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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December 5, 2023 In this episode, Soren interviews veteran game developer Jake Solomon, best known for the XCOM reboot and Midnight Suns. They discuss how much money he had to give back to Accenture, how to animate multiple units at the same time, and why Sid suddenly started golfing so much. This episode was recorded on April 25, 2023.

Games discussed: Sopwith, Silent Service, Zork, Jumpman, Ultima V, Falcon 4, F-19 Stealth Fighter, Pirates!, Dungeons and Dragons, X-COM: UFO Defense, Midnight Suns, Warcraft 2, Doom, Duke Nukem, Age of Empires 2, Civilization 3, Dinosaurs!, SimGolf, Civilization 4, Civilization: Revolution, XCOM: Enemy Unknown

October 9, 2023 In this episode, Soren interviews veteran game developer Trent Kusters, co-founder of League of Geeks, best known for the strategy game Armello. They discuss why Armello has so much output randomness, whether they fudge the odds, and how to turn off a Game-as-a- Service. This episode was recorded on September 8, 2023.

Games discussed: Armello, Magic: The Gathering, Solium Infernum, Talisman, Old World, Tharsis, Jumplight Odyssey

September 25, 2023 In this episode, Soren interviews veteran game developer Trent Kusters, co-founder of League of Geeks, best known for the strategy game Armello. They discuss how he faked his way into games journalism, how to sneak risky ideas past licensors, and how to make games feel big. This episode was recorded on September 8, 2023.

Games discussed: Pong, Trog, Zoo Hospital, Stunt Flyer: Heroes of the Skies, Monster Jam: Urban Assault, Scooby-Doo: First Frights, Scooby-Doo and the Spooky Swamp, Armello, Ocarina of Time, Bloodborne, Offworld Trading Company, Old World, Jumplight Odyssey, Crusader Kings series

August 14, 2023 In this episode, Soren interviews tabletop designer Cole Wehrle, best known for his work on Root, Oath, Pax Pamir, and John Company. They discuss whether John Company is satire, how the East India Company was like QWOP, and the importance of German postal rates. This episode was recorded on March 22, 2023.

Games discussed: Stratego, Dungeons and Dragons, Battlecry, Diplomacy, Mafia, Oath, Settlers of Catan, Struggle of Empires, High Frontier, Pax Pamir, John Company, Pax Porfiriana, Levy & Campaign series, Root, An Infamous Traffic, Republic of Rome, Greed Incorporated, QWOP, Kremlin, Power Grid, Old World

June 23, 2023 In this episode, Soren interviews veteran game designer Tanya Short, co-founder of Kitfox Games and best known for her work on Moon Hunters and Boyfriend Dungeon. They discuss why her parents had to get a second phone like, how she accidentally made a roguelike, and whether Moon Hunters should have combat. This episode was recorded on March 23, 2023.

Games discussed: Bubble Bobble, Various MUDs, Boyfriend Dungeon, A Tale In the Desert, Morrowind, World of WarCraft, Ultima Online, Age of Conan, The Secret World, Fashion Week Live, For Honor, Dungeons of Fate, Moon Hunters, Puzzle Pirates, Oasis, Dragon Age Legends, Shattered Planet, Civilization, King of Dragon Pass, Spore, 80 Days, Seven Cities of Gold, Worlds of Ultima: The Savage Empire, Hatoful Boyfriend, Dream Daddy, Pentiment, Immortality

May 3, 2023 In this episode, Soren and Leyla interview veteran game designer Charlie Cleveland, founder of Unknown Worlds and best known for his work on Natural Selection and Subnautica. They discuss why Moonbreaker is the first digital miniatures game, if players would notice if critical hits were removed, and whether the game should have an undo. This episode was recorded on March 19, 2023.

Games discussed: Moonbreaker, Warhammer series, Hardspace: Shipbreaker, Magic: The Gathering, Civilization 4, Duelyst, Marvel Snap, Air Land & Sea, Old World, KeyForge, Subnautica, CPU Bach

April 13, 2023 In this episode, Soren and Leyla interview veteran game designer Charlie Cleveland, founder of Unknown Worlds and best known for his work on Natural Selection and Subnautica. They discuss why Charlie Cleveland moved to Cleveland, how he did Kickstarter before Kickstarter, and whether Subnautica was intended to be a survival game. This episode was recorded on March 20, 2022.

Games discussed: Pong, Dungeons and Dragons, Magic: The Gathering, Diplomacy, Aquarium Fighter, MindRover, Empire Earth, Natural Selection, Roblox, Natural Selection 2, Subnautica, Don’t Starve

March 15, 2023 In this episode, Soren interviews veteran game designer Liz England, best known for her work on Scribblenauts, Sunset Overdrive, and Watch Dogs: Legion. They discuss how she organized her mom’s RPG inventories, what is the boiling point of a lion, and whether system complexity matters if the player can’t see it. This episode was recorded on September 17, 2022.

Games discussed: Alice in Wonderland, Time Zone, The Outer Wilds, Might and Magic: World of Xeen, Heroes of Might and Magic, Unreal, Drawn to Life, Scribblenauts series, Resistance 3, Sunset Overdrive, Sea of Thieves, Watch Dogs: Legion, Old World, Crusader Kings series, The Sims series

January 10, 2023 In this episode, Soren and Leyla interview veteran game designer Harvey Smith, best known for his work on the Deus Ex and Dishonored series. They discuss what TDA stood for at Origin, if Dishonored is just Thief but faster, and why it is sometimes better to be heavy handed. This episode was recorded on March 23, 2022.

Games discussed: Pong, Adventure, Defender, Dungeons and Dragons, Elden Ring, Ultima Underworld, System Shock, Fireteam, Deus Ex series, Dishonored series, Redfall

November 29, 2022 In this episode, Soren interviews independent game developer Matthew Davis, co-founder of Subset Games and best known for his work on FTL and Into the Breach. They discuss whether FTL is a roguelike, how they resolve conflict at Subset, and whether Soren can convince them to add unlimited undo to Into the Breach. This episode was recorded on Sept 19, 2022.

Games discussed: Super Mario World, Secret of Mana, Fallout series, Scorched Earth, MLB 2K ???, HeroQuest, Ticket to Ride, Battle Line, FTL, Red November, Tetris, DOTA 2, League of Legends, Spelunky, Civilization series, Slay the Spire, Vampire Survivors, Into the Breach, XCOM series, Final Fantasy Tactics, Fire Emblem series, Tactics Ogre, Advance Wars series, Triangle Strategy, Old World, Offworld Trading Company, Invisible Inc., Civilization: The Card Game

October 9, 2022 In this episode, Soren interviews independent game developer Justin Ma, co-founder of Subset Games and best known for his work on FTL and Into the Breach. They discuss how he bombed his first game industry interview, why the AI in FTL can’t behave like a human, and whether Into the Breach should have unlimited undo. This episode was recorded on March 24, 2022.

Games discussed: Pitfall, Manhole, StarTropics, Top Sin, FTL, NetHack, Stone Soup, Spelunky, Into the Breach, XCOM series, Wildermyth, Old World

August 15, 2022 In this episode, Soren and Leyla interview independent game developer Chris DeLay, co-founder of Introversion Software and best known for his work on Uplink, Darwinia, Defcon, and Prison Architect. They discuss how to play Prison Architect without a prison, why the game needed cutscenes, and how to design an economy when the world is ending. This episode was recorded on March 24, 2022.

Games discussed: Prison Architect, Scanner Sombre, The Last Starship, Academia: School Simulator, Road to Ruin, Oxygen Not Included, Dwarf Fortress, Old World

June 27, 2022 In this episode, Soren and Leyla interview independent game developer Chris DeLay, co-founder of Introversion Software and best known for his work on Uplink, Darwinia, Defcon, and Prison Architect. They discuss why they hid the credits screen for Uplink, who Darwinia’s Dr. Sepulveda is based on, and whether you can have too much fun playing Defcon. This episode was recorded on March 22, 2022.

Games discussed: Thundercats, Civilization, Pirates!, Theme Park, Dungeon Keeper, Cannon Fodder, Elite, Chaos, Defcon, Uplink, Darwinia, Geometry Wars, Multiwinia, Subversion, Elite Dangerous, Prison Architect, Invisible Inc, Burgle Bros, Monaco, Gunpoint

May 18, 2022 In this episode, Tom Chick and Bruce Geryk interview Soren and Leyla Johnson about their new historical 4X, Old World. They discuss whether the Old World timeline really makes sense, how they approach Early Access differently, and why Soren didn’t want to give up on the name 10 Crowns.

Games discussed: Old World, Civilization series, FrontierVille, Neptune’s Pride, Crusader Kings series, King of Dragon Pass, XCOM, Empires of the Middle Ages, Alpha Centauri, Seven Cities of Gold, Colonization, Power Grid

March 28, 2022 In this episode, Soren interviews Luca Redwood, the developer of 10000000, You Must Build a Boat, and Photographs. They discuss why 10000000 has no commas, how he makes sure the player never gets unlucky, and why you need to build a boat. This episode was recorded March 18, 2019.

Games discussed: Morph, Suikoden I, Suikoden II, 10000000, Puzzle Quest, Chuzzle, Dungeon Raid, Henry Hatsworth, The World Ends with You, Path of Exile, You Must Build a Boat, Civilization III, Civilization IV, Photographs

Designer Notes

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