From Miyamoto To Molyneux, Here’s Where Today’s Star Game Developers Started Out
Ever wonder where your favourite game developer got their start? Well, wonder no more (assuming that said favourite game developer is one of those we've listed below). It's always fun to look back at how the great and influential of this industry began their careers. And that's precisely what we're about to do.
Best Known For: The Fable series, Populous, Powermonger, Dungeon Keeper, Syndicate, Black & White and its sequel, The Movies, Theme Park... and the less said about Godus, the better.
First Game: Englishman Peter, awarded an OBE in 2004 for his services to the computer game industry, got his break as designer and programmer on 1984's The Entrepreneur. Giant Bomb's listing for said game reads: "The Entrepreneur was a text-based business simulation and only sold two copies, and he suspects his mother secretly ordered one of them to support him." Kotaku continues the story, writing: "Despite being so convinced of the game's success that he literally cut himself a larger mailbox, [the game] sold two copies, a blow so severe that he cut and run from the games business to design office databases." Molyneux would return to games in the late 1980s, founding Bullfrog Productions in 1987. The company's first release was the Amiga port of Druid II: Enlightenment, on which Peter was a programmer.
Best Known For: The Metal Gear Solid series, and the original Metal Gear of 1987 that preceded it. Kojima's currently working on Death Stranding, due out later this year, and was also designer on Policenauts, Snatcher and Boktai, all of which were published by Konami.
First Game: Kojima's games might be seen as exploring some seriously complex issues nowadays - the extent where a lot of us still have no idea what Death Stranding is about (and nor would we like to guess) - but he started with something that, on the surface at least, was much cuter. His first project after joining Konami was Penguin Adventure, on which he worked as an assistant designer. Originally released in 1986 for the MSX, Penguin Adventure - a somewhat surreal, semi-3D platformer - later came to mobile phones and PC, albeit in Japan only. Penguin Adventure featured multiple endings, including one where the princess you're supposed to rescue dies. Mario never quite got that dark.
Best Known For: Shenmue and its two sequels (the third game is due in November), Out Run, Hang-On, Space Harrier, After Burner, Virtua Racing, Virtua Fighter, Virtua Cop... if you played arcade games in the 1980s and '90s, chances are you played a Yu Suzuki game.
First Game: While he made his name in the arcade, before becoming the creative lynchpin of the Shenmue series, Suzuki's first game was a console release. Released in 1984 for the SEGA SG-1000 - a precursor to the Master System - before arriving in arcades, Champion Boxing was a side-on pugilist 'em up that looked positively ancient in comparison to Nintendo's Punch-Out!!, which had debuted in arcades in 1983. Nevertheless, it taught Suzuki the basics of game design, and the rest is history.
Best Known For: The BioShock series, Thief: The Dark Project, System Shock 2, Freedom Force.
First Game: Before the creation of BioShock really made his name, Levine had already put some celebrated work into System Shock 2 and The Dark Project while at Looking Glass Studios. But his first credit, according to Moby Games, is on a title called Front Page Sports: Baseball Pro '98, released in 1997, on which he's credited as a photographer. This well-received baseball sim - it picked up an 8/10 at Gamespot - was pretty far away from the creepy corridors of Rapture, but everyone's got to start somewhere, and the very next year would see the release of The Dark Project, on which Levine is credited as providing design and story concepts.
Best Known For: The Civilization and Pirates! series, Railroad Tycoon, SimGolf, Silent Service, F-19 Stealth Fighter. As co-founder of Firaxis Games, as well as MicroProse, Meier is also one of the key people behind the X-COM series.
First Game: Meier's reputation as a master of the simulation genre precedes him in the 21st century, but his first commercial game was a racer, Formula 1, published by Acorn for the Atari 8-bit family of computers in 1982. Viewed from the top-down perspective, the game featured four tracks based on real-world circuits, including Monaco and Monza, and races are held during the day and night.
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Best Known For: The Sims, SimCity and the series that were spawned by them, as well as other titles like SimEarth and Spore, all developed by Wright's studio Maxis, which he founded in 1987 alongside Jeff Braun.
First Game: Much like Sid Meier, Wright is associated most with the simulation genre, but he began his career with a shooter, 1984's Raid on Bungeling Bay. Wright is credited as the game's designer, and the Brøderbund-published title acted as the inspiration he needed to move onto SimCity. Bungeling Bay is a pretty unremarkable shooter, viewed from a top-down perspective, where the player controls a helicopter tasked with taking out a series of enemy factories. It came out for MSX, Commodore 64 and the NES, but if you've never played it, really, don't go out of your way.
Best Known For: The Legacy of Kain and Uncharted series, a cancelled Star Wars title at Visceral (boo), Battlefield Hardline.
First Game: Hennig really came to players' attentions as the writer and director of the first three Uncharted games, effectively leading those projects prior to her departure from Naughty Dog and Neil Druckmann stepping into her position for Uncharted 4. But she didn't begin her career with said studio - credits on Crystal Dynamics' 3D Baseball (1996) and EA's Desert Strike (1992) were preceded by 1989's Electrocop. This side-on shooter was released on the Atari Lynx, but Hennig was part of the team tasked with bringing the game to the Atari 7800, providing level art. Ultimately that version was never released, despite the Lynx version being well received by critics.
Best Known For: As the creative director at Sony Santa Monica, Barlog was the director of 2018's multi-award-winning God of War. He was also lead animator on the original God of War of 2005, and cinematics director on 2013's Tomb Raider.
First Game: Barlog's animation background goes back to 2002 and the fighting game, X-Men: Next Dimension. But before that, he's credited on 2000's Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots Arena for the original PlayStation, and his first credit, so far as Moby Games can remember, is on 1999's Requiem: Avenging Angel, a cyberpunk-y first-person shooter with multiplayer elements developed by Cyclone Studios for PC. Barlog is listed as an artist on the game, which remained a PC exclusive despite a wealth of positive reviews in the gaming press. You can still buy it today, on Steam.
Best Known For: The Last of Us and its upcoming sequel, the Uncharted series (he was creative director of Uncharted 4: A Thief's End), and he was a play tester on the multi-award-winning What Remains of Edith Finch.
First Game: So this is a tricky one. Technically, Druckmann's first game, on which he's credited as a programmer, is something called Dikki Painguin in: TKO for the Third Reich, a homebrew game for the NES. But do you really want that on your CV? Better is Jak 3 for the PS2, which Druckmann worked on in 2004, having joined Naughty Dog as an intern before gaining a full-time position. The next year he worked on Jak X: Combat Racing, before becoming a designer on 2007's Uncharted: Drake's Fortune. And look, if the whole Dikki Painguin thing is a piss-take, don't @ us.
Best Known For: Miyamoto is the creator of the Mario and Zelda series, Donkey Kong, F-Zero and Star Fox. He's pretty much the best-known game developer in the world (right?).
First Game: Miyamoto's first home console game was a maze affair called Devil World, released for the Famicom in 1984 and then for the European NES in 1987. (It was banned in North America, but that's another story entirely.) Long before then, though, in 1979, came Sheriff, a Western-themed arcade game that represents Miyamoto's first commercial gaming project. This multi-directional shooter was the first Nintendo game to feature the rescuing of a damsel in distress as the overall goal - something that'd resurface in Donkey Kong, The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros. - and it was successful enough for Nintendo to develop a sequel. Sheriff appears as a mini-game in WarioWare, Inc: Mega Microgame$ for the Game Boy Advance, and the Sheriff character is an assist trophy in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.