HeavenGames Invades Big Huge Games

Day 1 (Mar 18, 2004) – The Inquisition

Ah, Big Huge Games. To most gamers, the offices are from a faraway place; it resides in the magical land of Baltimore with faeries, talking rabbits, and games without lag. Well, I (Socvazius) – as well as Zen and One_Dead_Angel – got a chance to visit that magical land for the purpose of leaking all of BHG’s secret-I mean, get a tour and interview some of the cool dudes there.

My trip started off in Kansas City, Missouri, where I hopped on a plane to my connecting flight in Charlotte, North Carolina. Unfortunately, it seems like precipitation wasn’t on my side that day as my connecting flight was delayed a whole hour. I was about to pass out from waiting that long, I tell you what. After the arduous wait in Charlotte, I flew to Baltimore, got a cab and made it to the hotel where the three of us from Heaven were supposed to stay. Zen meanwhile had a long 8 hour drive from Boston through a lot of rough weather. Up north, ODA made his way from Toronto, Canada hoping U.S. homeland security wouldn’t think going to BHG’s home base count as stealing state secrets!

I arrived at the hotel first (at 10pm, ouch for the other guys), so I hung out a bit until Zen made it and we had some high class gourmet food at the local Wendy’s, burgers and fries. Mmm hmm hmm, I could just feel my arteries clogging up in a deliciously greasy manner. By the time that we finished up, ODA made it to the hotel and we verified who he was by the secret HG handshake. It was getting pretty late at that point, so we decided to hit the sack.

BHG Front Entrance

I got up extra early that morning so I could pretty myself up right good and met the two other guys in the lobby where we proceeded to meet Graham “Thunder” Somers just a couple minutes afterwards. He drove (read: walked) us to the offices just a parking lot away, and we passed through the large glass doors to enter BHG’s realm.

Ike Ellis

To start things off we just took a tour of the place and said “hey”, “hi”, “heya”, or some other variant to the various BHG staffers that were up that early in the morning. I really enjoyed the design of the offices, it’s pretty much just one big ring of office rooms with the testing room at one end and a “lounge area” (drinks, food, couches, pool table, x-box, the works) at the other end…if only every single office was designed in such a way. At the end of the tour we took a look at the latest x-pack build, which was pretty interesting for myself as I hadn’t recieved the beta that they had released a bit back. It looks pretty damn good, if I do say so myself.

Doug Kaufman

Following the look at the x-pack, we got to interrogate Ike Ellis, the programmer/designed that worked on the singleplayer Conquer the World in Rise of Nations. He provided some insight into the design of CtW as well as just some funny comments and such on the game and other subjects…in particular the death animations for the various units in RoN; trebuchet guys getting knocked over by falling pieces of wood, war elephant riders getting crushed by their dying mounts, things like that. That and the origin of his nickname there at BHG: “Bitchassman.” Oh, we’ll get to that mystical name when we post his interview.

Socvazius and ODA Asking Questions
Socvazius and ODA

With all that interviewing, we (myself, Zen, ODA, and Graham) had worked up quite an appetite, so we headed for a pizza place nearby. After lunch, we talked to Doug Kaufman, one of BHG’s designers. In the hour and a half long interview (by the end we had him tied down so he couldn’t leave), he talked about just about any subject that anyone would want to know on the design of RoN; from the implementation of new civilizations to how they went about starting the x-pack.

Brian Reynolds

The big man, the head honcho, the captain of the USS Enterprise, Brian Reynolds was the next man on our hit list and we drilled him for 45 minutes…unfortunately, he wouldn’t budge on his secret recipe for his famous German Chocolate cake. But we did get other information out of him, pertaining to the his history in the gaming industry, the formation of BHG and development of RoN, and other things of that nature.

Pranas Pauliukonis
Brian, Statue, ODA, Zen, Socvazius

Finishing the interviews off, ODA and I threw some questions at Pranas “Pancake” Pauliukonis, one of the AI programmers at BHG. Afterwards, the four of us rampaged around the city of Baltimore…this rampaging mainly consisted of looking at a couple book stores (where I could barely tear myself from the D&D books there, ohhhh man) and eating at a Sushi place. Such crazy fun we had.

BHG recreation area

We got back to the offices and got right down to what this visit was really about: gaming. The x-box was quite the fun thing, the image was projected on a screen in the “lounge room”. The BHG guys had a pretty good selection of games, from Project Gotham Racing to a couple hockey games…but the one that caught my eye the most was a third person shooter called Brute Force. I swear, that was the single worst game I have ever played in my entire life; it was the most painful 20 minutes of my life. The interface, third person view, gameplay, everything just cried out “please kill yourself now,” which I nearly did.

Barns & Nobles Bookstore

After such a traumatizing experience, I was ecstatic to play a quality shooter: Battlefield Vietnam. A pretty large percentage of the BHG staff have been playing Battlefield 1942’s sequel recently, and for good reason; it’s freakin’ awesome. Now, it took me a while to get used to the gameplay and just working with the game in general (for example, my interface was set up in such a way that I would literally flip the helicopters each time I lifted off), but once I got the hang of it it was just barrels and barrels of fun. 46 barrels, to be specific.

BHG’s Toys

After a while of playing Battlefield Vietnam, one of us took a look at the time: 2am. Whoo boy, we stayed up pretty late playing that game, so decided 2 would be a good time to go to sleep and meet up in the morning again. So the three of us walked back to the hotel while Graham closed things down at the offices; ah, I was eagerly awaiting a full 8 hours of sleep.

Day two is detailed by One_Dead_Angel, check out his account of our gaming for most of the day on the next page!