DGC Ep 136: Interview with Randy Smith and Greg LoPiccolo

Welcome to Dev Game Club, where we in this episode we are lucky enough to enjoy an interview with Greg LoPiccolo, project lead on Thief, and Randy Smith, who was a level designer on the title. Dev Game Club looks at classic video games and plays through them over several episodes, providing commentary.

Podcast breakdown:
0:40       Interview
1:00:08  Break
1:00:50  Feedback

Issues covered: World Series, how Randy got his start, psychology and programming as substrate for game design, "Suck it down" and toxic masculinity, cold-calling, the attraction of LG games, how Greg got in, the origins of Thief, competition, seeking limited but rich interaction, being weak, controlling the world from observation, AI with sense perceptions, the success of Thief, working counter to the prevailing winds, writing documentation to think about the space, commodities of space: loud/quiet and light/dark, tools support or lack thereof for those spaces, carving shapes, spaces that are hard to read, the level Escape, experimentation to find how to make a level, inventing sound propagation, dynamic lights impacting game play, player reading the lighting of a space, optimization, pulling back on combat in Thief II, "winging it and doing our best to survive," having nothing until you had everything, "like digging the Chunnel," polygon limitations, how do you build a cathedral with that?, the Emil vs Randy systems of building, designers having to be artists at the same time, putting the systems first, systemically reading space rather than tagging it, leading the team without having the tech yet, directing the narrative, writing lots of narrative to provide background and use it sparingly, people making their own stories, high quality voice acting, the bear pits, dialog as part of the game play loop, witty characters poking through, having to learn how to build a GANTT chart, repossessing the plants, the role of a leader, deep backstory, starting from a 1-4 page document, making up cool ideas and running with them, not being aware you couldn't do a thing, the trend of risk aversion in the industry, the indie spirit, an attempt to be more commercial, object hierarchy of inheritance, being in a submarine in the cold war, debugging console, the fundamental trick of game design: player brain and designer brain, starting testing much earlier, empathy as a design skill, overcoming doubt when innovating, saying yes to everything -> saying no to everything -> it's hard but we can do it, what the guests are doing next, having taste in game design and finding that audience, feeling like a musician vs being a musician, a touching father/daughter story.

Games, people, and influences mentioned or discussed: Looking Glass Studios, Thief (series), ION Storm, Electronic Arts, Steven Spielberg, Edge Magazine, Tiger Style, Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor, Spider: Rite of the Shrouded Moon, Sega Genesis, Bimini Run, Nuvision Entertainment, System Shock, Flight Unlimited, Harmonix, Frequency, Rock Band VR, Tribe, Waking Mars, Nate Blaisdell, MYST, Tim Schafer, Eric Brosius, Rex Bradford, Activision, Tim Ries, Doug Church, Dan Schmidt, Ned Lerner, Terra Nova, Terri Brosius, 2001: A Space Odyssey (obliquely), DOOM (1993), Paul Neurath, Metal Gear Solid, Ultima Underworld, id Software, Tim Stellmach, DromEd, Unreal, Emil Pagliarulo, Bethesda Game Studios, Marc LeBlanc, Stephen Russell, Ken Levine, Tom Leonard, Red Dead Redemption 2, Game Developer's Conference, Kevin Brown, Halo: Combat Evolved, Far Cry 5, Andrew Kirmse, Star Wars: Starfighter.

Next time:
Another interview!

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