Will Wright’s First Game
Will Wright, Sims 3 creator and the man behind Sim City and Spore founded his own company Maxis in order to release games that other publishers wouldn’t touch – and proved them completely wrong. Although Wright describes himself as “obsessive”, others are more charitable, considering hima genius, a towering influence of classic proportions and one of the few individuals to truly influence video games across all platforms.
Born January 20th, 1960, Will Wright was educated at a Montessori school – an establishment focussing on child-centered, alternative educational methods that saw the young William Wright enjoying creative tasks and problem solving. This unusual start in education certainly seems to be visible in Wright’s games, especially his earlier worlds.
Will Wright’s first video game (created after leaving college) was Broderbund Software’s Raid on Bungeling Bay, an interesting top-down helicopter action game pitting the player against an evil empire whose factories had to be bombed for the player to win. The game engine Wright built for Raid on Bungeling Bay gave him more pleasure than the actual game itself and inspired the development of what would become Sim City.
The Man Behind Sim City
Along with investor Jeff Braun, Wright formed Maxis which allowed him to release Sim City in 1989. Even in the experimental early days of the industry no games publisher would touch a city building and management game, leaving Will Wright with no choice but to take matters into his own hands.
The creation of Sim City and its union of industrial, residential and commercial sectors, roads and trains and electricity lines (not to mention the later water pipes and monorails) was a surprise hit. We’ve all considered what a poor job town planners are doing, how we would like to give it a try – as well as bemoan the woeful inadequacies of local politicians and town councils. Sim City gives the perfect sandbox to test these theories out, with a few added bonuses like bad weather, fires, earthquakes and prehistoric monster rampages…
Such was the success of Sim City that it spawned several sequels and appeared on a variety of platforms from PC and Mac to consoles, 8 bit computers and even Windows Mobile and iPod Touch/iPhone.
Will Wright – Sims 3 Creator
With a range of Sim City sequels that expand on the original premise and a selection of Sim-other-things by Wright and Maxis (not to mention a selection of Wright-inspired titles from Maxis such as Sim Tower), the only place to go was into the city – or into one of its suburbs, at least.
The world’s most successful PC game series of all time, The Sims (released in 2002) has sold over 16 million copies. Conceived by Will Wright as a virtual dolls house, various and endless expansion packs have been released for both the original and the sequel The Sims 2 (released in 2004).
Released in March 2009, The Sims 3 is a huge revision on the original housebound, sending the action outdoors and into the local neighbourhood for the first time, a move that will confirm the genius of the original idea. With superb new graphics and a fully interactive environment, the characters in the new computer-based soap opera that is The Sims 3 have brand new career paths, lifespans and likes and dislikes.
Evolving the Concept in Spore
With Spore, it could be said that Wright has completed the circle of virtual life. Developing ideas of simulated evolution first seen in The Sims 2 and SimAnt, Spore puts the player in the enviable position of being able to design and nurture a brand new life form from its origins as a multi-cellular organism.
A triumph of design, Spore was originally to be called "Sim Everything" – dropping the “Sim” from the title however gave Will Wright a sense of moving away from the Sims series that has dominated his career for almost 20 years, saying “It feels like it wants to be breaking out into a completely different thing than what Sims (series) was."
A very well received game, Spore however gained a name as the most downloaded game ever due to restrictive DRM (digital rights management) software on the PC version.
The Orson Welles of Video Games
The unique problem solving and creative aspect of Will Wright’s games – which can be traced back to his background as a pupil of a Montessori schoolhighly – naturally make his entire oevre a collection of digital entertainment experiences that are almost unrivalled.
While a mere handful of other games designers can be mentioned by name, fewer still have the reputation of Will Wright whose games have seen characters and situations develop in an almost intelligent manner.
Certainly Will Wright’s contributions to gaming will be remembered as unique, while Wright himself is one of a handful of games designers that could be compared with the cinematic auteur role filled by directors such as Stanley Kubrick or Orson Welles.