I can talk about what I’m working on again!  I’m one of the designers on

As you can imagine, it’s quite a thrill to be working on such a whirlwind of Rollercoaster, Experiment, and Mastery (multiplayer!) design.  I look forward to sharing details about the design through the SimCity forums and blogs.  I’ll cross-post them here when I can.


Play my Game (for free!)

Darkspore is going into public Beta very soon.  It’s quite excellent, I urge you to give it a try.  If you’d like to try this game out, and see some of the AI Director and Game Design work I’ve been doing recently, head over to the Beta site and register!


After yet another  TED talk espousing the mind-controlling properties of games, it is time to say again: “It’s not that simple.

Games are not just ultimate Skinner boxes.  In fact, as we know (thanks Alfie Kohn), Skinner boxes don’t really work on humans.  The talk even says it directly. You can only give people 5-20 repetitions before they get bored.  After that rewards stop working.  You get acclimated.

Games are the grand experiment.  We developed the power to make universes.  Places where every sound, every object, every rule created by a human being.  A place to try being God.  And what did we do with this power?  We turned it on ourselves.  We choose to study who we are.  How we think.  We discovered rewards.  We discovered motivation.  But we are also discovering acclimation.

Consider story games vs. game-y games.  Story games are games like Mass Effect, Final Fantasy, or Uncharted 2 that, rather then use deep sets of interesting rules, rely on an outside motivation to drive you through the universe.  Traditional stories, rigidly enforced and passively received.   And often it works.  At least until you get to the end.  But then the rules suddenly stop feeling compelling.  Why?  Why don’t you keep playing?  Acclimation!  We want end points.  We want to see differently, try new things, explore.  Develop and grow.  No single task or grouping of tasks is enough to contain us.

As designers, acclimation is our burden and our saving grace.  We have to overcome it to maintain engagement.  But it trains our players.  It makes them smarter, wiser, more engaged the next time we do something different, interesting, worthwhile.  It’s what breaks the “addiction”.  It’s the learner mastering the subject, and walking away with a new piece of knowledge.  It’s what gives the next designer a chance to entertain.

Games can’t “control” people.  Jesse Schell talks about it like it’s something to fear.  And while I agree the coming point-pocalypse is something for concern, all I think it does is make us stronger.  We are human.  We’ve built universes to test that out.  And we always win, in the end.  We walk away, and do something else.


I’ve moved on from Crystal Dynamics to take a position with Maxis Emeryville with the members of the old Spore team, where I’ll be doing AI and gameplay (surprise!).  I’m really excited about the title and hope you can hear about it soon.

Crystal Dynamics has been a great place and I’m going to miss it.  Good luck to those guys!  Look forward to hearing more from them too!  And keep an eye out for Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light.  It is looking fun, fun, fun.

A Big Personal Milestone

I’m not dead!  I’ve actually got 5 or 6 ideas that I haven’t had time to pound out.  I’ve been in the middle of planning and executing a Big Personal Milestone, which is going quite well, but I can’t tell you about.  I hope to have it finished up soon though and get back to writing.  Much to do!