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 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

February 19, 2022 In this episode, Soren interviews veteran game developer Robin Hunicke, co-founder of Funomena and best known for her work on MySims, Boom Blox, and Journey. They discuss why developers overperform their authority in large companies, how they almost accidentally made Journey a competitive game, and why they decided to let thatgamecompany run out of money to ship the game. This episode was recorded December 1, 2021.

Game discussed: Journey

February 3, 2022 In this episode, Soren interviews veteran game developer Robin Hunicke, co-founder of Funomena and best known for her work on MySims, Boom Blox, and Journey. They discuss why HyperCard was so great, why AI development is game design, and how Steven Spielberg almost made Angry Birds for EA. This episode was recorded March 24, 2018.

Games discussed: Pitfall, M.U.L.E., Offworld Trading Company, XCOM, Tomb Raider, Prince of Persia, Half-Life, Spore, Katamari Damacy, The Sims 2, MySims, Boom Blox, Nintendo Land

January 10, 2022 In this episode, Soren interviews veteran RPG designer Josh Sawyer, best known for his work on Icewind Dale, Fallout: New Vegas, and Pillars of Eternity. They discuss the purpose of grinding, the difference between viable and optimal characters, and why RPG players don’t welcome rebalancing their games. This episode was recorded December 1, 2021.

Games discussed: Baldur’s Gate series, Icewind Dale series, Neverwinter Nights, Fallout series, Civilization series, Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows, Neverwinter Nights 2, Alpha Protocol, Fallout: New Vegas, Pillars of Eternity series, Into the Breach, Torchbearer, Tyranny, Darkest Dungeon, Phantom Doctrine

December 8, 2021 In this episode, Soren interviews veteran RPG designer Josh Sawyer, best known for his work on Icewind Dale, Fallout: New Vegas, and Pillars of Eternity. They discuss how making a website for a tattoo parlor led to his game career, what is the purpose of traps in an RPG, and how much lore is too much lore. This episode was recorded March 24, 2018.

Games discussed: Adventure, Ultima series, Bard’s Tale series, Gold Box series, Dungeons & Dragons, Pillars of Eternity, Tyranny, Darklands, Quake, Planescape Torment, Icewind Dale series, Baldur’s Gate series

November 20, 2021 In this episode, Soren interviews veteran game developer Chet Faliszek, who co-founded Stray Bombay and is best known for his work at Valve on games such as Left 4 Dead and Portal 2. They discuss what shampoo sales have to do with Old Man Murray, why he tests his games in a foreign language, and why game design is easier for co-op games. This episode was recorded August 17, 2021.

Games discussed: Pong, Tecmo Bowl, Civilization series, Archon, M.U.L.E., Racing Destruction Set, Gin, Hearts, Doom, Quake, Tribes, Myth, Half-Life 2, Team Fortress 2, Left 4 Dead, Old World, Left 4 Dead 2, Portal 1, Portal 2, Counterstrike, Half-Life: Alyx, Crusader Kings series, The Anacrusis, Deep Rock Galactic, Killing Floor 2, Risk of Rain 2, Payday 2, GTFO, Hades

October 20, 2021 In this episode, Soren interviews independent game developer Andy Schatz, who founded Pocketwatch Games and is best known for his work on Monaco and Tooth and Tail. This episode was recorded March 23, 2018. They discuss what Monaco and Rashomon have in common, how familiarity with your best players can be more valuable than metrics, and why the flag bearer in Tooth and Tail can’t attack.

Games discussed: Monaco, Spore, Tooth and Tail, Whacked!, Payday, Hotline Miami, Minecraft, Terraria, Pikmin, Offworld Trading Company

September 16, 2021 In this episode, Soren interviews independent game developer Andy Schatz, who founded Pocketwatch Games and is best known for his work on Monaco and Tooth and Tail. This episode was recorded March 23, 2018. They discuss how he tried to live out Ultima’s virtues, why no one was ever able to rip-off The Sims, and why we both hate click-the-stick.

Games discussed: Ultima series, Minecraft, Halo, X-COM, Star Trek: Hidden Evil, Whacked!, The Sims, GoldenEye: Rogue Agent, Wildlife Tycoon: Venture Africa, Wildlife Tycoon: Venture Arctic, Monaco, Geometry Wars

July 15, 2021 In this episode, Soren interviews board game designer Rob Daviau, best known for his work on Risk: Legacy and Pandemic: Legacy. They discuss the criteria for a good Legacy game, how to put just a little PvP in a game without overdoing it, and why he removed his phone number from his website.

Games discussed: Risk: Legacy, Pandemic: Legacy, XCOM 2, Seafall, Conspiracy, Stop Thief

April 25, 2021 In this episode, Soren interviews board game designer Rob Daviau, best known for his work on Risk: Legacy and Pandemic: Legacy. They discuss bluffing his way through his first game job interview, how he designed Betrayal at House on the Hill without either starting or finishing it, and why Risk Legacy bombed in Germany.

Games discussed: Candy Land, Impossible Mission, Dungeons and Dragons, Trivial Pursuit, Scruples, Atlantis: Pathways to the Deep, Mountains of Madness, Pandemic: Legacy, Betrayal at House on the Hill, Risk 2210, Risk: Black Ops, Risk: Legacy

February 25, 2021 In this episode, Soren interviews independent game designer David Dunham, best known for his work on the narrative strategy games King of Dragon Pass and Six Ages. They are joined by writer and designer Meg Jayanth, best known for her work on 80 Days. The three discuss whether the advisors in Dragon Pass lie to the player, what Six Ages and 80 Days have in common, and whether the anthropomorphic ducks are ducks with human-level intelligence or humans who have been turned into ducks.

Games discussed: King of Dragon Pass, Pendragon, Fallen London, 80 Days, Six Ages, Sunless Sea, Castles, Hearthstone, Battle of the Bulge, Really Bad Chess, Drive on Moscow

Designer Notes

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