Wargaming Seattle’s Chris Taylor on Gaming and Game Development

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Wargaming Seattle’s General Manager and Creative Director Chris Taylor joins Steve Waskul for a fun and fast-paced look at the gaming industry and how it has evolved.

The discussion begins with Chris Taylor and Steve Waskul reminiscing about the early days of the personal computer. Chris recalls his first computer, the Tandy TRS-80 that was sold by Tandy Corporation through its Radio Shack stores. For those who are not familiar with this model, it was launched in 1977 and was one of the earliest mass-produced personal computers. The TRS-80 was the best-selling PC until 1982. Chris relates what it was like getting programs to load on cassette tapes and how he learned to program the computer using assembly language – he wanted to play the games but he also wanted to create his own programs. Hand optimized assembly language was the only way to get truly good performance using those old computers so Chris learned to deal with the 0s and 1s required for assembly language.

The discussion next moves to Chris’ work at Wargaming Seattle which is one of the 15 or 16 offices that support the game which is played in most major countries across the globe and services millions of online players monthly. Chris’s passion for gaming clearly comes out in this part of the interview as he describes the art and craft of making games. For him, the gaming industry is a right brain and left brain discipline (artist vs. scientist in his words). Initially game developers needed both as individuals were not specialized as they are today with lots of different vertical skill sets on a given large-scale project. Steve jumps in and draws an analogy to the visual effects industry and how the early CG work there also relied on folks pushing pixels with code which also required well-rounded teams of people vs. today where you have animators, lighting specialists and well defined software packages abstracting them from the underlying code created by more “scientific” experts.

The conversation continues with a discussion of data centers and the huge effort that is required to deliver the online gaming experience expected by consumers today. It’s a very important aspect of the business to take care of highs and lows of use, managing bandwidth, server utilization etc. and Chris covers just some of the fascinating stories of what goes into this part of the developer’s world for online gaming.

Technological changes are discussed next and how they have changed the gaming experience.