Interviews » Homelanfed (3/13/2002)
Note: This interview originally appeared on Homelanfed.

Yet another start up game developer company officially announced its presence a few weeks ago. Tilted Mill was founded by former Impressions Games member Chris Beatrice who was soon joined by Jeff Fiske, both of whom were important team members on Impressions’ forthcoming game Lords of the Realm III. HomeLAN got a chance to chat with Beatrice as he talks as much as he can about Tilted Mill’s plans for the future.

HomeLAN - Why was the decision made to leave Impressions and form Tilted Mill?

Chris Beatrice - In my eight years with Impressions, I was privileged to work with some wonderfully talented and hard working people and to play a part in turning a small independent developer/publisher into a seasoned game development studio – one that consistently produced great strategy games, and delivered on its promises. Naturally, I wanted to continue expanding upon that success. In order to do that, it became clear that I had to open myself up to a wider set of opportunities by forming my own company.

HomeLAN - The decision to leave Impressions was made just as the company and Sierra had officially announced development of Lords of the Realm III. Do you believe the game's development will be affected by your departure?

Chris Beatrice - Jeff and I wrote the Lords III charter just before my relationship with Sierra ended, and I agree that the timing of those events is somewhat striking.

I understand that, since Jeff and I are no longer leading the project, people want me to comment on its likely fate, but of course there is little I can say. I am very proud of my record with Impressions, and of all that the studio was able to achieve, as a team, under my leadership. It’s certainly not in my best interests to downplay the importance of the role I played in Impressions’ success, but I will also add that I have a tremendous amount of confidence in the capabilities of my former coworkers who are still there. Impressions has overcome many challenges in its history, and has always been capable of much more than some people outside the studio believed. Now that I’m no longer part of the studio, you certainly won’t find me looking in from the outside and speculating on what they’re able to do.

I think the only honest answer I can give to “the Lords III question” is that of course the game will probably be different than Jeff and I had envisioned, because it’s no longer in our hands. It’s no longer our game. How it will be different I can’t say.

HomeLAN - How has it been forming a start up game company from the ground up?

Chris Beatrice - It’s been great, really fantastic, and not entirely unfamiliar. I and most of the people currently with Tilted Mill started at Impressions within a year of each other “back in the day”, when Impressions was a fledgling independent developer and publisher. There was a lot of camaraderie and excitement back then, and it’s good to feel that again.

When I started T-Mill, I felt like I had a very solid grounding in how to build a top-notch studio, having learned so much from (Impressions founder) David Lester’s example, and later from the challenges I had to overcome leading the studio myself. Now, to be able to lay out the ideals for a new company, in terms of its ethics, methodology, projects, publisher relationships, how we treat our people, and so on, and to be able to ensure that we have the tools we need to adhere to those ideals is very liberating and gratifying.

HomeLAN - Currently how many people are employed at Tilted Mill and are you currently hiring for positions in the company?

Chris Beatrice - I can’t say precisely how many people comprise our team right now, because we are literally right in the middle of a period of rapid expansion. Most of the significant players of today are on the T-Mill website, and I’ll we’ll be announcing more in the coming weeks and months. One of the most exciting things about forming Tilted Mill has been how enthusiastically so many others have approached me, wanting to be part of the team. Yes, we are still accepting applications. Anyone interested in submitting something should follow the instructions on the “Jobs” page of the Tilted Mill website at

HomeLAN - The previous track record of games suggests that you might be creating a sim or strategy title. What can you tell us about your plans for your first games?

Chris Beatrice - I’m sure you understand why I can’t say much about our current project just yet, other than that we are really, really excited about it. Our “roots”, as you certainly know, are in historically-based strategy games, city-building games, and fantasy-based strategy games/rpg’s, and we plan to expand quite a bit on what we were able to do with these types of games in the past.

Jeff and I have learned a great deal over the years about what gamers like (strategy gamers, in particular), and what makes a great game, as well as many of the pitfalls that can kill an otherwise good game, or derail what was a good initial idea. We see a tremendous amount of opportunity to create games that transcend narrowly defined notions of “genre”, while still delivering games that a wide variety of players can easily and immediately connect with, in terms of both gameplay and content.

We want to make the best strategy games, simulations and role-playing games there are, and at Tilted Mill we have the tools we need to do this. We all believe we have yet to do our best work, or, to borrow from Don Quixote again: “Thou hast seen nothing yet!”

HomeLAN - What will Tilted Mill's design philosophy be for the creation of their games?

Chris Beatrice - “Design first, then build”, is how Jeff and I have always worked. We decide what the essence of the experience of the game will be prior to any code being written. First, we settle on what experience we are trying to give our users when playing the game, then we design the game systems to support that experience. We don’t just say, “we have this cool game mechanic, (or technology) so let’s push that to the front and just let the player mess around with that”, because we feel passionately that PC games especially can offer more than this shallow experience.

It’s unfortunate that this approach is so seldom used. The need to impress people with lots of meaningless and premature “fluff” in the early stages of a project often takes precedence over identifying and resolving the real design issues that are going to ultimately determine whether the game is fun or not, or whether it even works at all, in terms of the play dynamics.

HomeLAN - Will the company be creating games for PCs only or will it also develop console games?

Chris Beatrice - OK, forgive this rant, but every time the next generation of consoles are announced we hear about ‘the death of PC gaming.’ Someone should tell the people who own and work on PC’s so they know to stop playing our games!

The games we do, for the most part, appeal to grownups who are looking for a deeper entertainment experience than what is currently offered by the typical console game. They are not interested in exploring this in their living room, but in the privacy of their home (or work!) office, on their PC. Console games and PC games have come of age by very different paths, in very different worlds. Adapting the types of games we do to what is essentially a different audience means more than simply figuring out how to play the game with a different type of controller, or deal with a different screen resolution, so initially we will stick to what we know. Over time, it makes sense that if we are doing titles that interest folks who like to play games on their living room sofas we will look seriously into console games.

HomeLAN - Will you be licensing a game engine or will you be developing your own engine tech for your games?

Chris Beatrice - We are licensing existing technology. Even though there is no real technological precursor for our current project, by not having to “reinvent the wheel” in every respect, we can save a significant amount of development time, and can focus more on design and content.

HomeLAN - When will we hear more about Tilted Mill's first game and when will we heard about who will be publishing it?

Chris Beatrice - That’s pretty much up to our publishing partner to say. I’ll be sure to ask!

HomeLAN - When do you expect games from the company to actually appear in stores?

Chris Beatrice - I hate to sound hokey, but I and the people at T-Mill have a very solid track record of keeping our word when it comes to delivering products on time, so it’s very important to me not to make a promise I’m not sure we can keep, especially with regard to T-Mill’s first project. My initial focus is on assembling the team, and completing preliminary design and concept work. We won’t rush either. I guess all I can say for certain is that means it won’t be this year!

HomeLAN - Finally, is there anything else you wish to say about Tilted Mill?

Chris Beatrice - I have had the distinct privilege of working with some amazing individuals over the years, and have witnessed them do what others thought was “the impossible” many times. That’s where the name of our company comes from – we’re not afraid to look crazy for attempting the impossible, because that’s the only way you know what is possible. In other words, to quote Don Quixote again “no limits but the sky.” We know it sounds naďve and optimistic, but we still have that spark even after so many years of doing this. We have some insights into PC strategy gaming that we believe have been overlooked for a long time, and we can’t wait to share these with our fans and the world.

I particularly want to thank to all the people that have helped us get here and all the fans who continue to praise us and support our efforts as we move forward with this new chapter of our lives as part of the gaming community.