Will Wright

Founder, Maxis and creator of The Sims

Lessons from Game Design
104 minutes, 35.9mb, recorded 2003-11-20

Consider the impact auto racing (visibility, technologies) has had on the automotive industry. Computer games have evolved into a similar relationship with the computer industry. Because we get to design the problems that our players face (the game challenges) we have an opportunity to push the boundaries of graphics, user interface, AI, metrics and simulation. What we're currently learning about mapping these abilitites to the psychology of our players will be used in the mainstream software of the future.

This presentation is from the IT Conversations archives of the SDForum Distinguished Speaker Series.

Will Wright, Maxis� Chief Designer, co-founded Maxis with Jeff Braun in 1987. Wright began working on what would become SimCity�The City Simulator in 1985. Using a complex technique, he found a way to bring realistic simulations to desktop PCs. Previously simulations of this sort were only available to the military, scientists and academicians. But now, using an easy to use graphic interface, the world of simulations opened up to consumers.

Wright has had a lifelong fascination with simulations. His interest in plastic models of ships and airplanes during his childhood in Georgia eventually led to his designing computer models of cities, ecosystems and ant colonies.

SimCity was released in 1989, and within a few months became a hit. The game has since won 24 domestic and international awards. With Fred Haslem, Wright co-designed SimEarth�The Living Planet in 1990, a simulation of a planet based on the Gaia theory of James Lovelock. In 1991, Wright and Justin McCormick designed SimAnt�The Electronic Ant Colony, a scientifically-accurate simulation of an ant colony. SimCity 2000, and SimCopter, a helicopter flight game, are also part of Wright�s recent repertoire. SimCity 3000 Unlimited, the definitive version of 1999�s best-selling game SimCity 3000, continued in the tradition. The long-awaited 4th generation, SimCity 4, was released in January 2003.

Taking computer entertainment to its most personal level, Wright�s ground-breaking game The Sims, puts players in charge of the lives of a neighborhood of simulated people. Released in February of 2000, this wildly popular title has become a cultural phenomenon, sold over 9 million copies worldwide, has received numerous �Game of The Years� accolades, and has become the best selling PC game of all time. To date, The Sims has inspired six expansion packs; Livin� Large, which allows players to put their simulated families from The Sims into new extreme situations and settings, House Party, which gives players the chance to host outrageous parties for their Sims, Hot Date, which gets The Sims off the couch, to an all-new downtown area and into the dating game, Vacation, which allows The Sims to get some rest and relaxation with their families and friends on a fun-filled vacation island, Unleashed, in which The Sims can finally own pets, and due out this May, Superstar, where players can now realize their fantasies of fame and fortune as they pursue the dream of being a Rock Star, Movie Star or a Supermodel and live the lifestyle of a celebrity!

Taking its bow this past December was Wright�s much anticipated The Sims Online�. Featured in a cover story in Newsweek Magazine, The Sims Online enables you to take your Sims to an online world where you get to be yourself or whoever you want to be. In this world you have your own piece of land to do with as you please. In this open-ended, online world, you choose your role, your attitude and your destiny.

Wright has become one of the most successful designers of interactive entertainment in the world. In 1999 he was included in Entertainment Weekly�s �It List� of �the 100 most creative people in entertainment� as well as Time Digital�s �Digital 50�, a listing of �the most important people shaping technology today.� This year he was #35 on Entertainment Weekly�s Power List. This past February he joined the likes of Shigeru Miyamoto of Nintendo, Sid Meier of Firaxis Games, Hironobu Sakaguchi of Square USA, and John Carmack of id Software when he was inducted into the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences� Hall of Fame.

However, his interests are not limited to computer games. Each year Wright, along with his daughter Cassidy, takes part in the annual Battlebot competition which was broadcast nationally on Comedy Central. His past robots, which did battle with robots designed by other contestants, have taken top honors. Interestingly, it was Wright�s interest in robots that eventually led him into computer programming.

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