FAQ: Warren Spector

FAQ: Warren Spector
Will Freeman

By Will Freeman

January 6th 2011 at 8:00AM

The Epic Mickey Man gets the rapid-fire question treatment

[Develop’s archive of FAQ interviewees can be found here. Next month: Ed Fries]

Who are you what do you do?
I’m Warren Spector and I make video games, and I’ve been making those games for around 27 years.

What are you currently working on?
We’ve just finished Disney’s Epic Mickey.

What was the first game you worked on?
The first electronic game I worked on was either Ultima VI or Space Rogue, but I honesty can’t remember which came first. But I started out on tabletop at Steve Jackson Games, and the first game that I worked on was a Call of Cthulhu adventure called Thing in the Darkness. In fact, that was a magazine game so perhaps that doesn’t count. The first real game I worked on was Toon, a cartoon role-playing game which shipped in 1984.

What was the first game you remember playing?

I used to play the old board game Candy Land, but I’m not sure that counts. The first tabletop game I played was Steve Jackson’s Ogre. The first electronic game I played I can’t really remember, but the first one that really made an impression was Star Raiders on the Atari 800. I’d played others before that, but they were just past times. Star Raiders changed my life.

What was the game you’ve played most recently, and have you enjoyed it?

I’m playing the new Scribblenauts game right now. I find the Scribblenauts games miraculous. I was talking on a panel with Jeremiah Slaczka who runs the studio that creates those games, and I was saying that what they do seems impossible. He just looked at me with a knowing smile. The rat! He wouldn’t reveal his secrets.

What is your favourite ever game?
That’s an easy one for me, but I will have to give you two answers. My favourite narrative game is Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past on the SNES, although I have it and have played it on every platform its ever been on. My desert island game, if I could only play one game for the rest of my life, would absolutely be Tetris.

What disappoints you about the games industry today?
I’m disappointed by the fact that we still focus solely on combat mechanics and rendering techniques, at the expense of other things we could be devoting energy and effort to. We could be focusing on non-combat AI and making conversation as compelling as fighting for a change. Wouldn’t that be great? We could be focusing on making storytelling truly interactive. We just focus on prettier pictures and flashier graphics attached to more impressive combat scenarios, and honestly, that just bores me.

What do you enjoy about the games industry?
There are two things. One is that I am constantly surrounded by people who are more intelligent than me. I really do learn something new every day. It’s just incredible to imagine what we get to learn. The other great thing is that every day when I get into the office I see something nobody else has ever seen.