Game Development Reference
Interview with Dallas Snell: Social Networks
and the Power of Tribes
Dallas Snell published his first game,
The Quest , in 1983, and a few years later
cofounded the Austin studio Origin Systems
with Richard Garriott. At Origin, he pro-
duced/executive produced more than 30
original games, including such bestsellers
as the Ultima and Wing Commander series.
In 1993, Dallas became the first General
Manger of the Origin division after their
acquisition by EA. In 2006, he joined NCsoft
as Business Development Director, and in
2009, cofounded Portalarium, Inc., to pro-
vide online social games, virtual worlds, services, and learning environments
that foster community, learning, goodwill, and people playing together.
Q: Tell us a little bit about your background and experience.
A: Well obviously I've been doing this for a very, very long time.
It started in 1980 when I bought myself an Apple II+ and started pro-
gramming on it. My first game, The Quest , was published in 1983, and
became a number-one graphic adventure game. A sequel followed a few
years after that, and then I did ten educational products, because back
then I was really big on the computer as a device for enhancing not only
people's enjoyment but also their ability to teach, to learn, and to grow.
So I was fascinated with the concept of computers as an extension of the
human mind—as a way to expand the mind as well as entertain, because
to me good education is good entertainment.
I joined Richard and Robert at Origin in 1985 and became their sec-
ond staff programmer. My first task for them was to write the Artificial
Intelligence for Ogre , a game from Steve Jackson Games here in Austin. I
had always been oriented to project management, so I introduced project
scheduling into Origin, not that it ever helped us that much. Traditional
project scheduling methods just don't work for game development; never
have, never will. Fortunately, Agile and SCRUM methods are now avail-
able, and those work much better.