Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Where are they now? - Jeff Tunnell

Contraption Maker - a spiritual successor to Tunnell's 1992 classic, The Incredible Machine

For today's "Where are they now?" I'd like to talk a bit about a fellow who worked with Damon Slye on games back in the 1980s and continued to develop games to this very day. From the many "Where are they now?" posts I've done so far, I've started to appreciate how rare it is for someone to be so passionate about games to continue developing them for over four decades - many would've simply retired by now. Jeff Tunnell is one of those rare individuals that has stayed in the business to this very day, but where did it all start?

Well, back in 1981, Tunnell managed to get his first Apple II (it seemed to be the game development machine of choice during the early 80s) and he started his first business selling software from his house while at the same time attempting to program games. Tunnell eventually met Damon Slye who was programming games in assembler which made the man "a God" in his eyes. Tunnell hired him to work in his store and when he realised how good he was at programming, Tunnell focused on other aspects of game development, namely "design, production and learning to run the business".

Eventually in 1984, Tunnell and Slye formed the game development company "Dynamix". Dynamix would go on to develop many simulation games in the 1980s - most I've never heard of (but that's probably because I was too young at that stage) with the exception of 1989's A-10 Tank Killer which I fondly remember. Tunnell served as an Executive Producer on that project.

Tunnell left Dynamix in 1990 to form his own company called Jeff Tunnell Productions but around that time a few noteworthy Dynamix games were released, namely the WWI flight sim Red Baron in 1990 (where Tunnell was executive producer), the 1990 cyberpunk adventure Rise of the Dragon (which Tunnell designed), the 1991 adventure game Heart of China (which Tunnell wrote and directed) and the 1991 adventure game The Adventures of Willy Beamish (which Tunnell directed).

After Tunnell left Dynamix he developed the game that he's arguably most famous for: 1992's The Incredible Machine, a game where you solve puzzles by developing Rube Goldberg-like devices. While Tunnell didn't program the game, he was the designer and producer.

Tunnell returned to Dynamix in 1995 in a leadership role and before the company disbanded in 2001, he was executive producer on the classic 1999 mecha simulation game Starsiege. When Dynamix disbanded, Tunnell formed a new company called GarageGames, an independent video game publisher which also developed the Torque Game Engine, originally developed for the 2001 game Tribes 2. Tunnell eventually left GarageGames in 2008.

In 2009, Tunnell founded the company PushButton Labs which focused on the development of social games but they eventually wound down operations in 2011 after being acquired by Disney.

In 2012, Tunnell founded Spotkin along with several partners from his previous companies and he still works there today as Creative Director and Managing Partner. In 2014, Spotkin released a spiritual successor to The Incredible Machine called Contraption Maker which has rated very well with Steam users (Very Positive rating of 94%) which just goes to show that when it comes to gameplay, it doesn't matter how old the concepts are - they can still be relevant today.

Well, it's good to see Tunnell is still involved in making games and I hope he continues to channel his enthusiasm and creativity into the field for many years to come! Thank you for all the games you made at Dynamix and The Incredible Machine series!

LINKS:
[ Wikipedia: Jeff Tunnell ]
[ MobyGames: Jeffrey Tunnell ]
[ Blog: Make it Big in Games ]
[ Contraption Maker Official Website ]

Monday, April 27, 2015

Choicest VGM - VGM #179 - Frontier: Elite II - Ride of the Valkyries



Composed by: Richard Wagner
Arranged by: Dave Lowe

A track that's most commonly associated with the Vietnam war movie Apocalypse Now, this track also makes an appearance on the Frontier: Elite II soundtrack and - well you look at that? It's not by Mussorgsky but by Richard Wagner instead ;).

Oh and where did I get the music? I recorded it directly from the game audio (using the Adlib/Sound Blaster option) while running the game through DOSBox. I did find MIDI files of the DOS version's music online but they just weren't the same as how I remembered. So there you have it :)

Thanks to Dave Lowe for composing such a memorable soundtrack!


Sunday, April 26, 2015

Spotlight Sunday - Week 18 - 2015


Spotlight Sunday is a way for Choicest Games to feature PC games that are scheduled for release on the following week - games that we consider worthwhile checking out.

This week (27th Apr to the 3rd May 2015) there's quite a few games coming to PC that I think are worth checking out - all of them are indie titles:

Koi Koi Japan [Hanafuda playing cards]

  • Release Date: 27/04/2015
  • Availability: Steam - Not available for pre-order
Sometimes you just want to unwind after playing some hardcore PC games and what better way to do it than playing a card game? Koi Koi Japan [Hanafuda playing cards] is apparently a Japanese card game I've never even heard of before so it's definitely piqued my interest (I'm always on the lookout for playing new PC games, board games and card games). Best of all, the game seems to be actually made by Japanese developers (the official website is all in Japanese at the very least) so there's a good chance it's authentic and it's helping out developers in a market that is dominated by the console platform (just think Nintendo and Sony). The game also has Steam achievements (which is probably expected of games being released new on Steam nowadays) and it's likely that the game will cost around $10 when released (considering I managed to see a price tag of 980円 on the official website).



The Perils of Man

  • Release Date: 28/04/2015
  • Availability: Steam - Not available for pre-order
As you know, I love point 'n' click adventure games; ones with time travel, doubly so. Another thing that's noteworthy about this game is that it's a collaboration with ex-Lucasarts artist Bill Tiller and Gene Mocsy (who was involved with artwork for games in a similar style).



Canabalt

I've actually already heard of this game before so I knew it's been out for a while. What I didn't realise though is for how long: apparently 5 years! The game was originally released in 2009 as a free, web-based Flash game and is often credited as the first game in the "endless runner" subgenre. The premise of the game is simple. Have your character run as far as possible without dying by jumping over obstacles. You only have one key to press to trigger the jump and that's all you need to do. You can see why this game was ported to smartphones and other touchscreen devices since it seems ideal for those platforms, however it's taken a surprisingly long time to come to Steam as a standalone PC game. I'm expecting the game to be inexpensive (considering you can play the original game for free) but apparently the Steam release will give players "the full Canabalt 2.0 experience" which means all game modes, two player mode, an optional 3D graphics Canabalt HD mode, gamepad support, all the music (including a lyrical cover by Mega Ran), achievements, leaderboards and Steam trading cards. Phew!

You can play the original, free, web-based version of the game here.



Lux Delux

  • Release Date: 01/05/2015
  • Availability: Steam - Pre-order unavailable, Direct - $9.99 USD
Lux Delux happens to be another game on this list that has been around for a long time but only recently been added to the Steam Store. It's even older than Canabalt though, version 1.0 being released in 2002 (making this one of the few pre-digital distribution era indie games that still has an active community. Much respect). Apparently the game has built quite a following but that's not entirely surprising, considering it is an extremely moddable, customisable version of the classic board game Risk. Not only are you able to create your own maps to play on but you're can even create your own AI for the game! The game also has over 900 maps included in the base game and it has cross-platform multiplayer including its own league! Sounds like it could be a lot of fun.



So are you interested or excited about any of these PC games being released next week? Which games are you looking forward to?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Where are they now? - David Perry

David Perry. Founder and President of Shiny Entertainment

For this week's "Where are they now?" I've picked a guy mainly for his involvement with a really old (and slightly obscure) game called Overlord or Supremacy: Your Will Be Done. He in fact did quite a bit since this 1990 game was released but let us start at the beginning and work our way to the present shall we? Let's talk about prominent (and probably very wealthy) game developer, David Perry.

David Perry was born in Northern Ireland in 1967 and at the young age of 15 started writing computer game programming books for the Sinclair ZX81 platform. His first game was a driving game, which involved "a black blob avoiding other black blobs", which was published in a magazine. He sent the magazine more games and they eventually sent him a cheque for £450 - not bad for a teenager without a bank account! He was eventually making £3,500/year and when he was 17 he moved to London to work for Mikro-Gen and Probe Software, mainly on conversions of games.

As mentioned earlier, Perry (and Nick Bruty) were behind a primitive real-time strategy game called Overlord (in the U.S., Supremacy: Your Will Be Done elsewhere). While it doesn't seem much by today's standards I quite enjoyed the game at the time, terraforming and developing worlds while at the same time ensuring to upgrade my defence force for the inevitable encounter with alien forces. Anyway this would be one of his last games while working in London since in 1991 he made the big move to the U.S.A., working for the American division of Virgin Games and overseeing development of many console games.

In 1993 he founded one of the most respected development studios of the 1990s and 2000s: Shiny Entertainment. The studio was responsible for the critically acclaimed franchises Earthworm Jim and MDK where Perry provided additional programming on the Earthworm Jim games and acted as a producer for 1997's MDK. Shiny Entertainment would release a couple of other unorthodox PC games in 2000 called Sacrifice and Messiah and the company was sold to Atari for $47 million two years later.

In 2008, Perry received an honourary doctorate from the Queen's University Belfast for services to the computer gaming industry. It was also later this same year that he co-founded a company in the Netherlands called Gaikai, a company that developed video game streaming technology allowing for games to run in any browser or internet connected device. Gaikai was acquired by Sony in 2012 for $380 million but as far as I know, he still works there (so he has gone to the dark, console side of gaming - boooooo! :P). Oh well at least he's still involved in the gaming industry, right? Maybe he'll come back to the world of PC gaming one day. Hopefully :).

LINKS
[ Wikipedia: David Perry ]
[ MobyGames: David Perry ]
[ David Perry's Blog ]

Monday, April 20, 2015

Choicest VGM - VGM #178 - Frontier: Elite II - Night on Bald Mountain



Composed by: Modest Mussorgsky
Arranged by: Dave Lowe

And here we have another track originally composed by Modest Mussorgsky but arranged by Dave Lowe for the old space trading sim, Frontier: Elite II. This time we have Night on Bald Mountain and just like many of the other tracks on this soundtrack, it serves as great combat music. For those of you that aren't classical music aficionados, you still might be familiar with this track if you've watched Disney's Fantasia before.

Oh and where did I get the music? I recorded it directly from the game audio (using the Adlib/Sound Blaster option) while running the game through DOSBox. I did find MIDI files of the DOS version's music online but they just weren't the same as how I remembered. So there you have it :)

Thanks to Dave Lowe for composing such a memorable soundtrack!


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Spotlight Sunday - Week 17 - 2015


Spotlight Sunday is a way for Choicest Games to feature PC games that are scheduled for release on the following week - games that we consider worthwhile checking out.

This week (20th Apr to the 26th Apr 2015) there's quite a few games coming to PC that I think are worth checking out - most of them are indie titles or games made by smaller developers:

Trine 3: The Artifacts of Power

  • Release Date: 21/04/2015
  • Availability: Steam - Not available for pre-order
Despite the rather childish fairly tale plot, I really enjoyed the last Trine game I played (Trine 2) as it was a beautiful puzzle co-op game. It looks like Trine 3 could be more of the same, at least with respect to the gorgeous graphics and the fun puzzle co-op gameplay so it's definitely one to look forward to.



Kiai Resonance

  • Release Date: 21/04/2015
  • Availability: Steam - Not available for pre-order, Direct $4.99 USD
Here's another game with gorgeous visuals but this time it's because the game emulates the Japanese woodblock print style. It also happens to be a game that's all about duelling samurai and there will be the ability to compete against other humans on a leaderboard. So it sounds a mixture of Nidhogg, Karateka or Prince of Persia to some degree and those aren't bad games to be compared to. If the Steam price is going to be similar to the current price for buying the game direct, there's also going to be a low entry fee to try out the game.



Will Fight for Food: Super Actual Sellout: Game of the Hour

  • Release Date: 22/04/2015
  • Availability: Direct $5.99 USD, Steam - Not available for pre-order
To be honest, I only included this game because the game description on Steam is hilarious. It sounds like it's going to be one of those games like DLC Quest where it points fun at particular tropes and idiosyncrasies in gaming.

The game apparently has a "ridiculously complicated conversation system", "a narrative of personal redemption OR Punch Everyone" and the best part:

Zero-typing based Victorian romance scenarios: Use your furious fingers and knowledge of period social mores to woo seven beautiful English debutantes in a game that isn’t this one. But – you can make that game within this game with mod support!



Armikrog

  • Release Date: Next week
  • Availability: Steam - Pre-order unavailable
I was actually surprised to find that a friend I didn't pick out to be a gamer actually backed this project when it was on Kickstarter - but why wouldn't you? The game is a clay animated adventure game with characters created by Doug TenNapel, famous for creating the franchise "Earthworm Jim". The game also has veteran developers Ed Schofield and Mike Dietz who both worked on the award-winning 1996 adventure, The Neverhood. That's a lot of talent right there.



So are you interested or excited about any of these PC games being released next week? Which games are you looking forward to?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Where are they now? - Mark Seibert



For today's "Where are they now?" I will talk a little bit about the man who was the driving force behind much of Sierra On-Line's music during the late 80s and 90s, and who eventually became a game producer in his own right. No, I'm not talking about Ken Allen (although similarly, he too got into producing games after a stint as a composer) but Mark Seibert who was his boss for awhile at Sierra On-Line. So where did Seibert come from and what is he up to nowadays?

Unfortunately there isn't too much information about what Seibert got up to in his youth although one thing you probably didn't know about him is that he is a devout Christian. During the late 70s and early 80s, he was a singer and guitarist for a Christian band called "Omega Sunrise" which saw some success in the local charts; they even managed to release a couple of albums! He also helped lead worship services at his church called the Fresno Vineyard during the late 80s and early 90s with his wife Debbie.

During the 1980s, Seibert attained a Bachelor of Arts (in Music) at California State University, Fresno, and also started on a second degree in Math in 1986. It was not long after that when in 1987, Seibert responded to a newspaper ad from Sierra On-Line for a composer. Seibert got the job and his first project was editing music on the 1988 game King's Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella.

Seibert would go on to work as a composer and music director on several Sierra games from that point onwards, including 1988's Police Quest II, 1989's Quest for Glory (which apparently borrows heavily from the Star Trek theme), 1990's King's Quest V and writing the (in)famous Girl in the Tower for King's Quest VI. During the early 90s, Seibert would take on more of a music director role, overseeing the development of music for games like Space Quest IV, Oil's Well, Police Quest III, Quest for Glory II and multiple VGA remakes.

In 1992, Seibert had his first taste in becoming a game producer with the first game he ever produced being released in 1993. It was an edutainment title called Pepper's Adventures in Time and has become a cult classic amongst point 'n' click adventure gamers. Seibert would work as a producer on a few more games such as 1994's King's Quest VII, 1995's Torin's Passage, 1996's Leisure Suit Larry 7 and 1998's King's Quest VIII. Shortly before he left in 2001, the last Sierra titles Seibert worked on were Arcanum and Throne of Darkness which were both released in 2001.

After Sierra, Seibert worked for a couple of years as Director of Development at Gentle Revolution Software before working for a few years at Breakaway Games as a Producer/AV Director. While working at Breakaway Games (on games such as the expansion pack to C&C3, Kane's Wrath) Seibert also completed a Masters in Education and in 2008, he left the company and retired from the games development industry for good.

Seibert is now a maths teacher at the Perry Hall Christian School in Maryland although the last note he left on his personal website mentioned him working with several composers in the Baltimore area in the hopes of publishing their music in early 2015. Well it's well and truly early 2015 now so hopefully we'll hear from Seibert and his fellow composers soon!

LINKS:
[ Mark Seibert's personal webpage ]
[ Wikipedia: Mark Seibert ]
[ MobyGames: Mark Seibert ]

Monday, April 13, 2015

Choicest VGM - VGM #177 - Frontier: Elite II - Baba Yaga



Composed by: Modest Mussorgsky
Arranged by: Dave Lowe

Dave Lowe must be a real fan of Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky's music as there are three tracks in the game based on his work: Night on the Bald Mountain, The Great Gate of Kiev and this one, Baba Yaga. I must say that some of Mussorgsky's work makes for great combat music so kudos to Dave Lowe for arranging his music for Frontier: Elite II. Another interesting bit of trivia is that two of the tracks by Mussorgsky also happen to be from the same suite: Pictures at an Exhibition.

Oh and where did I get the music? I recorded it directly from the game audio (using the Adlib/Sound Blaster option) while running the game through DOSBox. I did find MIDI files of the DOS version's music online but they just weren't the same as how I remembered. So there you have it :)

Thanks to Dave Lowe for composing such a memorable soundtrack!


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Spotlight Sunday - Week 16 - 2015


Spotlight Sunday is a way for Choicest Games to feature PC games that are scheduled for release on the following week - games that we consider worthwhile checking out.

This week (13th Apr to the 19th Apr 2015) there's quite a few games coming to PC that I think are worth checking out - a couple of famous franchises and two indie games:

Grand Theft Auto V

I'm actually not a big fan of the Grand Theft Auto series so for those who know me, adding the game here might come off as bit of a surprise. But there's no denying the popularity of this franchise. It's currently the most wanted game on my Steam friends list. 10% of them have already pre-ordered the game and almost a quarter of them have it on their wishlist. I've always found the fantasy of being a criminal causing wanton violence with with no remorse slightly off-putting which is why I think the more recent GTA games never really did it for me and I ended up preferring the sandbox games where you played a cop or a vigilante. I'm hoping there's some redeeming features in this most recent release but considering there's even a separate Wikipedia page for controversies surrounding the game, it seems unlikely. Anyway, that's not going to stop most people buying this game - I'm sure it'll be just as much a hit on PC as it was on console.



Mortal Kombat X




That is all.

404Sight

  • Release Date: 16/04/2015
  • Availability: Direct $0, Steam $0
There are three reasons you should get this:
  1. The game helps explain why net neutrality is important in the form of a parkour-style computer game
  2. It's free!
  3. It has an awesome pun for a name

But that's basically it. The game is apparently a "3D playground runner influenced by the parkour running style in Mirror's Edge". While I confess that I've never played the cult classic Mirror's Edge, it does have many fans. This must also be one of the first games I've heard of where your humble Internet Service Provider is the antagonist trying to impede you from making any progress. Sounds like it's worth a look, especially considering it's free.



The Charnel House Trilogy

  • Release Date: Next week
  • Availability: Steam Pre-order unavailable
As many loyal readers know, I'm a big fan of retro point 'n' click adventure games. You know, the sort that look like they've been developed using Adventure Game Studio (AGS). Well here's another one of those sorts of games called The Charnel House Trilogy. The game is developed by Owl Cave who are the folks behind the game Richard & Alice which managed to get a 7/10 here on Choicest Games. Richard & Alice was also developed using AGS but funnily enough, that game looked nothing like your typical point 'n' click adventure whereas this latest offering does. The game is apparently a series of "horrifying" adventures, so I'm hoping when the say "horror" that it's not supernatural horror and is more like Richard & Alice which explores the darkness of the human psyche - that's more down my alley.


So are you interested or excited about any of these PC games being released next week? Which games are you looking forward to?

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Where are they now? - Roberta Williams

Ken and Roberta Williams with a well armed tour guide in Svalbard, Norway

Today's Where are they now? post is on someone who has already been mentioned a few times on this blog, especially when I talked about her husband, Ken Williams in his very own "Where are they now?" post. Roberta Williams is one of the most well known and respected designers in the PC game industry and her games helped catapult the graphical adventure game genre into the limelight. But how did she start out and what is she up to nowadays?

Roberta was born in 1953 (with the maiden name of "Heuer") and at the age of 17 met her future husband Ken Williams at Pomona's campus of California Polytechnic. Roberta married Ken in 1972 at the age of 19 and shortly after gave birth to two sons: D.J in 1973 and Chris in 1979.

Ken got into programming to support his family but it's around this time that Roberta, inspired by an interactive fiction game called Colossal Cave Adventure or just Adventure, decided that there was a future in these sort of games if you could add some graphics. Roberta's first game (with help from her husband Ken) would be 1980's Mystery House, one of the first graphical adventure games ever (probably the first). That same year, she and Ken formed the company On-Line Systems which would later be renamed to Sierra On-Line in 1982.

Roberta was a writer and designer for several games during the 1980s and 1990s but she is probably most famous for the King's Quest series of adventure games. She was responsible for designing and writing for all games in the series, except for King's Quest VII where Lorelei Shannon was the writer.

When Sierra disbanded in 1999 (at least as a developer of adventure games), Roberta spent most of her time travelling the world with her husband Ken on their yacht, the Sans Souci. She rarely did interviews but did resurface in 2011 when it was reported that she was helping out on a Facebook game called Odd Manor.

Despite Roberta Williams not being involved in hands-on game development anymore last year resulted in the resurrection of not only the brand she and her husband built from the ground up but the announcement of a new King's Quest game by indie developer The Odd Gentlemen. Ken and Roberta Williams checked out the development of the game a few months later and were generally positive of the work done so far:

But best of all, I could see that you truly are the ones to take King’s Quest into the 21st century and reintroduce it to a whole new generation.

At the end of 2014, Roberta and Ken Williams received an Industry Icon Award at the inaugural "The Game Awards" held in Las Vegas and again Roberta reinforced her confidence in The Odd Gentlemen's reboot of the series.

So what is Roberta doing now? Well it seems like she's back to travelling the world with Ken as she recently observed the total solar eclipse last month in the remote Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard. While it seems unlikely she'll ever get back into the world of game development proper, it's good to see that she and her husband are making the most of their retirement!

LINKS:
[ Wikipedia: Roberta Williams ]
[ MobyGames: Roberta Williams ]

Monday, April 6, 2015

Choicest VGM - VGM #176 - Frontier: Elite II - In the Hall of the Mountain King



Composed by: Edvard Greig
Arranged by: Dave Lowe

Here is the first piece to feature on Choicest VGM from Frontier: Elite II which isn't an original composition of Dave Lowe's. This music was originally composed by Edvard Grieg and is a very popular piece of "classical" music that is instantly recognisable by people across the world. What I didn't realise (until recently) is that the "Mountain King" actually refers to a troll - which means whenever I hear "Treasure Trolls are everywhere, everywhere, everywhere..." to the tune of "In the Hall of the Mountain King" it now makes perfect sense why they picked that music for those troll doll ads during my youth.

What never ceases to amaze me is how well "classical" music can work in computer games if applied in the right circumstances. "In the Hall of the Mountain King" was a perfect choice for the combat sequences thanks to the sense of impending doom the music brings.

Oh and where did I get the music? I recorded it directly from the game audio (using the Adlib/Sound Blaster option) while running the game through DOSBox. I did find MIDI files of the DOS version's music online but they just weren't the same as how I remembered. So there you have it :)

Thanks to Dave Lowe for composing such a memorable soundtrack!


Sunday, April 5, 2015

Spotlight Sunday - Week 15 - 2015


Spotlight Sunday is a way for Choicest Games to feature PC games that are scheduled for release on the following week - games that we consider worthwhile checking out.

This week (6th Apr to the 12th Apr 2015) there's a couple of games I think are worth checking out - both are indie games:

Sym

  • Release Date: Next week
  • Availability: Steam (pre-order not available)
This game has an interesting premise. Apparently, you play the role of a teenage boy named Josh who suffers from social anxiety disorder. The game has pretty basic graphics and is a puzzle platformer but I'm curious as to how they pull off the link to social anxiety disorder or whether it's just a cheap marketing gimmick to foster interest in the game as a means to explain why your character can flip between the light and dark sides. There is a demo of the game though so you can try before you buy.

The game also comes with a level editor where you can share your creations with others, which is a nice touch.



Hero Generations

  • Release Date: 10/04/2015
  • Availability: Steam (pre-order not available), Direct $14.99 USD
One curious thing about this game is that it won an award at 2011's Indiecade which is now a few years ago but only now is it being released onto Steam. Not sure why it took so long considering it's an award-winning game. Also, the game caught my attention thanks to its description which claims it's "the offspring of Sid Meier's Civilization, Jason Rohrer's Passage and the Legend of Zelda." A pretty big claim.

Hero Generations is a rogue-like that incorporates some elements of RPGs as well as 4X strategy games. Apparently each turn represents one year in your character's life. You can choose to either increase your fame during your lifetime or focus on making the world a better place for your offspring (if you manage to mate of course). All sounds pretty epic if you ask me and consequently a game worth keeping an eye on.



So are you interested or excited about any of these PC games being released next week? Which games are you looking forward to?

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Where are they now? - Jeffery L. Briggs

Sid Meier's Colonization: A game Jeffery L. Briggs both designed and composed music for

For our next "Where are they now?" post we have a fellow who is a bit of a "Renaissance Man" having dabbled in a bit of everything. While I've only heard of Jeffery L. Briggs with respect to his involvement as a composer on many Civilization games and being a designer/producer for Sid Meier's Civilization II, he's actually done quite a bit more than I expected. While Sid Meier is obviously the most famous out of Microprose and Firaxis's employees (thanks to his name being on almost every one of their titles) little do we realise that there are many other individuals such as Briggs and indeed Bruce Campbell Shelley (whom I talked about last week) that made the games at Microprose and Firaxis the classics they are. So where did Briggs come from? And why am I calling him a "Renaissance Man"?

Briggs was born in Alabama in 1957 but only started to get a real appreciation for classical music when he was 14. In the 1970s, Briggs attended music school and after completing his formal education he became a freelance composer and arranger in New York City during the 1980s.

In 1984, Briggs started to play around with digital orchestras and it wasn't long before he was working at Microprose with the likes of Sid Meier. While Briggs mainly composed music he also started to branch out into several other streams once he got into the world of game development. Some of Briggs's earlier roles included being the project leader for 1987's Sid Meier's Pirates! as well as composing music for Sword of the Samurai and Covert Action. Later on at Microprose, he was responsible for composing music for 1991's Sid Meier's Civilziation as well as working as a designer and composer for 1994's Sid Meier's Colonization. His last game at Microprose was Sid Meier's Civilization II where he served as a designer, composer and producer for the game.

In 1996, he and Sid Meier were awarded a U.S. Patent for a "System for Real-Time Music Composition and Synthesis" used in a product called "CPU Bach". It was also around this time that Briggs had left Microprose and formed a new company called Firaxis (by using the words ‘fire’ and ‘axis’, connoting the ‘fiery axis of creativity’, and borrowed from one of his early musical works, Firaxis). Briggs was the CEO at Firaxis but he wore many hats, composing music (and acting as executive producer) for Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri and Sid Meier's Civilization IV (except for the famous intro theme "Baba Yetu" by Christopher Tin), co-designing Sid Meier's Civilization III (with Soren Johnson) and even dabbling a bit in programming (as well as design) of the American Civil War classic, Sid Meier's Gettysburg!

In 2005, Briggs sold Firaxis and revisited his life as a non-commercial artist. He has composed several works in the past decade but it doesn't seem like he's composed anything for games - which is a pity (for us) - but I'm sure none can deny the importance of his contributions to the PC games industry. There are so many classic strategy games thanks to his ability to compose, design, program and manage. Like I said, a "Renaissance Man" in the world of game development.

LINKS:
[ Official website: Jeffery L. Briggs Bio ]
[ Wikipedia: Jeff Briggs ]
[ MobyGames: Jeffery L. Briggs ]