Insert Credit

It’s disturbing to be credited for games made by others, especially friends.

I recently saw my name attached to Bioshock 2, a game I greatly admire and played the hell out of, but on which I did not collaborate. Some of my friends inside Arkane and at 2K did, including Arkane’s Christophe Carrier and my friend and ex-roommate Jordan Thomas, creative director of Bio2.

Periodically, someone credits me with Thief, which I love, but did not work on. (I’m mentioned in special thanks for Thief 3, probably.) I think some people confuse me and Randy Smith; same last name, we worked together in the same roles at Ion Storm (Austin), we co-delivered a speech at GDC, and we’re both smoking’ hot (okay, well, he is at least).

The nature of the Internet, as a medium that excels at post-modern remixing of concepts, is probably the root cause of this problem; someone gets it close, but is off, then a bunch of people repeat the mistake, sometimes making it worse.

So here are my credits and the official bio I use for conferences and educational events:

Dishonored, Co-creative Director
KarmaStar (iOS), Designer/Producer
Blacksite, Studio Creative Director
Invisible War, Creative Director
Deus Ex, Lead Designer
FireTeam, Lead Designer
Technosaur (cancelled RTS), Creative Director/Producer
Cybermage, Associate Producer
Ultima VIII (CD re-release), Associate Producer
System Shock, Lead Tester
Super Wing Commander, Tester

Harvey Smith is a game designer who has been working in games professionally since 1993. Currently, he is co-creative director at Arkane Studios on Dishonored, working alongside Raphael Colantonio. In 2009, Smith released the iPhone game KarmaStar. From 2004 to 2007, he served as studio creative director for Midway Austin, managing the design department, starting three projects and shipping Blacksite during that time. He worked at Ion Storm’s Austin office from 1998 to 2004, acting as creative director of Deus Ex: Invisible War and lead designer on the award-winning Deus Ex, winning the 2000 BAFTA and many other awards. Prior to Ion Storm, Smith worked at Multitude, an Internet startup in San Mateo, CA. There he was lead designer of FireTeam, an innovative tactical squad game that was one of the earliest video games to feature voice-communications between players. He started his career at the pivotal game company Origin Systems, working as an associate producer on Cybermage and Ultima VIII, lead tester on System Shock and a play-tester on Super Wing Commander. He has written about numerous game design subjects and has spoken at the Game Developers’ Conference, MiGS, SxSW, E3, QuakeCon and other conferences. In 2005, he won the Game Design Challenge at GDC for his entry, Peacebomb! Smith has served on Advisory Boards for the SxSW Screenburn Festival and the Game Developers’ Choice Awards. In addition to working with Arkane Studios, he is currently pursuing an MFA with Savannah College of Art and Design, and has recently completed a novel, his third unpublished book, which he describes as a collision of Southern Gothic and Silicon Valley.

GDC 2010

Finally home after the Game Developers’ Conference. Matthias Worch and I gave a talk on Environmental Storytelling, a subject we both love. Here are the slides and notes.

Update: Smaller, compressed PDF with slides and speakers’ notes together:

Thanks to everyone who attended. (Sorry about the momentary technical glitch. I really thought we were going to have to give a GDC talk with no slides…terror.)

As always, it was great to see developer friends from outside Austin.


I’m finally home after driving with Brenda Brathwaite to the Art History of Games Conference in Atlanta.

The event was great and timely, since I’m also taking an online art history class with SCAD. As usual, one of the best aspects was interacting with friends (old and new), talking about games.

Some of the speeches given at the conference made me realize that while–in crafting games–designers take up fierce positions and move toward absolutes, critics and academics often rely an elusive series of shifting positions and various lenses as a means of analysis. We tend to drive toward something hard, guided by a core statement or belief that might not hold up as consistent or perfect under intense scrutiny. (But a core statement that might be critical in terms of reaching the goal. Ie, “Multiple solutions to problems,” or “Modeling fight or flight response.”) They tend to ask questions from many different perspective, which is thought provoking and provides insight from earlier efforts.

Ever interesting, games vs stories comes up year after year. People make statements about whether games should include any embedded narrative borrowed from non-systemic, non-mechanical media like fiction or film.

I believe in our medium’s plurality. There’s no right answer. But for me the strongest experiences *right now* involve a synthesis…sublime moments that come from interacting with very analogue systems, wrapped in fiction that contextualizes the experience emotionally.

Best example for me, from the last year, is my 100 or so hours with Far Cry 2. Soon I’ll be playing Bioshock 2 and Battlefield Bad Company 2, trying to get the same sensation, which I cannot find anywhere else. Certainly not in film, lit. or art.