Mark Knight: Chapter II

Let’s move back deeper into history again. 1992 was an important milestone for you as a musician. You were hired by a big and successful studio that developed games across many platforms. You are also known to arrange music for the Amiga port of Wing Commander, which had an excellent original soundtrack that I can easily backtrack in my memories. Perhaps even because of the fact I gave the game another complete playthrough not long ago. Was this the very first game you worked on?

It was the first full game I worked on. I wrote one track for a game before that: Guy Spy and the Crystals of Armageddon. Wing Commander was my first proper gig, I suppose, and it saved me in some ways because I had left college. I’d been turned down to do music technology at university because, and I quote, “Classical musicians can’t deal with music technology.” So, I didn’t really have anywhere to go. I was 18 or 19 years old, not going to university. I ended up filling out a form to do management training at one of the national supermarkets when Mindscape phoned and asked me if I was interested in working on Wing Commander.

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Mark Knight: Chapter I

Hi Mark, do you still remember the very first moment you heard a chiptune? If so, how did it feel?

It depends on what you class as a chiptune, cause you can argue that anything written on C64 is a chiptune. Yeah, I do remember, because the C64 sound chip made a massive impression on me straight away. The first game I had was a cartridge game called International Soccer – and the sound was shit in that – but soon after that, there was a game called Forbidden Forest. I had three games early on: Forbidden Forest, Super Huey and then, a little bit later, Commando. Commando is one of Ron Hubbard’s best soundtracks and that blew me away. I fell in love with the C64 sound.

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Damon Slye: Chapter III

The 2000s saw a rapid decline in the mainstream demand for combat flight sim games apart from the excellent IL-2 series not much has been left. Titles like Warbirds moved predominately into multiplayer arenas and single-player flight games turned into a quick-action arcade format. Why do you think this has happened?

I feel that there was a misunderstanding among the market, going all the way back to very beginning, where people didn’t understand that you had to have a balance in these games between authentic simulation and fun. They seemed to think that a game either had to be an arcade game, that is in a way an empty and meaningless experience, or something that is a realistic simulation.

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Damon Slye: Chapter II

1990 was the year that marked a new era for Dynamix. The studio was bought by Sierra-On-Line and lost, albeit temporarily, one of its founding fathers Jeff Tunnell, who started his own studio. It was also the year that spawned the legendary Red Baron. What are your memories of that turbulent 12 months?

It was a good time. We made a deal with Sierra – with Ken Williams – and the main point of sale with the company was that we remained autonomous – creatively autonomous. Because that was what kept us excited and enthusiastic about making games. He totally agreed; he was an entrepreneur himself and he understood.

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Damon Slye: Chapter I

Dynamix was founded 34 years ago, but its story began even earlier with a game based on the 3D arcade classic Battlezone, called Stellar 7 for Apple II and C64. It was the first fruitful collaboration between Damon Slye and Jeff Tunnell. How did you guys come together in the first place?

Jeff owned a computer store in Eugene called Computertutor and it was one of the first software-only stores. So I would go in there and that’s how I met him.

So you just decided to make a game together?

I was already working on the game apart from him. He said he wanted to be a publisher and I didn’t believe he could do it, because he wasn’t already a publisher. But he was always a very ambitious person…

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Josh Sawyer: Chapter V

In the final part of this extensive interview, my curiosity naturally shifted toward Josh’s creative future and also his life outside the studio.

Let’s move into the final lap. Could you give me any hints about the future?

That’s the question? The future? [laughing]

[Laughing] I mean, do you have any idea what is going to be your next project after Deadfire?

Personally, I would like to develop a historical game.

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Josh Sawyer: Chapter IV

I remember when I played this power-hungry character in New Vegas and gradually removed all of the main bosses including Caesar and Mr. House to become this self-installed merciless lord of Vegas. I always have this malicious glee when a game allows me to do such things. Tyranny is the opposite example; even if you really want to, you can’t do that much good.

Well, I think what Tyranny does is put you in a position where you are an agent of an evil empire. And so, the most good that you can be is still not that good [laughing]. Because you’re representing something that’s fundamentally really tyrannicalsurprise [laughing].

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Josh Sawyer: Chapter III

In retrospect, how do you think the perception of CRPGs has changed since the ’90s?

Oh, I would say a great deal. I think that even within video games in the ’90s, RPGs were still considered to be more niche. Because, in the mid-’90s, there was a rise of FPS that I think really exploded the popularity of games for a wider audience—people doing LAN parties and lots of online competitive gaming, etc. Also, more competitive RTS gaming. So, I think that RPGs were still more niche and, really until the very late ’90s, there still wasn’t a focus on multiplayer. Even then—like in Baldur’s Gate— there was multiplayer, but it wasn’t extremely well-implemented. Same with Icewind Dale; we didn’t do a great job with either of those [laughing].

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Josh Sawyer: Chapter II

Let’s move on to the projects that didn’t make it. To begin with, could you shed some light on the ill-fated story of Baldur’s Gate III?

So, it’s a little weird. I was working on a game that was code-named Jefferson, before Van Buren. Jefferson was going to be Forgotten Realms game, but it wasn’t going to have anything to do with Baldur’s Gate—there was really no continuity between them. There were actually going to be a couple of characters from Icewind Dale II that were present in Jeffersonwe were actually starting to call it The Black Hound. Feargus never liked that name, but that was what I was calling it.

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Josh Sawyer Chapter I

Josh Sawyer: Chapter I

It’s a relatively warm autumn night of 4th October 2017 A.D. here in Berlin and I am standing outside on the street in front of a local wine bar impatiently awaiting the arrival of one of my favorite game masters of the cRPG scene, Obsidian’s one and only Joshua Sawyer. Upon his arrival we sit down at a table in the intimate environment of a wine cellar and whilst he enjoys his glass of red, we are quick to find a common ground in history. He is very passionate and knowledgeable about the subject of medieval history and is also fluent in German. But before I hit the record button of my voice recorder and for the first time, so that conversation can switch to the games…

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