'90s PC gaming roundtable: Veterans behind LucasArts adventures, Prince of Persia, Broken Sword, and Deus Ex sharing stories

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For our third and final roundtable from the 2024 Game Developers Conference, we put together a special panel—a quartet of developers who have all been making games since at least the year 1990, and are still active today. Joining us for this conversation: 

  • Charles Cecil - Broken Sword, Beneath a Steel Sky
  • Khris Brown - Voice director & editor for LucasArts, Double Fine, Ubisoft
  • Jordan Mechner - Karateka, Prince of Persia, The Last Express
  • Warren Spector - Ultima Underworld, System Shock, Deus Ex

Over the course of an hour our guests talk about how they got into games (and how unlikely their paths would be to replicate today), the challenges of making games with the technology of the '80s and '90s, run-ins with celebrity voice actors like Mark Hamill, and a passion for history. That fascination was key to the stories Jordan Mechner and Charles Cecil told in their beloved adventure games The Last Express and Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars (and also led to a particularly memorable encounter for Cecil with Hollywood director Ron Howard).

All four developers have seen the games they've worked on be remade, remastered or followed up by sequels over the years, and they discuss the feeling of leaving behind a legacy.

"System Shock getting remade recently, people still care about a game I worked on 30 years ago—that's cool," says Warren Spector. "Making things that last—when you get to my age, I'm 68 and proud of it, the word legacy comes to mind probably more than it should. I want to leave something behind that's bigger than me. Deus Ex in particular is that for me… later on, when Eidos was acquired by Square Enix and a new series of games set in that universe came out, people would ask me 'how do you feel about that? Does it bother you that someone else is making them?' No! I participated in something that has a life of its own, that has some cultural impact. It's like my baby grew up. Who's upset about a baby growing up? That was pretty special."

The conversation also covers the early days of voice acting in games, with LucasArts veteran Khris Brown talking about how difficult it was for actors at the time to understand the nonlinear storytelling of games compared to film (while working on Double Fine's Brutal Legend, she also taught Ozzy Osbourne how to use his new smartphone). 

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Wes Fenlon
Senior Editor

Wes has been covering games and hardware for more than 10 years, first at tech sites like The Wirecutter and Tested before joining the PC Gamer team in 2014. Wes plays a little bit of everything, but he'll always jump at the chance to cover emulation and Japanese games.

When he's not obsessively optimizing and re-optimizing a tangle of conveyor belts in Satisfactory (it's really becoming a problem), he's probably playing a 20-year-old Final Fantasy or some opaque ASCII roguelike. With a focus on writing and editing features, he seeks out personal stories and in-depth histories from the corners of PC gaming and its niche communities. 50% pizza by volume (deep dish, to be specific).