Warren Spector Interview

PC Games Insider brings us a new interview with one of the most well-known video game developers – Warren Spector. In the interview, the man responsible for Deus Ex and System Shock talks about his career and how it all started, and then offers advice for aspiring game developers. He also mentions working with Disney, and criticizes the current state of games education.

A couple of sample paragraphs:

“I mean, I was an avid player of tabletop and digital games. What better way to make a living than making games. How did I get in? Frankly, it was total luck. I was working on my doctorate and teaching classes as part of the program I was in. The department took away my classes so I had no way to make a living. Got a call from a friend who was working at a tiny tabletop game company, Steve Jackson Games. Got a job there. And the rest is history.”

The list of people that Spector has worked with over the years – having held roles at legendary development studios like Origin, Looking Glass and Ion Storm – makes for some pretty impressive reading.

“I always say I'm the luckiest guy in the games business,” he says. “I got to work with and learn from the best - Steve Jackson, Richard Garriott, Chris Roberts, Paul Neurath, Doug Church, John Romero, Tom Hall. I like to think maybe I taught them a thing or two, too, but I know I got an education from them.

"The interesting thing was no two of them worked the same way, so I got a look at just about every way you could make a game and synthesise the stuff that made sense to me into my own utterly chaotic, team-maddening approach.”

With a career as illustrious and prolific as Spector’s, it might be hard for the developer to pick out his proudest moment; but he is able to narrow it down to two.

“The first was shipping Deus Ex, against formidable odds,” he says.

“That's the one time I closed my eyes and imagined the way a game would feel and play and, years later, opened my eyes and there was that game. I owe that to John Romero, Harvey Smith, Chris Norden and Jay Lee, and the rest of the team. That was a gift.

“The second proudest moment was winning the Lifetime Achievement award at GDC. I mean, having other people tell you that you made a difference - not that you made a lot of damn money for someone, but that you made a difference - that was special. It was also nice to have a public forum where I could thank all my teams, the folks who made ‘my’ award possible. It really belongs to all of them.”

But what advice would he offer to someone looking to get into games development?

“Well, number one is a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do piece of advice - learn to code, at least a little bit,” he explains.

“It’s easy to forget that we make software and speaking the language of programmers will make you a better developer. Second is probably to get the best and broadest education you can. It doesn't have to be at a game development program. Learn about history and economics and psychology... hone your written and spoken communication skills... You never know what you're going to need to know on any given project, so a broad-based education – yes, even the humanities! – will stand you in good stead.”