Civilization, Rise of Nations Designer Revives Big Huge Games, Announces New Title

Brian Reynolds resurrects Big Huge Games and announces DomiNations, a new free-to-play strategy game launching for mobile devices.

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Big Huge Games is back.

The Maryland-based studio that created games such as Rise of Nations and Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning only to be closed down in 2012 as part of 38 Studios' bankruptcy, is getting a second lease on life, with a new game that you'll be able to play in 2015. Brian Reynolds, who co-founded the first iteration of Big Huge Games in 2000 with Tim Train, acquired the rights to the Big Huge Games name during the 38 Studios auction last year and today announced that their previously announced studio SecretNewCo. is now called Big Huge Games.

Reynolds and Train are heading up the new version of Big Huge Games, which is shifting away from PC and console games in favor of mobile titles. The studio's first game is called DomiNations, which will launch in 2015 for iPhone, iPad, and Android through a partnership with free-to-play juggernaut Nexon--the group that's also behind Gears of War creator Cliff Bleszinski's new title.

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Big Huge Games uses words such as "epic" and "innovative" to describe DomiNations, in part because it will let players virtually travel through the ages on their journey from the stone age to the space age. When I asked what Reynolds think will separate DomiNations from the huge number of other free-to-play strategy games out there, Reynolds starts off with a joke before explaining that the game's "play through the ages" mantra should be a big appeal for gamers.

"Number one, our amazing game design talents, of course (laughs)," he said. "In terms of substantive details, there hasn't been a big mobile strategy game yet that has really taken on the challenge of doing the sweep of human history thing. Moving through the ages; you start in the stone age and you go to the bronze and iron age and the classical age and the medieval age and the gunpowder age and so on."

"If anybody are the guys to do that, then it's us," he added. "Because we come from the background of having done quite a number of different kinds of games … strategy games about all of history in various different genres and turn-based strategy and real-time strategy and so on. So we have a good background in history games."

"I certainly perceive mobile, free-to-play as being the biggest market; the opportunity to reach the largest number of players" -- Brian Reynolds

In DomiNations, you'll be able to choose which nation to play as, even getting to battle with famous figures from history such as Napoleon, Nobunaga, Khan, and Cleopatra, among others. This historical hook is one of the many examples Reynolds cited as reasons he thinks DomiNations will catch on with gamers.

"We also think that players are going to enjoy getting to build wonders of the world, having this huge project that they have to work on, then they get a big, unique reward," he said. "Being able to choose what nation you're going to be. Are you going to be the Chinese are you going to be the British, choices like that. Getting to have a technology tree where you kind of decide which direction you're gonna go. We've got some interesting exploration mechanics where one of the maps starts covered up and you have to decide which direction you're going to explore and that both serves to clear off the map so you have more room to build your city in."

"I always think there's this magical moment when you move up to the next age and suddenly all your archers now have guns. Boy is that cool! You can instantly feel the extra power you have and at the same time, there's this sense of historic authenticity," he added. "I've always felt like moving through the ages of history is a really magical game mechanic. I think it will appeal to players yet again. There are lots of different ways that we've tried to bring our experience in history games and strategy games into … taking this mobile free-to-play strategy genre into some interesting new directions."

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DomiNations is a free-to-play game, and this is likely to cause some groans and concerns among fans of past Civilization and Rise of Nations titles. Explaining why Big Huge Games opted for the free-to-play route as opposed to a premium, paid experience like other publishers are doing, Reynolds said making the game free means it can reach the widest audience. He also explained that, while DomiNations will have microtransactions, players who don't spend a penny will still be able to unlock everything.

"I have had a history of going where I perceive the biggest market to be," Reynolds said. "I certainly perceive mobile, free-to-play as being the biggest market; the opportunity to reach the largest number of players. And so, that's exciting to me. It's the same reason I went to Facebook games--boy were a lot of people playing Facebook games. And then even more started playing. It was certainly interesting when I was at Zynga--it really opened my eyes to 'Wow, how many different kinds of players play games than used to play them when I started in 1991'. I never would have dreamed both the kinds of players and the numbers of players that are out there."

"I've always felt like moving through the ages of history is a really magical game mechanic" -- Brian Reynolds

"Obviously, a lot of the games I was doing at Zynga were in the what you might call ultra-casual area, and [DomiNations] is a strategy game," he added. "But nonetheless, it's a mobile strategy game, so I'm a lot more aware now of just how, just how many players one can find--how many different kinds of players one can reach out to."

Reynolds, who has been in the video game business for 23 years, is a journeyman of sorts. He co-founded Civilization studio Firaxis Games alongside Sid Meier, working on various entries in the blockbuster strategy series. He left Firaxis in 1999 and co-founded Big Huge Games in 2000. He spent nine years there, then left to become Zynga's Chief Game Designer, until he quit the social gaming giant in 2013 to found the new version of Big Huge Games.

Regarding the future of Big Huge Games, Reynolds explained that while the studio is no longer making PC or console games, the essence of the studio remains intact. "We're doing games on new platforms and that means you design them differently. The industry is very different now. So it's not saying that we're Big Huge Games means that somehow we want to go back to 2001, and make 2001 games. No, we want to continue our journey but with some of the philosophies of game design that we've always used, that hopefully players will remember and like."

Check out some DomiNations images in the gallery below.

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