[ABOVE- Pictures of Lode Runner on the Apple II. 2nd from bottom image is the level editor on the PC, courtesy MobyGames. Last image courtesy A2Central.]
It’s sad to hear of the relatively young passing of Doug Smith, creator of a game I adore to this day: Lode Runner. Along with other Br0derbund games of the early ’80s like Dan Gorlin’s Choplifter (1982) and Jordan Mechner’s Karateka(1984), Smith’s 1983 title Lode Runner stood out as a higher class of game. Sure, it was a finely crafted action game at its core but it also made you think and it felt very unique, like something never seen before. It was part of that golden age of home computer games when brilliant new mechanics seemed to show up every few months. Lode Runner stands to this day as a testament to unique vision and pure artistic creation.
Lode Runner is also important because it shipped with one of the first commercially available level editors. My friends and I used the editor extensively to create our own levels for the game, which we traded back and forth on 5.25 floppy, trying to top each other. That editor had a lot to do with me figuring out how game and level design worked, though I certainly didn’t think of it in those terms at the time.
Learning level design in a super-constrained space can be very valuable. Lode Runner had a small feature and rule-set, with maps that were required to fit on a single screen. Yet the game had enough depth that you really could make some very unique and creative maps, you never felt like you were out of options. Lode Runner’s constraints forced you to not just make spectacle or narrative, but to truly design.
To any aspiring game designers out there not sure where to start, I recommend starting at the beginning and downloading an emulated version of the original Lode Runner. Learn how it plays and then make your own maps. Lode Runner will not provide you “tools skills” you can immediately apply to a job in the industry in 2014, but it will teach you the nuts and bolts of how compelling gameplay works, something that will prove far more valuable in the long run.
Lode Runner taught me so much, I feel like I owe Doug Smith a lot. Over the years I’ve been fortunate to get to meet a lot of my early gaming heroes in person and thank them. Sad I will never get to do the same for Doug Smith.
One of the things we’re including in the Deluxe Edition is “The Making of Roundabout”, a huge compendium of art, stories, and the full Roundabout screenplay.
Check out how completely rad this is! Not only does it include the full 87 page shooting script from Roundabout, we’ve also annotated it with our stories and notes. On top of that, Panzer has also put together these brilliant art pages that talk about the origins of our characters, our logo, some behind the scenes pics - pretty much anything you could ever want!
If you haven’t already, you’re probably going to want the Deluxe Edition. Not only does it include “The Making of Roundabout”, it comes with the soundtrack, bonus unreleased videos and cut FMV, seven playable prototype and early builds showing the progression of the game, and Georgio Cam: the first-person April Fools Experience. All for only $5 more!
“I was always thinking about how I would become a great novelist. I just didn’t think that I would write crime novels. I thought that I would be a literary writer, whose creative duty is to describe the world as it is. The problem is that I never enjoyed books like that. I only enjoyed crime stories. So more than anything, this fascination with writing was an issue of identity. I had a fantasy of what it meant to be a writer: the sports cars, the clothes, the women.
“But I think what appealed to me most about it was that I could assume the identity of what I really loved to do, which was to read. Nobody told me I couldn’t write a novel. I didn’t live in the world of graduate writing schools. I wasn’t part of any scene or creative community. I happened to love crime novels more than anything, so I wrote a crime novel first. I didn’t buy the old canard that you had to start by writing short stories, and only later write a novel. I never liked reading short stories, so why the fuck should I want to write one? I only wanted to write novels.”
A great time was had by all at the PAX Brain Dump 2014 last weekend at PAX Prime in Seattle. Thanks to the fine list of speakers, who each got five minutes to share their “One Weird Trick” to development. Afterward we got to talk to folks who came up to ask questions one-on-one.
Particular thanks due to Nels Anderson, who ended up joining the session at the last minute when someone dropped out.
Quite a range of ideas were shared, suitable both to game developers and gamers alike. If you want to get a sense of what everyone talked about, I have uploaded the slides at the below link. (Not all slides have notes, but many of them do.)
I always seat our speakers in a the front row in the order they will speak - so above you’ll see (from left to right) Bernie, Ellen, Sylvain (who took the picture from on stage), Deborah, Nels (missing from the first shot), Katie, Jeff, and Eka. Thanks all!
It’s back! After a riotous good time in 2013, The Brain Dump returns to PAX Prime this year for another rapid fire session with accomplished game developers. Everyone gets their own five minutes to talk on the theme of "One Weird Trick" to Game Development. And no two tricks are alike, I assure you.
Who’s in the lineup? Well let’s see, we’ve got:
Jeff Agala - Creative Director at Klei Entertainment, makers of Don’t Starve, Mark of the Ninja, and freshly on Steam Early-Access game Invisible, Inc.
Katie Chironis - Designer extraordinaire who I got to know at Microsoft where she worked on things like D4, Ori and the Blind Forrest and who is now out in the indie world.
Sylvain Dubrofsky - Senior designer at PopCap Games, whose illustrious past includes everything from Rock Band to Peggle.
Chandana “Eka” Ekanayake - Art Director at Uber Entertainment, where he’s led the art efforts on everything from Planetary Annihilation to Toy Rush.
Jared Gerritzen - Man of many roles, previously studio head at Zombie where he launched Blacklight Retribution, now mixing things up at Major League Gaming.
Deborah Hendersen - A user research lead at Microsoft, where she’s worked on everything from State of Decay (a personal favorite, naturally) to forthcoming titles like Quantum Break and Scalebound.
Ellen McLain - Accomplished voice actor who you may know best as the voice of some disturbed robot called GlaDOS in some little game called Portal.
Bernard Yee - Veteran producer and executive, recently working on Plants vs. Zombies, now the producer over at Oculus VR’s Seattle studio.
The session is Monday at 11:30AM in the Sphinx hall - if you’re at PAX, swing by and say hi and listen to all the trickery.
Also straight out of Gamescom, here’s 8+ minutes of gameplay from Remedy’s Quantum Break. This focuses on gunplay at first, but gets to some of the unique time manipulation mechanics later in the trailer. The game lands somewhere between Max Payne and Alan Wake, and if you like either of those, it’d be silly not to be tracking this game.
As for the unique narrative stuff I worked on… you’ll have to wait ‘til later on that.
Images and words mostly about video games, crime fiction, and Hitchcock.
Richard Rouse III is a game designer and writer working on an indpendent project. Recently he was a design lead at Microsoft Studios, working on titles like State of Decay, Sunset Overdrive, and Quantum Break. He was creative director and writer on The Suffering action-horror franchise, and has also worked on Rainbow 6: Patriots, Homefront, Drakan: The Ancients' Gates, Damage Incorporated, and Odyssey: The Legend of Nemesis. He wrote the book Game Design: Theory and Practice, and is known for his lectures on game design and storytelling. He lives in the Seattle area with his very understanding wife and children.