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Vol. 2, Issue 1
November 10, 1999

Beaker's Bent:

Beaker's Back

by Rich "Beaker" Wyckoff




t’s been quite a few months, but loonygames is back, and Beaker’s Bent is back with it. To anyone who might be a regular reader, welcome back. And to those of you who are reading this column for the first time, let me use this first of a new series of Bents to explain a few things about the column. I’m a professional game designer and started my career at Looking Glass Technologies just after their golden years when they released Ultima Underworld I and II and System Shock. Looking Glass was a company that never had to make wild proclamations about the importance of design as has become the vogue among recent startups because every person in the company at that time was so strongly steeped in game design that it just went without saying that design would be the first priority.

I was lucky enough to spend my first couple of years in the industry in this environment. Even though during that time the company came close to collapse and many recently hired people such as myself found themselves without jobs and without any projects as significant as LG’s first set of successes on their resume, everyone who spent time in that environment came out of it with strong ideas about and experience with game design and development that I have come to realize are far from common in the industry.

I next spent nearly two grueling years on the famous failure known as Trespasser and since this spring have been at Knowledge Adventure, working on an Unreal engine project which is still unannounced and which I probably won’t be able to discuss for some months yet. In these post-LG years, though, I have gathered ample evidence that it is design, pure and simple, that determines the success of a project. Well-designed games can still fail, of course, and though traditionally developers mistrust or even loathe marketers, I am well aware that marketing plays a key role in the eventual monetary success of a game. However, even great marketing cannot sell a horribly unfun game or one which has such a poor design that it is impossible to even ship it.

The first run of Beaker’s Bent contained a mixture of discussions of design philosophy and critiques of industry trends. This will remain the trend for the new run of the column. I have been doing a fair amount of reading about business and design since loonygames went on hiatus, so hopefully I’ll be able to bring in some published justification for many of the ideas I have been fixated on since entering the industry. I believe that the new Bent will consist of much shorter entries than the old columns, however. I think this will make it easier for me to get them in on time as well as less overwhelming for the average reader to wade through!

In this new spirit of brevity, I’m going to end this re-introductory column here. For the many who wrote responses to my Baldur’s Gate column, which I hadn’t really intended to be on display for so many months while the site was on hiatus, I apologize for not being able to respond to all of your letters. Now I finally know what it is like to have more correspondence than you have time to deal with. I also need to state that though I seem to be the only member of the Trespasser team who is publicly accessible, I really don’t have anything more to say about that game. There are wild rumors floating around on the net which people keep asking me about, but I have not worked at Dreamworks for an entire year and I have no inside information about or interest in anything Trespasser related. The team has moved on as has the industry and most of the gameplaying public, so it is time to bury those dinosaurs once and for all.


- Richard “Beaker” Wyckoff is a game designer, not a level designer, damnit!

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Credits: Illustration © 1999 Dan Zalkus. Beaker's Bent is © 1999 Rich Wyckoff. All other content is © 1999 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited, so don't do it or we'll sick our lawyers on you. Muhahahahahahahah. ph3ar our [email protected] l3gal sk1lz y0.