Designer Notes

Designer Notes

Spain

Why do we make games? Every designer has a different and very personal answer to that question. Soren Johnson, founder of Mohawk Games, sits down with noted designers to find out by examining their careers as a whole.

Episodes

Designer Notes 24: Sid Meier - Part 2  

In this episode, Soren Johnson interviews legendary game designer Sid Meier, best known for designing Pirates!, Railroad Tycoon, and Civilization. They discuss how Sid’s stealth fighter was more interesting than the real one, whether XCOM violates the Covert Action rule, and when the world was ready for hexes.

Designer Notes 23: Sid Meier - Part 1  

In this episode, Soren Johnson interviews legendary game designer Sid Meier, best known for designing Pirates!, Railroad Tycoon, and Civilization. They discuss using the Ayatollah Khomeini as an enemy, how Strike Eagle differentiated itself from Flight Simulator, and why the torpedo doesn’t go where the player aims it in Silent Spring.

Designer Notes 23: Sid Meier - Part 1  

In this episode, Soren Johnson interviews legendary game designer Sid Meier, best known for designing Pirates!, Railroad Tycoon, and Civilization. They discuss using the Ayatollah Khomeini as an enemy, how Strike Eagle differentiated itself from Flight Simulator, and why the torpedo doesn’t go where the player aims it in Silent Spring.

Designer Notes 22: Amy Hennig - Part 2  

In this episode, Soren Johnson interviews veteran game designer Amy Hennig, best known for her work on the Legacy of Kain and Uncharted series. They discuss what elements from film can’t work in games, how many hours she averaged per week working on the Uncharted series, and how to capture great acting performance for video games.

Designer Notes 21: Amy Hennig - Part 1  

In this episode, Soren Johnson interviews veteran game designer Amy Hennig, best known for her work on the Legacy of Kain and Uncharted series. They discuss what happened in 1977, how to make a platformer about Michael Jordan, and whether women are now being scared away from game development the way she was from the film industry. In true adventure game fashion, we end on a cliffhanger!

Designer Notes 20: Liz Ryerson  

In this episode, Adam Saltsman interviews independent game developer Liz Ryerson, known for experimental games like Problem Attic. They discuss whether we should ever make players uncomfortable, why horror games have more freedom to try unconventional design, and whether Twitter is a game.

Designer Notes 19: Louis Castle  

In this episode, Soren interviews Westwood Studio co-founder Louis Castle. They discuss why early video game artists were also great at Etch-a-Sketch, why Dune 2 was not Dune 1, how Boom Blox was almost Angry Birds, and why narrative games can’t end on a negative.

Designer Notes 18: Offworld Trading Company  

In this episode, Bruce Geryk interviews Soren Johnson about his new economic RTS, Offworld Trading Company. They discuss how exploring a black map is one of gaming’s greatest hits, why the hardest part of designing Offworld was ending the game, and why Early Access games shouldn’t have QA. Also, listen to hear Soren correctly pronounce timbre!

Designer Notes 17: Ananda Gupta  

In this episode, Soren interviews game designer Ananda Gupta, best known as the co-designer of Twilight Struggle and the lead designer of XCOM: Enemy Within. They discuss why DC has no fort in For the People, whether Labyrinth's neocon design is intentional, and should Twilight Struggle use dice to resolve conflicts. They also assume quite incorrectly that Command & Conquer: Generals was released before 9/11. Who knew?!?

Designer Notes 16: Tyriq Plummer  

In this episode, Adam Saltsman interviews Tyriq Plummer, who is the artist, designer, and programmer behind the roguelike platformer Catacomb Kids. They discuss why a game should let you eat your severed arm, how items can be adjectives instead of verbs, and how to design a deep game when you don't see the bottom yet.

Designer Notes 15: Nels Anderson  

In this episode, Soren interviews Nels Anderson, who was the lead designer of the critically acclaimed Mark of the Ninja and is currently a designer/programmer at Campo Santo working on the upcoming game Firewatch. They discuss how he almost went into law enforcement, whether Mark of the Ninja actually has AI, and why designers should be able to write code.

Designer Notes 14: Mark Herman  

In this episode, Bruce Geryk interviews veteran wargame designer Mark Herman, former CEO of Victory Games and best known for pioneering card-driven wargames with We The People. They discuss designing games for less than $100 per week, why he couldn't release a game because Saddam Hussein might play it, and how Magic the Gathering helped him create a new genre.

Designer Notes 13: Jamie Cheng  

In this episode, Soren interviews Jamie Cheng, founder of Klei Entertainment which is known for the Shank series, Mark of the Ninja, Don't Starve, and Invisible, Inc. They discuss paying back the Canadian government, why Mark of the Ninja's AI needs to be dumb, why Don't Starve has no extrinsic rewards, and how free-to-play games are his white whale.

Designer Notes 12: Davey Wreden  

In this episode, Adam Saltsman interviews indie game developer Davey Wreden, who is best known for his work on The Stanley Parable and The Beginner's Guide. They discuss why he worked as a bartender while making The Stanley Parable, how they fit the "gnawing void" into the game, and why he is looking forward to getting old.

Designer Notes 11: Chris Avellone  

In this episode, Soren interviews game designer Chris Avellone, who is best known for his work on Fallout 2, Planescape: Torment, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2, Fallout: New Vegas, and Wasteland 2. He is currently working at inXile Entertainment on Torment: Tides of Numenera. They discuss why he owes his career to publisher desperation, how Torment reflects that players only care about themselves, the mystery of how Black Isle lost the D&D license, and why game writing is overrated.

Designer Notes 10: Nina Freeman  

In this episode, Adam Saltsman interviews indie game developer Nina Freeman, who is best known for her personal vignette games How Do You Do It?, Freshman Year, and the upcoming Cibele. She is currently working at Fullbright as a level designer on the upcoming game Tacoma. They discuss why all VR games are about sitting in chairs, how a background in poetry influences her work, and how to write about your own personal flaws in a game.

Designer Notes 9: Bruce Shelley  

In this episode, Soren interviews veteran game designer Bruce Shelley, who is best known for his work on Railroad Tycoon, Civilization, and the Age of Empires series. He is currently working at Bonus XP on Servo, a new RTS. They discuss what the two Sids have in common, why they took disasters out of Railroad Tycoon, what game got shoved out the door to make way for Civilization, why Ensemble games always look so bright, and why he always does his research in the children's section of the library.

Designer Notes 8: Daniel Benmergui  

In this episode, Adam Saltsman interviews independent game developer Daniel Benmergui, who is best known for experimental story games like Today I Die, I Wish I Were The Moon, and the IGF-winning Storyteller. He is currently working on the Indie Fund-backed puzzle game Ernesto. They discuss why games should not be designed backwards, how to recover from the burden of success, why players have difficulty committing a murder of jealousy in Storyteller, and whether Chris Hecker hates Ernesto.

Designer Notes 7: Brad Muir  

In this episode, Soren interviews Brad Muir, who is a designer/programmer at Double Fine. He was a programmer on Psychonauts, the lead designer of Brutal Legend, and the project leader on Iron Brigade. Brad is currently leading the development of Massive Chalice, a tactical strategy game now available on Steam Early Access. They discuss trying to make peace with narrative-based games, why consoles (and not tablets) are the future of MOBAs, what it's like pitching ideas to publishers, and why Brad worked at Raven for 89 days.

Designer Notes 6: Chelsea Howe  

In this episode, Adam Saltsman interviews Chelsea Howe, who is a Creative Director at EA Mobile. She is best known for her work at TinyCo, where she led the design of Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff, and for her community efforts organizing the Queerness and Games Conference, the Global Game Jam in San Francisco, student workshops, and more. They discuss how DAU's and LTV's compare to Quarterback Ratings, why F2P games end up as conservative as AAA games, why mobile devs have to pay people to play their games, and if a game is worthwhile if the player isn't learning something.

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