I’ve interviewed Warren Spector – the legendary game designer behind such seminal works as Deus Ex, System Shock, Ultima Underworld and many more – many times over my 20 year career, most recently during a career-spanning IGN Unfiltered chat in 2017 Since then, however, he’s mostly slumped, teaching game design classes at the University of Texas. But Spector, a 40-year industry veteran, is back with something to prove: that he can do multiplayer.
“I’m a strong advocate for immersive sims,” he said. “I’ve been thinking for years, ‘What’s next in immersive simulations?’ I think I get that. His answer is an immersive multiplayer simulation, in the same vein as the games that made him a critical darling. The name of the project is Argos: Riders on the Storm, and beyond… we don’t know anything else yet. And Spector wasn’t ready to share any details other than to say, “It’s time I tried multiplayer.” But he was more than happy to discuss his philosophy on this project and what multiplayer means to him in the context of the games he enjoys making and playing.
Dungeons and Dragons figured a lot. “We wouldn’t be talking if it wasn’t for Dungeons and Dragons,” he said, emphasizing how fundamental the D&D experience is to his game design philosophy. He added that he wanted to give players the same feeling he had the first time he played D&D. “This idea of everyone becoming an author is super powerful.” He elaborated on this, suggesting that if he doesn’t bring anything new to the table with Argos, then it’s time for him to hang up. “I strongly believe that every game should have something that no one has ever seen or done in a game before,” Spector said. “I promise you the game we’re working on right now will.”
“We” is OtherSide Entertainment, the Boston-based development house founded by longtime Spector collaborator Paul Neurath. The studio was founded in 2013, with Spector joining in 2016 leading a second Austin-based team. The company’s most notable release was 2018’s Ultima Underworld spiritual sequel, Underworld Ascendant, which Spector did not direct.
But back to the new game. Spector gave a clue outside of multiplayer (which he indirectly clarified would be a small-scale affair – nothing with dozens or hundreds of players), saying that he and the dev team had been playing a lot of two games in particular lately. . “There’s an awful lot of Deep Rock Galactic being played,” Spector noted. “A bit of Dying Light 2 in there that plays a lot [as well].” Then he spoke a bit more conceptually, but also more confidently: “If people want ‘unique and innovative’, even I look at what we’re doing and think we’re crazy. The team accomplishes more than I asked.
What is the link with Argos multiplayer core? “The idea is to let players create their own experiences and tell their own stories,” Spector said. “There are a lot of exciting possibilities in the immersive-sim space. We can empower players the same way we did in the single-player space.
When I brought up his unparalleled longevity in the gaming industry, Spector didn’t shy away from addressing his age head-on. “I’m pretty sure I’m the oldest person still involved in active game development,” he said evenly. “The key is to keep learning. The world is different today than it was five years ago. There is constant learning.
Even after four decades of development, Spector was sure of one thing as he embarked on a new era of multiplayer with the immersive sims he helped establish: “We’re not a solved problem,” he says. about creating games.
We’ll have plenty more on Argos: Riders on the Storm as soon as Spector is ready to share more details.
Ryan McCaffrey is IGN’s Preview Editor and host of IGN’s weekly Xbox show, Unblocked Podcastas well as our monthly interview show, IGN unfiltered. He’s a guy from North Jersey, so it’s “Taylor ham”, not “pork roll”. Chat with him on Twitter at @DMC_Ryan.
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