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About the Archives

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to GAMBIT in the Interviews category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Indies is the previous category.

News is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

Looking Glass Studios Interview Series - Audio Podcast 9 - Terri Brosius and Dan Thron


Part 9 of a continuing series, where I interview members of the now-defunct but highly influential Looking Glass Studios (1990-2000), which wrote the book on 3D first-person narrative game design throughout the 90s, in such games as Ultima Underworld, System Shock, and Thief.

This week is Terri Brosius and Dan Thron. Dan was an artist/animator on Terra Nova, System Shock 2, and all three Thief games, doing much to solidify the look and feel of the Thief universe. Terri was a voice-actor in both System Shock (as SHODAN) and Thief (as Victoria) as well as a writer/designer for Thief, doing much to shape the overall story arc of the franchise.

I talk with Terri and Dan about how they got into the industry, what influenced them in their contributions to the Thief franchise in particular, and what they consider good storytelling/world building in video games (and why it seems to be so scarce).

If you ever wanted to know who to thank for Thief's infamous eyeball-plucking scene check it out!

Download The Podcast!

To subscribe to the RSS Feed, enter in to your podcast client or RSS reader of choice.

Looking Glass Studios Interview Series - Audio Podcast 1 - Austin Grossman


GAMBIT is proud to present the Looking Glass Studios Interview Series, an audio podcast series in which we chat with various people who worked for the legendary developer (famous for groundbreaking franchises like Ultima Underworld, System Shock, and Thief) before it tragically closed its doors in 2000.

Up first: Austin Grossman. Grossman is a writer, game designer, and novelist who worked at Looking Glass in its early years. In this podcast he discusses his work on Ultima Underworld II: Labyrinth of Worlds and System Shock, the latter of which was highly influential in laying the foundations for modern environmental narrative design. Grossman also discusses his post-Looking Glass work, on such projects as Jurassic Park: Tresspasser and Deus Ex, and the tricky challenge of being a writer in today's commercial games industry.

Joining Austin on the podcast are two other Looking Glass alums: Andrew Grant, who also worked with Austin on Trespasser (for Dreamworks Interactive), and Sara Verrilli, who worked on System Shock. Andrew and Sara currently work for GAMBIT, and reminisce with Austin on how they grappled with the experimental nature of these games.

Download The Podcast!

See a transcript here.

Video Games and Culture

Matthew Weise, GAMBIT's lead game designer, was part of an hour-long panel on China Radio International. Together with Dr.Li Jidong from Beijing International Studies University
and David Guida from The Game Show, they go through a whole range of different topics: changing player demographics, changes in the industry, the possibilities of the medium, educational games, rating systems, and different game cultures. The broadcast was in English, and you can listen to it via download or streaming here!

Now on TechTV: Picopoke with Kevin Driscoll

Last year, my assistant Claxton Everett and I sat down with Kevin Driscoll, a recent graduate of the Comparative Media Studies Master's program and the product owner for Picopoke, one of our Summer 2008 prototype games and a finalist in the 2009 Independent Games Festival. Kevin has since gone on to become a Ph.D. student in the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Southern California, but his memory lives on around the lab in the form of our five-part interview, which has just gone live on TechTV.

The first of the five video interviews with Kevin Driscoll.

In it, Kevin explains what his group was trying to do with Picopoke, who plays Picopoke, whether or not Picopoke can actually be considered a game, and why they chose to build it on Facebook. The videos aren't very long (the longest is just over two minutes, the shortest is less than 45 seconds) and they're all very informative, so go check 'em out!

I'd like to extend my warmest gratitude to Kevin for sitting down with me for the interview and for sharing his insight, and to Claxton for all his hard work and much-appreciated assistance! Oh, and Kevin, if you're reading this, appreciate the weather out there in sunny LA. Right now Boston's a big, sloppy, melty mess...

GOTW - Abandon

So this weeks Game of the Week is a little different. For starters, it is in stunning 3D! Also, it has two full-time GAMBITeers on the team. Check out the video:

Come back soon for more!

Game of the Week - Pierre: Insanity Inspired

Game of the Week - Dearth

Here is the video podcast interview with Andrew Grant, Gambit's Technical Director and the embedded staff member for Dearth:

More great Dearth stuff coming up soon.

Shadow Shoppe Podcast

Jason Beene talking about the making of Shadow Shoppe:

An Interview with Maj

Today I'm happy to bring you the second in what is apparently now a series of interviews with prolific combo video makers (be sure to check out the first interview, with James "jchensor" Chen). Maj is the man behind Sonic Hurricane, a fascinating blog and excellent resource for all things Street Fighter.

In this excellent interview, Maj delves into the history of combo videos, his creative priorities, ethical considerations, and hints at the rhetorical power of this unique form.

Begy: How did you get started?

Maj: I liked combo videos from the instant I became aware of their existence and got a chance to watch one. However, the very first thing I read on SRK was the Domination 101 article series by s-kill, who explained that combo video people are "often weaker on certain fundamentals" and "focus on showboating," becoming "that much less centered on the bottom line." Which, in all honesty, is true. So even though people like jchensor and NKI were my heroes for showing us how cool these games can really be, I believed Seth's argument that everything is secondary to becoming unbeatable.

By the time CvS2 came around, I already knew almost everyone in the SoCal community. Out of the blue, tragic (who i didn't really know that well) invited me to his place to help him work on an early CvS2 video. Until I saw him capture a combo with my own eyes, it never occurred to me that making combo videos was something that humans could do. Yeah I don't know, I must have thought it was a super power or something. But suddenly it all made sense and seemed completely feasible.

Not long after that, I started recording clips on VHS tape so I could drive over to MrWizard's house and ask him to capture them for me, since I couldn't afford a capture card myself. Even then, my intention was never to become a combo video maker, because I was still way more interested in progressing through the ranks of the tournament scene.

My first video was a CvS2 Chun Li Strategy Guide posted on the now-defunct, and my second video was a CvS2 Randomness compilation which contained a few combos but was mainly an attempt to get more people to give CvS2 a chance. MvC2 was the big game at the time, and CvS2 seemed rather dry in comparison, so I did what I could to change that perception. It wasn't until my third video that I tried my hand at combos, focusing on Guile because I'd basically become known as SHGL's resident Guile player at that point. Plus he was a perfect fit for the kinds of combo ideas that interested me the most in CvS2.

Eventually the website hosting these files died so I built as a home for my various fighting game projects. When SHGL closed, no arcade was able to replace it in my mind, so I started focusing more on combo videos and less on tournament competition.

Maj's SF ? Guile Exhibition, shown at EVO 2007

What are your primary considerations?

As long as the content is good, everything else takes care of itself. I don't try to force videos from scratch. Finding enough free time is too difficult anyway. Then it's a hassle dealing with technology, especially if the concept calls for multiple games on multiple consoles running at different resolutions and frame rates. None of us get paid for this and somehow everything always takes longer than expected.

If a really good idea hits me, it'll motivate me to put in the effort to perfect each clip and jump through all the hoops necessary to finish the project. Otherwise I'll just test the concept for an hour, post the results on a major forum, and forget about it.

There's a Mitch Hedberg joke about this: "Sometimes in the middle of the night, I think of something that's funny, then I go get a pen and I write it down. Or if the pen's too far away, I have to convince myself that what I thought of ain't funny." Except with combo videos, the pen is always too far away.

How much do you think about things like editing and music?

Until recently, editing was my absolute last concern - always an afterthought. There's no substitute for quality of content in a combo video and it's very easy to make good content unwatchable by over-editing. Lately I've been trying to find ways to make the overall presentation a little more pleasant, but I've only made two videos where I'd call the
editing important. Even then it was less important than the content. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy watching videos where high quality editing takes center stage but it's just not me to try that sort of thing. I'd rather focus on combo originality and keep the editing out of the way.

Music is a big deal to me so I spend a lot of time thinking about it. However it's usually the last thing I add on. Some people choose a soundtrack first then structure their entire video around it, which I admire because syncing clips to rhythms always has an impact. I don't do it because it's too much editing work and because you have to sacrifice a certain degree of clarity to make everything fit. So I always work on the video first and then look for a suitable track, which sometimes takes days. Finding music that compliments video game sound effects can be tricky.

Who are you making the videos for?

It varies a lot. Sometimes I'll make a video to demonstrate a single discovery, basically for anyone who cares. I've made a couple of strategy videos to highlight under-appreciated characters or play styles, intended for the entire fighting game community.

However, whenever I try really hard to make an exceptional combo video,it's with a relatively tiny audience in mind. My primary goals are to impress the best combo video makers in the world and to create something entertaining for my close friends. I figure the best way to show my appreciation for these people is to put together something that'll make them go "Wow."

That said, I've always admired the fighting game community for too many reasons to list. So it feels good to contribute something cool that I think everyone will enjoy.

Is there anything you think combo videos should always do? Or never do?

As long as everyone's honest, everything's fair game. Problems generally arise when someone lies about how they recorded a combo or where they got an idea.

Even extreme cases of combos created with cheat codes or cheat devices are okay as long as the video maker includes a straightforward warning or a disclaimer. Most people won't care about that video or won't be impressed, but it won't cause any actual drama either.

Now if the author tries to pass them off as legit gameplay, everything changes. We know these games well enough to tell when something is awry. Once enough of us start comparing notes, that author quickly finds himself in an indefensible position. The community can take of itself, but it'd be nice if we never had to deal with these temporary annoyances caused by shortsighted dishonesty.

Are there any combo video authors, or videos in particular, that you are particularly fond of or inspired by?

Far too many to name, so I'll just go with jchensor and NKI. They were two of the most respected combo video authors in the scene when I first started making videos. Both of them have produced several combovids that I'd consider classics to this day. Most importantly, they're just really cool people. I think our whole scene would have turned out differently if those two guys hadn't been as welcoming and as open as they've been to everyone who approached them with a question.

NKI Vol X: Super Turbo Shenanigans

I know of similar communities where everyone's at odds with one another. Sometimes that culture can be traced back to one influential figure who happened to be a conceited jerk.

In terms of favorite videos, it's hard to say because the cutting edge is always moving. For starters anything by TZW, Skill Smith, Sai-Rec, Tosaka, 538/kysg, zerokoubou, or T-7 is simply amazing. Each of those guys chose one or two games to absolutely shred apart and then disappeared. Even today it's almost impossible to find SSF2T combos that
can top VHS tapes TZW recorded over ten years ago.

TZW - Chapter 2 - Ken

Honestly though, I admire anyone who's down go through the trouble of recording and editing any video that shows me something I've never seen before. Even if it's one extra hit at the end of an established combo or one tiny element of style, it's enough to make me smile.

Thanks to Maj for his time and patience in putting up with me and this project. For an even more detailed look at his creative process please check out Sonic Hurricane, particularly the media section. Once again please blame any typos or misspellings on me. - Jason Begy


Welcome to the Game of the Week series at our blog. We are going to kick things off this week with Waker and Woosh. Enjoy this video introduction to the two games.

Come back in a about an hour for some more great content!

Sonoflash demo video

Ryan Stewart from Adobe posted an interview with some folks from Sonoflash on his blog at Rich Internet Application Mountaineer. The video clip shows off Sonoflash's new Flash 10 sound API, demo'ed by one of our GAMBIT alums, Paviter Singh. GAMBIT used Sonoflash for the graph-drawing sounds in Waker and Woosh.

An Interview with James "jchensor" Chen

Combo videos are a mode of fan production particular to fighting games. In the most basic sense, a combo video is a montage of clips from fighting games demonstrating one or more combos, where "combo" refers to a series of attacks that are usually uninterruptable by the opponent. These videos tend to require a fair amount of knowledge about the game being shown in order to understand and dissect what is happening.

As the form has evolved the creators have been moving away from mere how-to's: newer videos often push the limits of the game engine itself, and an emphasis on editing and entertainment can greatly broaden the video's viable audience.

James "jchensor" Chen is one of the more prolific combo video authors working today, and in this fascinating interview gives us a glimpse into his creative process, which reflects the trend away from demonstration and towards spectacle.

Begy: How did you get started?

Chen: When Street Fighter Alpha came out for the home consoles, it came with one of the greatest inventions ever: Training Mode. I used to always enjoy doing combos on the SNES Street Fighter games, and I did combos by using my foot to make the opponent block once I started hitting them. When Alpha came out and had the auto-block and opponents with infinite life, I was in heaven.

This was also during the time when TZW tapes really started making the rounds. I, like anyone else, was always amazed by them and I really wanted to make combo VHS tapes as well, since I liked doing crazy combos! And, a couple of friends visited me once, and I showed them a bunch of crazy combos and they were impressed. And I would tell people about combos but people wouldn't believe me. So all these factors really contributed to me wanting to record tapes of me doing combos... but editing VHS tapes was a big hassle.

So when people started making downloadable videos [for] the Internet, I immediately got into the act. I had just started my job, so I finally had money to spend on stupid, trivial, useless things... a.k.a. a capture device. ^_^ So I got one and started recording combos. The problem was... where do I host them? Well, everything magically fell into place when a couple of dude names Tom Cannon and Tony Cannon decided to create a website known as ^_^ A good friend of mine, Derek "omni" Daniels, was already helping them out, and when I told him about the videos I was recording, he suggested I put them on SRK 'cause the site had just started, and it needed content. So I asked, the Cannons said yes, and thus my Combo Video making career was born. ^_^

What are your primary considerations?

When I started, all I wanted to do was show off cool combos. Nowadays, I've gone to a completely different place. After making more and more videos, it really woke up my artistic side, I guess you could say. So nowadays, I usually only make combo videos if: 1) I have something worth showing. 2) I can do something that makes the combo video fun to make or to satisfy a weird artistic itch. That was pretty much the entire motivation for the 2-hit combo video. The original goal was to have a bunch of stupid combos, but edited together in a way that combo videos have never presented combos. Fortunately for me, Maj got involved, and turned the video into more than just an editing practice. He recorded a bunch of 2-hit combos that were actually GOOD. And so, thanks to him, there was actually a "cool" component from the combos as well as the editing.

And after making that video, to be honest, giving me something fun to edit has become probably the primary consideration.

Ode to the 2-Hit Combo part 1/3

How much do you think about things like editing and music?

They are probably almost more important to me than the content, these days. If you've seen my Capcom Fighting Evolution combo video, the combos in the video aren't really that great. In fact, Kamui, who was involved in coming up with combos, had come up with a lot of MUCH better combos than the ones that made it into the video. I was just not interested in trying to cap the really tough combos because they lasted LONGER, and would get in the way of the flow of the video. Probably a bad idea, but it's how I was thinking at the time.

So for me, I need to pick a great song. And once I do, I make sure to make the song a STRONG presence. So the editing always tries to follow the music. I always try to make sure clip transitions, editing tricks, etc. all support the music. So it's definitely something I take huge consideration in.

jchensor's Fun With CFE

Who are you making the videos for?

I wish I could say I was making them just for me. But that would be a lie. Every time, before, when I released a combo video, I would freak out for a while, scared of the kind of reception it would get. So I do make videos for people to enjoy. But to answer the question more succinctly, I make combo videos so that people who know the game will appreciate its content, but at the same time people who don't know the game at all can still enjoy the video. And if I can also make the video appeal to people who don't even play video games or know about fighting games at all, I will definitely try. I showed the 2-hit combo video, for example, to a lot of my non-gaming friends during the course of it being created to make sure those people could still enjoy the video as well.

Is there anything you think combo videos should always do? Or never do?

Always have something new to offer. If you make a combo video and don't focus on editing, make sure the clips you show are original, inventive, and are not (as far as you know) rehashes of other combo videos. If you don't plan on making crazy combos, then make sure the editing is really creative. There's a combo video for Tekken that used the REPLAYS at the end of the round. They basically recorded the start of combos as replays (by killing the opponent [at] the start) so they could show the combo starting from the replay angle, and then they would transition into the combo from the regular view. THAT was creative. That was really cool. It didn't even matter, anymore, that I can't tell one Tekken combo from another... I enjoyed the video anyhow.

As for things combo videos should never do, well... there have been lots of threads on SRK that cover that topic, and a lot of parody videos. But for me personally, there's really nothing that's off limits truthfully speaking. I think, from an artistic standpoint, there can always be a legitimate reason to do ANYTHING you want. So there's nothing I can think of that should never be done no matter what. If you can figure out a way to justify it, do it. In my CFE video, I have a horribly grainy, zoomed-in clip of a badly animated character in the BACKGROUND of the game. But it... somehow oddly works, as stupid as that clip is.

A parody video - ULTIMATUM -RED SIDE-

Are there any combo video authors, or videos in particular, that you are particularly fond of or inspired by?

I will always have respect for TZW. I mean, you have to. He started it all. He was the first to do it. And his videos are still really impressive even today. Even in the early days, he did some weird, super technical stuff. Pretty much everything was pioneered by this guy.

After TZW, I would easily have to say Maj, my partner in crime for the 2-Hit Combo Video. And that's not because he helped me make the 2-Hit Combo Video or anything. It's because everything else he's done that has nothing to do with me is super fantastic! I'm not sure if you saw his Ryu video that premiered at Evolution 2009 this past year, but the thing is fantastic.

Maj's SF ? Ryu Exhibition - EVO 2009

Could very well be the best combo video I've ever seen in terms of choreography, editing, and just style. I mean, in the very last Combo, he even makes Ryu go through a costume change. Watch carefully! Amazing, amazing stuff. And I talk to this guy a lot. When it comes to combos and game systems, I'd almost call him a genius. I once joked to him that he was the Beethoven of combo videos. Beethoven was deaf and could still make music, and Maj doesn't even need to test anything and can make up Combos. The reason I called him that was because, during the making of the 2-Hit Combo Video, I needed one last combo for the section where I do some CvS2 EO [Capcom vs SNK2: Easy Operation - ed.] combos, where I do super cancels using P-Groove. I had made 7, and I knew I needed 8. While chatting with him on the phone, he said, "Hmm... how about this? Try using Eagle, get a screen away from Sim [Dhalsim], uppercutting Dhalsim's arm and a fireball at the same time so the uppercut move knocks Dhalsim up AND reflects his fireball diagonally up. Then super cancel the uppercut move so that Dhalsim gets put into a jugglable state and the reflected fireball will hit him." And it worked! Just like he said it would. And he made it up on the spot.

The last person I want to mention is kysg from Japan. I hear Japan isn't as big into combo videos as Americans are, but kysg is one of the best in the world. Even though he's a pure program pad combo video maker (similar to where Maj is moving towards, as his last two combo videos have all been program pad videos [programmable controllers that allow for inputs that are faster and more precise than a human is capable of -ed.]), kysg is another super technical guy who will do things not because it gets him the most hits or because it does the most damage, he'll do things just because it's friggin' COOL. His series of Third Strike videos is rife with that sort of thing. He had one combo with Elena where his only goal was to land as many DPs as possible. [There is] another one [where he] tried to make sure he used every single one of her special moves at least once. He had a Ryu combo where he used a Hurricane Kick solely for transportation... it didn't hit at all, it just made him travel so he could catch up to the opponent and continue the combo. He made sure to find 100% damage combos with every super art for Alex. He ended combos that kill someone but ends up comboing Chun's EX Hazanshu's since that move can't be comboed any other way, really. But he'll do it JUST to get it into a combo. He even makes sure that any time he dizzies the opponent, he programs them to shake out AS FAST AS POSSIBLE to prove that they couldn't have escaped it if they tried. If you just watch his stuff carefully, you can totally see him trying things... like, really trying to do something specific with each combo, so that every combo looks different, feels different, and is just also technically very impressive and sound.

On top of all that, his editing is really solid. I still love the Chun Li video he made.

kysg's Street Fighter 3: Third Strike vol 2- Chun Li

I thought the editing was great. The intro section just kicks. And the song was so catchy, I've actually since found it and bought it (yes, that's right... I do not pirate music... call me old fashioned!): "Angels Go Bald:Too" by Howie B. I dunno, I just really admire his stuff.

There's a lot of other combo video makers I really enjoy as well, but the ones I've put above are the ones that stand out to me in particular.

Thanks to James Chen for putting up with my questions and letting me post his responses. Blame any typos or misspellings on me. -Jason Begy

Razor TV Interviews

Razor TV, a Singaporean online video channel, has conducted and posted a few interviews with some of our students and staff. Watch the videos below:

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