Soundbite: Henk Rogers on randomness and dilemmas in Tetris

A screenshot of Tetris for the Nintendo Game Boy
For the 35th anniversary of Tetris' original Russian version, I pulled out this clip from my interview with Henk Rogers — co-founder of The Tetris Company and the dude who got Tetris handheld and console publishing rights back in the 1980s (and also creator of what was arguably the first JRPG, The Black Onyx).

Listen for Henk's memories about the strategy inherent in the game's scoring system and the story of how they fixed a bias in the Game Boy version's random number generator.See full show notes and episode player…

Soundbite: Scott Kim shares a few secrets of puzzle design

Legendary puzzle designer Scott Kim discusses the process and principles of puzzle-making for games. This is excerpted from an interview I conducted while researching my book The Secret History of Mac Gaming.

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Bonus: Game devs on the impact of the original Mac

For any of you who aren't aware, last week was the 35th anniversary of the release of the original Mac. I published a Medium article to celebrate the milestone, and here now you can listen to an audio version of that. It's 14 current and former game developers talking about the early Macintosh computer and how it inspired them to make something insanely great.

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2 - Airfight

The story of the one of the earliest flight simulator games, Airfight, a favourite among the PLATO community back in 1973, based on an interview with its creator. Airfight was a multiplayer flight combat sim with wireframe graphics and real-time chat, and it was an influence on the first home computer flight simulator, subLOGIC's fittingly-named 1980 game Flight Simulator for the Apple II and TRS-80.
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5 - FIFA 3DO

A screenshot of FIFA International Soccer for 3DO, showing a Brazilian player falling after a heavy tackle. The camera is positioned on the field, pointing towards the corner flag, and the crowd is visible in the background.
A story from the dawn of 3D sports games, and the forgotten link between the 16-bit isometric and 32-bit 3D EA Sports games — this is how FIFA 3DO transformed the way sport was represented in video games.See full show notes and episode player…

7 - The Tomb Raider grid (part 1)

A screenshot of Lara doing a swan dive in Tomb Raider III

Every aspect of the original Core Design Tomb Raider series (and by extension the franchise's success post-Core) comes back to the grid that lies beneath it — the majority of the puzzles; the platforming; the cavernous chambers and ruins and outdoor areas that provide a sense of isolation, of solitude and discovery; and Lara Croft's iconic acrobatic movement style.

And yet it never would have happened if not for one pragmatic choice made by a programmer early in the game's development.

This is the story of how that came to be, and how it made Tomb Raider…well, Tomb Raider, based on interviews with Heather Stevens (née Gibson) and Gavin Rummery as well as my past work covering Tomb Raider's history as a freelancer.

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8 - The Tomb Raider grid (part 2)

Screenshot of Lara running
Continuing the story from Part 1, this is how the original Tomb Raider's grid-based engine/level editor impacted on the series, on Lara Croft's rise to fame, and on the shifting sands of blockbuster game development. This episode also discusses the place that such a grid system has — or might have — in game design today. Featuring input from former Core Design artists and level designers Heather Stevens and Andy Sandham as well as programmer Gavin Rummery.See full show notes and episode player…

9 - Midwinter

The title screen for Midwinter shows a man in armour overlooking a mountainside town or industrial complex that appears poised to explode.

On the late Mike Singleton and the importance of Midwinter and The Lords of Midnight, his two great works. After switching from high school English teaching to professional game development in the 1980s, Mike quickly rose to the top of the industry. His games pushed the limits of what was possible, and he routinely crafted worlds that were way ahead of their time.

Here, based on archival research and old magazine interviews, I present part of his incredible story.

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10 - Dogz

A screenshot of the
Frustrated by the unjustified furore that surrounded his tame interactive movie game, designer Rob Fulop turned to Santa for help. And with a clever business model he and his team at PF Magic invented a new kind of game, one in which you adopt and care for a digital animal — a virtual dog or cat, or something more exotic, with a personality and needs and quirks not unlike a real one.See full show notes and episode player…

11 - Bomberman

On June 11th, 2018, character designer and artist Shoji Mizuno passed away. He was a key figure back in the 1990s at the now-defunct Hudson Soft, a renowned Japanese games publisher — having directed art or design, or sometimes both, on more than a dozen games in the popular Bomberman franchise as well as providing original character designs for the Beyblade anime series.

Since this year is also the 35th anniversary of the release of the first Bomberman game on the MSX, I thought now would be a good time to look back on how the explosive puzzle franchise made its way into the world — and into the hearts of millions.See full show notes and episode player…

13 - Girl Games, Inc.

On the 90s girl games movement, and its assault on the status quo of the video game market, featuring Girl Games Inc founder and former filmmaker Laura Groppe.See full show notes and episode player…

16 - Sega Rally Championship

Sega-Rally-Championship
Sega Rally Championship changed everything for the racing genre, and the 1995 off-road arcade hit was an incredible game too. This is the story of its development, critical reception, and long-term legacy.See full show notes and episode player…

14 - Lode Runner

A screenshot of Lode Runner for the Apple II
The story of how a terrible description of the Donkey Kong arcade game led to the creation of Lode Runner, one of the greatest games of all time and one of the earliest games with a built-in level editor. See full show notes and episode player…

19 - Premier Manager

Amiga_Format_Issue_065_1994_11_Future_Publishing_GB_0064
On the rise and fall of the Premier Manager series of soccer management games — a former PC gaming juggernaut that lost its way amidst a shuffle of developers and publishers — and the part it played in the broader consolidation and homogenisation of sports games (of all kinds) over the past 20 years or so.See full show notes and episode player…

17 - Super Mario Kart

Screenshot of the Rainbow Road track from Super Mario Kart
How Nintendo and its mascot created a genre, and a combat-racing franchise heavyweight, and in the process gave us a masterclass in game balance, with the best-selling 1992 Super Nintendo game Super Mario Kart.See full show notes and episode player…

18 - Hogs of War

hogs-poster
Far from a mere "Worms in 3D", Hogs of War was its own breed of madness. Hear the story of how it evolved from a concept of "Command and Conquer with pigs", what made it such a well-designed satire, and how this underrated PlayStation game saw the funny side of serious global conflict.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.