24 - Bully (Canis Canem Edit)

A screenshot from the 2006 game Bully with Jimmy fully clothed in the shower, with a bull's head on. He's trespassing, too.
How 2006 PS2 hit Bully (aka Canis Canem Edit) showed an alternate future for Rockstar and the open-world genre, with its compromised-yet-brilliant schoolyard satire — here I dive deep into the game, not for its overblown controversies but rather for its struggles against technological limitations and its triumphs in world-building, satire, and focused, more intimate and structured open-world game design. And I wonder why, nearly 15 years on, open-world games continue to strive for bigger and bigger playgrounds filled with more and more trivial collectibles rather than building on the legacy of Bully's deliberate, glorious smallness.See full show notes and episode player…

23 - The Fog of War

A screenshot of the Warcraft II fog of war in action.
In war, no information is complete. No intelligence absolute. No view of the enemy unobstructed. There’s no such thing as perfect knowledge. It is a realm of uncertainty, where decisions are made on flawed and often outdated data — as though looking through a fog.

Hence the term, the fog of war, a military phrase with origins in the musings of a 19th century Prussian general called Carl von Clausewitz. A phrase that’s since found its way into video game lexicon, and video game design, as we explore here. (Featuring interview clips with former Blizzard lead programmer Patrick Wyatt about the fog of war in Warcraft II and StarCraft.)See full show notes and episode player…

Soundbite: Age of Empires and Civilization co-creator Bruce Shelley's 'inverted pyramid of decision making'

A photo of Bruce Shelley from the 2017 Game Developers Conference
Here's some great game design wisdom from one of the legends of the business — Age of Empires, Sid Meier's Civilization, and Sid Meier's Railroad Tycoon co-creator Bruce Shelley.
 See full show notes and episode player…

22 - Wololo

The Age of Empires monk in his 'convert' enemy unit pose, with the word wololo printed underneath
The sound designers from Age of Empires I and II, brothers Chris and Stephen Rippy, tell the story behind the iconic "wololo" priest chant — for converting enemy units to your side — that's since become a popular meme, as I delve into its strange legacy.
 See full show notes and episode player…

Bonus: The Rise & Fall of Ambrosia Software, '90s Mac Legends - PAX Aus 2019 talk

1990s logo for Ambrosia Software
While I'm away on my honeymoon, here's my complete talk from PAX Australia 2019, on the rise and fall of legendary shareware publisher Ambrosia Software.

The synopsis:

For Mac gamers in the 90s, the people of Ambrosia Software were rockstars. Heroes. And with brilliant games like Maelstrom, Escape Velocity, Harry the Handsome Executive, Apeiron, and more, plus a company newsletter that spoke directly to the fans, they could do no wrong. In light of Ambrosia's recent closure (finally!), Secret History of Mac Gaming author Richard Moss recounts the studio's high and lowpoints and tells the stories behind its best games.See full show notes and episode player…

21 - Pitfall Harry, the Jungle Runner

Front cover of the US release of Pitfall! for Atari 2600
It’s strange to think of a time before jumping was a standard video game action, to be expected whenever and wherever you have control over an individual character. A time before you could hop onto enemies’ heads and not die, or swing on ropes, or move back and forth across a vast level — many times wider than the screen.

But these ideas were rare, and just beginning to find their way into video game lexicon, when David Crane came along and with one single game turned them into tropes. With just one game that had begun as a simple tech demo of a running man. One game that would go on to define a console generation, amid 64 consecutive weeks atop the Billboard bestsellers chart and a whopping four million lifetime sales on a gaming system that itself sold 30 million units.

That one game is Pitfall!, or Jungle Runner, as it was called during development, an Indiana Jones-like adventure distilled into the (home console) video game technology of the era.

This is the story of Pitfall!'s creation and its phenomenal legacy, pieced together from myriad sources — interviews, reviews, history articles, promo videos, book chapters, retrospectives, and a 2011 postmortem delivered at the Game Developers' Conference by none other than David Crane himself.See full show notes and episode player…

20 - RealSound™ and Voice Characterisations

A screenshot of Dark Castle (Mac, 1986) showing the Fireball 1 level.
How a quest to put sound in an early Mac game helped usher in a revolution in computer game audio design and production.

Features interviews with tech entrepreneur Charlie Jackson and former Adobe and Microsoft executive Eric Zocher, who together co-founded 1980s software company Silicon Beach Software — a pioneer in creative software tools and desktop publishing, as well as the publisher of several popular games (two of which we cover here: Airborne and the original Mac version of Dark Castle).See full show notes and episode player…

   

The Life & Times of Video Games

A documentary and narrative-style podcast about video games and the video game industry — as they were in the past — and how they came to be the way they are today.

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