Sunday, September 8, 2013

Top 10 PC Game Developers - #1 Will Wright

Urban planning and virtual doll house games are his forte

Famous for: SimCity, SimAnt, SimCopter, Spore and The Sims
Affiliations: Maxis

Will Wright started developing computer games in the mid-80s but it wasn't until the 1989 Maxis release of SimCity did Will Wright experience true success. The game was unusual in that it didn't really have any goals and was probably the earliest example of a sandbox game. Considering how unorthodox the game was with respect to not having any goals for the player, many publishers saw SimCity as a risky prospect and refused to let it see the light of day, at least initially. Eventually scenarios were introduced into the game since many believed that gamers wouldn't find the sandbox part of the game (where you build your own city) fun. They were proven wrong, with SimCity being a huge success (and I don't think it was because of the scenarios). In fact, without SimCity, we probably wouldn't have had another awesome game.

Wright continued to design many more "Sim" games for Maxis, including SimEarth, SimAnt, SimCity 2000 and SimCopter. However the game that would become the best-selling PC game of all time (and eventually spawn sequels to make it the best-selling PC franchise of all time) almost didn't see the light of day. The game was to be virtual doll house simulator yet once again, people were skeptical about Wright's ideas:

"The [Maxis] board [of diretors] looked at The Sims and said, 'What is this? He wants to do an interactive doll house? The guy is out of his mind. Doll houses were for girls, and girls didn't play video games.'

The Sims was released in 2000 and became a huge success - an even bigger success than SimCity. Today, the Sims franchise is worth billions of dollars and it's all thanks to Wright's ability to think outside the box and realise that there was a previously untouched market out there, waiting to be tapped.

The last core game Wright would work on at Maxis was the 2008 game Spore which was an ambitious game that covered the evolution of life itself, the growing of a civilization and eventually exploration of space. The game received generally favourable reviews although as reported on this blog, it wasn't perfect especially the choice of DRM.

Wright left Maxis in 2009 and is now part of an "entertainment think tank" known as Stupid Fun Club.

And that's it for my Top 10 PC Game Developers (not quite "of all time" but at least from the last 30 years or so of gaming :)). Who are your favourite developers?

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