An hour with the Logic Factory’s Todd Templeman

Last year, with no PR or marketing preamble, a ghost appeared on the App Store: the 1995-vintage strategy game Ascendancy. Those who took a gamble on the unheralded apparition found to their relief that the new iOS Ascendancy wasn’t a cynical cash-in on a name nerds would remember nostalgically. It was the space 4X game as they remembered, but beautifully ported to work with modern touch controls. Where had it come from?

Ascendancy's iconic main menu screen

Ascendancy’s iconic main menu screen

The Logic Factory was gaming’s great disappearing act. Two brothers, Jason and Todd Templeman started the games studio in 1993. With a core of personnel that Jason had brought with him from his previous job at Origin (where he had led development of titles like Strike Commander), Logic Factory put out their first game in 1995. Ascendancy was an extraordinarily ambitious game for a maiden release. A sci-fi 4X for PC, Ascendancy borrowed concepts from games like Civilization and Master of Orion, but executed them with daring and originality, especially in the game’s UI. Aside from being fun, it was elegant – an adjective that you would struggle to apply to many of Ascendancy’s contemporaries. Playing Ascendancy today is like watching a Hitchcock movie for the first time – elements of it feel cliche, but only because of how frequently successors have cribbed from it.

After the success of Ascendancy, The Logic Factory moved right into developing their followup, The Tone Rebellion, an unrelated strategy game. Ascendancy had taken place in a universe devoid of humans – there weren’t even very many bi-laterally symmetrical bipeds in the game. Tone Rebellion was even harder to relate to, placing the player in control of a tribe of vividly imagined bug-eyed monsters. Tone Rebellion was as innovative as Ascendancy in many respects, but perhaps because they couldn’t see themselves in it, critics and players didn’t warm to it in the same way. After Tone Rebellion’s release in 1997, The Logic Factory vanished, not putting one press release or updating their website for over 10 years. But now, with the successful release of the 2011 vintage Ascendancy in their wake, The Logic Factory is talking again.

After the jump, my conversation with The Logic Factory’s Todd Templeman – what The Logic Factory did while they were out of the spotlight, if the new outfit is just a Logic Factory in name only, and what they’re working on next.

Owen Faraday: Like a lot of people, I think, I’m curious about the history of The Logic Factory. Where did you go?

Todd Templeman: Well, if you’ve got time for a novel I could go on quite a bit! But to go into any real sense of detail of the story of our company would be quite a project in its own right, and frankly, as private a person as I am, relative to the guys on our team I’m a talking head. The amount of time I get to spend in the studio is inversely proportional to the frequency and volume of my public locutions.

OF: Is this new Logic Factory the same personnel that released Ascendancy and Tone Rebellion, or is it The Logic Factory in name only?

The cover art of 1997's The Tone Rebellion

The cover art of 1997′s The Tone Rebellion

TT: Some of the core personnel today are the very same people who joined from day one. But there has been quite a bit of change over the years, too.

OF: Can you talk about what you were doing for all that time in the desert?

TT: During the span of time that you didn’t hear much new from Logic Factory we did not go anywhere. We have been hard at work on some fundamental design structures, and much more than that which I’m not at liberty to discuss, for a good deal of time. We have been devoted to a specific lineup of products, but simply have had to take time to get to the point where we were ready to re-emerge from our R&D caves. The reasons behind this are many, but it really comes back to the fact that we have long been convinced highest quality only occurs in a free environment.

OF: How have you felt about the reception that Ascendancy has received after all of these years?

TT: We could not be more gratified by the outstanding response Ascendancy has received. Long-time fans have emailed us, but we’ve also seen a whole new wave of people who had never heard of Ascendancy before. The support staff is in the routine of making sure that every single comment makes it through to the development team. We make sure that everyone receives a response to any question they have about Ascendancy.

OF: What’s next for you then? Are you going back into PC development, or will you be sticking with iOS?

TT: We’re currently working on more updates to the iOS version of Ascendancy, leading to a set of products that, as I alluded to before, will be produced within a design and development environment we have devoted much to creating. We may stay exclusively on iOS, but aren’t ready to make that decision.

Ascendancy for iPhone

Ascendancy for iPhone

OF: You’ve said publicly that you’re skeptical of developing for Android. What are the odds of seeing Ascendancy or a future Logic Factory title on Android?

TT: There is certainly a chance of that, but we just do not know yet. Once this version of Ascendancy gets to a reasonable stopping point, the team will have already dived into those new products we have been working on. There’s quite a bit of dovetail there. But we know already that no member of the core team will be in a position to allow any kind of distraction, and that includes lending a hand in any kind of porting effort. So the port work has to be done totally independently, which is possible in concept, but often blows up in practice. We’ve heard the nightmare stories and believe them. So we may be staying on iOS for some time.

In terms of future games, there are some platform decisions we will have to make, and that includes consoles, but the core technology is there in a very portable state and we’ll make the final decision before we get the new games in the final pipeline.

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