Derek Smart on Battlecruiser Generations & Beyond (PC)
The Supreme Commander Speaks.
By Andrew S. Bub | Apr. 19, 2003

Derek Smart isn't famous. It'd be more accurate to call him infamous. He's also misunderstood. Few game developers are as controversial, headstrong, passionate, arrogant, brilliant, ambitious, and tenacious as he has proven to be. He's best known for the Battlecruiser 3000AD game series, the most ambitious space simulation ever conceived and produced by one person. He then had to watch it crash and burn when Take 2 released it prematurely. Rather than sulk, quit, or just move on to something different, Derek continued working on the game. Doing so won him some devoted fans. Unfortunately, along the way his outspokenness earned some devoted enemies.

In the years since, things have calmed down somewhat. Even as he closes in on 40 with a signed contract with Dreamcatcher Interactive in his pocket, he's still as outspoken as ever. We managed to get some time from Derek's busy schedule to answer some questions about Battlecruiser Millennium Gold, Battlecruiser: Generations, Battlecruiser Online, and much more. GameSpy: Can you give us some idea of your background? You didn't start in the industry as a bold and controversial-industry-maverick-indy-developer-space-sim-visionary-pioneer did you?
Derek Smart: Well, I think I just dropped in (much to the chagrin of some in the industry). I worked as a salesperson while still going to school. In those days, CompuServe was the place to be. Eventually, and quite by accident, Brian Walker who used to write for Strategy Plus (now Computer Games Magazine), heard about me and decided to take a look at what I was cooking up. He was impressed [with Battlecruiser 3000AD] and put it on the cover of the 1992 version of the mag. It changed the rest of my life. It wasn't until Take 2 came into the picture that my name started getting around the industry. Usually in phrases like "...he's an ass!" or "...that incompetent w*nker cussed me!" -- with my favorite being "...the developer of that buggy mess, Battlecrapper." Eventually, I became the "Battlecruiser guy." It kinda stuck. And thus, Derek Smart entered the industry. The rest, as they say, is history.
GameSpy: When did you first come up with Battlecruiser? I'm envisioning a tiny Derek in footie pajamas imagining space ships by the light of an R2D2 nightlight ... am I close?
Derek Smart: Hehe, wrong. I chose Battlecruiser because it denotes power and strength. A commanding presence, if you will. I tacked the 3000AD at the end of it in order to denote the year in which the game's first events take place. When I formed my company in 1992, I adopted the 3000AD name.
GameSpy: Battlecruiser 3000AD has become infamous for a variety of reasons. Why did you decide to continue the series? Many developers might have just moved on to something else.
Derek Smart: I decided to continue the series because I had invested a good portion of my life into it. I had lost a lot of my early life, gone through a divorce, quit pursuing other interests, and literally had isolated myself from everything. So, it was a part of me -- you never forget that first time, and as such, you just keep reliving it. It's like a bad episode of Groundhog Day.

I didn't know where else to go. It was seven years later from when I first took this seriously. (Take 2 released Battlecruiser 3000AD in 1996 -ed.) Was I going to go back to a regular day job? What marketable skills did I have? My resume would have had major gaps in it and I'd have a failed game to show for seven years of hard work."

I did think of giving it up and just going to work for a game company, but the very thought was just disturbing to me. Besides, I didn't particularly want to look forward to getting fired. Because that's the first thing that would happen if provoked, given how burnt-out, distraught, and distressed I was back in 1996-1997. So I stayed home, by myself -- and cried about it. A lot. Day after day.

But then a strange thing started to happen. Out there were a bunch of gamers -- just like myself -- who had faith that something good was lurking somewhere in my first game. I didn't realize this until sometime in 1997. That's when I decided that the best payback would be to stay in there, now that I had practically shoved myself in [the game industry] and try to rebuild my broken dreams.

And that's exactly what I did. I stayed. Four games and fourteen years later, I'm still here.


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