Besides your degree in
computer science, you also hold one in Spanish. How have you used this
experience in your design? I heard you also have a knack for metaphor
– lay a good one on us, if you can…

style="font-weight: bold;">Brian: No pressure,
huh? *grin*

of game
design as being like a houseplant.  You plant the seeds, water
put it in the sun, and maybe even talk to it.  No one element
guarantees success.  And, you have to know to do all these
even if you don’t need to know deep details like the chemical
reaction for photosynthesis.

a good
game designer has to know a bit about everything involved in making a
game.  While I have not had to use my Spanish degree directly,
was a degree that focused on understanding what you read and
communicating with others.  I feel these are two of the most
important aspects of game design.  I often say that presenting
papers in front of a class speaking a language that you
grow up with makes it easier to present ideas in your mother tongue.

addition, my
background in programming gives me a better perspective on how the
design gets turned into a program.  One of the reasons I get
as a designer is because I know what’s possible and what is
not.  I am also able to contribute to the technical design and
can do scripting and programming when it comes to implementation.

feel I’m a better designer since my interests are so diverse.

href=""> src=""
alt="Meridian 59 Box Art" title="Meridian 59 Box Art"
name="photo_j" border="0" height="150" width="127">
The original box art for the 3DO version of Meridian 59.

What sort of events
lead to the eventual demise of Meridian 59, and what made you decide to
purchase the game from 3DO? What kind of success have you had since

style="font-weight: bold;">Brian:
The reasons for 3DO shutting down Meridian 59 were pretty simple: they
took all the people off the project and most of us eventually left the
company because we were not able to work on online games. 
When we
all left they did not have anyone who had any technical knowledge of
the programming system, so they decided to shut the game down rather
than face the possibility of the game failing and them having no idea
how to fix it.

partner, Rob
“Q” Ellis II, and I had recently formed a company
when Rob
kept writing 3DO asking them if they were going to sell the
We wanted to save the game from being lost forever.  There are
some really great games that people talk about fondly in the past, but
you can’t play them anymore.  AOL’s
, for example, or Multiplayer BattleTech are great examples of
games people are no longer able to enjoy.  We wanted to save
Meridian 59 from a similar fate.

game is still
running and it makes a very modest profit.  It’s not
to challenge WoW for dominance anytime soon, but at least people can go
play it and see a bit of what the “old school” was

href=""> src=""
alt="Near Death Studios" title="Near Death Studios"
name="photo_j" border="0" height="150" width="150">
The Near Death Studios Logo

Since you purchased
Meridian 59 in 2001, you’ve obviously worn a lot of hats to keep the game running, from programmer to marketing advocate. Was
a shock to see the other side of things rather than begin solely a
designer? How difficult were the other processes to learn? Do you have
any suggestions of reading material or other sources for other indie

style="font-weight: bold;">Brian:
When I started Near Death Studios, Inc., I had little appreciation for
the finer points of running a business.  It’s not
that you really think about when you’re making a
game.  We
had someone who was originally handling the business side of things,
but he left the company at an unfortunate time and I had to step up to
ensure that the company stayed in business when we were buying Meridian
.  Since then, I had to learn a lot about the business side
things and now I know a lot more about it.

business side
of things isn’t hard to learn, but most people see running a
business as a distraction from trying to make cool games. 
Unfortunately, the truth is that you need to run a business in order to
make money from the awesome game you’re making. 
found that I’m actually pretty good at running a business,
if I don’t enjoy that as much as I enjoy making games.

there are very few games that really deal with the business and legal
issues of running  a game company.  That’s
one of the
reasons I co-edited the book Business & Legal Primer for Game
Development with Greg Boyd.  One of the chapters is entitled,
“I Wish I Knew” and is an entire chapter dedicated
to what
some experienced people wish they had known back when the started.

of the best
information is available online in the form of different
One of the best is

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Meridian 59 Game Page.

Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016