Executive designer Demis Hassabis explains why you will want to be an evil genius and try to take over the world.
Anyone familiar with Hollywood movies knows that no matter how diabolically clever the plan, the criminal mastermind always fails in the end. But that won't be the case in Evil Genius, the upcoming strategy game from Vivendi Universal Games and British developer Elixir Studios. Evil Genius will let you play as, well, an evil genius out to take over the world! From your tropical island base, you'll construct an elaborate underground facility where you'll train henchmen to commit dastardly deeds, like steal the Eiffel Tower. Meanwhile, your scientists will research the ultimate doomsday device so that you can blackmail nations. And to camouflage your activities, you'll operate a world-class tropical resort on your island. Tourists will bask on the sandy beach, not knowing that beneath lies the lair of a criminal mastermind. Of course, governments will dispatch commandos and secret agents to try to disrupt your activities. To welcome them, you'll have to design elaborate traps--the more over-the-top the better! That's because Evil Genius is inspired by the likes of Austin Powers, so the idea is to have lots of fun while you're busy trying to take over the world.
By Demis Hassabis
Executive Designer, Elixir Studios
I first had the kernel of the idea for Evil Genius way before Elixir had even started. I was chilling out on a remote and idyllic island in Thailand (very much like the Evil Genius lair!) after my graduation, when the initial idea came to me: Wouldn't it be fun to play the role of a mad criminal mastermind bent on world domination? It seemed a simple and fun premise for a game, and the more I thought about it the better the concept appeared. Also, when I started to tentatively think about details, such as control and scope, the ideas flowed easily--always a really promising sign that a high concept is good. So as a reminder to myself, I wrote down a very brief note in my design notebook that I always keep with me--a six-letter concept: "Be Dr. No."
Elixir always maintains a large stock of game ideas at any one time. When it came to choosing the next game to follow Republic, we made a conscious decision to do something that contrasted with the seriousness of Republic, something a lot more lighthearted. A tongue-in-cheek game was therefore the natural choice, and Evil Genius was born. From the beginning, the aim was to make the most amusing strategy game around, whilst not compromising depth. A game that people would have loads of fun playing and one the team would have lots of fun making! So far we seem to have succeeded in this aim, with many a journalist coming away from their preview chuckling mightily.
Inspiration for the game has come from many places. I've always loved spy films from mainstream fare such as Bond, Mission: Impossible, and Austin Powers to the more obscure, the Fu Manchu movies, for example. Aspects of the game have also been influenced by other classics not strictly in the spy genre, such as Enter the Dragon and Flash Gordon. I'm sure most people have at one time or another wanted, just once, for the cool archvillain to triumph over the sickeningly smug superagent. In fact, a lot of people after seeing the game often remark, "This seems like a really obvious idea for a game. Why hasn't it been done before?" This is always a pleasing thing to hear, as often the best game ideas elicit this kind of response.
Although Evil Genius is a totally unique concoction of features that looks, feels, and plays differently from anything else, as with any game there's some DNA in there from other classic games, namely X-Com, Dungeon Keeper, and Theme Park. All three of those games feature simulation, missions, and base building. Whilst we tried to distill what worked and what was addictive in those games, for the most part we've tried to strike our own path, attempting to take the simulation/strategy genre in new and fresh directions.