Episode Archive

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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.

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October 15, 2019 In this episode, Soren interviews game developer Adam Saltsman, who co-founded indie publisher Finji and is best known for his work on Gravity Hook, Canabalt, Hundreds, Capsule, and Overland. They discuss how Cave Story showed him that he could make games on his own, why he thought he worked with the guy who invented Boggle, and his many failed attempts to join the video games industry.

Games discussed: Super Mario Bros. 2, Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, Cave Story, Tower Blocks, Boggle, Gravity Hook, ThrustBurst

August 5, 2019 In this episode, Soren interviews independent game developer Brendon Chung, best known for his work on Atom Zombie Smasher, Thirty Flights of Loving, and Quadrilateral Cowboy. They discuss why Xbox Live Indie Games didn’t take off, what exactly happens at the end of Atom Zombie Smasher, and how streaming game development made him work harder than ever before.

Games discussed: Flotilla, Air Forte, Atom Zombie Smasher, XCOM, Thirty Flights of Loving, Quadrilateral Cowboy, Cursor 10

June 29, 2019 In this episode, Soren interviews independent game developer Brendon Chung, best known for his work on Atom Zombie Smasher, Thirty Flights of Loving, and Quadrilateral Cowboy. They discuss how to make an adventure game inside of Doom, why he won’t read text popups but will read the back of cereal boxes, and what does the ending of Gravity Bone mean.

Games discussed: Sierra Adventure Games, Doom, XCOM, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Planescape: Torment, Hexen 2, Strife, Thief, Company of Heroes, Full Spectrum Warrior: Ten Hammers, The Lord of the Rings: Conquest, Gravity Bone

June 5, 2019 In this episode, Soren and Leyla Johnson interview independent game developer Rami Ismail of Vlambeer, best known for his work on Super Crate Box, Ridiculous Fishing, Luftrausers, and Nuclear Throne. They discuss why he started a company with someone he couldn’t stand, how to make games in a place without electricity, and why the world “inclusivity” can still be exclusionary.

Games discussed: StarCraft, Urban Assault, Final Fantasy XV, Nier: Automata, Star Wraith, Evochron, Super Crate Box, Serious Sam: The Random Encounter, Ridiculous Fishing, Luftrausers, Nuclear Throne

December 31, 2018 In this episode, Soren Johnson interviews veteran game designer Clint Hocking, who started his career working on the original Splinter Cell and was also the Creative Director of Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory and Far Cry 2. They discuss why games always need three months at the end, how he feels about his crunch on Chaos Theory, and how they choose Africa for Far Cry 2.

Games discussed: Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow, Far Cry 2

November 24, 2018 In this episode, Soren Johnson interviews veteran game designer Clint Hocking, who started his career working on the original Splinter Cell and was also the Creative Director of Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory and Far Cry 2. They discuss how his early time as a Dungeon Master informs his design work, how he took a huge pay cut to join the games industry, and how the Splinter Cell team was conflicted over dynamic gameplay vs. set piece content.

Games discussed: Space Invaders, Turbo, Dig Dug, Dragon’s Lair, Lode Runner, Ultima IV, Dungeons and Dragons, GURPS, Thief, Deus Ex, Rainbow Six, Alpha Centauri, Splinter Cell

October 6, 2018 In this episode, Soren Johnson interviews veteran game designer David Sirlin, best known for his work on Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix, Yomi, and Puzzle Strike. They discuss how many hit points are too many hit points, whether his work is post-modernist, and how to make the first move in Yomi. Also, listen to see if Soren can successfully pronounce iconoclast.

Games discussed: Fantasy Strike, Divekick, Rising Thunder, Yomi, Pandante, Puzzle Strike, Offworld Trading Company, Codex

August 8, 2018 In this episode, Soren Johnson interviews veteran game designer David Sirlin, best known for his work on Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix, Yomi, and Puzzle Strike. They discuss why games with more mechanics are not deeper, whether fighting games should also include cake baking, and why he didn’t end up designing Street Fighter 4.

Games discussed: the Street Fighter series, the Guilty Gear series, Yomi, Puzzle Fighter, Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo HD Remix, Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix, Death Jr., Kongai

June 22, 2018 In this episode, Soren Johnson interviews veteran game designer Brian Reynolds, best known for his work on Colonization, Civilization 2, Alpha Centauri, and Rise of Nations. They discuss why Big Huge made Rise of Legends instead of Rise of Nations 2, why you shouldn’t let a company provide you with a computer, and how he cost Zynga $800K from a spreadsheet error.

Games discussed: Rise of Nations, Rise of Legends, Settlers of Catan, Age of Empires 3: The Asian Dynasties, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, Farmville, Mafia Wars, FrontierVille, Brian Reynold’s Unreleased Fashion Game, CityVille 2, DomiNations

May 16, 2018 In this episode, Soren Johnson interviews veteran game designer Brian Reynolds, best known for his work on Colonization, Civilization 2, Alpha Centauri, and Rise of Nations. They discuss when Brian discovered Twilight Struggle, how Alpha Centauri influenced BioShock, and whether he could have made Rise of Nations at Firaxis.

Games discussed: Twilight Struggle, Civilization 2, Gettysburg, Alpha Centauri, BioShock, Call to Power, Rise of Nations

April 24, 2018 In this episode, Soren Johnson interviews veteran game designer Brian Reynolds, best know for his work on Colonization, Civilization 2, Alpha Centauri, and Rise of Nations. They discuss how his original dream job was to write compilers, all the bad decisions he needed to make to end up as a game designer, and his true feelings about the philosophy department at UC Berkley in the state of California.

Games discussed: Hannibal, Twilight Struggle, Pong, Space Invaders, Quest 1, the Ultima series, Rex Nebular and the Cosmic Gender Bender, Civilization 1, Colonization, Civilization 2

March 12, 2018 In this episode, Soren Johnson interviews independent game developer Chris Hecker, best known for his work on Spore and SpyParty. They discuss accessibility versus depth, when SpyParty suddenly became fun, and why Chris Hecker ruined Spore.

Games discussed: Spore, SpyParty, Offworld Trading Company

February 21, 2018 In this episode, Soren Johnson interviews independent game developer Chris Hecker, best known for his work on Spore and SpyParty. They discuss why game jams are no longer necessary, why the first triangle is always the hardest, and whether Powers of Ten was a good idea for a game.

Games discussed: SpyParty, DOOM, Ultima Underworld, Spore

January 17, 2018 In this episode, Adam Saltsman interviews independent game developer Manveer Heir, best known for his work on the Mass Effect franchise. They discuss the sunken cost fallacy and game development, why Mass Effect 3 would be a bad first game for a new developer, and when a game designer is like a baseball player and when it’s like a trauma surgeon.

Games discussed: Rise of Legends, Wolfenstein, Mass Effect series, No Man’s Sky

December 7, 2017 In this episode, Soren interviews independent game developer Tyler Sigman, best known as the designer of HOARD and Darkest Dungeon. They discuss how whether it makes sense to hide game data in the age of wikis, if Darkest Dungeon is too punishing or too forgiving, and what happened with the Corpse and Hound.

Games discussed: NITRO, Darkest Dungeon

Designer Notes

Soren Johnson of Mohawk Games interviews noted designers about why they make games.