I've been involved in video games since I was three years old.
I obviously have no memory of this. I'm told it was Rocky's Boots on a computer at the Seattle Science Center. Apparently I spent two hours going through the tutorial.
That got me started in games – or rather, got my parents started in showing me games. I played a large number of Learning Company games, including the classic Oregon Trail. My first action game was Beast. But the most important game in my early history was likely ZZT, a text-mode game that included a powerful editor to make your own levels.
I quickly got involved in ZZT level editing. In retrospect, my efforts were, frankly, abysmal. I made levels that you could only solve if you'd designed them, quests that never ended but instead branched into more and more subquests (and sub-subquests, and sub-sub-subquests), and rooms that charitably be described as ugly. But this is where it all started.
Many years later I got a job at Snowblind Studios and was involved in the development of Everquest: Champions of Norrath. From there I went to work at Google for two and a half years. Now I'm starting Mandible Games, my own studio, producing my own games.
Through the entire thing, I've been playing all the games I could get my hands on. I played many games now considered classics on release. I've played popular games, obscure games, independent games, and games that basically nobody has heard of.
The one thing that seems to be very inconsistent is fun. There are always games stressing the latest graphical advances, whether those are real-time terrain deformation or simply "hey look, graphics". There are always games trying to be more epic than the last one. But it seems most companies are trying to be more, trying to be better in one particular area than anyone else on the planet.
Mandible, of course, isn't an exception. What we intend to do is make fun games. Our focus is solely on good games – the kind of game that you rave about to your friends, the kind that might not be hailed as a Breakthrough in the Field of Gaming on its release day but will be remembered for years as a solid, fun game. We want to make the next Super Metroid. The next X-COM. The next System Shock 2 or the next Portal.
Fundamentally, I feel that if our games get five-star reviews, and everyone raves solely about how marvelous our graphics are, we have failed. However, if our games get three-star reviews and the best feature is that our games are simply fun . . . well, that's more what I'm looking for.
Obviously, of course, I'd prefer five-star fun games.
Our games may not be for everyone. I'm not sure it's possible to make games for everyone – I know people who hate every one of those games listed above. Our games are primarily for ourselves, built to be the kind of games we've always wanted to play. We're simply hoping that enough other people will want to play them that we can keep making them.
This journal is for commentary on game design and the game industry in general. I can't promise insightful posts every week, but I'll do my best. I don't intend for this to be a soapbox where I personally rant to the world on how I feel games should be built – the comment areas and forums are open for everyone. Fundamentally, Mandible is about making good games, and that means getting feedback from gamers.
I'm the creator and currently the sole employee of Mandible Games. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or comments.