The Lodgge Podcast Episode 14

Meet George Geczy, Co-Owner, Director, and Technical Lead of BattleGoat Studios

Published On: 28 March 2023Categories: The Lodgge PodcastTags:

In this episode of The Lodgge Podcast we meet George Geczy! Co-Owner, Director, and Technical Lead of BattleGoat Studios! We discuss his storied career, the Supreme Ruler series, Ontario specific game design, and much more!

Scott  0:00  

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Lodgge podcast. Welcome back for episode 14. I am so excited to introduce my new uniquely talented guest, George Geckzy. George, how’re you doing today? Are you good?

George  0:11  

Thanks, and I hope you’re doing well too.

Scott  0:13  

I’m doing great. I’m doing great. I love doing these I always get really excited. George has been a central figure in the Ontario industry for over 20 years. As the co owner, director and tech lead at Battle goat studios. He has released over eight games and the supreme ruler franchise just with that studio, as well as their latest game galactic ruler. Today we’re going to be discussing the studio’s vision for the strategy genre, the Ontario video game ecosystem, and much more. So without further ado, let’s get into the conversation

Scott  0:55  

so, George, you’ve been working in the industry full time at Battle goat since 2007. Yeah, but your love for video games goes back way farther than that. Can you tell me a little bit about what sparked that initial interest and that initial joy in the video game industry?

George  1:12  

Well, I mean, actually started when I was in high school, and somehow I managed to convince my parents to buy me a computer, which was they’re pretty pricey back then. You know, I think I think the total was over $2,000 for the computer and that was in actual money at that time. And so I don’t know how I managed to convince my parents to do that. But somehow I told my mom oh yeah, I’ll write a video game and the dental sell and we’ll all be rich and I’ll buy you a new car and somehow I convinced I don’t think she believed that. But it’s still I got the computer and I started working on on games because I don’t I’m actually not sure why video games specifically I mean, you know, this was obviously in the early generation of video games when they were coming on the scene with the the the Tories and then Nintendo’s and so on, everyone was learning you know, what would be a games were about but I I liked strategy games I like the that sort of thing. And I just dove right in top myself programming and, and started working on it.

Scott  2:14  

So that actually brings us to the first topic is we we need to talk about supreme ruler, that’s going to be obviously a major focal point of this because it’s been a major focal point of your your life, not even just battle goat. So you can you tell us a little bit about what it’s like to work on the same franchise voluntarily, for 40 years, nearly 4040 years at this point.

George  2:33  

Yep, from the unknown says the first game. Well, there were a couple of games that I had actually released, I guess maybe when I first sales as a software developer, that was one that was sold to a magazine, this was back in the days when code was in basic, and you would type it in off a magazine onto your computer and run it that was my first sale when I was in high school. And then I sold a couple other small projects. But then when I started working on the strategy game, the first supreme ruler actually taught me oh, this is this is a really nice game. I think this is not a good analogy. I enjoy making it I enjoy playing it and I thought it was very well done. And then I decided though, to actually self publish it but the reason the supreme ruler, that sort of game was always what caught my interest at the time. And so starting from high school, I created the first supreme rule, it was a text based game for the tier city microcomputer, the computer that was around just before the IBM PC was released. And the self publishing was an interesting experience. But the making the game and was the fun part.

Scott  3:36  

So from that from the second game release all the way until battle goats announcement and release. And when you guys first got started, we had about what 1020 to 15 years. So what what did you do to kind of keep that dream alive? What did you do with supreme ruler when you like after you released that second game? And before you actually launch your own studio? What was something that you were doing? Were you were you kind of fiddling in the background and always kind of working on it? Or was it something that you decided later in life, you’re like, you know what I want to get back to this, this is what I want to do. And this is the series that I want to continue to work on.

George  4:10  

Well, one of the things is once we did get into that early self publishing era with the supreme ruler and so on, then the microcomputer business started to change pretty rapidly. And that’s the one the IBM PC start taking over. And very soon after that the Apple Macintosh was introduced and, and so on. And during that timeframe, we weren’t, you know, the company that my family and I had set up to publish supreme ruler, you know, that just wasn’t a profitable way forward. And so your life took us in a couple of other directions. And we actually ended up running a computer store, computer, basically selling software hardware, making PCs, all of that for 15 years, and then around the year 2000 And in fact, my business partner, David Thompson, who is still the corner of balgo Studios with me So, you know, he and I were fiddling around trying to thinking about bringing supreme ruler back, you know, to the PC and bringing it to a modern thing. But we were also running a full time business with the computer store at the same time. And then around 2000. And we said, Okay, well enough of this, we sold off our share in the in the computer store, and, you know, started up battle God studios. And the goal was to bring supreme ruler to the modern generation.

Scott 5:25  

And the rest is history at this point. So far. So one thing I didn’t want to get in before we really dive into battle goat is, it’s been very clear throughout your experience, even just with a quick glance at a resume, of your constant need to want to give back to the community. So before we actually started recording, you were talking about how you have to go to always has kind of an influx of interns, right, it was always about training people up in the industry, giving back and making sure that the next generation is going to be able to kind of carry on some of these traditions and to learn some of these skills. So with your work as a organizing committee member at the the Science and Engineering Fair in the Bay Area, you spend time as a professor at Mohawk College, and you sit on numerous boards, including interactive Ontario’s so why is are these type initiatives so important to you, it seems like you’re always doing three or four things at once. So I’m curious of why it’s, it’s clearly an important part of of who you are.

George  6:18  

And I think even when we were in the business with the computer store, and that area, we were actually one of the largest computer stores in our area, that Hamilton area, we were the supplier to the both school boards, to the city government and so on. But I felt that, you know, being a big company that had that presence meant you really weren’t part of the community. So even at that point, you know, I was on the Chamber of Commerce, I, I lead their science and technology committee, I was on working with the Hamilton Public Library and not ended up on the board of the public library, and then all sorts of other types of initiatives. Because yeah, it just felt that if you’re part of the community, then you have to be part of that community, you have to get back to it, you have to, you know, share your talents, you have to encourage others. And, you know, when we got into the balgo studios, the community was a little different. You know, when we had the computer store, we were part of the physical community of Hamilton, you know, we were a store and we had a presence, and people would drop in and say, hi, when we were battle goat, it was it was different. We were almost our community was Canadian developers in Ontario in particular, and so you know, supporting each other, you’re supporting talent, you know, we’ll bring, you know, training new talent, supporting other studios, as they start up, you know, there’s a Tritan talking to them about how to navigate, you know, things like the Ontario creates and the CMF. And the funding opportunities, how to navigate publishing. Yeah. And in fact, one of our early things in balgo, we were signed with a publisher, that was going to put out a first title for the PC, similar 2010. And a few months before the title was going to be released, the publisher went bankrupt, which was a bit of a bump in the road. And so eventually, the title did get out there, it was a very rocky relationship. And we learned a lot of things, the first time about that experience, how to deal with publishers, contracts, how to protect yourself. And that’s information that my thoughts were important to other studios, there’s no reason why everybody needs to learn all all their lessons through the the the the bumps and the mistakes, it’s, if we can share that information. And then other people can share with me, you know, the lessons they’ve learned in other areas that we hadn’t encountered yet, then we’re all for the better for it. And so again, the whole thing of supporting the community just makes each studio stronger, there’s no reason to be in our own silos about this.

Scott  8:47  

I think that’s one thing too, that kind of makes Ontario unique, especially in Canada, is that we do have the highest number of like micro studios or smaller studios in the country. So you do see a lot more of this type of collaboration, right? And like being able to run the interactive Ontario discord, where we have a lot of these types of conversations the Ontario creates, and the CMS and all the other funding things going on people discussing publishing, and like you mentioned, a lot of the other bumps that people have gone through and sharing those experiences. It’s been just an absolute pleasure to be able to watch because there’s so many studios that have been around for six months, a year. And then now they’re like, Okay, we came in wanting to make a video game. Now we have to run a business. Right? That tends to be the way we see a lot of people kind of coming into the industry is that they’re thinking their game first rather than as a company. And then they get six months to a year in and they realize, oh, no, I need to figure it I need to learn how to do all this. I need to learn how to do payroll, I need to run this run that and then having a space and having a community that they can jump into and say hey, who has experienced this, and within 10 minutes, there are links being dropped. There are stories being shared. There’s a lot of bonding going on between some of those senior studios like yourselves, and a lot of these new people and it’s it’s really fun to be able to watch that and see They do have resources that they can rely on that are in the community in the community. And they have gone through these experiences themselves.

George  10:08  

Yeah, exactly. I mean, one of the things that occasionally comes up, especially somebody out of the industry will say, you know, how do you deal with your competition? Or who is your competition in the industry and so on. And, and first of all the studios and not not at all, I mean, I have no problem telling, oh, my old lessons I’ve learned and the secrets I know to other other studios, because they’re not competition, I mean, the the wild release a video game, they’ll release the video game, and hopefully, people will buy both games. And obviously, a lot of people will have different genres of games, and they’ll have games on different platforms, you know, phones, and PCs and consoles. And so really on one studio does not compete with another. It’s even happens. Even in my own genre strategy games. Occasionally, I’ll have been on a forum and have some of our players talking about new new games coming out. And they’ll talk about, you know, chat by this one or that one, saying, you know, you can’t buy a buy both. I mean, yeah, you know, especially in my genre, the there aren’t that many games released in a year, I think you can probably pick mine up in March, and the other guy’s up in June, and you’ll be very happy playing lots of hours. So competition doesn’t work the same way. And this business as you would think, and other types of businesses.

Scott  11:24  

I completely agree, nei especially you made that comment about genres, that it’s you’re not spending, you know, 10 hours, and you’re not competing with your other, like linear FPS isn’t one of these, like, incredibly, you know, triple A studios. It’s the intelligence strategy genre, as you guys have dubbed it, which actually leads us right into the conversation of battle goats studios. So founded in 20, in 2000, I was gonna say 2020, infinite in 2000. You’ve nearly exclusively worked on strategy titles, specifically, intelligence strategy games. So what is it about your titles that make them stand apart from your regular run of the mill strategy titles?

George  12:03  

I mean, it is something that and when we set up the path, maybe we didn’t necessarily intend originally to create games of exactly the way we ended up doing. But we obviously have a certain genres that our developers and myself, my business partner, David, and other people who bring on board, we are fans of the study genre, which means things like civilization, things like the Age of Empires, types of games, Command and Conquer. There’s one of my favorite games is from a little bit earlier called Panzer General, which was a little award game. And I ended up even 20 years later, I still love to occasionally play it just because it has that sort of mechanic that I love. So we brought our love for all these types of strategy games on board. And we wanted to create a strategy game that really offered players a lot of depth. So sometimes, people call our games like Civilization on steroids, where we take a much more deep look at that sort of gameplay, it is a bit of a dangerous path walk down because it makes our games harder for new players to jump into. And they are less accessible because of that. And it is a problem that we work on, you know, we sometimes look at, especially as we come up with new iterations in our, our series, do we simplify the mechanic, but then, you know, our existing players and players who do like a deep strategy game, you know, do want more than that. So we do have that balancing act going on. And we may be more than we should, we’ve leaned on a more in depth game that has more detail, more complexity to it. But again, you know, there are players that will certainly enjoy that there are some players that have been with us for 20 years, you know, since our first release of, I think 2010, our first PC game went into beta, about 2003, so about 20 years ago. And there have been players who’ve been with us that whole time. And we’ve developed quite an audience around that sort of game. And I think there’s definitely a place in the market for your we’re not going to make a million copies of the game like this. But we have a strong audience. And I think there’s certainly an interest in having games that are a little more complex than your, your Plants versus Zombies. I guess you would

Scott  14:23  

say thank you. You just answered like my next few questions, which is fantastic. I was curious about kind of how you make things a little bit more accessible to some new players? And how do you not lose your core? So I think you just answered that right off the bat is to kind of double down on that niche, right double down on that audience that really loves to be able to really get down to the micro. And one thing I do want to bring up with that is like the crafting systems and the mechanics in your games are so meticulous, right? There’s so down to the last detail. So how do you what lessons have you learned and how do you balance the realism of the worlds that you’re building and the fun of I’m still playing a video game.

George  15:03  

I think we’ve and we do experiment with a lot of different things. And so I think we also do look at what other games in the Strategy Market are doing. And then certainly some some titles go route of trying to simplify things. We’ve also noticed a lot of titles that are, or maybe longer term franchises, when they do come out with a version that tries to simplify the mechanics, they do lose a lot of their existing audience. And so, you know, there’s a lot of grumbling about the fact that, you know, don’t just dumb it down there, we do look at other ways to try to bring things on board with galactic ruler, which we can talk about in a moment, we did some things that we hadn’t done before. But what the supreme ruler sees itself, we are adding in more automation mechanics, you know, the idea was, you know, if you don’t care, let’s say about the economy, you have ministers, and you just set them to run the economy. And if you don’t care about the other areas, such as production and research, and so on, again, you can automate those sub pieces, and let the ministers which is, you know, AI ministers handle it. And that’s work to a large extent, to help people get into a little easier. But one thing, it’s sort of a lesson in psychology of players that, once you give them a button, even if the Selmy don’t have to turn on this button, they are, of course, all going to press the button and they turn on every option. And then they make the game really complicated. And they say this game is too complicated. But we say you didn’t have to press all of those buttons, you didn’t have to go into every sub menu. So again, we are balancing that out and trying to give the pail and in fact, we find if we can give the players more feedback about what’s going on. And that’s in with our 20. There’s a lot of effort being put into doing that giving the player more idea of why something happened, why it didn’t happen, and what’s underneath it. And we found what that’s one of our biggest challenges to AI is often a point about strategy games that is often criticized. And I’ve learned over the years that no matter what happens, players won’t understand that they’ll sometimes, for example, if the game will this too aggressive and beats them right away, then they’ll get upset if the game is too easy. It’s Oh, well, the AI is too easy. And then we’ll give them a difficulty setting the half the players won’t set the difficulty setting to the difficulty they should. And so then maybe we’ll automate the difficulty setting to have it automatically adjust because the player isn’t going to do that. And so these, these micro changes are ways that we try to address more the psychology of the game, as opposed to the actual mechanics of it.

Scott  17:49  

That sounds like a very tricky battle of trying to continually like there’s such a thin line between respecting the player and kind of leaving them out in the cold, right, where it’s like, you want them to be able to figure out stuff themselves, but you also want to be able to kind of hold their hand when clearly there’s a there’s something missing, or there’s something that they’re not, they’re not getting or there’s just a mechanic that they’re they haven’t used correctly. That must be such an interesting balance that you’ve learned over these last, you know, eight games. So one thing I do want to bring up too is a lot of times when a new game comes out, right, two, three, a sequel or whatever it may be, is everyone always asked do I Oh, we’ll have to play the first one. Oh, do I have to play the first Do you tell us a little bit about that with supreme ruler that it always being a supreme ruler franchise? And then I you know, a different year a different focus a different point in history? Can you tell us a little bit about do you need to be playing those earlier games? Are there any that actually connect? And what would you be missing? If you came in jumping in at your latest game that’s coming out later this year?

George  18:47  

Actually, they do stand pretty much alone. I mean, that first 120 10 was when we, you know pika has published in 2005. So it was our view of the future of the world. We are five years down the road. Of course, that future is now 13 years ago, but the that was a, that was a accomplished a lot. But it also had some limitations in its technical design. And in fact, the next game that we released, which was similar 2020 Pushing the the future a little further down the line was where we actually got a lot of our technologies, that some of which we still use today, into the game, like one of the big ones, that Supreme Court 2020 added was the ability that you play on the entire world at once. The first game actually had the world divided into sub pieces and campaigns that you would progress up with. So for example, you would play the Australia campaign where you’d be shattered Australia and Australian Civil War or whatever. And, you know, one side of the New South Wales would be attacking Queensland and you don’t and you’re trying to look for dominating all of Australia. And if you did that, then you’d be given another part of the world and then like maybe Africa or Europe and we weren’t able to simulate the her world at once. Because there are some technical issues with that. But we were both because of the progression of computer power. And also because of our, our own tech, which, you know, and maybe a shout out to our Canadian government on that one the Shred program, the scientific research and experimental development program is a funding program we’ve been able to use to develop some of that tech, the program is aimed at basically soft, well, it’s any type of research, but in our industry would be software reaches for things that you just aren’t out there yet, in our case, your world map has, you know, we simulate the entire world down to pay us hexes for the war gamers out there. So we simulate the world down to a million, actually 2 million individual hexes. So, you know, there’s a, you know, Hex for Hamilton, and it has the information of the population and the resources and so on, and there’s a hex for yellow with a Burlington next to it, and so on, then the entire world is simulated down to that level of detail. So that’s my tangent on technology. But with our support for 2020 game, we were able to get that technology working into the game. And so you could simulate the entire world at one time. So there could be you. And in multiplayer, let’s say you and a friend having a battle in Europe, and then two other people having a battle in Southeast Asia, and those are all simulated across the world and resolving at the same time. And so that was really one we got our sort of our engine or game engine rolling. And after that, we created basically evolutions of that. So we had a cold war version, which was published, both 2020 and the Cold War version were published by our good friends at Paradox Interactive, who have since then become a much larger company than they were back then. But

Scott  21:51  

it was like paradox was like, damn.

George  21:53  

Yeah, no, they were and we were at with paradox in the early days, and, and they were really a big help to us in both getting those projects out. And, and, you know, we have a really good relationship with them. And so then we did the Cold War game. And after that, we were wanting to do a world war two game. And in fact, that’s when, with paradox, they sort of said, well, we already have our world war two franchise, we don’t know, that could get a little confusing. Plus, we were looking at our numbers and the publishing through paradox. While it was good, you don’t have to know that that publisher takes a very large cut, you know, most publishers, agreements like that have a 5050 cut. And then when you look at the fact that the market was changing to a digital market, and most of our game sales, were going through Steam, or steam took a 30% cut, you know, and then there’s a 5050 of what’s left. And and but when I put two and two together and knew that we could go directly to steam as well. And, in fact, with 1936, that was our first title, where we self published and took it right to steam on our own.

Scott  22:55  

But it’s something that’s intentional of, do you jump back and forth when it comes to just timelines like are you like you’d like to in the future and then doing history because clearly you and your team are diehard history buffs, I’ve been in enough calls and enough meetings with you and stuff that I’ve heard some of the things that have come out of your mouth and been like you this is something that you clearly love deeply. Is it something that you intentionally do as a team to kind of keep that, like passion and innovation fresh, rather than just like small increments of, you know, five years in history of kind of redoing the same thing?

George 23:25  

Yeah, I mean, there was always, for me personally, and again, with that history interest that I have personally, World War Two was definitely one I wanted to take our engine to, because I knew we could do it on a scale that was different than other games. And a lot of computer games that do cover World War Two will cover them on a single front on the Eastern Front, or the the European battles or the Pacific battles, you know, we were able to with our engine cover the entire world, and it is a world war after all. And then we did also have both player interest and interest from Chris Latour, who’s our project manager here of doing a world war one game. So we had the Supreme Court of the Great War. And so we did step back there. And then we basically took all of these things, all of these different eras we had and put them together into our game supreme ruler ultimate, which was just a combination of all the arrows so you could play the game and start at any of these levels. So it had the World War One will with the DLC, World War Two, it had the Cold War, and it had the the modern day. The reason as now we are developing Supreme ruler 2030 is we do have a very strong audience and still following for the modern day games, which is a maybe a piece that’s not necessarily as big in the war game and simulation, computer simulation as World War Two is, and it really does bring a lot of interest to it. I think one of the things when we created Supreme ruler 2020 You know, I guess that that was first released in 2008. So we were looking 12 years into the future. We then we tried to predict a world that was messy, you know, civil wars and, you know, nationalism and populism and blah, blah, blah, and all sorts of horrible things. Unfortunately, the world actually caught up to us and was equally horrible to what we had predicted. I mean, we didn’t even predict a plague and that came, but there were, there were definitely things that when, when trying to create a chaotic world, the reality sometimes catches up to us. But I think our game engine is again in a unique position where you can actually both simulate real things that are happening. And that’s one of the things about our upcoming game 2030, it’s actually going to ship with two sandboxes. One is in the near future, where we’re going to use a little bit of our storytelling to create some storylines of interest. But the other is also a modern world. 2023. So you could actually just jump into the world, the way it is right now and see the relationships between the countries the way they are today, some people like that modern view, and some people like the near future view. And so we are definitely trying to really bring a lot of our creativity to that, that audience.

Scott  26:07  

That’s, that’s honestly why I would even think about I didn’t make a note of that. But like, I really want to actually kind of focus on that for a moment is a lot of strategy games, especially like what I’m picturing, and I’m picturing Age of Empires. So I’m thinking like the Romans and I’m thinking like, during Egyptian times, and like all that stuff. And then of course, you think of your your futures you think of like your galactic rulers and like those type of games, but having something where it’s in Ottawa, like, where I’m from 2020 2023. This is the state of the world, how do I want to move forward with it to me, like, maybe I’m just not as ingrained in the strategy game ecosystem as I should be. But it sounds like something that’s so unique, that it’s, and there’s also a lot of commentary, right? Like, you’re kind of able to put in a lot of things that you guys have been looking at and researched. And there’s also a lot of very charged topics, because a lot of things that, you know, you’re talking about things that happened, you know, 100 years ago, is very, very different, rather than the things that you’re talking about today, is that ever something that you guys are worried about or been had any issues with that you’re like, you want to be careful about certain things that you’re talking about now to avoid them, like offending the masses.

George  27:11  

But one of the jokes we’ve made for quite a number of years as well, early on, for example, I think it was the game Hearts of Iron by paradox got banned in China because of their approach to something. And we were talking about the fact boy, if we’re gonna get banned in China, that’ll be great press. I mean, we really should do that. But sadly, we haven’t been officially banned in China, but I don’t think you can buy our game in on China anyway, issues, those come up as debates very often amongst our community. So, you know, to some extent, you know, we, we try not to admit, necessarily take a stand, but we reflect the world as it is. So, we reflect actual tensions in the world. And sometimes people don’t like the fact that the map is drawn the way it’s drawn. Actually, one of the DLCs that we released for free for supreme ruler ultimate was called Trump rising, it was released in 2016. It was released before the election, and it was actually meant better as a joke, it was meant, you know, you know, if Donald Trump ever became President, this is what the world would look like, hahaha, a little bit of joke, it’s never gonna happen. We’ll take the DLC down when, when the auction is over. And of course, history proved us to be slightly wrong about our prediction of it not happening. And so it was, was an interesting, not just an interesting piece of simulation. But it of course, caused quite a bit of debate on our forums, you know, as the as the political left and right of the US descended on us and had arguments about whether we were either mocking the issue, or else are downplaying it, or whatever you want it to do.

Scott  28:49  

With things like that, obviously, that’s, that’s gonna be a little bit tense. But I think also some of it, maybe not that particular DLC, but also encourages discussion and encourages people to educate themselves on certain world issues. So I think that is that is interesting that you’ve kind of been able to, to build that conversation, even if it’s debate, obviously, as long as people keep it respectful and understanding. But I think having those conversations is a good thing. So there are I’m sure there are some people that have been on those forums that have, you know, made a little bit of an effort to, you know, maybe do a little bit more research or be interested in some of these topics, maybe more than they would have been otherwise. So I think that’s always a good thing. Yeah,

George  29:24  

I mean, probably one one. Let’s just say one other area where we did get some controversy was last year, we also had a two week Ukrainian charity event. So pretty soon after the war in Ukraine started we wanted to do something to support some of the Ukrainian nongovernmental agencies, you know, Red Cross, and so on. We donated. We had a game on sale for two weeks and we donated the proceeds from the game poor to Ukrainian charities, and we did some live streams and stuff. And then that itself, of course caused issues in our our Discord above people who thought we were we were politicized. thing, whatever, but no, it’s just the way the world is, you know, we are simulating the world. And this is what’s happening.

Scott  30:04  

And some people will also forget that there are humans behind the game that they make. So much. So this is the way the world. So taking it from the near future of 2030, all the way to your most recently released game galactic ruler, I would love to talk a little bit about why sci fi like, clearly, you’ve always been a little bit in in the future. And we’ve already mentioned, you know, the Great War and like some of these past ones, what was it that was like, you know, what, instead of this world is now getting boring to us, let’s go to the stars. What was that inspiration like?

George  30:36  

Well, it’s sort of funny, one of the things about galactic ruler is when we did something similar in 2005, we actually even before it was released, we, we got the domain name galactic And we had registered it. And, and then some people noticed that and in fact, we put up a little page that just had a little background picture of some sort of solar system and whatever and assisted galactic ruler and, and had nothing else on it. And so that was back to 20 years ago. And then a couple of things happened. First of all, we are one project at a time studio generally. And so we were working on the supreme ruler titles in the engine. Secondly, we we also noticed that a lot of people had done galactic type games pretty well, that had taken a lot of what we were maybe looking to accomplish. And I think star Doc’s galactic civilizations is one of them that really did a good job with that. And then, you know, things got busy, we always looked at electrical as a possible title, it actually goes back to probably a some programming design that I had written out again, even back in the days of when I was when I was in high school talking about a galaxy type of game based on those old Star Trek games that used to be popular on on PCs way back in the day. But that kept getting put back in the in the file. But when we were taking a look at what to do after, you know the supreme ruler, ultimate, the galactic ruler, we had the technical capability to do some stuff that nobody else was doing. For example, games like Solaris, by paradox, or galactic civilizations, they focus on the big picture of the the Galaxy strategy. But planets are something you can set overnight, for example, this planet, I’m gonna mine some resource on this one, I’ll have some population on, but you never really got down to the planetary level of, of interacting with the galactic ruler, what we were able to do is take our engine, and each planet itself is simulated independently. So you can go down to the planet level, you can move around your tanks, or units or whatever. And you can actually have battles on the planet, and then battles in space. And then battle is on a different planet and a different solar system. So again, taking that big simulation capability that our game engine has, you know, you can actually be having 10 different battles on 10 different planets in the game, which can be overwhelming. But it did does give players a scope of game that wasn’t available to anything else that anyone else was doing. And, and we really had a lot of cool ideas on that. We did also test out a lot of ideas at simplifying some of our game mechanic to make it more accessible. The whole thing was a bit of a lesson in what doesn’t doesn’t work. And I think definitely one of the lessons we learned is that, you know, the the space strategy genre is different from the let’s say, the war game or geopolitical strategy genre that we were in. And a lot of our players didn’t crossover. So we had, we learned a lot of lessons both in marketing the game, but we’ve been trying to get a new community about what what what players would come with us to a new game and what wouldn’t. So it was a lesson in a lot of things when we when we released that last year.

Scott 34:01  

That’s really interesting to me. So there’s obviously a lot that you took from that, that the last thing I want to talk about with with battle goat is your upcoming title. We’ve already mentioned it a few times. So what are some of the lessons that you took from galactic ruler and you’ve now put into this title? And what makes this the best supreme ruler game yet?

George  34:18  

Well, one of the things that during the development of galactic ruler, we actually had to take our internal engine quite a bit further. So for example, it’s now with a 64 bit platform, which gives them more capabilities on the computer available to access more memory more performance, we updates graphics capabilities to dx 11. One of the problems that we have is we since we do use our own game engine, we don’t use unreal or unity. And one of the reasons is back in 2000. When we started development, there wasn’t an unreal or a unity to use. We had to develop our own engine. But the other reason is because something like Unity can’t handle the scopes that I’ve been talking about the They can’t handle, you know, and then on limited number of units are unlimited well, not unlimited, but certainly no predetermined limit to the number of units that a player might use or, or the size of his army, or the size of the map, and so on. So our engine is designed around that. But it also means we did have some limitations. And with galactic ruler, we were able to, again, take our technology further. And now we can bring that into supreme ruler. I mean, it’s just one small example, the supreme ruler, before, with the 2020, we had the limit. And those are only 200 regions supported in the world, which sounds like it’s okay, um, there’s 200 countries, 200 regions makes sense. But then when you think, let’s say, maybe, you know, Quebec splits off from Canada, and Texas, the seeds from the US and Germany splits into two or three or four, suddenly, you have way all these other civil wars going on. And the 200 regions couldn’t simulate that. So we actually did have some technical limitations, those are gone now, we can actually ship what’s called a shattered world sandbox, where every state is a separate region in there, and every province is a separate region, and you can all maybe fight to unify Canada first. And then when you’re unified Canada then start taking over other countries. So that’s a that’s a capability that we know is in the game. Now that wasn’t in there before. And even it also lets us simulate sub regions, meaning that for example, let’s say you’re playing as France, and you see Canada over there, and you’re saying, No, I don’t like Canada anymore. Maybe I’m gonna convince Quebec to separate so you can find the insurgency and then make Quebec split off from Canada, and things like that. So those capabilities are now in 2030. Adding that depth to the diplomat, diplomatic model, we’ve always had a lot of depth in our tactical engine, what the what I call the war game engine, you know, the ability to build tanks and move artillery and take over the world on a tactical level. But the game now has these extra pieces or extra layers, on the diplomacy on the geopolitical side that I think makes it really beyond other strategy games that are out there. Well, I

Scott  37:11  

think that’s all the promo that you need. So yeah, we’re gonna drop that link. Obviously, we’ll make sure everyone go wishlist supreme ruler 2030. Can you give us a little bit of a timeline when we can expect this this brand new intelligence strategy game to be dropping?

George  37:25  

What we’re set for q2 of this year, so sometime in that, you know, let’s see, what is q2 April, May, June, I guess. But we have been pretty flexible. Yeah, May, June is our sort of target. But again, we’re actually trying to be, we’re not pushing ourselves into a specific release date for two reasons. Number one is going back maybe to the business of games here, we don’t necessarily believe in that crunch style. And I think most small studios don’t anymore. So there’s no reason to, you know, hit the date of, you know, we are going to absolutely ship this on April 5, and we’re going to do everything we can to do it. And if we don’t, we’ll ship a buggy version, you know, tough luck for the users. You know, that doesn’t make sense. To me, it doesn’t make sense to a lot of studios, it doesn’t make sense to the industry. And so you know, we’re happy to push that date a little bit if it means both getting more visibility out there getting more features, more testing, the game has actually just launched into its public beta test. So we’re getting more some feedback from our long term, users, I shouldn’t say necessarily public, but it meaning outside of our studio anyway, hitting some of our long term fans getting their feedback. So that’s another thing we sort of learned with the galactic cooler as well, it went through what’s called Steam Early Access. For people who are familiar with that you release an earlier version or beta version, and you get feedback from the community to to complete the game, that for us, that didn’t work well. And I think early access for most studios doesn’t work like it used to a few years ago. And so for us now, just delaying the release until we’re really happy that we have the best possible product is more important than than necessarily getting it out there and getting those know those early sales, the not every studio has the ability to do that. But thankfully, because of our position, and because of the other supports we have from in Ontario, we’ve been able to do that.

Scott  39:26  

That actually leads us into the last question that I always have to ask everybody. This being the lodge, which for those who aren’t, aren’t aware that the lodge is run by interactive Ontario. What is it about the Ontario videogame industry the believes makes us special that you believe makes us stand apart and something that you continue to enjoy being a part of?

George  39:45  

Oh, well, I mean, there’s a lot of things about the Ontario industry that first of all, of the support we’ve had from the smaller studios in Ontario has been huge. It really isn’t a great community. I mean, I’ve been had the privilege of giving some panels talks in this scenario about things like game, you know, financing and government support and this and that just to share that sort of information. And other studios have shared a lot of information and tips back on the I O Discord is now a terrific place for, for people to, to stay because you do the amount of knowledge and the amount of experience on that, with the people who are regularly commenting and attending is just huge. You have an issue with insurance, there’s somebody who has that answer, you have an issue with financial statements, you have an issue with HR, you know, there are people who who have their actual shared, you know, insights and experience and are willing to, to talk about it, and that it just makes it so much not just easier to run a studio, but it also makes it less lonely, I guess, I mean, to be out there and, and doing some of this stuff. Without seeing other. There isn’t another software studio down the street, you know, this isn’t like the, you know, you just can hop down and pop into a storefront and ask a question. So having that, that and especially, you have to remember battleground is also located outside of Toronto, which is something I’m actually happy about, but no dis to Toronto there. But I hate hate driving to downtown Toronto. So that means, you know, we aren’t not physically close to a lot of other studios. So it gives us that sort of solidarity with the industry and it also in Ontario. The other thing that’s big too, is Ontario creates the lmdc that in the early days, you know, the types of programs that they had your saved us, you know, when our publisher went bankrupt in 2005. It was both the IMF program and the tax credits gave us the ability to keep our studio going, which would not have happened if those weren’t out there. You know, we would not be we would not be having this conversation, if it wasn’t for Ontario creates in the programs that they have in place to support the industry.

Scott  42:00  

That’s, that’s a fan. I think that’s a fantastic way to end the episode. There’s a lot a lot going on in Ontario. And again, it’s something that we’re very clearly very proud of to be a part of. And thank you to Ontario creates for this podcast as well, with their continuous support for everything that interactive Ontario does. So I think that’ll about do it for episode 14 of the lodge podcast. Any final word storage before we sign off for the day?

George  42:23  

Oh, 14, I’m not lucky. I’m glad I missed 13 Because that would have been bad luck for launch. No, I mean, I appreciate the chance to talk about the industry. I know there’s a lot more we could have talked about too. But it’s, you know, with, it’s really I see some great things coming for some of the other studios, I see doing an amazing work here in Ontario. And I’m really, really proud to be part of the industry right now.

Scott  42:47  

We appreciate you taking the time to come and join us. I hope that we can jump on a live stream when supreme ruler 2030 comes out and you can give it give me the breakdown on what makes a supreme ruler the stand alone in the genre. So again, thank you to all of our listeners who are coming through Natalie, thank you as our producer on the ones and twos as always. Again, thank you to Ontario crates for supporting the podcast. For those who are going to GDC 2023 Make sure to come on by the Ontario crates booth interactive Ontario will be there including myself. So please come say hi, and until then, take care.

George Geczy

George is a Software and Tech industry entrepreneur, founder of JMG Software International in 1982 and has been developing software and providing technical consulting and services since. As Tech Lead at BattleGoat Studios, they are currently working on Supreme Ruler 2030!

Great stories are worth sharing.