Throughout the years, many game developers have bounced ideas off me, asked me questions, and so on. I have, and will always, welcome these inquiries because I believe it’s for the greater good of the industry. Since I have always been interested in creating and exploring ideas, I’ll gladly help when someone wants information. Three occasions in particular are worth relating:
In 1985 an auto mechanic who owned an Atari 520ST called me to pick my brain about game design and various game projects that he was working on. For several months we talked, and he often sent me samples of his artwork as well as demos of the concepts we’d discussed. Sometime around 1987 he had an interview with a major publisher and discussed taking the demos and artwork with him. I encouraged him and wished him success. A few weeks later he announced that he was hired as a “platform level” designer. Within months he became the top “platform level” game designer for this company, and he worked on the most well known titles in the industry. He eventually left this publisher to join another equally large publisher as the head of game design. He appeared in several magazines displaying his platform level designs. To this day, I’ve never met him and have only seen him in the magazine articles that he sent me, but I feel happy that I was a small influence in his life and in the industry.
Today he writes a column for gaming sites like Gignews.com helping other “wanna-be” game designers.
When I was working on All Dogs Go To Heaven, a game for the PC and Amiga based on the Don Bluth film, I met a young man who worked at an arcade. On several occasions I gave him $10 in tokens to show me the latest video games. As he played, I observed him and asked questions like, “How did you know to do that?” After we got to know each other better, he showed me several comic book sketches that he had drawn, which were great. When I was contracted to produce and develop All Dogs Go To Heaven, I asked him to do all the artwork. Since he was new to computer graphics and animation, I taught him the mechanics of using a Summagraphics tablet and the functions and features of various graphics packages. He learned quickly and produced some of the finest artwork that CGA (four-color palette) and EGA (16-color palette) would allow. After the release of this title, he went to work for a Florida publisher as a computer and video game graphic artist. When the company moved to California, he moved with them. The last I heard, he was moving on to one of the big publishers as a senior graphics person.
A high school student sent me a concept for a game show. The description read well, but the demo he sent me was terrible. Over several months on the phone, we fixed many of the game’s rules and aspects of the gameplay, which greatly improved the game show. I programmed the game and hired an artist to provide the graphics. When I went to Villa Crespo Software outside of Chicago, we published this game show, which we called Combination Lock. The game was fun to play, and it was the first product to feature on-screen players of all races. The high school student and I shared in the profits for several years.
The reason I relate these stories is that I want to emphasize the benefit to those who help budding game developers. When the opportunity to help someone comes knocking on the door, offer that person hospitality and kindness. The results will benefit the “seeker of knowledge,” honor you, “the master,” and benefit the industry as more creative thinkers join in.