Industry legends share their gaming inspirations

Owen Hill at

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“It's not about what you show on the screen, it's what you cause to appear in the player's imagination.”

That’s what Firaxis’ Sid Meier took from The Seven Cities of Gold, a game he lists as a major inspiration. “Even today ... it's still the player's imagination that's the most powerful tool we can stimulate and use to bring the experience to life,” he says.

As reported on Gamasutra, Side Meier, John Romero, Will Wright and Cliff Bleszinski have been talking gaming inspirations at GDC.

Sid says that Seven Cities of Gold taught him that basic tech can still create an immersive backdrop. “The graphics...we might call them rudimentary. We might call them functional. But this was really the revelation of this game. Dan was able to create this entire world that you could explore, and I think there's a lesson there for us.”

“This game I created before I played Seven Cities of Gold was called Floyd of the Jungle. The games I created after were Pirates!, Railroad Tycoon and Civilization. I think this kind of encapsulates the effect this game had on me as a designer.”

Maxis’ Will Wright lists Pinball Construction Set as a major inflence, saying “It was an amazingly powerful set of tools.”

“It's kind of amazing how elaborate all the pieces were... you could resize, rotate, even go into a graphical editor. And this all ran on a 48k Apple II,” said Will.

He credited the creator, Bill Budge’s design aethetic too : “His love was really tools more than games. He enjoyed making things that would empower people to be creative.

Right after I started playing PCS, I started working on SimCity....I wanted to keep as few words in the interface as possible.”

Loot Drop's John Romero lists the spooky ambiguity of Pac-Man as an influence. He later went on to make Doom and Quake. He freaked out as soon as he saw the cabinet.

“It totally blew me away. The minute that I saw it, I still remember exactly where it was and what it looked like. Pac-Man was the game that really blew me away and influenced everything, because the game design was unlike anything that had come before.”

“The full force of the game hit me, and I kind of absorbed it all immediately, and understood the game design was different than what I'd seen before.

The four ghosts were crazy cool because they all had personalities...you start to learn them... it just kind of alludes to a deeper story even though there isn't a story there... the game was hugely influential on me, especially in the fact that it showed game design can be anything you think of. This game broke out of the mental box the whole industry was in.”

Epic’s Cliff Bleszinski said The Legend of Zelda had a dramatic affect on his career. “I fell in love with Nintendo. This was my first true love,” said the Gears of War dev.

“I was teased at school a little bit. I was chased off the bus and called Nintendo Boy. It kind of sucked back then, but my life is fucking awesome now, and they can just go on with their lame lives,” he mentioned.

“There's a compass and a map and a boomerang and bows and arrows...this was all new territory for me! It ignited my senses.” concluded Cliff.

Which games have had the most influence on you life? I remember thinking co-op Rampage was a pretty big deal when I was smaller, and slightly stupider.