We recently asked our Technical Director and Co-Founder of Stoic, John Watson how he got into the business of making video games and what keeps him motivated in this incredibly competitive field.
What attracted you to the game development industry?
I love the feeling of creating an imaginary place that you can share with other people.
What are some previous game titles or studio names you’ve worked with?
I started out by creating a text-based MUD called TempusMUD. It was very popular and active, and we had lots of volunteer help building it. I handed it off entirely to some of the great folks that made it what it is. It’s still running: http://www.tempusmud.com/ please give it a try. The parts I’m most proud of are the 9 Circles of Hell zones. After that I worked at Space Telescope Science Institute on the Hubble Space Telescope, working on the digital archive of images and telemetry. During that time I made an unreleased indie game called Dungeon Game (haha) which is what ultimately landed me a game industry job. Dungeon Game has no internet presence, I should dig up old videos of it and post them. After that I worked on Star Wars Galaxies, a fantastic MMO by Sony, and then I went to BioWare and worked on Star Wars the Old Republic, which turned out great.
What is the earliest or most intense memory you have of a video game experience?
I started playing games very early. My cousins had an Atari 2600 and I had an Apple ][e. On the Atari, the Adventure game made a big impression on me. On the Apple, I would say that my biggest early influences were Wizardry, Eamon, Sierra adventure games, and the Zork and Zork-like series.
Other than any Stoic games, what is your favorite video game of all time and why?
It’s really hard to pick. Let’s go with the original Quake, with Capture the Flag mod.
If you did not work in the video game field, what kind of job do you think you’d be doing?
I love programming and technology, so probably something related to that. I’m also very interested in space science, so maybe ROCKETS! or asteroid mining. I also love math, so maybe software related to solving hard Graph Theory or Cryptography problems.
What’s something you’re proud of in the Banner Saga series?
The Banner Saga has made a big impact on many players, I love that it creates such an emotional attachment. I’m also proud that we’ve been able to do as much as we have with relatively few resources and people.
When you’re not working on Banner Saga, what are you doing in your free time?
I do a lot of reading, mostly nonfiction, although I do manage to get in about a novel or 2 per year. Most recently I read Mists of Avalon (fiction), a biography of Aleister Crowley, many of Crowley’s works, the biographies of several economists, a textbook on the Renaissance and Reformation in Europe, a good chunk of the Harvard Business Review’s ‘must read’ essays, and some books on cryptocurrency and AI. When I’m not reading, working, or playing games, I love the outdoors. I’ve done a lot of hiking and exploring recently. In 2017 I’ve been hiking in Cornwall England, Banff Canada, Quinalt Rain Forest Washington, Mt. Rainier Washington, Kua’i and Maui Hawai’i and others! I’m planning some upcoming skiing and snowshoeing trips in the Cascade mountains.