“It’s hard [for me] to stand back and look at the game and think, ‘this is good or that’s bad,’ because I’m used to it. I’ve been looking at it for two and a half years. But the customers – this is their first exposure to it, so they’re going to have a lot of different feedback on how the game will feel.”
Through user feedback, Attard has fixed small usability issues such as pathfinding algorithms and how users select units, but he’s also making large additions to Immortal Empire: “A lot of people emailed me saying this whole ‘buy a game, get it’ is an archaic model, which is what I grew up with. But a lot of these guys… like this crazy microtransaction system, and a lot of browser-based games do this. So we’re adding it in.”
Expansions & Sequels
Despite investing a great deal of time and his own money in Immortal Empire, Jesse Attard currently has no intention of leaving Digital Extremes. He stated, “I’ll kind of play it as it goes. There isn’t any grand plan here. Certainly, for the time being, I need my fulltime job.” In fact, he’s still working as a lead programmer on an as-of-yet unannounced title at Digital Extremes.
But Attard isn’t done with Tactic Studios either. He’s developing “a couple expansions for Immortal Empire to really bulk it out into a sixty-hour, seventy-hour – what [he] considers to be a full RPG.”
He’s also thinking about the distant future. He explained, “You find a lot of studios don’t reach a lot of success until they’ve got multiple games out. That’s certainly common and I think it makes sense. You attract a user base and then you can bring them all back to try out your second game, and people who didn’t try your first game get to play it.”
Mainstream vs. Indie
When I asked Attard if it’s common for mainstream developers to envy indie developers and the creative control they possess, he responded, “Absolutely. Almost every person I talk to at work will say something like that at one point or another. I say in a huge way that exists.
“I find a lot of guys leave the triple-A game industry just to start up indie things. In fact, I have a friend who did that very thing: started up his own company. It’s pretty common, and I think it’s just because it’s so different. You’re really exercising different parts of your… brain and that’s why people love it.”
But he was also quick to point out that the opposite is also true: Indie developers may envy the budgets and press that mainstream studios receive. Attard explained, “That’s kind of how I felt at Capcom. I knew a lot of people were playing these cell phone games, but they don’t exactly get a lot of press. And there’s something sexy about press… It is always really rewarding to see a commercial come on of something you’ve made. It’s cool.”
As Attard pointed out, the grass is always greener. That’s probably why he’s attempting to get the best of both the mainstream and indie game development worlds.
You can try Immortal Empire at the Tactic Studios website, and discover what one of the developers of Bioshock 2 does in his spare time.