality. You don't usually run out of things when you're fighting a war, you usually run out of manpower. Manpower is your resource, that's the first thing to go. The thing about our resource model is that we have mass and energy. It's a simplified system that allows players to focus on the front lines, on the strategy element of the game rather than on the resource management. There is an early game where you have to keep an eye on resources, but the weight transfers from one foot to the other. Still, you've always got a weakness. If an opponent comes in and takes out your economy, that is a viable strategy for them and it's something you have to be very wary of.

Without the economic backbone of the game, it's not a very interesting game. Many people have tried to make a strategy game without an economic component. It does not work. But if you have a resource system that's finite, what it ultimately means is that the game will eventually turn into one of those other games I described that just focuses on battles. You lose that wonderful balance between guns and butter, the traditional military yin and yang. Do I reinvest in my butter, or do I spend my money on the guns? The economy versus the military effort. That's where we landed, and we like it. We like it being infinite; it makes resources meaningful to the end of the game, it doesn't fade out early on, but the weight is very heavy on the military and strategy in the closing hours of the game.

Fundamentally, military organization is where 98% of where your sum costs are, so of course it's a natural conclusion that the emphasis is going to be on the military organization and not your economic infrastucture, at least in the closing hours of the game.

Shack: Is it fair to say that since resources last throughout the game, it's more about resource bandwidth than resource volume?

Chris Taylor: Yeah, and while that analogy is totally correct, it's better to just look at real life. So the United States military, for example, has all these planes and boats and tanks. If they didn't make another dollar the day the war has started, it doesn't invalidate what they've already bought. In the very latest parts of the game, in the eleventh hour, it's the infrastructure you've created that decides the fate of the game.

It's closer to reality. If you want to build a high rise, you don't have to write a check for the full amount before the cement trucks come in to pour the first floor. In Supreme Commander, the economy comes in and you expend money as you get it, which means you can start incredibly large mega-projects when you don't have the resources to pay for them. You're just getting them started, which is wonderful. As you get more resources, you can put more engineers on the project, and they will continue to spend at a higher rate on that unit, so you see the results of this real-life analogy that flows out of the economic model.

Shack: So on to an entirely different part of the game, nukes are obviously very powerful but there are presumably countermeasures and vast amounts of efforts that must be expended to use them. What's the system around that?

Chris Taylor: Well, I love nukes. I love nukes that do massive amounts of damage, but like anything there should be an easy way to counter it--relatively easy--meaning that if you build nukes, and your opponent builds anti-nukes you're never going to win the game that way. What people forget, though, in terms of strategy, is that nukes are not just meant to knock out your opponent's base. Let's take a scenario. I build up nukes, and you build anti-nukes. I fire five of them at you, and you knock them out of the air, and for every dollar I spend on the nukes you spend twenty cents. I'm losing this arms race. However, when you think you've got me beat, you have this invading army leaving your base and there's no anti-nuke capability escorting that massive army, and I drop a nuke on them and you say, "Oh."

As a strategist, I like to create what I call a red herring system, where people do something because they think it's going to be a slam dunk, and then they realize it isn't. That creates a lot of deeper strategies, because people start to say, "Well, my friend is not going to think I'm going to build nukes, because he knows that I'm going to build anti-nukes, which means he's probably not going to build nukes, which means I'm not going to bother building anti-nukes." You get into this whole "I know that you know that I know that you don't know" rabbit hole, which allows these chess-like games to evolve. You'll find the guy nuking the other guy and he'll say, "I can't believe you built nukes! You never build nukes! I've played you twenty times and you've never built nukes! Where did this nuke comes from?" and the first guy says, "Exactly." [laughs] It's just fun. It takes the game to a whole new place.

Then you can also drop nukes on ships in the ocean, and someone might say, "God, I never thought about you knocking out my ships with a nuke, I should never have kept them still," because if the ships are always moving you can never hit them. You'd never know where they're going to go. A nuke takes quite a while to get across a world, a nuke is in the air for a minute or two minutes, and you could move the slowest thing in that time. Nukes just really dress the game up and take it to a very exciting and interesting place.

Now, of course we have shield systems too, which take out all of your traditional projectiles--long range artillery can be protected against, the shields absorb various impacts. Then there are sorts of cool countermeasure systems. You've got stealth field generators, you've got spooking systems for your mobile units that can make it look like there's a massive army approaching on radar when there isn't, and so on and so forth. There are a lot of systems that make it all come together in interesting ways.

Continue to the next page for details on dual monitor support and the game's strategic zoom feature.


Shack: I notice you've got dual monitor support as well. What are we going to be seeing on the other monitor?

Chris Taylor: Well, when you zoom in and you zoom out on your main view, what you find is that you make a command, then you zoom out and you look at the whole theater, then you zoom back in and do some more stuff, and you zoom out maybe to an intermediate level, then you zoom back in. By having a second monitor, you have the full theater view, big, all the time, right there. It means you don't have to use that tiny, tiny radar minimap--which has all the information squished and compressed into a small space and has very little utility, to be honest. Having a second monitor, you have a very large, easy to read, clear overview of the entire theater of war at all times. It takes all the zoom in and zoom out and reduces it to what's necessary for moving around.

That's not to say zooming in and zooming out isn't any fun. I mean, you watch over someone's shoulder, and I sometimes wonder if they're enjoying zooming just as much as they're playing the whole game. It's kind of fun.

Shack: Yeah, the whole strategic zoom thing, just watching that is in itself an entertaining facet of the game. It's kind of a basic mechanic of this game, but would you like to briefly touch on what you can do with the full zoom and the implications it has on unit size or anything else?

Chris Taylor: When you're zoomed in tight, you restrict the design of all of the units to fit comfortably in the view that you're seeing at all times. If you wanted to make something truly big and epic, you just wouldn't. But because you can zoom out now, you can have stuff that's enormous. That's the cool thing about it. You saw the battleships, where only half of it would fit on the screen. I've played games that have been released lately, where I built a ship in a shipyard, and I swear I could only get about five ships on the screen before the screen was filled out. It was kind of laughable, because when I zoomed out, I couldn't zoom out anymore, and these ships were so in my face, I felt as if it wasn't very playable. The zoom gives us so much. It gives us the ability to step back and see the whole world, or the whole theater. It allows us to feel like the general in the war room, it gives us this sense of power, authority over the theater. It allows us to see commands given to units; if you hold down the Shift key, you can see the paths they were given.

Think about it; when you zoom out, you're not only pulling your head out of the sandbox, you're creating a volume of space. It's a cube rather than a sandbox, rather than a flat 2D grid with a little height to it. I can now see my nukes curve way up high in the sky in this wonderful ballistic parabola, I can see this gorgeous curve, I can see the missile arching down towards the ground. I feel like I'm looking at a living, breathing world that has depth to it, I'm not just looking at a board game abstraction of a war.

It also solves some other problems. In previous games, aircraft had to fly at a certain low height, which really was just on a map of the earth. No jet fighter flies at fifty feet off the ground. In Supreme Commander, with this full zoom, we're able to create strata of altitude. Bombers can be flying while torpedo bombers can fly down out of their flight path, torpedo bomb ships and then fly back to their regular altitude. Those SR-71 equivalents can fly at a much higher altitude, so the flak cannon can't knock them out of the sky, bringing a sense of simulation and realism and believability to the game, all because of the strategic zoom.

Shack: Of course, despite the realistic sense of scale, there are still plenty of exaggerated units, big crazy sci-fi walking spiders and stuff.

Chris Taylor: Yeah, well in real life if you build a giant walking unit that was twelve hundred meters high, we could, it would just perform in a really realistic way. That's the thing, it doesn't have to be possible to be realistic.

Shack: So in terms of other comparisons to modern RTS games, one of the trends we've seen over the last several years, and I think maybe some of this is player fuelled and has crossed over to the design side, is the focus on micromanagement and rushing. Is there room for that in Supreme Commander, or is that something you're deliberately eschewing?

Chris Taylor: Well, for the most part, if you play on some of our mid to large maps, you're never going to play a rush game. There's no rush game. If you play on one of the smaller maps, absolutely, you're going to bring the rush game right back in. A rush game is a function of the small maps that traditional RTS games have as an integral part. You cannot rush me when I'm on the other side of a gigantic world. You'll be there in an hour. You want to build transport systems, you want to load a bunch of bots up, you want to fly over the ocean--"Hey, I've got some interceptors out there waiting for you!" You run a gigantic land map that's enormous--"Oh, by that time, I go for a long range radar installation and I can see this mass of units marching across this barren desert." "Well, I have some bombers out there to clean them up before I get there."

When you put two people in a room and you say, "Fight," one guy can rush to the other side of the room and dive on the other guy, but when you put people within a square mile you don't even know where the other guy is, let alone rushing him. You just can't rush someone when you're in a large space. Typically when you rush someone, it's a low cost maneuvre. But in Supreme Commander, if you lay your chips down on a rush move, you're betting the whole farm, and you're just not going to want to do that.

Continue to the last page to hear about what led to Chris Taylor making Total Annihilation and Dungeon Siege.


Shack: If you don't mind going back a few years, how did you get involved with Ron Gilbert (Monkey Island) and his company Cavedog, or Humongous?

Chris Taylor: That's an interesting question. When I started in the business eighteen years ago this past May, I worked at a little company called Distinctive Software in Burnaby, [British Columbia,] and my first title ever was called HardBall II. That was the sequel to the very successful HardBall! by Bob Whitehead. I was of course very excited and thrilled to be able to work on the sequel, however, the point of the story is that Shelley Day worked at Accolade. She was the producer of HardBall II. She went on from Accolade and moved around, went to Taito for a while--remember Taito? The arcade company that made Arkanoid?

Shack: Yep, they made Space Invaders.

Chris Taylor: Did Taito make Space Invaders?!

Shack: Yeah, and Bubble Bobble, and a bunch of other stuff.

Chris Taylor: I did not recall that, that's great. Anyway, she went to LucasArts, and she met up with Ron Gilbert there and she worked on some of his titles. Well, they got a thing going, and they left, and they started Humongous. I called Shelley up, and said, "Hey, what's going on?" and she says, "Hey, well we've got this kids' company but Ron wants to get into non-children's titles." More traditional entertainment, older games. We struggled with the exact way to phrase it, because we'd say "How about adult games?" And I'd say, "They're not adult, they're just not children." So anyway, that's when Cavedog was formed, in mid to late 96.

Shack: Did you pitch the idea of this big epic strategy game to him? Obviously he was an adventure game pioneer but he wasn't really a large scale gameplay kind of guy, how did you...?

Chris Taylor: I played Dune II from Westwood, and I fell in love with it. And I tracked the development of Command & Conquer, and I remember seeing it at E3, and drooling, and going, "I can't wait for this game!" I was so freaky about it, and when I finally got it into my hands, I said to myself, "That's it, this is what computer games are all about. We've been missing the boat. This is the future."

So I quit my job at EA. I'd been there eight years because EA bought Distinctive and it rolled into EA. So after eight years, I quit. [Ron and Shelley] were in Vancouver visiting on business, and I went downtown to Vancouver because I lived in Burnaby--actually, I lived in North Delta, details. Anyway, I went up to Vancouver and I sat down for dinner with Ron and Shelley, and I told Ron this idea that I had for Total Annihiliation.

I said, "Here's what's going to happen, the turrets are going to rotate independently, and then they're going to elevate when the barrel fires, and the barrel is going to recoil and there will be a gout of flame at the tip of the barrel, and everything's going to be simulated and accurate, and everything's going to move with fluid 3D, and there's not going to be any prerendered 2D bitmaps, and it's all going to be in real time!" He said, "Wow, that guy's got passion!" I guess, you can ask him what he thought, and that's when he said "Why don't you come down to Humongous and build the game?"

Shack: What led to Dungeon Siege? It's totally different, obviously, from your other projects.

Chris Taylor: Well, I'd always loved RPG games back from Wizardry on the Apple II, playing with my friend until late into the night on the Apple II. But I felt they were too hardcore, but when the first Diablo came out, I played Diablo all the way through until the end, and I thought, "These guys have got it right." Action, and so on and so forth, and despite the fact that I did want to make another RTS game, I did want to try something different. Just one of those artistic things.

I don't know, you're pretty knowledgeable about the business, you know how cynical the business can be. You don't just get to make original games. You have to go in and say, "I'm going to make a game that's like another game," and unless the other game that you're trying to make your game like is a top seller, nobody wants to hear it. So it makes you feel kind of terrible sometimes, when you look back and feel like you've made a lot of derivative games, but the reality is that nobody wants to do anything highly original in this industry. In fact, I don't think that's changed much today. It's like, you say, "James Bond meets Terminator," and everyone says "Yeah!" because they get it, they can see it in their minds. So here, you take Diablo, and you go into 3D, and you make multi-character parties, and you don't pick your class, and there's a skill-based class system where you grow the character--those are the hooks. Those were the inspirations, taking RPGs games to the next level. Then if you say, we've got this game like Diablo and it's really successful, that supports the notion that we can make a successful business.

Shack: What led to you getting into games? What made you want to make games?

Chris Taylor: I loved games since my mom brought home the Sears Pong system. I was absolutely intrigued. But of course when you're that age, when you're eleven or twelve, you don't think you can have any kind of a future there. You don't immediately jump up and say, "Mom, I'm going to make Pong!" and she goes, "Great idea, son! Great idea, go get 'em!" She's got a little bag with a sandwich and an apple, pushes you out the door, "Go do it! Make your dreams come true! Not like your father and I, destined to work in a fish cannery for the rest of our lives!" Sorry. [laughs]

Shack: Your parents didn't actually work at a fish cannery, did they?

Chris Taylor: No, they didn't. [laughs] The point is, when I was walking into arcades, and I saw the early Space Invaders, Asteroids, Battlezone, they were so awesome. It was just pure mystery to me, and I knew I wanted to do work on those system. But when you're that age, the people who make those games are in a far away land. We don't know where they live, what they eat for breakfast. Do they even sleep?

Shack: It depends which company you work for, I guess.

Chris Taylor: Yeah, good one. [laughs] The point is, when you see all of that it's intriguing, but it wasn't until my wealthy friend started getting personal computers. I realized, "They're playing games on their computers! I have to get one of these computers!" I had a friend who had an Apple II and another friend with a Commodore PET, and I begged my father, so he got me a TRS-80 Model 1 from Radio Shack, and I immediately went to the task of learning how to program so I could make my own games. I wrote all sorts of stuff in BASIC and it was lousy, and I had to learn assembly to get the graphics to move around on the screen fast enough, and have the inputs be crisp. I was fourteen years old. I pretty much knew, from when I could get my hands on a tool to make these games, that it was for me, and I never looked back from them.

Shack: Thanks so much for talking to us.

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