This forgotten video game helped pave the way for Madden NFL

"While we did not end up completing the game for legal reasons, the work we did under contract with EA, using Gridiron's underlying engine and game-system technology, heavily influenced the early Madden series and paved the way for what it is today," Christopher Weaver, the Bethesda Softworks founder, explained in Gamers at Work: Stories Behind the Games People Play."

Read the full article at The Washington Post ›

Richard Garriott on the Murder of Lord British

In the 9-hour interview I conducted with Ultima creator Richard Garriott de Cayeux, partly published in Online Game Pioneers at Work, he recounted the story of how his in-game avatar was murdered in Ultima Online during the beta.

Ramsay: I read about a story that you had an entertaining experience during the beta. Tell me about the assassination of Lord British.

Garriott: That was at the very end of the beta. That was like, literally, the last five minutes of the beta. Would you like my recounting of that story?

Ramsay: Sure.

Garriott: So, as the final day approached, first of all, we knew we were going to have to do a player wipe because, during the beta, people found exploits where they duplicated tons of gold. People had found all kinds of ways to steal the time we were done with the beta process. Since we were going to do a player wipe, we decided to have a big event for the finale and thank everyone who had been there in the beta. No one had been charged during the beta other than the $5 for the disc, and as soon as we launched for real, we were going to start charging people a subscription fee.

We decided to do this day-long event where Starr Long and I would go from town to town all over the whole world, seeing as many of the players as we could face-to-face. Then we'd do a broadcast where everyone in the whole world would hear what we had to say. And so we planned this long series of stops and we went from town to town, shaking hands with people, saying thank you, and so forth, and even the first parts of it were amazing.

The number of people who were online and in each of their favorite cities was just astounding for us to watch. I would hope that the people there also felt that it was special. So, they would do things in various towns. In some towns, it was just a free-for-all. In others, people were organized and they had lined up their groups like all of the fighters in one place and all of the magic users in another place, or arranged by color in columns, much like a militaristic revealing of the troops, you might say.

There were funny things that happened, too. In the city of Moonglow, a huge number of people all stood across from where we were going to stand to make our speech, and while we were there making our speeches, all of them took off every stitch of clothing they had, faced north, and away from us and bowed, which basically means they mooned us in Moonglow.

And then, finally, we meandered to the last stop and the last stop was Trinsic. On the outer wall of Trinsic, Starr Long and I stood amongst the final group we were speaking with. We were within minutes of the servers coming down. We had another programmer who literally had his finger on the button. At precisely on the hour, he was going to turn the whole thing off.

As Starr and I were there chatting, a person who at that moment was unknown to us cast a Fire Field spell up in the parapet where Starr and I were both standing, actually engulfing both Starr and me in flames. My first instinctive reaction was to step backwards out of the fire, so I stepped away. But when I stepped backwards, I couldn't see what's happening farther up the north edge of the screen, and I thought to myself, "Oh, I don't need to walk out of this fire. I'm Lord British. I'm immortal. It makes no difference." So, I stepped forward back into the fire, assuming it was harmless to me—and then fell over dead. All of a sudden, we realized the horror of this moment.

The reason why I died was because six months previous, the last time we did a wipe, I had forgotten to set the immortality flag on my character. For six months, we had never noticed because no one had ever tried to kill Lord British. I had never been involved in anything even remotely dangerous, and my stats were very high, so killing me was not trivial. I had just been merrily going about my life for six months thinking I was immortal, and I was not. And when you die, including me when I die, everyone becomes a ghost.

As a ghost, if you tried to talk to somebody, you just went, "Ooo." So, I was there just ooo'ing. No one else was in my office. Everyone else was spread out around the building. And we didn't bother to get on a phone conference because we could all chat in the game, but now not me.

So, now I'm cut off from the rest of the team, and the rest of the team is going, "Oh my god, Lord British is dead. What do we do about it?" And part of the staff was doing things like trying to resurrect me, and part of the QA was on conference with each other going, "Quick, somebody figure out how to get Richard resurrected."

The other part of the group that was there were there invisibly or visibly to watch the final moments of the game with a couple of thousand players. And, in these groups, they were going like, "Who did it? How can we figure out who killed Lord British?" Later, we went into the data logs and found out it was a person named Rainz, but at this moment, we had no way to tell who had created that Fire Field. So, immediately, the staff was going like, "Well, we've got to punish the person who did it. We've got to find a way to punish the person who killed Lord British." But they couldn't figure out who it was, so somewhere in that throng of chaos, someone came up with the idea: "If we can't figure out who killed Lord British, let's kill them all."

That idea was quickly adopted by the rest of staff immediately, just so right as I'm resurrected, the massacre had already begun. All of the invisible employees had turned themselves visible, and people started summoning demons and dragons. People started directly using kill spells to just kill one player right after the other. They were summoning lightning storms, and, basically, any manner of mayhem the employees could think of to unleash upon these people in the audience. And, of course, we, the employees, thought this was hilarious.

However, some of the people being massacred didn't think it was nearly as hilarious as we did. What was happening to them is that when they were being killed, their ghost was sent all the way back to a shrine miles away from the city. So, in these last two or three minutes, instead of getting to sit there in Trinsic and watch the beauty of the whole world collapse, they were getting cast out into the wilderness as ghosts. And so they're all wandering through the woods trying to find their way back while this massacre is going on throughout the city of Trinsic when finally kaboom, the whole server came down.

Ramsay: That sounds like a blast.

Garriott: It was. It was hilarious. But it did anger some of the players I must confess, but oh well.

Interviews in History: Alex Haley

Playboy has published many of the greatest celebrity interviews of all time since September 1962, starting with an interview by Alex Haley with jazz legend Miles Davis. Having set the stage for generations to come, Haley became one of the best interviewers in history.

Alex Haley (right) on the cover of Time magazine (February 4, 1977)

I highly recommend Haley's tense interview with the infamous George Lincoln Rockwell, founder of the American Nazi Party, one year before Rockwell's murder.

Excerpt: George Lincoln Rockwell (April 1966)

HALEY: Before we begin, Commander, I wonder if you'd mind telling me why you're keeping that pistol there at your elbow, and this armed bodyguard between us.

ROCKWELL: Just a precaution. You may not be aware of the fact that I have received literally thousands of threats against my life. Most of them are from cranks, but some of them haven't been; there are bullet holes all over the outside of this building. Just last week, two gallon jugs of flaming gasoline were flung against the house right under my window. I keep this gun within reach and a guard beside me during interviews because I've been attacked too many times to take any chances.

I haven't been jumped by an impostor, but it wasn't long ago that 17 guys claiming to be from the university came here to "interview" me; nothing untoward happened, but we later found out they were armed and planned to tear down the flag, burn the joint and beat me up. Only the fact that we were ready for that kind of rough stuff kept it from happening. We've never yet had to hurt anybody, but only because I think they all know we're ready to fight any time. If you're who you claim to be, you have nothing to fear.

HALEY: I don't.

ROCKWELL: Good. Just so we both know where we stand, I'd like to make something else crystal clear before we begin. I'm going to be honest and direct with you. You're here in your professional capacity. I'm here in my professional capacity. While here, you'll be treated well—but I see you're a black interviewer. It's nothing personal, but I want you to understand that I don't mix with your kind, and we call your race "niggers."

HALEY: I've been called "nigger" many times, Commander, but this is the first time I'm being paid for it. So you go right ahead. What have you got against us "niggers"?

Great interviews have great beginnings. How's that for starting with a bang?

Most interviews today are conducted remotely, usually by phone or e-mail, but this classic in-person interview allowed for setting a great sense of place! You can just imagine Haley, a black man with a tape recorder, surrounded by armed white nationalists and seated fearlessly before Rockwell in an uneasy truce, ready to hit the deck at the first sign of trouble.

In Brief: Alex Haley

While Haley went on to interview other pivotal figures of the 1960s, such as boxing legend Cassius Clay (later Muhammad Ali), civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., and late-night king Johnny Carson, Haley began his rise to prominence as a writer and interviewer with the publication of The Autobiography of Malcolm X in 1965, borne out of his 50+ interviews with the activist.

By the time Haley won the Pulitzer Prize in 1977 for Roots: The Saga of an American Family, the Malcolm X autobiography had sold more than 6 million copies. Roots, a novelization of his family's story, became an 8-part television series with more than 130 million viewers. The miniseries won 9 Primetime Emmy Awards, a Golden Globe, a Peabody Award, a DGA Award, and remains the third highest-rated US television program. The lead role was played by LeVar Burton, who would later boldly go where no one has gone before in the Star Trek universe!

Unfortunately, despite being an admitted fiction, Roots was immediately plagued with allegations of plagiarism and historical inaccuracies. One related lawsuit was settled and another was dismissed by the court which found that "no actionable similarities exist between the works."

Nevertheless, Haley's interviews are among the best you will read. Here are more excerpts.

Excerpt: Cassius Clay (October 1964)

HALEY: There was another controversy about the honesty of your failure to pass the three Army preinduction qualification tests that you took shortly after the fight. Any comment?

CLAY: The truth don't hurt nobody. The fact is I never was too bright in school. I just barely graduated. I had a D-minus average. I ain't ashamed of it, though. I mean, how much do school principals make a month? But when I looked at a lot of the questions they had on them Army tests, I just didn't know the answers. I didn't even know how to start after finding the answers. That's all. So I didn't pass. It was the Army's decision that they didn't want me to go in the service. They're the boss.

HALEY: Was it embarassing to be declared mentally unfit?

CLAY: I have said I am the greatest. Ain't nobody ever heard me say I was the smartest.

Excerpt: Martin Luther King Jr. (January 1965)

KING: […] I shall never forget the grief and bitterness I felt on that terrible September morning when a bomb blew out the lives of those four little, innocent girls sitting in their Sunday-school class in the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. I think of how a woman cried out, crunching through broken glass, "My God, we're not even safe in church!"

I think of how that explosion blew the face of Jesus Christ from a stained-glass window. It was symbolic of how sin and evil had blotted out the life of Christ. I can remember thinking that if men were this bestial, was it all worth it? Was there any hope? Was there any way out?

HALEY: Do you still feel this way?

KING: No, time has healed the wounds—and buoyed me with the inspiration of another moment which I shall never forget: when I saw with my own eyes over 3,000 young Negro boys and girls, totally unarmed, leave Birmingham's 16th Street Baptist Church to march to a prayer meeting—ready to pit nothing but the power of their bodies and souls against Bull Connor's police dogs, clubs and fire hoses. When they refused Connor's bellowed order to turn back, he whirled and shouted to his men to turn on the hoses.

It was one of those fantastic events of the Birmingham story that these Negroes, many of them on their knees, stared, unafraid and unmoving, at Connor's men with the hose nozzles in their hands. Then, slowly the Negroes stood up and advanced, and Connor's men fell back as though hypnotized, as the Negroes marched on past to hold their prayer meeting. I saw there, I felt there, for the first time, the pride and the power of nonviolence.

Excerpt: Johnny Carson (December 1967)

CARSON: […] When you get successful, you just have to quit going out in public as often as you used to. Wherever you go, some clown grabs you and demands an autograph; it's a pain in the butt. I've had a guy in a urinal ask me for an autograph!

HALEY: Don't all entertainers have to put up with that kind of thing?

CARSON: Of course. But it doesn't stop there. Everybody I meet in public seems to want to audition for me. If I ask a guy what time it is, he'll sing it to me. Everywhere I turn, there's somebody's niece who plays the kazoo or does ballet with skindiving flippers.

I'll never forget coming out of a restaurant one night, when this hand reaches from an alley and literally turns me completely around. It was this woman. "I want you to hear my son sing," she says. And out she shoves this kid—"Sing, Albert!" And he did—right there in the street.

I've had cab drivers pull over to the curb to tell me about some relative who ought to be on the show. That's why I've got cabophobia—the fear of being talked to death in an enclosed space.

And, yes, you should read Playboy for the interviews! There is no better source of regularly published longform celebrity interviews, except a few books here and there.

A Conversation with Funcom's Gaute Godager

Gaute Godager cofounded Funcom in 1993 with four others: Erik Gloersen, Andre Backen, Ian Neil, and Olav Mørkrid. Funcom was never the most successful publisher of massively multiplayer online (MMO) games, but at 22 years old, Funcom is one of the oldest.

Funcom is now best known for MMOs, but the company once developed single-player games, such as: A Dinosaur's Tale, based on the 1993 animation directed by Steven Spielberg; Disney's Pocahontas, based on the 1995 box office hit; and The Longest Journey, the acclaimed 1999 point-and-click adventure.

The release of The Longest Journey commemorates the year that Funcom refocused almost exclusively on developing and publishing for the PC, after a tumultuous history with console games. In 2001, the company unveiled Anarchy Online, an early digitally distributed entrant in the MMO market, with Age of Conan following in 2008 and The Secret World in 2012.

After 15 years, Godager, the last Funcom founder standing, retired from the company and perhaps video games altogether. Currently, Godager works as a clinical psychologist, diagnosing and treating psychiatric illnesses at an inpatient clinic in Norway.

Read the full interview on ›

Scott Hartsman on All Things Trion

Scott Hartsman started in online games as a game designer at Interplay in 1986 where he worked on Scepter of Goth, one of the earliest multi-user dungeons. Since then, he has held a variety of creative, technical, and management positions at online game companies, including perhaps most recognizably as senior producer at Sony Online Entertainment where he launched 13 titles in the EverQuest franchise.

In 2009, Hartsman accepted a position at Trion Worlds as chief creative officer and general manager of the Redwood City studio. To players, he was best known as the executive producer of Rift, and oversaw the launch of that game in 2011 and the development of live content. In January 2013, Hartsman left Trion Worlds to start a new company, but by August 2013, he had rejoined the publisher as CEO.

Under Hartsman's leadership, Trion Worlds has successfully transitioned from a packaged goods company to developing and publishing strictly digital and free-to-play games. Today, Trion Worlds operates a growing catalog of first-party and third-party MMOs, including RiftDefiance, and Trove, as well as ArcheAge from XLGames and the recently announced Devilian from Bluehole Ginno.

Read the full interview on ›

Raph Koster on MMOs, Their Future, and Crowfall's Place in the Mix

Raphael "Raph" Koster is an award-winning game designer and creative director best known for his work on Ultima Online (UO) for Origin Systems/EA and Star Wars Galaxies (SWG) for Sony Online Entertainment (SOE). A pioneer of massively multiplayer online games, Koster is regarded as one of the video game industry's foremost authorities on game design.

In January, ArtCraft Entertainment, cofounded by J. Todd Coleman and Gordon Walton, announced that Koster was collaborating on Crowfall, which the company describes as "the unholy love child of Game of ThronesThe Walking Dead, and EVE Online." contributing writer Morgan Ramsay caught up with Koster to talk about his role on the ArtCraft team, Crowfall, and how they're applying the lessons he has learned.

Read the full interview on ›

How Two Doctors Created a Video Game Dynasty

When Ray Muzyka, Greg Zeschuk, and Augustine Yip formally incorporated BioWare in 1995, they were medical doctors, recently graduated from the University of Alberta in Canada. Although Yip left soon after, Muzyka and Zeschuk moved forward, recruiting a passionate, hard-working team to build a company that would become a living legend.

BioWare, acquired by EA in 2007, is today best known for cinematic role-playing games, such as the Dragon Age series, the Mass Effect series, and the narrative-driven MMO, Star Wars: The Old Republic.

In the beginning, however, the studio built its reputation with Baldur’s Gate in 1998, Neverwinter Nights in 2002, and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic in 2003—all now considered not merely classic games but master classes in role-playing game design.

When this interview was conducted in early 2012, the company had just launched its MMO. Later that year, the duo retired from video games. Currently, Muzyka is an angel investor and entrepreneurial mentor, focused on information technology, medical innovations in diagnostics and therapeutics, and social entrepreneurship at Threshold Impact, while Zeschuk has been exploring craft beer through the webseries, The Beer Diaries, and building a brewery in his hometown of Edmonton.

Read the full interview on The Daily Dot ›

How a Little Toy Became

[ founder Victor] Kislyi's story is fully detailed in Online Game Pioneers at Work, where author Morgan Ramsay interviewed 16 leaders of the online gaming industry. These individuals — which included John Romero, Richard Garriott, Raph Koster, Greg Zeschuk as well as Kislyi — didn't just watch the online games industry grow, they were driving forces that made it into the juggernaut we think of today. The full book is available on Amazon, but The Escapist had an opportunity to read Kislyi's interview, revealing how Wargaming became perhaps the most successful name in free-to-play online gaming. That's remarkably impressive for someone who didn't used to consider his operation a "business."

Read the full article at The Escapist ›

Chris Kluwe on GamerGate, eSports, and the Future of Online Gaming

For eight years, Chris Kluwe was one of the most controversial players in the NFL. Although most frequently a critic of League policies, the unabashedly vocal Kluwe made headlines in 2012 when he took on the Maryland state assembly in defense of same-sex marriage and freedom of speech. In 2014, he retired from football after the NFL allegedly blacklisted him for his progressive views.

Today, although Kluwe continues to fight for basic human rights, dignity, and equality, he is best known within the online game community as a veteran MMO player, an esports advocate, and a frequent critic of GamerGate, recently appearing in a debate with adult film star Mercedes Carrera.

In this wide-ranging interview, contributing editor Morgan Ramsay spoke with Kluwe at length about whether esports are real sports, the state of GamerGate, and what's next for him after football.

Read the full interview at ›

Looking back, looking forward with devs of the Independent Games Festival

More than 3,285 video games were entered into the Independent Games Festival (IGF) from 2009 to 2013 — more than three times as many submitted in the previous five-year period. In the nearly two decades of showcasing some of the smartest, most creative, and technically brilliant games ever made, the IGF has become a leading showcase of independent developers and their work.

With that history, any time is a good time to revisit the past. In particular, where do IGF finalists and winners end up? What has the IGF ultimately meant to them?

Read the retrospectives at Gamasutra ›