Thank you also for the clarification on contract work and asset production. Perhaps that would be a good way for me to ease into the trade and see how it fits. Hi Jason Just wanted to know when this article was originally published? Originally published Apr 13, , most recently updated on Jan 4, I wish you luck with your presentation! But my problem is that I am interested in being a programmer and a game artist, they both suit me.
But I am also a creative kind of person who likes drawing traditional and digital etc. So straight up to my question: is it possible to apply for becoming a game artist and succeed of course , when I have a degree for mathematics and computer science, as long as I have built a strong portfolio with artwork as well? Or can I begin as a programmer, but later move to being a game artist instead maybe it turns out I have more fun doing that.. Hi Jason, Thank you for all the above information.
Do you have any suggestions for me, if I choose a degree in game environment design or architecture?! If you can find a game-art school and then study architecture in your spare time along the way, that would be a good approach. The most important thing is to start building an environment art portfolio to build experience and show employers when you apply for jobs. Is graduation necessary to get this job , i dropped out of college to work on my portfolio and polish my anatomy skills , so i was asking if its worth it.
If you have a strong portfolio, most game studios will still hire you. That said, there are many good reasons why going to school can help your career. Hey Jayson! At the moment I really want to shift my gears to the gamedev industry. The question is, do you think I am too old to make such a step? Just give me your most fair and direct answer please:.
Hi Alexey, you definitely are not too old to change careers — you just need to be thoughtful about how you do it. Read my article on breaking into the game industry to get some ideas. One approach would be to download one of the free game engines and start learning how to do VFX for games. I wanted to become an environment artist and have a passion for making environments for games. It hurted me instantly and i feel sad about it. Is there any thing possible for this? Hi Praful, your teacher is only partially right.
I worked several years with a start up video game company doing 3D modeling for game assets. However the founder of the startup got hired to a AAA studio and the startup came to a stop. I want to put best work in my portfolio which does not include the startup artwork. Will this be an issue when future hiring managers? Will they want to know why my portfolio does not have work from the startup company? Also since I was only able to work at the startup part time the startup was all volunteer work so I had to have a day job how does that equate to the number of years of experience?
Hi Zane, I think I can help with these questions. In that case, you could mention the work was part time. I am 27 and I am a recently graduated architect. I love drawing and games and I think that a job as a game artist could be my dream job. I am mostly oriented on the concept art, as I would love to work as a digital artist with photoshop, ZBrush and others, but I am convinced that I could use some help in gaining 3D skills with proper softwares such as 3DS or Maya moreover I checked Lead Artists and Art Directors profiles on LinkedIn and I saw that most of them have competences with 3D as well!
I need to follow my passion for drawing and illustration, and I would love to do it for games. What do you think? Which path could I choose as an architect, with some skills in 3D and visualization already, who wants to learn digital art, concept art but 3D at the same time? Could it be an option if I find a job as an architectural visualizator, so keeping on working with 3D and Photoshop, while attending classes focused on concept art?
Then learning game-specific skills on the side, through online courses and hands-on work with 3D game engines like Unreal Engine or Unity Engine. Build up a portfolio, then apply for game jobs. I explore these ideas in a little more depth in my article about career change. But if possible, try to pursue the stream that will teach you the skills you need for a game art job: art skills, computer skills, and working on software development teams. Hi Jason, im currently trying to get in to an animations school in Denmark.
I have done some classical drawing courses, and dabbled in 3D-softwares. I know this question doesnt directly relate to salaries. Try a variety of different subjects and styles. Follow your interests and your talents! Your email address will not be published. Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed. This article is part of the Video Game Developer Salary series.
See the annual pay for all video game jobs here. Read my new book! Tagged with: art , Careers , negotiation , salary Posted in Careers. Felicia says:. July 25, at am. Jason W. Bay says:. August 5, at pm. Kaitlynn says:. September 10, at am. Diran says:. August 14, at pm. August 25, at pm. Joshua Eudy says:. March 18, at pm. Nicksonder Examar says:. August 10, at pm. Ansar El Muhammad says:. September 25, at am. September 30, at pm. Albert says:. June 23, at am. June 25, at pm. June 29, at am.
The 50 Best Video Game Design Schools
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January 8, at am. January 9, at am. Thuy says:. January 17, at pm. January 26, at pm. Jemima Loke says:. January 1, at am. January 2, at pm. January 22, at pm. January 24, at am. Harry-James A Linford says:. February 8, at am. Luna says:. March 16, at pm. March 25, at pm. Taynoush says:. April 1, at am. April 1, at pm. And boy did Masaya Matsuura give us that! Matsuura took a concept not yet seen in videogames, combined it with the crude, yet lovable art of Rodney Greenblat, and made PaRappa the Rapper, a memorable game about hip-hopping your way through life.
The game has seen a sequel, and a spiritual successor with Um Jammer Lammy. Sure, Matsuura's PaRappa didn't invent the rhythm game, but it is largely responsible for making it popular. The style was unique, the songs were hilarious and catchy, and the ability for players to freestyle to earn more points gave it a more open gameplay experience than other rhythm efforts.
The Parappa series is incredibly fun, bursting with personality and great characters. And then there were the songs -- which were all over the place across the three games. Players rapped about making noodles, rocked out with lumberjacks, helped a giant caterpillar care for dozens of babies, and helped land a crashing plane, all through the power of music.
Matsuura has gone on to do other unique classics like Vib-Ribbon and Tamagotchi Connection, and will be throwing his hat back into the music rhythm game ring once again with the upcoming Major Minor's Majestic March rather soon. Jonty Barnes has been a name that was generally tacked on after Peter Molyneux, but his credentials certainly speak to more than that.
In other words, you have Barnes to thank in part for the accidental death of millions of digital lives in the early-to-mid '90s. In the later '90s he migrated over to Lionhead Studios with Molyneux and assisted in the production of the ambitious Black and White titles. That's a pretty big deal, as Black and White did things nobody had ever seen before. It was a game that was literally overwhelming with its possibilities.
While playing a god was an idea that technology couldn't accurately portray at the time, the game still offered some fantastic gameplay options -- changing the way we looked at "God Sims" forever.
What do Video Game Designers do?
The ambition and enthusiasm for the title is a skill Barnes used later when he joined the Bungie team to head up production for Halo 3. One of the major advances in Xbox exclusive installment was the increase in scale. There were more enemies, bigger environments, and sometimes up to a dozen AI Marines working with the player on screen to simulate a more realistic futuristic war. And it became a smarter game too, with the AI doing things with a focus on gameplay, instead of just looking cool -- all things Barnes had shown a penchant for in his other games over the years.
As a producer Barnes has taken his skills from working on games that offer huge worlds, and hundreds of people, and channeled that into expanding the Halo franchise in a similar direction. We have a feeling that Jonty's time in the spotlight is far from over. Eugene Jarvis is clearly in love with arcade games, and rightly so -- he was instrumental in helping the burgeoning arcade industry effectively give birth to the modern videogame. His tenure during the Golden Age of arcade games development is the stuff of legend, with creation or co-creation credits for classics like Defender and Blaster and Robotron: during the earliest of early days at Atari.
It didn't start that way, of course; like most early pioneers of the industry, Jarvis had another gig. Unlike most early pioneers, the pre-videogames gig with Hewlett-Packard lasted all of couple weeks before he got a call from the folks at Atari. Less than a month later and his Atari superiors had left, leaving Jarvis with the unenviable task of giving The Fuji's pinball division a continuous shot in the coin-op arm.
It was not to be, however, but Atari begat a chance to continue the early bit of dabbling he'd done with games when he headed to Williams. After years of creating arcade games for others, Jarvis eventually formed Raw Thrills the better part of a decade ago, pulling in a handful of his old Midway buddies to continue building original and license-based arcade games, some of which piggyback off more tried-and-true bits of gameplay such as The Fast and the Furious being patterned off the Crusin' titles.
The multi-talented Stieg Hedlund is a figure that stands out in the industry for many reasons. Toting over 20 years of experience working on games of nearly every genre, Hedlund is best known as the man behind the best-selling PC game Diablo II. Hedlund's videogame career began in , when he landed a position at Infinity Software, a small publisher that put out games for the Amiga, Macintosh, and Commodore Three years later, Hedlund left Infinity to work for Japanese publisher Koei, where he was the lead designer for a handful of its titles.
However, it wasn't until his move to Blizzard North then named Condor Software that he gained true recognition. When it was released in it was an instant success, earning critical and commercial accolades and went on to become the second best-selling PC game of all time. Perpetual closed its doors in early , and Hedlund founded the independent design firm Turpitude Design.
Now acting as Turpitude's Chief Creative Officer, Stieg's main goal, as stated on the Turpitude web page, is "to create awesome games that are fun, innovative, and 'sticky'. Jason West is the Chief Technology Officer and one of the co-founders of Infinity Ward, the development studio behind one of the pinnacles of war shooters, Call of Duty. West has been in the industry for years with various high-profile games to his credit. He was part of the lead team at that worked on Medal of Honor: Allied Assault before they broke off to form the aforementioned Infinity Ward.
The ways in which the West-lead Call of Duty made war games more believable and challenging are numerous. Whether it was the smarter allied AI that actually works with the player as a squad in addition to an enemy intelligence that reacts to and flanks your team, or the removal of the standard health bar years before the feature became commonplace, the game's influences reach far and wide -- and it's Jason West that's in large part responsible.
West and Infinity Ward's improvements and innovations often become industry standards for first-person shooters. As project lead for Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, West created one of the most critically acclaimed games of this generation, earning numerous awards and accolades, that has already influenced other FPS titles and likely many more for years to come. Then send a thank you letter to Jordan Mechner because the dude pretty much invented the genre.
Back in Mechner created Prince of Persia, a platformer that combined unique puzzles, interesting traps, and impressive animations into a single cinematic package. The premise was simple enough and the game became an instant classic, being ported to nearly every major format available at the time. The influence of the Prince of Persia and its sequels can be seen in numerous platformer and action titles made ever since. It charted new territory for videogames that people hadn't previously thought of.
Later, Mechner used his already-established originality to create The Last Express, a mystery-adventure set on the Orient Express that offered unique gameplay elements like a rewind system instead of saving. It also featured digital rotoscoping technology to convert live action to animation. The game was not a financial sensation, but it did enjoy a cult following and helped popularize techniques later used for films like Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly. When Ubisoft wanted to revive the Prince of Persia franchise they called on Mechner, who worked tirelessly to write a compelling script for the successful reboot, Prince of Persia: Sands of Time.
It was simple and elegant, and was the perfect spiritual successor to his original work, bringing the Prince into the current generation without feeling dated. Even though Mechner's resume isn't as packed as some of the other creators on our list, all of his games are a hell of a lot of fun, and still hold up to this day. There are few who are as dedicated to their craft as Yasunori Mitsuda. He has pulled countless all-nighters, and worked through stomach ulcers and several other physical ailments to bring gamers some truly memorable music compositions.
Initially, Mitsuda was gearing his life towards that of a professional golfer before rekindling his childhood appreciation of music in high school thanks to the scores of such films as Blade Runner and The Pink Panther. After graduating, he attended the Junior College of Music in Tokyo, where he gained valuable experience in and out of the classroom. In April of , after what he has referred to as a "disastrous" interview, Mitsuda was hired by SquareSoft as a sound composer, providing sound effects rather than music.
In , he famously gave Square's vice-president, Hironobu Sakaguchi the man behind Final Fantasy an ultimatum, stating that if he was not allowed to compose music, he would quit. His demand was met; Sakaguchi assigned him to work on the now-legendary Chrono Trigger under the watchful eye of veteran composer Nobuo Uematsu.
Mitsuda composed several more soundtracks for Square, and after completing the score for the RPG Xenogears, left the company to go freelance. He's been working for Rockstar since the late '90s and has helped shape nearly every major title the company has released. Barrera earned his chops on Thrasher: Skate and Destroy, the only skateboarding game to actually hold up against Tony Hawk during the game's heyday, but had plenty of other games under his belt, too -- including Grand Theft Auto 2 and III. Midnight Club took racing games and expanded the track to an entire city, changing the way future racing games were developed.
The Warriors took a retro movie license and revitalized it, managing to stay true to the film and be a lot of fun. And let's not forget Bully, that game that was going to teach our kids to beat up teachers, but instead turned out to be a funny, engaging look into the life of a teenager. Let's not forget about his unflinching envelope -pushing with games like Manhunt 2 which also makes him one of the few people to have seen those unedited death scenes and one of the best overall games of our generation, Grand Theft Auto IV.
Throughout his career Barrera has shown a passion and excitement for the projects he's working on. He helps promote the games in interviews that show he has an understanding of what makes a game fun, and what Rockstar fans and he as a gamer himself are looking for.
Like a few other people on our list, Bruce Shelley hails from the hallowed halls of MicroProse. Like fellow alums Sid Meier, he's since gone on to start his own company, but Shelley's origins couldn't have been more fitting for the career as a strategy games designer that he's made a name for himself in. Originally a co-founder at a traditional pen-and-paper RPG house, Shelley got his feet wet in crafting board games first and took those lessons learned into his starting gigs in the games industry.
In a perfect example of the cyclical nature of relationships in gaming, Shelley eventually left MicroProse, freelanced here and there and decided to hook back up with his pen-and-paper pals to form Ensemble Studios in , which jumped right into all but printing cash with the Age of Empires series for Microsoft. Given Shelley and Ensemble's enviable track record crafting one successful Age of Empires game and the obvious expansions each spawned after another, plus a turn at building a console RTS in Halo Wars, it was especially surprising to hear Microsoft had shut the dev house down, but with his knack for seemingly being able to build consistently great games, there's little doubt he'll be away from things for long.
Former Capcom employee Hideki Kamiya has brought gamers a collection of truly amazing titles throughout his flourishing career. Inspired by 8- and bit classics like Xevious, Gradius, and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Kamiya first gained fame as the planner for Resident Evil 1 before stepping into the role of director for the sequel; a game that is widely considered one of the best if not the best in the entire series thus far.
Due to Resident Evil 2's overwhelming success, it's no surprise that development on the third installment began this time under Capcom's Production Studio 4 , with Kamiya once again directing the project. A year later it was readily apparent that what he was working on had become a radical departure from what had already been established with the first two Resident Evil games. In a surprising move by Capcom, Hideaki Itsuno was appointed director on Devil May Cry 2, a decision that completely blind-sided Kamiya. Paranoid that his job at Capcom was in danger, Kamiya went on to direct the original Viewtiful Joe, which was well-received by critics and gamers alike.
He migrated to Clover Studio and began working on the Japanese folklore-inspired "Game of the Year" winner and frequent example used in the popular "games are art" debate , Okami. Now a member of Platinum Games with other big names like Shinji Mikami, Yuta Kimura, Nao Ueda, and several others, Kamiya continues to develop cutting-edge videogames to this day.
His sexually-charged actioner Bayonetta is the next project in his illustrious career, and with an approach to videogame design that involves treating each new project as though they were one of his own children, we don't expect his passion for creating unique gaming experiences to let up any time soon. Despite being an employee at Konami for almost 20 years, Koji Igarashi's love affair with the hit Castlevania franchise did not begin until he was assigned as the assistant director, scenario writer, and programmer for 's PSX classic Symphony of the Night.
Prior to SoTN, Iga as his fellow chums call him worked as a programmer on an unreleased simulation title. From there he handled programming duties on Gradius II and Detana!! Twin Bee, before moving on to become the scenario writer for the dating sim Tokimeki Memorial. It was after he completed Tokimeki that he asked to be transferred to the Castlevania series, as he didn't have any ideas for a sequel.
After completing Symphony of the Night, which to this day is recognized by many as the single best Castlevania game and among the greatest bit games ever made, Iga went on to serve as the producer on Castlevania: Chronicles, and has remained in that position ever since. In , Igarashi's controversial decision to remove Castlevania Legends, Castlevania 64, Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness, and Castlevania: Circle of the Moon from the continuity with the rest of the series was met with some resistance by fans, but he was soon forgiven when he produced a string of fantastic GBA and DS Castlevanias modeled in the vein of Symphony of the Night.
Whatever the future may hold for Koji Igarashi is still unknown, but given his history and contributions to the franchise he holds so dear, chances are good that he'll continue to produce fantastic gaming experiences. Jordan Weisman is an entrepreneurial juggernaut. He's started more companies than most people work for in their life.
He's also behind the MechWarrior games, some of the highest selling and most acclaimed PC games of all time, and the franchise that's considered by many as the very definition of mech battling games. The combat mechanics and graphics were incredible for their time, and honestly the game still doesn't look bad nearly 15 years later. Oh, and Weisman is also responsible for creating the Crimson Skies series, one of the most entertaining and stylish flight combat games around. Creating the MechWarrior and Crimson Skies series is reason enough to get on this list, but Weisman has done a hell of a lot more for flavor.
Weisman has also had a foray into alternate reality games, and is the mind behind the I Love Bees promo for Halo 2. He's even made an interactive novel, Cathy's Book, which sounds like, but is way cooler than, a Choose Your Own Adventure book. Weisman has had his hand in nearly every cookie jar imaginable, helping to expand the worlds and characters of videogames into unique franchises and ideas. Takashi Tezuka is one of the most revered names in the gaming industry, and with good reason.
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As one of Nintendo's main designers, Tezuka has co-directed many of the company's iconic titles. Tezuka's tenure at Nintendo began back in after he graduated from Osaka University of Arts' Design Department, working alongside Shigeru Miyamoto ever since. Their first title together, Devil World, was released for the Famicom at the tail end of Once complete, work on Super Mario Bros.
The 8-bit exploit of the portly plumber was an instant success, but Tezuka and Miyamoto did not stop there. Tezuka worked on Miyamoto's next innovation, The Legend of Zelda, not only as assistant director, but also as the game's graphic designer. Subsequently, he co-directed Super Mario Bros.
Since then, Tezuka has continued to serve as a director, producer, designer, or supervisor on all major Mario titles, up to and including New Super Mario Bros for Nintendo's handheld DS system, and the innovative Super Mario Galaxy for the Wii. He produced Pikmin 2 and, more recently, the Animal Crossing series.
Tezuka's creative genius has given gamers just over two decades of incredible software. Now acting as a general manager of Nintendo's Entertainment and Analysis division along with long-time partner Miyamoto, we can be sure to enjoy more quality games from this visionary chap. The videogame landscape was changed forever when young upstart Yuji Horii joined forces with acclaimed Manga artist Akira Toriyama and music composer Koichi Sugiyama to create the first installment of the pioneering Dragon Quest franchise more than 20 years ago.
Originally a freelance writer for several newspapers, magazines, and comics, Horii entered and placed in a programming contest with a tennis computer game that was sponsored by a talent-hungry Enix. Dragon Quest's release came at a time when console RPGs where close to non-existent.
Horii's scenarios, along with Toriyama's vibrant character designs and Sugiyama's striking musical score were a recipe for success that revolutionized the role-playing genre and triggered somewhat of a gaming explosion in Japan. Dragon Quest's debut also gave rise to other well-known role-playing franchises, including SquareSoft's iconic Final Fantasy series.
Following Dragon Quest's huge commercial dominance, Horii went on to produce several more scenarios for the franchise's many follow-ups before finally gaining full directorship of Dragon Quest VII in These days, Horii heads his own production company, Armor Project, which has an exclusive contract with Square-Enix where he continues to oversee the line of Dragon Quest DS remakes and upcoming sequels.
Easily one of the most enterprising folks on our list, Irish developer Dave Perry seemed to have a connection to crossover licenses from the moment he began making games professionally. He broke into the industry in his mid-teens, first pulling from, and then submitting, games to magazines in the UK as nothing but code.
It was his move to the US working for Virgin Games in that helped him understand the facets of working with pre-existing licenses, ranging from Global Gladiators a McDonald's property to Cool Spot 7-Up's mascot to Aladdin yes, the Disney one. Shiny's first game, Earthworm Jim, was ported to multiple systems, was turned into a cartoon, spawned a line of toys and helped put the company on the map. Subsequent licensing deals and collaborations -- most notably with the Wachowskis on Enter the Matrix and The Matrix: Path of Neo -- continued Perry's string of crossover partnerships.
Shiny was scooped up by Atari in , and Perry left four years later to begin extensive consultation work, including helping the new, rebooted, Korean-owned and MMO-focused Acclaim find its footing. He currently operates something of a games consulting empire, representing industry talent, fostering fledgling indie developers and serves as an advisor for the Game Developers Conference.
Perry has long been eager to self-promote, and has set up his own self-titled domain as something of a games development portal, linking those trying to break into the industry with existing development houses and tirelessly updating visitors on the status of his myriad consultation and advisory roles. Keiji "Inafking" Inafune is regarded as the father of Mega Man.
And while he has admitted that the actual design for Mega Man was more of his mentor's work, Inafune is still considered the mastermind. Largely in part because at the age of 22, Inafune created every other character in the game, did the design sheets and artwork for the booklets, and was the person responsible for converting all the artwork designs into sprite form a sprite set that consisted mostly of blue tones, thus the main reason Mega Man is the blue bomber.
Luckily since Capcom decided to let the team continue the Mega Man franchise even after disappointing sales of the original, Inafune got to create hundreds of other characters, including Mega Man's many successors. In fact, most of Capcom's famous faces have come from the mind of Inafune, whether directly or in concept. Inafking has worked on most of the franchise's titles, and is the creator of both the Mega Man X and Mega Man Battle Network installments.
Inafune-san is also responsible for the popular samurai adventure series, Onimusha, and is even writing the movie based upon it. More recently, Inafune has been the producer for Dead Rising and Lost Planet, two new franchises for Capcom that have been met with critical and commercial success. And even with all the games and character under his belt, Inafune will of course always be remembered as the graphic designer for Duck Tales on the NES.
Though plenty of Japanese developers will grace our list and rightly so , few of them have had a string of successes like Atsushi Inaba, who has had his hand in some of Capcom's most impressive franchises -- first as a part of Capcom proper, then spun off as head of Clover Studios and then, when Capcom unceremoniously pulled the plug on that venture, went on to form what would eventually become Platinum Games.
His work overseeing production on projects like both Viewtiful Joe games and the Ace Attorney series, and contributing to everything from Resident Evil: Code Veronica X to Devil May Cry while still at Capcom was the byproduct of more than eight years of experience at the company, and from stints with SNK and Irem before that. He's been one of the driving productive forces throughout one of Capcom's most successful and creative periods in the company's history, helping to birth a number of critically and commercially successful new IPs, then steering the direction of former Clover co-workers at Platinum Games as they brokered a publishing deal with SEGA.
Games like Okami and God Hand during Clover's days were all overseen by Inaba, and when he and a handful of former Clover employees jumped ship to start their own development studio, he helped to oversee the entire production run, culminating in his most current work in the upcoming MadWorld. Though he's certainly gotten his hands dirty development-wise, it's his managerial and production roles that have been tapped most recently and to fantastic effect.
A pioneer in the sports game genre, Scott Orr is just as responsible for the success of the Madden Football series as Richard Hilleman is. After all, it was Orr who was brought on to help redesign the disappointing Apple II football game and it was Orr, under Hilleman's guidance, who shaped how the game would look, play and feel -- creating what then became the iconic Madden game. This is back in the day when a two-man team could do most of the work and get away with it. Hilleman and Orr went in different directions in the EA Sports universe, but their influences and contributions continued on in all the right places.
Orr remained on Madden, improving the game every year with new graphical features, smarter AI, and updated stats. The franchise stayed excellent as it moved from two dimensions into three and the sheer number of critical awards and sales numbers that stack up every year attest to that. Though Orr's team has grown from a handful of passionate fans to an army of more than 30 developers and a dozen designers, Madden NFL hasn't lost its step and remains the best-selling videogame series in North America for a reason: passion.
But Orr's ambitions didn't stop at the gridiron. EA Sports is a huge brand now, offering gamers a diverse amount of quality sports titles, and Orr helped start and maintain that trend with his work on Madden and other franchises. But it was his collaboration in with Hirokazu Yasuhara and Naoto Oshima on Sonic the Hedgehog that would propel him to true superstardom. For years, Nintendo's designers were challenged by Naka's highly competitive interpretation of genres the Big N had previously dominated, and by a number of reinventions of the Sonic character that took him into worlds beyond the standard platformer.
It could and has been argued that without Naka's many contributions to the creation and continuation of the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise, that SEGA would be a much different company than it is today. Naka's new studio is partly funded by SEGA, who has automatic first publishing rights which it has exercised with Prope's first projects -- the acclaimed Wii-exclusive rhythm title Let's Tap and the virtual "catch simulator" appropriately named Let's Catch.
Earlier this year, Naka told us in a one-on-one interview that "Being the father of Sonic and being involved with him for 15 years [leaves me] very attached and fond of him still. The same could be said of how the games industry feels about Mr. Naka's contributions to our craft. Many, many developers will work their whole lives and never build up the kind of credibility or attention that the folks on our list have garnered. Fumito Ueda did it with the first game he directed -- which incidentally, was only the second game he'd worked on the first being an animator on Kenji Eno's Enemy Zero.
How's that for success? Of course, when your first game as director is Ico, it's a little understandable that people would come to look at you as a wunderkind. Ueda's knack for creating atmospheric puzzle playgrounds with mute or near-mute characters instills a sense of isolation, yet provides an endearing feeling of hope as the protagonists seek simply to find an exodus or redemption from their weather-worn, ornate prisons.
Ico, a project that started first on the original PlayStation but eventually moved to the PS2, created a world that would serve as a foil for Ueda and his team's follow-up, Shadow of the Colossus. Again combining a character that had no dialogue with a world beaten and desolate that was populated only by a series of lumbering, interactive puzzles, Shadow made for an intensely memorable experience, and one that's gone on to inspire more than a few other developers since. In just two games, Ueda has given "Team Ico" the kind of freedom within Sony that development teams can only dream of, rivaled only by Polyphony Digital's Kazunori Yamauchi, despite the two Team Ico games selling a fraction of what Gran Turismo has banked.
Still, when one can prove themselves so readily in such a short amount of time, it gives both publisher and fans alike reason to expect great things in the future, which is precisely why the whole industry is bracing for the eventual reveal of Ueda and Team Ico's PlayStation 3 project. Regarded by some as the current mastermind of real-time graphics, and the counterpart to id Software's John Carmack, graphics guru Tim Sweeney has had a gargantuan impact on the gaming world. Aside from designing and programming games such as ZZT and Jill of the Jungle in the early 90's, Sweeney wrote the original Unreal Engine for use in the first-person shooter Unreal.
This landmark introduced breakthrough technologies that included dynamic colored lighting, volumetric fog, and real-time 3D level-building tools. Consequently it became the basis of games across the PC platform and multiple videogame consoles. Sweeney has gone on to direct Epic's engine development through the current generation of gaming, where Unreal Engine 3 has garnered the support of many of the gaming industry's heavy-hitting companies Atari, Capcom, Konami, and Square-Enix to name a few and is now powering everything from the tactical shooters Gears of War 2 and Rainbow Six 6 Vegas to the turn-based RPG Lost Odyssey.
I expect that youll see games shipping with Unreal Engine 3 in , and may be even a year after that For games that begin shipping in , well have Unreal Engine 4, whatever that is, with a major new architecture and major new feature set, and there youll see significant changes Whatever those significant changes are, we can only imagine. However, thanks to Tim Sweeney's extraordinary contributions, we know that those changes will continue to revolutionize the look of games for years to come.
Known in several circles as the "John Williams of videogame music," Nobuo Uematsu is widely considered one of the best composers in gaming history. A self-taught musician, Uematsu-san began working for SquareSoft in , when an acquaintance and part-time Square employee offered him a job creating music for the game known as Genesis. His work on the score was good enough to land him a full-time position as part of Square's composing team, where he scored several games for the NES and Famicom Disc Systems while working part-time at a music rental store.
In , he met Hironobu Sakaguchi and agreed to compose the music for a game that would either make or break the entire company, which was on the verge of bankruptcy; that game was Final Fantasy. Final Fantasy's soundtrack gained attention for its distinctive melodies and unique style. Following the game's success, Square hired Uematsu-san as the composer for the next installment in the franchise.
He remained in that position for over a decade, writing the music for the IP's first ten titles. Uematsu's music has had a massive impact on videogame soundtracks. He continues to compose music for Square-Enix as a freelancer, as well as for Hironobu Sakaguchi's company, Mistwalker. Ed Logg has had such a long and storied history with arcade games that it's hard not to love the guy's persistence.
When Atari broke off into separate arcade and home units, and spun off its home conversions under the Tengen name, Logg went along with it, helping to craft the home versions of not only his existing arcade projects, but a handful of others as well -- including a little game called Tetris that became the source of a bitter, protracted battle between parties that all felt they'd licensed the game properly and thus owned the exclusive rights, with Logg privy to but not entirely involved in the bulk of it.
Eventually Tengen would go on to create unlicensed games for the NES. Logg's tenure with Tengen and what was originally dubbed Atari Games was extensive, riding out one of the most convoluted series of exchanges of ownership, bids by former heads including original Atari founder Nolan Bushnell , and company name changes and reversals due to legal issues ever.
Long before World of Warcraft redefined the definition of "popular" among massively multiplayer online role-playing games, yet far enough removed from early efforts like Meridian 59 or The Realm or even Ultima Online, there was EverQuest. McQuaid and Smedley happened to be at the center of what would be a perfect storm for the then-budding MMO scene. When EverQuest essentially put the barely-formed or at least named Verant Interactive on the map, only to have the fairly new Sony Online Entertainment happily gobble them up, it was McQuaid who would guide things at least for a time as Chief Creative Officer with Smedley serving as head of the studio.
Though Vanguard was to be originally published by Microsoft, eventually Sigil bought back the rights and re-negotiated a deal a bit closer to home by having SOE publish the game, effectively reuniting Smedley and McQuaid for a time. Neither Sony Online Entertainment nor Sigil Studios have managed to recapture the attention and success of the early days of the original EverQuest, though SOE under Smedley has shipped a number of massively multiplayer online games since. Whatever modern-day results may come, the partnership between John Smedley and Brad McQuaid did, in a very real sense, pave the way for future MMOs, making them genuine figureheads of what is now a billion dollar business.
If you're going to put in the hard hours at a company, the list of prospects better than Blizzard Entertainment isn't terribly long. Some might even say the house that Warcraft, StarCraft and Diablo built is at the top of that list, which probably explains why Bill Roper has spent so much of his career there building those aforementioned titles -- in particular the latter one as part of the Blizzard North team.
Roper's extensive history, not surprisingly, shares a very common theme of role-playing games, but then that's always been Blizzard's bread and butter. After handling a myriad of audio duties ranging from composition to voice work on some of Blizzard's earliest titles, Roper quickly began to wear quite a few hats, ranging from scriptwriting to manual design to, eventually, a production and oversight role with subsequent entries in Blizzard's flagship series.
Fittingly, when he left the company to start his own, christening it Flagship Studios which would only release Hellgate: London before closing its doors , most of the RPG experience would come to be something of an asset. Even after Flagship was shut down, Roper quickly found a home at Cryptic Studios working on Champions Online, and plying much of his considerable experience with the genre into future products.
Oft times serving as a figurehead and company spokesperson in addition to his normal development duties, Roper continues to be a public face for the products he works on. Given his humble beginnings at a then smallish dev house with a chilly name, that's not a bad way to make a living. Bleszinski's work impressed Sweeney, and development on his own original project, "Dare to Dream" began.
During the development process, Bleszinksi became more involved in the company, providing critical feedback on the other games being worked on at the time. Though Dare to Dream didn't achieve the success Epic had hoped, Bleszinksi eventually made his mark by crafting the hit Jazz Jackrabbit. He went on to become a key visionary in Epic's already-established Unreal franchise, shifting the direction of the series from a story-driven, single-player FPS to a more action-oriented, multiplayer experience.
Following the continued success of the Unreal games, Bleszinski was promoted to Epic's lead developer, and began work on a new IP. In , the Xbox exclusive shooter Gears of War was an absolute smash -- receiving numerous honors including the coveted "Game of the Year" award by several publications and the distinction of being the fastest selling videogame of with sales of over 2 million copies in six weeks.
Two years later -- and after making numerous tweaks to the engine -- Gears of War 2 was released and once again, Bleszinksi's gritty, testosterone-packed tactical shooter received critical and commercial acclaim. Now that Bleszinksi has truly established his place in the gaming industry, he wishes to retire the CliffyB moniker, saying that it's "time to grow up a bit. As the original creator of Grand Theft Auto a game he'd originally dubbed Race-n-Chase before the Houser brothers opted to give it an arguably more fitting name , David Jones can be quite easily credited with providing one of the biggest franchises in videogame history with a core tenet.
After scooting through his first year of collegiate coursework in his native Scotland, Jones decided to use his free time to begin building games, channeling the lessons learned in school into what would eventually become Lemmings for then-independent publisher Psygnosis which would later be gobbled back up by Sony. Whipping up Direct Mind Access Design as a development house in , he began cranking out a number of titles for the publisher, but it wasn't until he pitched what would eventually become the first GTA that he struck gold. Though he left DMA Design about 10 years after forming it and just before GTA2 shipped, selling it to Gremlin Interactive which was in turn bought by Infogrames in the process, Jones hasn't really been hurting for ideas.
He joined Rage Software as Studio Manager until Rage folded, then created Realtime Worlds in and quickly went to work fleshing out his own ideas for an open world playground that eventually became Crackdown, earning it a rather prestigious Best Debut Award at the Game Developers Choice Awards. His next title, All Points Bulletin, looks to take many of those early sandbox concepts online, though the release of the game has slipped a few times and the only confirmed platform as of now is the PC.
Though he cut his teeth on Hardball II and Test Drive 2 for Accolade, it's safe to say that Chris Taylor already made a name for himself by the time he'd started work on his fourth game, Total Annihilation: a real-time strategy game that used undulating terrain more than sheer troop numbers to help determine strategy. It was the first game for the then-fledgling development house Cavedog and the only series it would release before eventually folding about five years after being founded. Two years prior, Taylor left Cavedog and founded his own company, Gas Powered Games, setting to work on a slightly different kind of game at least at first : a top-down dungeon crawler dubbed Dungeon Siege.
It was quickly picked up by Microsoft, which would go on to publish the expansion and sequel. But it wasn't until that Taylor would return to the genre that helped him gain notoriety with Supreme Commander. By the time a proper successor to Dungeon Siege had been released in the form of Space Siege for publisher SEGA, Taylor had moved into an overseeing position and continues to lead the direction of Gas Powered Games to this day.
The Impact of Total Annihilation was significant, as it was not only in 3D -- still a foreign concept to other RTS games at the time -- but also approached the strategy of unit attacks and abilities with the 3D visuals taken into account as well. Great games have the ability to draw players into their worlds, immersing them in fiction.
This is usually thanks to storytelling done right -- where plot devices and clever use of set pieces dangle a carrot in front of a player's imagination while giving them enough incentive to lean in and take a bite. Ken Levine is a master of capturing that element in his videogames. A veteran of numerous projects at Looking Glass and Irrational Software now 2K Boston , Levine relies on elliptical narrative instead of traditional cutscenes. His games teach players to understand the bigger picture through interactions with other people and the world around them.
Levine's best work uses these techniques flawlessly. Thief, System Shock 2 and -- most recently -- BioShock are all great examples of immersive storytelling that scores of other developers have imitated. Another Levine influence is the slick and extended use of NPCs regardless of the genre he's tackling. In most of Ken's projects, every AI-driven character is important to the bigger picture -- connecting players to the game world on a personal level that was rarely seen prior to Levine's donations.
Oh, and did we mention he's really good at freaking us out, too? The classic System Shock 2 is still one of the scariest games we've ever played; largely thanks to the unnerving claustrophobic atmosphere of being trapped on a spaceship and clever use of "gotcha" moments that don't feel scripted.
Ever wondered what the author of The Witcher books thinks about the games?
It's safe. Nothing it going to hurt you while you're watching this He joined Nintendo in the late '90s and quickly set to work on one of Nintendo's most loved franchises -- an unenviable task considering the series was one of Shigeru Miyamoto's earliest breakout hits and one that Miyamoto himself had been overseeing for three generations of hardware.
When The Legend of Zelda moved to the N64 and Miyamoto's role at Nintendo began to shift from core game development to more of a production and company-wide navigation, the task fell to Aonuma to keep the series afloat. To compound things, Link was finally moving from 2D to 3D, which brought with it a host of newfound difficulties. Aonuma soldiered on and delivered what many believe to be one of the best games ever with Ocarina of Time. Majora's Mask followed, and the series eventually graduated to the GameCube with Wind Waker, but Aonuma actually got a chance to head back to the beginning when the Zelda Collector's Edition was rolled out to help cap off The Wind Waker's then-next-gen release.
That return to the old-school bit Zeldas would eventually feed into The Minish Cap on the GBA and later, the lessons learned in The Wind Waker would fuel the DS continuation, Phantom Hourglass, even if the gameplay is both old-school and updated for the touch screen. Aonuma's experience as producer and director on Four Swords Adventures and Twilight Princess only helped to reinforce the breadth of his experience with the franchise's different gameplay styles over the years. Though it's not entirely fair to call Harvey Smith an understudy of Warren Spector, the two shared very similar paths for a good chunk of Smith's career, starting with a handful of games at Origin Systems like System Shock where Smith started on documentation continuing on through Cybermage where he began to take on more of a storyteller's role and culminating in his role as lead designer for the original Deus Ex at Ion Storm.
By the time Deus Ex's sequel was under way, Smith had built up a considerable amount of experience. With the blessing of Spector, Smith took the helm of the series, though the shift to include console versions at the same time as the PC served as the crux of the game's criticism, damaging Smith's pedigree as a purveyor of deeply immersive, imaginative adventures. Smith's role on the far more warmly-received Thief: Deadly Shadows helped patch this up, though he didn't have nearly as large a role as Invisible War despite the games sharing a mutual engine. When Ion Storm finally went belly-up, Smith moved to Midway to helm a more story-driven version of the coin-op light gun shooter Area Dubbed Blacksite, a none-too-thinly-veiled jab at some of the more clandestine actions our military was taking overseas at the time, the shooter failed to capture critics' adoration quite as universally as some of his earlier work.
Smith eventually left shortly thereafter, and has yet to resurface publicly at another development house. In the meantime, he's continued to update his own personal blog, Witchboy. One of a large group of promising developers to emerge from the hotbed of talent at Looking Glass Studios in the early nineties, Doug Church's career has often shadowed fellow Looking Glass alum Warren Spector, and with good reason: Church and Spector collaborated often with Spector producing and Church lead developing on a number of games now considered classics, including Ultima Underworld and System Shock.
There, he oversaw and contributed to a handful of Eidos studio projects, including Deus Ex at Ion Storm which housed a post-Looking Glass Warren Spector and Crystal Dynamics which would come to take over the Tomb Raider franchise after Core Design was taken off the series. His role at Eidos often allowed him to reunite with former co-workers at other post-Looking Glass studios like Irrational Games and Harmonix. Church's collaborative role extends to present day, where he often contributes to educational programs fostered by the International Game Developers Association, helping colleges and game design schools to integrate their curriculum in way that will allow students to break into the industry with a complete set of skills or offering tutorials to introduce core concepts to existing devs.
Brian Reynolds may not be as synonymous with development house Firaxis as fellow co-founder Sid Meier, but he's been every bit as instrumental in the success of their games, including franchises like Civilization and Alpha Centauri. Although Meier, Reynolds and Jeff Briggs all left MicroProse in the mids for Firaxis, Reynolds and Briggs never quite achieved the same kind of name recognition as Meier, due in no small part to Meier's name being plastered over just about everything that comes out of the Maryland-based developer.
Given his degrees in European History and Philosophy, it makes more than a little sense that Reynolds would gravitate toward strategy games -- particularly the kind that Sid Meier was making a name for himself in. While at MicroProse and then later at Firaxis , Reynolds studied under Meier and eventually began heading up full-blown sequels featuring key advancements in AI -- one of Reynolds' fortes -- though they still carried their eponymous creator's name. Perhaps in part because of that, Reynolds eventually sold his stake in Firaxis and went on to found his own dev house, Big Huge Games, which struck gold with Rise of Nations and publishing deal with Microsoft.
Subsequent expansions have followed, which Reynolds has helped craft in addition to providing coding duties on the version of Catan and taking over for Ensemble Studios for their second Age of Empires III Expansion, The Asian Dynasties. Reynolds' apparently tireless pursuit of building strategy games he seems far more comfortable in a development environment than heading up the company itself appears to be paying off, as THQ announced that it is scooping up the developer and publishing all future endeavors.
Harmonix's background, as the name would imply, was less about games and more about exploring the concept of music creation and making it easier for budding artists to craft music without knowledge of high-end software. As it happened, games ended up being the perfect vehicle for what Rigopulous and fellow founder Eran Egozy were trying to do, and their first game along with the rest of the Harmonix team was Frequency, a critically lauded but commercially lacking trip through music creation.
Amplitude, the sequel, introduced more mainstream acts into the mix and shifted the interface from a tunnel to a flat plane, which was the critical advance that begat Guitar Hero, Harmonix's industry-changing music franchise. Before that, however, Alex and the Harmonix team explored a few other aspects of the music genre, including grading pitch with the Karaoke Revolution series for Konami. Guitar Hero become a social phenomenon, but it wasn't until guitars were mixed with the company's experience in singing and the inclusion of drums that Rock Band, the first complete band game in a box, finally hit the public.
Through it all, Rigopulos has been a founder, a company figurehead, pitch man, and public mouthpiece. Though he, by his own admission, isn't terribly fond of speaking in public or at least confesses he doesn't think he's very good at it , Harmonix would have little in the way of a tether or public face. Larry Holland knows what science-fiction fans crave, and he knows it before we even know we want it. Holland has done it all. He adapted two of the most famous sci-fi licenses in the world into brilliant, long-lasting titles that stood at the top of their genre.
He developed seminal WWII dogfight simulations in the late '80s that taught future generations how to make an action-oriented flight-sim without sacrificing realism. He gave us TIE Fighter. The last bit alone is enough to earn him a spot on our list despite any of his other accomplishments, but Larry is more than just TIE Fighter. A solid space fighter that took the questionable physics of "Star Wars" and made them believable, X-Wing gave fanboys the opportunity they had always dreamed of -- to fight for the Rebel Alliance against the evil Galactic Empire with nary an action figure in sight.
The visuals were astounding, the controls were accessible and easy to learn, yet still boasted an incredible level of depth, and the story brought us familiar settings and all-new characters that were every bit as badass as Darth Vader. Holland went on to make more Star Wars flight games for LucasArts, building on his already impressive legacy. After moving on from LucasArts, Holland tackled making Star Trek: Bridge Commander, a realistic and enthralling sim that allowed users to control the Enterprise and other ships from the Rodenberry universe.
Most critics and fans consider it the ultimate Star Trek experience.
Every great space flight game from here on out owes him a debt of gratitude. If you played PC games and even a few console games in the early-to-mid '90s, you likely touched something that Brian Fargo had a hand in. As founder of Interplay in , he and his company would go on to shape some of the most revered role-playing games in PC history by way of the Black Isle offshoot. Though a series of back-and-forth partnerships throughout Interplay's roller coaster fiscal success would have the company's ownership shifting multiple times in the wake of it going public, Fargo stayed with the home of published franchises like Earthworm Jim, Baldur's Gate, MDK, Descent, Icewind Dale and Fallout until when he finally left after French publisher Titus scooped up the company.
He quickly went to work founding a new company, inXile Entertainment, and tapped into his roots as a producer in the early days of Interplay to resuscitate The Bard's Tale, plus bought back the rights to Wasteland from EA, who had published it during Interplay's early days.
True to his companies' role-playing game roots, Fargo was a chair on Turbine Entertainment's of Lord of the Rings Online and Asheron's Call fame board of directors. Though he doesn't dabble in coding duties nearly as much as his early days, Fargo's keen business sense and willingness to speak at industry events has ensured that he'll be a recognizable name for years to come. When the PlayStation first debuted, videogames were still largely seen as fancy children's toys. One of the console's key designers, Kazunori Yamauchi's, helped change that perception forever, injecting a sense of maturity and sophistication that few rarely match even today.
And he did it with Gran Turismo. The series has seen its share of imitators, even great ones, but none have yet captured the magic that Yamauchi's juggernaut has. Every entry in the racing simulator series has pushed graphical boundaries of the system that hosts it -- offering the most realistic driving experiences around. Thanks to Yamauchi's fascination with cars that he's carried since childhood, he has built a simulation series with the true auto fan in mind. The amount of customization available in every Gran Turismo is staggering, and the cars range from mundane to exotic, making the game perfect for car junkies of all nationalities and tastes.
Let's not forget that GT is also an exhilarating racer with just as much emphasis given to race tracks and gameplay options as the cars themselves. How dedicated to Gran Turismo is he? In addition to owning a number of high-speed and incredibly expensive cars of his own, Yamauchi can often be seen racing around for real on the streets and tracks near his home. He's been named of the 50 most powerful people in the automotive industry by Motor Trend Magazine three years running and is an equally respected powerhouse in our industry as well.
Not bad for someone that makes children's toys. Colloquially known in the industry simply as "The Doctors" or just "Ray and Greg" likely because everyone struggles with their last names , BioWare founders Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk have been breaking sales records and spell checkers for years.