Designer Notes 32: Asher Vollmer

In this episode, Soren interviews independent game developer Asher Vollmer, best known as the designer of Puzzlejuice and Threes. They discuss why paper prototypes don’t always translate well into video games, whether a game should take up 100% of your brain, and how he feels about the Threes clone 2048.

Games discussed: The Secret of Monkey Island, Leisure Suit Larry, Jedi Knight 2: Jedi Outcast, Active Worlds, Furcadia, The Misadventures of P. B. Winterbottom, Semi-Automatic, Puzzlejuice, Tiny Wings, Threes, 2048, Guildlings

https://www.idlethumbs.net/designernotes/episodes/asher-vollmer

Designer Notes 31: Margaret Robertson

In this episode, Adam Saltsman interviews Margaret Robertson, Game Director at PlayDots. Margaret is known for her pioneering work at Hide & Seek and as editor-in-chief at EDGE magazine. They discuss how to make a game about death, whether a game should make you good at lying, and why making a game about dots can be rewarding.

Games discussed: Dots, Two Dots, Boardgame Remix Kit, Dream of Your Life, Would Anyone Miss You, Werewolf, Dots & Co, Puzzlescript

https://www.idlethumbs.net/designernotes/episodes/margaret-robertson

Designer Notes 30: Steve Gaynor – Part 2

In this episode, Soren interviews Steve Gaynor, co-founder of The Fullbright Company and best known for his work on BioShock 2, Minerva’s Den, and Gone Home. They discuss whether audio diaries need to make sense, why the Gone Home family is made up of barefoot vampires who hate showers, and why Fullbright made Tacoma.

Games discussed: Minerva’s Den, Bioshock Infinite, Gone Home, Tacoma, Sleep No More, Firewatch, Her Story

https://www.idlethumbs.net/designernotes/episodes/steve-gaynor-part-2

Designer Notes 29: Steve Gaynor – Part 1

In this episode, Soren interviews Steve Gaynor, co-founder of The Fullbright Company and best known for his work on BioShock 2, Minerva’s Den, and Gone Home. They discuss how bad Sierra adventure design could be, why he decided to make video games instead of comics, and about that time he interviewed Ken Levine and Tim Schafer for his zine.

Games discussed: Godzilla, Snarfs, Space Quest 4, Police Quest 2, Duke Nukem 3D, Doom, Marc Ecko Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure, F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate, Bioshock, System Shock 2, S.W.A.T. 4, Half-Life, Bioshock 2

https://www.idlethumbs.net/designernotes/episodes/steve-gaynor-part-1

Playing to Lose: AI and Civilization (GDC 2008)

I gave a talk at GDC 2008 on developing the AI for the Civilization series. I highlighted the difference between “good” AI and “fun” AI and how writing AI for Civ is tricky because it fits somewhere between those two extremes. Unfortunately, the talk was not filmed, and because I always wanted to get it online, I went ahead and reconstructed it from the original audio and slides. If you give it a watch, let me know what you think!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCasmHPTajRU9kXWHjJqJD_g

Play Early, Play Often: Prototyping Civilization 4 (GDC 2006)

I gave a talk at GDC 2006 on the development history of Civilization 4, with the benefit of post-release hindsight. We actually demoed multiple early versions of the game, but unfortunately the talk was not filmed. However, I always wanted to get it online, so I went ahead and reconstructed it from the original audio and slides. If you give it a watch, let me know what you think!

Don’t Blow It: Successful Franchises (GDC 2004)

I gave a talk at GDC 2004 on maintaining successful franchises, with a focus on the Civilization franchise. This talk was the first time we gave any significant public details about Civ 4, so it’s interested to see what I thought was going to be important over a year before shipping. Unfortunately, the talk was not filmed, and because I always wanted to get it online, I went ahead and reconstructed it from the original audio and slides. If you give it a watch, let me know what you think!

Theme is Not Meaning (GDC 2010)

I gave a talk at GDC 2010 on the interaction of theme and mechanics in games, specifically arguing that a game’s mechanics take priority over its theme when determining the game’s meaning. (The talk was based heavily on these columns written for Game Developer magazine.) Unfortunately, the talk was not filmed, and because I always wanted to get it online, I went ahead and reconstructed it from the original audio and slides. If you give it a watch, let me know what you think!

Designer Notes 28: George Fan

In this episode, Soren interviews independent game designer George Fan, who is best known as the creator of Insaniquarium and Plants vs Zombies. They discuss why he learned to program instead of just focusing on art, how most Diablo monster design is a variation of kill-me-first, and why Plants vs. Zombies wasn’t Fish vs. Aliens.

Games discussed: Pac-Man, Super Mario Bros., Are You Dumb?, Wrath of the Gopher, Magic: The Gathering, Bomberman, Risky Planet, Insaniquarium, Diablo 3, Plants vs Zombies, Octogeddon

https://www.idlethumbs.net/designernotes/episodes/george-fan

Designer Notes 27: Lucas Pope

In this episode, Adam Saltsman interviews independent game developer Lucas Pope, best known for the immigration officer simulation Papers Please. They discuss how Naughty Dog taught him to mercilessly cut features, why it might be a good thing if Obra Dinn is bad, and how Adam has time to do these interviews.

Games discussed: Malice, Gearhead Garage, Papers Please, The Republia Times, Return of the Obra Dinn

https://www.idlethumbs.net/designernotes/episodes/lucas-pope