Loewenherz: Tell us a little bit about yourself. What is your favourite computer game? How did you get into programming. When did you have the first contact with the Empire Earth series?
Rex Bradford: I mostly taught myself computer programming while working in a Psychology lab at the University of Massachusetts where I went to college; then I lucked out with a job at Parker Brothers in 1981 just before they got into the Atari 2600 game business,and I got picked to write the Empire Strikes Back videogame for the platform. That sort of launched things for me. I did a second game for Parker, then a short stint at Activision, then started my own game development company called Microsmiths with a couple of colleagues in 1984. I wrote a 3d golf game called Mean 18, published by Accolade in 1986, and worked on various projects and with various companies including LookingGlass Studios till 2010, when I left Rockstar Games and got out of computer game development. My favorite game is probably Microsoft's Age of Empires, though I really enjoyed many of the simple Atari games like Stampede, Tennis and Ice Hockey, and others.
Loewenherz: How did you come to Mad Doc Software?
Rex Bradford: Around 2001 I think I was looking for a new gig, and I knew a few people from LookingGlass Studios who had ended up working for Ian Davis at Mac Doc. Ian ran a great little company and I had a lot of fun doing the Empire Earth expansion pack with a few very talented people, and then went on to be the lead programmer on EE2.
Loewenherz: How was the development of the addon "The Art of Conquest" for EE1 for you? What was special about the Titan Engine? Was it difficult to get used to the engine of Stainles Steel? Did you exchange information with the original developer of EE1?
Rex Bradford: Doing that expansion pack was one of the more enjoyable projects I've been on; there were only 3 other programmers besides myself, plus artists, which can be a fun team size. A very smart programmer named Tara, who would sing while she coded, and I first dove into the engine and tamed the development process - when we inherited the game it took almost an hour to compile the game after any change to a header file, so we wrote code to analyze the dependencies and then spent a few weeks just "breaking things apart" to make development manageable. Once that was done, the code was not difficult to work with and we go on with the game. I don't really remember the details of the game engine other than that we liked it and found it straightforward to work with.
Loewenherz: What was the development phase of EE2 like?
Rex Bradford: I think there were ~14 programmers and about the same number of artists, again some very talented folks like Kevin Wasserman, who had come from LookingGlass, plus a couple of Canadian programmers we had hired (Mad Doc was in northern Massachusetts, not too too far from Canada). One of them, Hugues St. Pierre, went on to become a lead developer at RockStar. I got to do programming about 1/3 of my time, and managed the programming team the rest of my time. Ian Davis himself took on development of the computer AI. Again a great team. The one thing we struggled with, and never really satisfactorily solved, was the difficult problem of group pathfinding - getting a bunch of units to travel together and navigate tight spaces effectively.
Loewenherz: Why did you choose the Gambryo engine when looking for an engine?
Rex Bradford: I really don't remember.
Loewenherz: What was a particularly challenging moment in the development of EE2?
Rex Bradford: It wasn't really a moment, but as I said group pathfinding was probably the most difficult thing we struggled with.
Loewenherz: What was the day-to-day work at Mad Doc like?
Rex Bradford: Ian Davis set the tone for a place with heart, to thrive and do creative work at. I really enjoy programming but have sometimes personally struggled with the pressure of managing projects and people; he handled it with grace.
Loewenherz: How did the engine of EE2 become so modding-friendly?
Rex Bradford: That I also don't remember, probably my talented colleagues built that in without me!
Loewenherz: Out of personal curiosity. Was the IES scripting system, which was made available to the users with patch 1.2, developed beforehand and then released with the patch or only afterwards exclusively for patch 1.2? Before that, there was only the .DLL option, but you need the source code for that.
Rex Bradford: I should know this but don't or at least don't remember.
Loewenherz: How do you look back on Empire Earth 2? Are you satisfied with the final result?
Rex Bradford: I often focus on the negative, so I'll repeat that I wish we had solved the group pathfinding problem better. Having said that, I am proud of how the game came out and think we did an impressive job given that this was really our first real-time strategy game of that sort, not counting the experience gained doing the EE expansion pack.
Loewenherz: Were you still involved in the addon "The Art of Supremacy"?
Rex Bradford: No.
Loewenherz: As an EE2 developer, how would you rate the successor EE3?
Rex Bradford: I had moved on to other things at that point, and wasn't really paying close attention, so I don't have any useful comment for you there.
Loewenherz: Have you ever tried the unofficial patch 1.5 for Empire Earth 2? What do you think of it?
Rex Bradford: I have not tried the patch.
Loewenherz: Do you still play computer games sometimes?
Rex Bradford: While I enjoy playing computer games, over the years I have spent a lot more time writing them than playing them. Back 10-20 years ago a few friends and I would get together a few times a year for marathan realtime strategy game sessions, and my daughters even got pretty good at Age of Empires and Age of Mythology. My friends and I back in the 1990s would even would play the turn-taking PC RTS game Empire, if you're familiar with that (written by Walter Bright, author of the Zortech C++ compiler, though I believe the first version of the game was done on DEC minicomputers). Nowadays I don't play computer games much.
Loewenherz: Are you still in contact with other former EE2 developers?
Rex Bradford: I rejoined the company, now Rockstar New England, for a stint in 2009/2010, and had fun making very minor contributions to Red Dead Redemption. But I've been doing mostly web development since 2010. I am in occasional contact with Hugues St. Pierre - our families are friends though we live on different coasts now - and I've emailed Ian Davis on occasion. Nobody else from EE2 that I can think of, though I maintain friendship with a few other game developers from the earlier days at LookingGlass and Microsmiths.
Hope this helps.
The EE2.eu administration is very grateful to Rex Bradford, for spanding his valuable time for our little community. We really appreciate it, and we wish him future successes!
Please also check the "Developer Diaries - Empire Earth® II" video, where Rex talks about the game's new engine and the team's approach to game balanceour, and our AI-Enhanced video of "Behind the Scenes of Empire Earth® II":