Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Star Control post-mortem with Fred Ford and Paul Reiche III

Also present at GDC 2015 were Fred Ford and Paul Reiche III to talk about Star Control (1990) and Star Control II (1992). Developed by their company Toys For Bob and published by Accolade, the two space action strategy games were instant classics - especially the second game, which is considered to be one of the greatest PC games ever made.

I'm sad to report that I never actually played any of these games, so I don't know much about them. I did however learn some interesting facts from this post-mortem, which, a bit oddly, was conducted as a sort of interview as opposed to the usual stand-up presentation. The story about using Amiga module format music for the second game, and employing musicians via Usenet - some of them only 14 years old - had me smiling. As a programmer, I also found the detailed description on the procedurally generated spinning planets (29:10 in the video) particularly interesting.

Loom post-mortem with Brian Moriarty

So GDC 2015 took place just a few days before my last post here in March, and I have only now watched the online videos of this year's Classic Game Postmortem speeches, which are always my favourite part of GDC. I also noticed that GDC have made both their new and previous videos available on YouTube, which I think is great, because the video player at the GDC Vault website was driving me crazy!

One of the legendary speakers this year was Brian Moriarty, who had been invited to tell the story of LucasFilm Games' classic point-and-click adventure Loom, released in 1990. Moriarty, or Professor Moriarty (no, that's not a Sherlock Holmes joke - he is indeed a Professor of Practice in Game Design), was a game designer and writer at Infocom before joining LucasFilm Games in 1988. While at Infocom, he created the text adventures Wishbringer (1985), Trinity (1986) and Beyond Zork (1987). After Loom, he also worked on LucasArts' The Dig (1995) as a writer.

This is an extraordinary well-presented post-mortem, and it's clear that Moriarty is an experienced lecturer. Following some obligatory funny anecdotes on LucasFilm Games and Skywalker Ranch, we get to learn how the game was conceived, where the name came from, why Tchaikovsky's ballet Swan Lake was used for the soundtrack, the references to Disney's Sleeping Beauty, the graphical limitations at the time (and how artist Mark Ferrari overcame them with his unique dithering technique), and much more. We also take a look at, and listen to, the different versions of the game. Hardcore fans will be in ecstasy over some previously unseen screens that didn't make it into the final game.

All in all, this post-mortem is a must-see if ever there was one.

I'm sorry!

My apologies for not having updated this blog since March (!). I know it probably looks like I abandoned it right after I started it. As with most (or, I should say all) of my creative projects, I tend to easily loose focus or get burned out quickly. This is a problem I'm struggling with in my everyday life, and I know it can be frustrating to those who follow the things I do, but trust me when I say no one is more frustrated about it than I am. So, unfortunately, I can't promise that I'll be updating this blog on a steady basis. There could - and probably will - be large gaps of silence in the future too.

One positive thing though, is that the subject matter of this blog doesn't have any best-before date. This blog is more an archive of things and less a source of news, so it's not crucial that I add to it quickly. I do however hope to work on it a lot more than I have so far. Keep your fingers crossed!

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Blizzard Entertainment Retrospective

Blizzard Entertainment started out as a company called Silicon & Synapse in 1991, with Interplay as their publisher. Their very first game was RPM Racing for SNES in 1991, followed by The Lost Vikings in 1992, and Rock n' Roll Racing in 1993. They were then briefly known as Chaos Studios, before changing again to Blizzard Entertainment, with the 1994 releases of Blackthorne and Warcraft. The rest, as they say, is history.

This is a retrospective video produced by Blizzard themselves, which tells the story of the company, from their startup as Silicon & Synapse, up until the biggest game of all times - World of Warcraft. Featured in the video are (in order of appearance) Allen Adham, Mike Morhaime, Frank Pearce, Sam Didier, Bob Fitch, Joeyray Hall, Bob Davidson, Paul Sams, Jan Davidson, Chris Metzen, Nick Carpenter, Shane Dabiri, Matt Samia, Jeff Kaplan, J. Allen Brack, Chris Sigaty, Dustin Browder, Rob Pardo, and Mike Ryder.

Also, check out the timeline over at the Blizzard website, for a chronological summary of the company's history.

Diablo II post-mortem

(description TBA)