Brad Wardell is an interesting man. One part Windows developer, one part game developer and one part hardcore gamer adds up to someone who is devoted to making games that he wants to play. As the president and CEO of Stardock, head of the TotalGaming.net subscription service, and the developer behind Galactic Civilizations and Galactic Civilizations 2, Mr. Wardell has a very busy schedule. Luckily, he took an hour of his time to sit down and talk with Gamasutra. We discussed many different subjects, but one theme constantly came up: we need a creative revolution.
Gamasutra: So, how's it going?
Brad Wardell: Pretty good. We're just hiring up for our next game project.
GS: Oh yeah? I was going to ask you about that. What have you got coming up?
BW: Well we've got Galactic Civilizations 2: Dark Avatar, which is in development. It comes out in February. We're publishing a game called Sins of a Solar Empire, next August, which is kind of like Homeworld but larger scale, with multiple star systems.
GS: That sounds pretty good.
BW: Then, we're starting up a fantasy strategy game right now, but that won't be out for a couple of years.
GS: That's one of the things I wanted to ask you about. I wanted to ask about the Master of Magic license. You guys looked into that didn't you?
BW: Yeah, we did. We pursued it. Actually, Atari came to us a while ago. I thought they had a pretty good idea. That is, over the years, Atari has collected a lot of good IP (Intellectual Property) like X-Com, Star Control, Master of Orion, Master of Magic and a lot of others that a lot of people didn't realize that they held. So they came to us and said "We're not really interested in publishing these things ourselves, but what we'd like to do is license out the trademarks to third parties like you guys and we'll make a royalty off of them." So, we sat down and decided that Master of Magic would be our first, since it's close to something we'd done and Master of Orion 3 had already come out. We were able to agree on the money, so we thought everything was set, then their legal guys got involved, and that's where it stalled. They wanted the right to approve any marketing we did with a mutli-day stipulation. Say, for instance, me talking to you right now would be considered marketing and I would have to have approval first. That sort of thing. Then there was the weird thing, like if the game was manufactured overseas, someone from the company would have to be onsite to make sure there was no child labor.
GS: That's pretty odd. Do you mean from you guys or from Atari?
BW: Oh, from Stardock. So if we were doing a Korean or Russian version, someone from here would have to be there. There were all sorts of things in there that made it difficult to do. Then Atari ran into financial difficulties and we just decided to do our own fantasy strategy game. At that point, no one was really doing a Master of Magic. I think that there's a strong market for a fantasy strategy game that has some of the elements of Master of Magic like random maps and building your own cities. It's not really a competitor to an Age of Wonders or Heroes of Might and Magic, they're completely different game mechanics.
GS: Right, Master of Magic was random maps. Will there be multiplayer?
BW: Yeah, multiplayer will be in there.
GS: Ok, I just remember that in Master of Magic you had to do all sorts of crazy things to get multiplayer going, and then it was only hot seat.
BW: (Laughs) No, no, what we have now is Society which is our massive multiplayer game. That's going to be many years from now, five or six, but the building blocks from that are going into our other games. We've been using the multiplayer libraries in Galactic Civilizations and integrating them into the fantasy strategy game and other games.
GS: Makes sense to use as much as you can.
GS: I guess that the Master of Magic game is out of the question now with Atari's problems.
BW: I'm not even sure what's happening there. We went to them and offered to buy the rights for six figures and they turned us down. They wanted all or nothing. This game is over ten years old. I mean, it's just the name. I could come out with Lords of Magic; we wouldn't do that because it's cheesy.
GS: Yeah, that's pretty close.
BW: Yeah, but we're talking about a ten year old game. There isn't a trademark for it; it expired, not that we'd name that. I was very surprised at how high they valued it. It definitely has value, but I was surprised that they were that aggressive about it.