Do you think at Stardock you could step out of this perceived shadow of Sid Meier? Do you think that you can make more of a name for yourself?
JS: Well, for me, at the end of the day, all we really care about is working on things that are fun. A lot of people ask me, "Are you upset that you're the lead designer for Civilization V, and yet Sid's name is on it?" And I always tell them that I'm not upset, because so much of what's in the franchise and in that game is due to things that Sid has done in the past.
Compare Civ V to Civ I, [Civ V] is much closer to [Civ I] than any other game out there. So much of it is passed on from the original design that he made that I think it's appropriate [to have Meier's name on the box].
As far as what I want to do personally, like I said, we want to do things that are fun. I'm not really worried about any of that stuff. It's just about making games, it's what I enjoy doing, and I'm about looking for the best opportunity to do that. I think Stardock is that opportunity right now.
Even though Civilization V was very well-received by the media, there are pockets of the internet that have pretty harsh words towards you personally about the direction that Civ V took. Does that kind of reaction affect you at all as someone that put forth so much effort in Civilization V?
JS: I think criticism affects everybody in some way or another, especially in games, because you put so much of yourself into what you make, and you want people to experience that. Ultimately, you're making a game, while you will play it, you're not making it for you, you're making it so that other people play it. And if there are people that don't enjoy it, then that's disappointing.
I think that with a game like Civ, as big as it is, and as big of an audience that it has, it's inevitable that some people are going to be upset with what you do. [The criticism] is a little bit disappointing, and my hope is that a lot of people that weren't happy with the direction of some of the other stuff I've worked on will be willing to try out some of the new stuff that I'm helping with.
Every game is different, and every game has different priorities and directives. You do the best you can with that, and each time you learn a little bit more. Nobody likes having their work criticized, but you just aim to get better, and hopefully next time they'll change their minds and we'll win them back.
What direction do you think PC gaming is going? Do you think there will always be a space for these very in-depth, boxed PC strategy games?
JS: I definitely think there will be. It seems more and more as the industry as a whole evolves, and particularly PC gaming because it has a little bit longer tradition than console gaming, you see the types of games that are made fall into different bands. So maybe in 1992, all games fell into the same band, they had roughly the same budget, roughly the same amount of people working on them. It's an exaggeration of course and I'm glossing over the details.
But nowadays, you might see games that cost $50 million to make, whereas somebody's releasing games on Facebook that are effectively PC games that might have required literally one person to make.
And on the other hand, you have companies that are doing things more like Stardock, where they're pursuing what I like to call a middle-market where they focus on an experience that is really big and in-depth, and really borrows a lot from some of the more traditional models of making PC games. But you're not spending humongous amounts of money.
So you can afford to diversify, you can afford to do what you want in the games, you can afford to diversify in terms of the types of games you make. I think there's definitely a future for all of these different types of groups.
The middle market is one that I feel is underserved right now, and one that Stardock is definitely aiming at, so I think that's going to make the company very successful in the future, just because there's not a lot of people in that space.