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20 Questions with Warren Spector
We chat with Warren Spector about everything except Deus Ex, from his early days at TSR to what he wants to do with his next game. An in-depth look at one of the masters in computer games.
By - John "Warrior" Keefer

Page 1/5


Warren Spector is heading up the Deus Ex team for Ion Storm's Austin office. But what brought him to this point? We play 20 questions with Warren and if you are looking for Deus Ex information, check out our behind the scenes look at Deus Ex and Ion Storm Austin profile, because there is none here.

Gamespy: I know you have a background in journalism. How did you get from journalism to game developer?

Warren: Beats me! I went to j-school because I wanted to write about movies and wanted to work on my writing and research skills. It didn't take long covering airplane crashes and interviewing religious leaders in the community to show me that I really needed to be in the film school! Anyway, I changed majors my junior year, but kept writing for various university newspapers and magazines -- invaluable experience.

My first game industry job offer came from a couple of guys I'd worked with at one paper who were working as assistant editors at Steve Jackson Games. The whole "career" thing was all a lot of luck and happenstance, at least early on. There sure wasn't any premeditation on my part. Luckily, all that journalism experience honed my writing, editing and layout skills, all of which translated pretty well to the creation of paper games.

Gamespy: When you got started at Steve Jackson Games, what did you do? How did you get the job?

Warren: I started out as an assistant editor making $4.75 an hour and did just about everything -- I was the editor of Space Gamer and Fantasy Gamer magazines (though, to be fair, Allen Varney did pretty much all the work, really). I did a bunch of editing and designed a bunch of role-playing adventures for the mags. I wrote a ton of game reviews, did rules development with Allen Varney on Greg Costikyan's TOON: The Cartoon role-playing game, worked a bit on the first edition of GURPS as well as on the boxed editions of Ogre, Illuminati and Car Wars.

To make a long story short, I ended up as Editor-in-Chief and had my hand in just about everything that came out of the SJG offices between 1983 and 1986. Heck, like everyone at SJG, I even got to build some of the actual shipping games -- stuffing maps and counters into ziplock bags and fitting rulebooks and boards into boxes!

Gamespy: When you trekked over to TSR, what was your contribution to AD&D? Had you played AD&D (or the original D&D) before you got there? Did the group there play the game a lot outside of testing?


Warren: I signed on with TSR as a rules editor and developer. My first assignment was to work with Doug Niles on Top Secret/S.I. I'm still really proud of what we did with that game. Doug's action resolution system played so fast and so well and really captured the rapid pace of a James Bond-style adventure without sacrificing realism. Just awesome.

As for AD&D, I pulled together the first Greyhawk hardback and worked on a few modules. I was also lucky enough to work with David "Zeb" Cook on the 2nd Edition AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide. That whole 2nd Edition effort was Zeb's baby but we all worked on it, everyone in the office. If I made any single contribution, it was probably making sure the rules were all clearly explained in sufficient detail. But, like I said, it was a department-wide effort.

Had I played AD&D before? Of course. Everyone's played AD&D, haven't they? I was always a bigger fan of D&D than AD&D but if you were going to scratch the role-playing itch back then, you pretty much had to be willing to play anything and everything.

As for gaming, there was a fair amount of it at TSR -- some D&D, AD&D, Call of Chtulhu, Top Secret...

Gamespy: I know you still have your original AD&D character sheets. What was your first character and what made him special?

Warren: My first gaming group was DM'ed by Bruce Sterling, now a well-known science fiction author and pundit. Back then he was just a (really talented) guy whose first sci-fi novel was about to published. He came up with this D&D variant with a medieval Japanese setting so I created a samurai character who started out without a name. I eventually started calling him Botara Chi-tan (Buster Keaton...) because he was always deathly serious.

Botara was a member of a group of ne'er-do-wells called The Rat Gang, all of whom eventually rose to positions of great power in Shang, the River City. Botara's two-sword fighting technique was very effective but there was this one rival -- Bengki Tigerfang -- who he could never best. That campaign went on for about ten years, with the characters getting more and more powerful until, at the end, the last time we played, Botara and his army amassed on a hill overlooking a valley while his rival massed his troops on the other side of the valley. Botara rode out to meet Tigerfang in one-on-one combat but we never actually resolved the battle. That's where it ended. All very Kurosawa-esque. To this day, I don't know if I would have won or not. And that's just the way it should have ended. Bruce knew what he was doing, dramatically speaking...

Next: Spending time at Origin...




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