Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Jim Van Verth Interviews Designer of Paranoia and Toon

The recent podcast on The Vintage Gamer includes a very healthy interview with Greg Costikyan, the Maverick Award winning designer of such notable games as Paranoia and Toon.  While the discussion ranges from topics on the 70’s wargame market to modern indie computer games, the podcast still contains a healthy dose of material of interest to folks that are obsessed with classic eighties era games.

Aspiring game designers will want to hear this– Costikyan says that most professional game designers burn out within five years.  If you’re going to college, don’t major in some goofy program geared totally towards games, but go ahead and do Computer Science or Graphic Arts instead so that you can use your industry experience to get your foot in the door for what will likely become your real career.

CAR WARS fans will note the cameo appearance of podcaster Jimmy Anderson, but don’t forget to check out the links section: Van Verth includes a reference to this Costikyan article that describes how TSR almost single handedly put an end to the wargaming hobby.  The article includes a concise history of War Games and of Strategy & Tactics magazine in particular.  And according to SPI’s feedback, 90+% of all wargamers played alone.  Just based on the number of CAR WARS and Traveller players that appear not to have a gaming group, this shouldn’t have shocked me like it did… but I’m surprised.  I’ve long despised “game designs” that target, not people that play games, but people that play with games… but evidently that has pretty much been where the market was all along.

Costikyan also comments in the article on the fact that computer games do not “match paper games for sophistication, depth, and accuracy.”  Hopefully his new Manifesto Games company can do something to address that.

One thing I could quite parse from the podcast was Costikyan’s opinion of the atrocious looking Paranoia XP.  I think Jim Van Verth was expecting him to slam it, but it might be that he actually was pleased with it: the author was from a preapproved list of people he had complete confidence in.  But there was one edition that he completely hated… I think it might have been the one before XP, though.  Not being a Paranoia expert, I may have completely botched this exchange, so if anyone can clear this up, please let me know.

At any rate, it sounds like the definitive version of Paranoia to pick up is the second edition.  According to the podcast, the first was probably overly complex and still “finding its voice.”

The Vintage Gamer continues to be a good resource for solid material on game design history and analysis.  It can really open your eyes to classics you might have missed.

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2 responses to “Jim Van Verth Interviews Designer of Paranoia and Toon

  1. Jim Van Verth March 23, 2007 at 9:43 am

    To clarify, I botched the exchange about Paranoia myself. The intent was to ask about the Paranoia “5th edition” (there weren’t really 3rd or 4th editions) published by West End late in their history. Instead I misnamed it Paranoia XP, which led to some confusion. I was not expecting him to slam XP – nor did he. Blame it on the jet lag.

    So to sum up: Greg Costikyan likes 2nd edition Paranoia best as that was the one he worked on last, considers “5th edition” a mess, and is pleased with Paranoia XP (from Mongoose Games).

    Thanks for the mention!

  2. jeffro March 23, 2007 at 11:56 am

    Thanks for clearing that up, Jim… and good work on the Podcast, as usual.

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