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Don Daglow

The veteran designer talks Facebook future, shrinking consoles and his 30-year philosophy

Don Daglow has been programming video games since the 1970s, and been involved in some much-loved simulation and role-playing games, including one of the first successful massively multiplayer online games, Neverwinter Nights. He also founded the long-running Stormfront Studios in 1988, which closed almost 20 years later.

Now he's back with a new vision of video games, focused very much on the social and mobile space, but no less enthusiastic and passionate about the creation of entertainment and play. Here, in an exclusive interview with GamesIndustry.biz, he discusses the attraction of online gaming through Facebook, designing for brand new audiences and his thoughts on the current console space.

GamesIndustry.biz It must be an exciting time; you've just announced a new studio (Daglow Entertainment). Can you take us through what you've got planned?
Don Daglow

We're working with a major publisher. We're not talking yet about what the actual product is – that will come during the summer - but we're set up initially to be Facebook developers, we're focused on doing everything high-end, high-goal. It's a great feeling and I tend to go into a lot of superlatives, then I realise what I'm doing is just blubbering enthusiasm because we have a great partner - a great project to work on - and, frankly, I'm having a ball.

GamesIndustry.biz Facebook isn't known for "high-end" quality right now. What do you mean by high-end?
Don Daglow

Just in the last three years I've been working on guerrilla high-end projects which were very ambitious in their vision but with almost no money to work with – that's one kind of high-end. Another kind of high-end is when you're working with a major publisher and you have a typical budget for this kind of thing and, now you're not going guerrilla, you're able to focus on quality and you're not having to go "well, after we have to eat beans and gruel, somewhere sixteen years from now somebody will think we did something great."

Designers in the Facebook space already deserve a tonne of credit for having established that there's millions of people who would love to play games

GamesIndustry.biz Historically you come from a console and PC oriented background. What attracts you to the social and mobile space?
Don Daglow

I love a new audience. If you go back through things I've done, especially as a designer – here my formal title is creative director but functionally it will be lead designer – what I've always loved is something that would be a new kind of product that can reach a new audience.

What some of the really great designers in the social space have proven is that there are actually several really cool audiences in this space – and those are people we can entertain. I think designers in the space already deserve a tonne of credit for having done that proof for having established that there's millions and millions of people who would love to play games: just put the right game in front of them.

That audience is learning very rapidly and that audience is changing and growing very rapidly and finding its own special interests. What's really exciting is that new audience you can reach which, I think, inspires new kinds of thinking. If I were making a movie just for my cousin Irving – I don't actually have a cousin Irving but imagine for a moment that I do – if I were making movies just for Irving: once I got to the tenth movie I was making for Irving there would be a certain limiting quality about it because all I could do would be what Irving liked.

The cool thing about new audiences is that if I then made a movie for you I would then start thinking of completely new ways, because I've been naturally thinking about Irving all the time and now I'm thinking about you.

If we look at new audiences we can start to think "hey, there are a lot of traditions they don't know and there is a lot of interface stuff" and here are all the issues you have with an audience that is not like our regular audience. But that's actually cool because it starts you thinking in new ways and, when you think in new ways, you think things you wouldn't have thought before – to paraphrase the scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz.

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Matt Martin

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Matt Martin joined GamesIndustry in 2006 and was made editor of the site in 2008. With over ten years experience in journalism, he has written for multiple trade, consumer, contract and business-to-business publications in the games, retail and technology sectors.

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