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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June 18, 2020 In this episode, Soren interviews veteran game developer Jon Ingold, who co-founded inkle and is best known for his work in interactive fiction, including All Roads, 80 Days, and the Sorcery! series. They discuss why Plundered Hearts is his favorite Infocom game, how being a maths teacher is like being a level designer, and when he realized that parsers were a commercial dead-end.

Games discussed: Psi-5 Trading Company, Rogue, Out There, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Deadline, The Witness, Plundered Hearts, Starcross, Blade Runner, Curses!, The Mulldoon Legacy, All Roads, Make It Good, Heavy Rain, Frankenstein, the Sorcery! series

May 26, 2020 In this episode, Bruce Geryk interviews veteran game developer Roger Keating, co-founder of Strategic Studies Group (SSG). Roger is best known for his work on the Warlord series as well as many digital wargames. They discuss what it was like to do pathfinding before A*, how SSG worked from home before it was cool, and how to determine who is a game designer.

Games discussed: Conflict, Operation Apocalypse, Reach for the Stars, Carriers at War, Europe Ablaze, Gold of the Americas, the Warlords series, Ardennes Offensive

February 14, 2020 In this episode, Soren and Leyla Johnson interview Creative Director Michał Drozdowski and Art Director Przemysław Marszał of 11 Bit Studios, best known for their work on This War Of Mine and Frostpunk. They discuss why This War of Mine does not judge the player and why Frostpunk does.

Games discussed: Anomaly, Anomaly: Korea, Anomaly 2, Funky Smugglers, Sleepwalker’s Journey, This War of Mine, Frostpunk

December 18, 2019 In this episode, Soren interviews game designer Alex Hutchinson, Creative Director at Typhoon Studios and best known for his work on Spore, Assassin’s Creed 3, and Far Cry 4. They discuss how they both would have screwed up SimCity, how working at Ubisoft is like Brewster’s Millions, and what happened with Spore.

Games discussed: Pepper 2, Sensible Soccer, SimCity, The Urbz, The Sims 2, Spore, Army of Two: The 40th Day, Assassin’s Creed 3, Far Cry 4, Journey to the Savage Planet

November 1, 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 Mario speed runs are the original infinite runners, why Canabalt is in 6 shades of grey, and when does Permadeath make sense for a game Games discussed: Canabalt, Captain Forever, Jetpack Joyride, Alone, Hundreds, Portico, Overland, 868-HACK, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, XCOM 2

Games discussed: Canabalt, Captain Forever, Jetpack Joyride, Alone, Hundreds, Portico, Overland, 868-HACK, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, XCOM 2

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

Designer Notes

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