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RE: Warren Spector Mark Van De Walle talks with legendary game designer Warren Spector about the changing face of the gaming industry, the mod scene, and 
whether there's ever been a better game than Tetris.

ONE OF THE MORE unlikely side effects of the rise of computer gaming is the concomitant rise of the computer-game creator to celebrity status. They're seen as auteurs, creative geniuses, Zen coding monks with Lamborghinis, they have rock-star haircuts and girlfriends who appear in Playboy and kick ass at Quake. (All right, John Romero is in the last category all by himself, and he has an embarrassing eighties hair metal rock-star haircut and his last game, Daikatana, sucked. But the principle still holds true.) This is pretty amazing, when you think about it. In the natural order of things, game designers should just be pasty-faced guys who played a lot of Dungeons & Dragons back in the eighties and now make their own games; instead, they're famous pasty-faced guys who played a lot of Dungeons & Dragons back in the eighties and now make their own games.

Which brings us to Warren Spector, who gave up a life as an academic at the University of Texas in order to go work for TSR, the company that actually invented D&D. That career move, all by itself, would be enough to elevate Spector to some kind of über-geek pantheon forever. But then he abandoned the world of pen-and-paper games and went to the computer game company, Origin, where he was part of the teams that produced the now-classic Ultima VII, Ultima Underworld, System Shock, and Wing Commander 1. All four of these titles invariably show up on "Best Games Ever" lists, largely because of their commitment to telling a story, to using then-current cutting-edge technology not simply for fireworks, but to create a world you could believe in. And that's Warren's influence; again and again, he's been part of teams that manage the delicate balancing act between narrative and adrenaline rush better than anybody else.

Most recently, he worked on Deus Ex, which a lot of people feel is one of the definitive documents on fin de siècle paranoia, period, let alone in the realm of entertainment software. All the paranoid touchstones are there: the black helicopters, the Knights Templar, right-wing whackos, left-wing whackos, secret government agencies within secret government agencies within still other even more secret one-world-government agencies -- all of them conspiring like mad to who knows what nefarious ends. Deus Ex is so paranoid that it has three different endings. Which one you get to depends on who you kill and how you act while unraveling the all the various conspiracies you're confronted with during your time as J. C. Denton, cyborg. This is the kind of touch that makes Warren Spector the kind of geek that other geeks look up to.

We caught up with Warren recently and talked with him about the changing face of gaming as it moves from cottage industry to multibillion-dollar entertainment complex; the role of storytelling in his own games; and whether or not anybody has ever come up with anything better than Tetris, anyway. We also try to weasel some information out of him about the upcoming Deus Ex 2 and Thief III.

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INTRO 2.13
FEED Video Games 2001


Carl Steadman on the rebirth of 2-D gaming

Steven Johnson on The Sims' killer rodent

Wagner James Au on Thief's hero, Garrett

Justin Hall on the most successful online mod

Francis Hwang on game cheats

Steven Johnson on Oni & videogame narrative


Steven Johnson interviews the Oni designer, Hardy LeBel


Mark Van de Walle talks to the creator of Thief III and Deus Ex, Warren Spector

Thief missions

  Web site

Counter - Strike 1.0

  80.4 MB

Unreal2D mod

  250 Kb

Unloaded mod

  11.8 MB

Human Debris mod

  555 Kb

Buy the games in this issue at Gamestop.com:


Quake III & Quake III Team Arena with SOF Gold Free or Quake III: Arena




Half-Life Counter - Strike


Deus Ex


Thief II: The Metal Age or Thief: The Dark Project


Unreal Gold, Unreal Tournament, Unreal Tournament Game of the Year, or Unreal


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