Production

Sid Meier’s SimGolf

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SimGolf was a product that literally evolved into existence over the course of a couple of weeks.  The product actually began life as Sid’s infamous dinosaur game, and despite building a variety of different prototypes (a card game, an RTS, etc), he was never satisfied with “Dinos” and began to tinker with other ideas. One of those ideas was a golf simulation that used the same isometric tile grid that he had built for his Dino game.   One week, we were playing and giving feedback on the dinosaur game. The next? presto-chango — SimGolf was born.

SimGolfStory2It wasn’t actually called SimGolf at first — that name and branding was a somewhat uneasy marriage brokered by EA’s Bing Gordon, and we did the best we could to embrace the Sims aesthetic.  The “Sims” that roamed your golf course could interact with each other and start “stories” that would only be fulfilled if your course provided a certain kind of challenge or fun.

At the time, I was still the web and community manager, so I worked with the Maxis web team to build and test the SimGolf website (including the “SimGolf Exchange” functionality on Maxis’ servers) and moderated the discussion boards.  I wrote some stories for the theme backs and also built a tool in Visual Basic called “Sim Golf Story” that allowed you to create new pairs of golfers and their “story” and save the file out to your game.

demojournalists2001 was the first year I attended E3 as a developer and demoed the game for press.  Our demo room was a golf-themed room right inside a giant tree that EA had constructed in the middle of their Harry Potter-themed area.  It was loud!  The giant SSX Tricky display outside our room was on a 2-minute loop and you could feel the bass in your chair 🙂

Sid Meier’s Civilization III

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chariot_fidgetCivilization III was a very big deal for Firaxis.   Although it was well-understood that Alpha Centauri was the spiritual successor to Civilization II, Hasbro held the Civilization license and, aside from a brief challenge from Activision’s ill-fated Call to Power series, there really wasn’t anything out there giving turn-based strategy fans what they wanted.  So when we signed with Infogrames to do Civ III, there was a lot of excitement internally, for good reason.  Over a period of several years I was involved in many facets of the product’s life cycle.

At the time of the original Civ III’s launch, I was heavily involved in the launch of Civ3.com, which was by far the most ambitious website release we’d ever done.  But I was also involved in several ambitious side projects: one such project, internally codenamed “Play the World”, was to be a feature that allowed Civ III players to connect to the Civ3.com website each day, download that day’s game seed, and, periodically throughout the course of their gameplay session, upload their current game state for comparison to their friends and the best players in the world.   I built what I would later realize was a primitive server backend using ColdFusion as a web application layer and SQL Server as a database, while the Director of Technology built the client routines to send scores and download game seeds using standard HTTP calls.  In the end, it proved too clunky and was abandoned, but it did lend its name to the infamous expansion pack!

psychedelic_editorAnother side project I spent extensive time on was gathering and triaging fan requests and working with one of our engineers, Mike Breitkreutz, to improve the capabilities of the game’s editor.  We would have near-daily meeting to discuss new features, brainstorm ways to work around limitations, and debate interface usability.  The editor itself was a standalone MFC app, and I wrote comprehensive Windows help files for the application.   Though we received a great deal of criticism for the editor’s initial lack of functionality, many fans eventually grew to consider the Civ III editor among the most powerful in the series; indeed, thousands of mods and scenarios were created by fans for the game.

27163624In 2002, I worked with Eagle Games, a boardgame manufacturer known for its massive boxes and high production values in its game pieces, to develop Civilization: the Boardgame.

In 2003, I was the producer for “Civ Console” project, a controller-driven, TV-resolution prototype of a Civ-style game that Sid had developed with the intention of developing for the Sony Playstation 2.    Eventually, the kernel of this concept would go on to become Civilization Revolution, which shipped on Xbox 360, PS3, and iOS.

In 2004, years after the original launch of Civ III, I was asked to build a gold pack compilation of Civ III and all its’ expansions — Civ III Complete.  I authored the autorun, edited the manual and managed QA for the compilation.  The product was released on PC and Mac and remains a strong retailer seller to this day.

 

 

Quadmania ’97

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BestOfMontageFrom 1996 to 1997, I was the Major Events Chair of the Student Events Board (SEB) at my alma mater, the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC).  My job was to plan, promote and produce the annual spring festival, which was called “Quadmania“.

For Quadmania ’97, I had a budget of $60,000 and a staff of over 50 people.  The headline act was the legendary George Clinton and the P-Funk Allstars, and we had several national supporting acts, including rap superstar Redman, the Bloodhound Gang, Nerf Herder and ska legends The Toasters.  The event was free to the public and had food vendors, a beer garden (which had been the first in years at the university),  games, and local artisans.

It remains one of my proudest accomplishments.

Award Winning

The event drew more than 10,000 visitors and was named 'Best Free Concert in Baltimore' in 1997 by the Baltimore City Paper. I was also voted 'Chair of the Year' by my peers on the SEB for my efforts in producing the event.

Official festival logo

Redman signing autographs

Emcee J. Gray addresses the crowd

George Clinton takes the stage