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Soren Johnson's Game Design Journal

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Designer Notes 72: Harvey Smith

In this episode, Soren and Leyla interview veteran game designer Harvey Smith, best known for his work on the Deus Ex and Dishonored series. They discuss what TDA stood for at Origin, if Dishonored is just Thief but faster, and why it is sometimes better to be heavy handed. This episode was recorded on March 23, 2022. Games discussed: Pong,...

My Elephant in the Room

I gave a design postmortem at GDC this year on Old World, a game which took me six years to make. In reality, it took me 22 years to make this game as every stop in my career path informed the design, especially lessons learned from my first seven years at Firaxis, working on Civilization III and IV. It’s my elephant in the room, so to speak.

Designer Notes #71: Matthew Davis

In this episode, Soren interviews independent game developer Matthew Davis, co-founder of Subset Games and best known for his work on FTL and Into the Breach. They discuss whether FTL is a roguelike, how they resolve conflict at Subset, and whether Soren can convince them to add unlimited undo to Into the Breach. This episode was recorded on Sept 19,...

Designer Notes #70: Justin Ma

In this episode, Soren interviews independent game developer Justin Ma, co-founder of Subset Games and best known for his work on FTL and Into the Breach. They discuss how he bombed his first game industry interview, why the AI in FTL can’t behave like a human, and whether Into the Breach should have unlimited undo. This episode was recorded on March...

Designer Notes #69: Chris DeLay – Part 2

In this episode, Soren and Leyla interview independent game developer Chris DeLay, co-founder of Introversion Software and best known for his work on Uplink, Darwinia, Defcon, and Prison Architect. They discuss how to play Prison Architect without a prison, why the game needed cutscenes, and how to design an economy when the world is ending. This episode...

Thoughts on Wingspan

Recently, Leyla and I finally got a chance to try out Wingspan. It’s clearly a great game, and I expect to bring it to the table many times over the years ahead. I have a few thoughts on it, especially taking into consideration that the game is a huge hit, having sold well over a million copies. The Setting Matters and also Doesn’t Matter...

Designer Notes #68: Chris DeLay – Part 1

In this episode, Soren and Leyla interview independent game developer Chris DeLay, co-founder of Introversion Software and best known for his work on Uplink, Darwinia, Defcon, and Prison Architect. They discuss why they hid the credits screen for Uplink, who Darwinia’s Dr. Sepulveda is based on, and whether you can have too much fun playing Defcon....

Old World Podcast Roundup!

If you follow this blog, you are probably aware that my latest game, Old World, just came out on Steam and GOG, and so the game has been in the media spotlight for the last few weeks. Accordingly, I put together all of my recent appearances if you can’t get enough of my voice! Three Moves AheadWaypoint RadioStrategy Can Be FunSpace Game Junkie...

Designer Notes 67: Old World

In this episode, Tom Chick and Bruce Geryk interview Soren and Leyla Johnson about their new historical 4X, Old World. They discuss whether the Old World timeline really makes sense, how they approach Early Access differently, and why Soren didn’t want to give up on the name 10 Crowns. Games discussed: Old World, Civilization series, FrontierVille,...

Designer Notes 66: Luca Redwood

In this episode, Soren interviews Luca Redwood, the developer of 10000000, You Must Build a Boat, and Photographs. They discuss why 10000000 has no commas, how he makes sure the player never gets unlucky, and why you need to build a boat. This episode was recorded March 18, 2019. Games discussed: Morph, Suikoden I, Suikoden II, 10000000,...

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