Welcome to the offices of Sid Meyers’s as they stand today. On the right, you can see the sales figures for our latest game, Joystick Madness. It is our first flight sim and potentially will go on to be the best selling flight sim ever.
As you can clearly see, we’ve been in business for almost 59 years and have earned close to 2 billion dollars, all while remaining independent of publishers and releasing games almost exclusively for PC. Yes, we are titans of industry, but from humble beginnings…
Colonial Massacre was a modest success, prompted mostly by its combination of sports/action. It was about pilgrims playing sadistic sporting events where they tortured and killed members of the Iroquois nation.
I thought I’d follow that success up with a more somber game, a sports text adventure about a soccer player who was feeling sad about something. I never could decide what he was upset about, which is probably why it reviewed so poorly.
I tried to go back to basics and pick two things everyone likes: medieval times and simulations. Ye Old Broasters was about market competition and cooking, where you played a single serf trying to out broast all the other peons. It turned a profit, but reviewers seemed a bit turned off by the whole concept.
The first of many copycat games. Following the success of Final Fantasy, I tried to break into the _______ Fantasy market by setting my fledging RPG in space. Critics had a knee-jerk reaction, but we did almost 100% profit on that one.
Space Murderer was our first breakout success, although I must admit that it was blatant critical bait. In it you played a space marine who is trapped on a space station with a bunch of pod people that are replacing all of his friends and trying to kill him. Only at the end does the player find out that the marine was suffering from a steroid-induced freakout, and had been hallucinating pretty much everything and, in the process of trying to save the day, killed everyone on the space station. People totally loved the twist ending and took it very personally, feeling like they’d been totally clued in by the title on the box and had just willfully missed it. Were they ‘roid ragers? If kept living their lives without questioning their actions, would they one day become…. Space Murderers?
We briefly flirted with the idea of a _______ Murderer franchise. Econ Murderer was just about getting a stranglehold on the market and making people on the space station pay through the nose for stuff like poop bags and recycled water. Fairly successful, although critics were a bit leery of the capitalism critiques.
The start of our legendary racing series, Racist. It was a straight-up arcade racer that let you crash other cars and yell obscenities at the other drivers,.
Our eighth game and our first foray into pornography. Jackers was a smash hit, and let players live out their dreams of masturbating and grinding in cyberspace.
A spiritual sequel to Jackers that didn’t quite live up to the original.
We wanted to rebound, so we went with another sports game. Sports Nazis let the players call the shots, putting them in the shoes of refs across all of their favorite sports. It was primarily an action game, so it consisted of the player calling fouls and then yelling at players and coaches.
A game for the younger crowd. We just wanted to test the waters, so we did a pretty straight forward fantasy adventure game.
Looking back, this was probably our most consistent era. A fairly long string of hits that were both innovative and well liked.
Kid Surgeon was a surgery sim about a child left alone by their father at the hospital, who is then mistaken for their father and called into the operating room to do some surgery. Fairly realistic for the time, we actually got a few letters from medical schools saying they used it as a crash course for their students!
Had a real nasty conversation one night with Chris Sawyer where he accused me of making “tawdry unserious bullshit” and decided to beat him to market on Transport Tycoon. Kind of crap reviews, but it was worth it.
Thus begins a somewhat mediocre period in the company’s history. Not quite big enough to expand, it was still just me toiling away in my garage, churning stuff out and trying to stay interested in the grind.
I figured only babies had these Gameling things, so I did a sequel to Fantasy Bullshit to test the market. Tedious as usual.
Tried another porn game to see if the market would bite. This was pretty trite, a gay cowboy text adventure about helping the mayor of a frontier town build buildings/have sex.
Decide to try again with the Gameling, this time doing a port of Westward Erections and dumbing it way down for the casual market, i.e. taking out all of the gay sex and replacing it with gambling mini games. Did OK!
Stupid me forgot to title the thing before sending the master cartridge off to the factory, and then forgot again when Ninetendo called about what to put on the box. It was supposed to be called Casual Racers though, and was a cart racing game starring all of the fan favs from Westward Erections & Casuals.
I’d been drinking a lot and was flirting with how far I could take the casuals franchise/self-destruction, which I think pretty handily explains this one. It was a really rude and kind of stupid comedy game aimed at kids. Lots of swearing, lots of farts and iffy racist jokes. Reviews said it was funny but questioned how appropriate it was for the audience.
Got it together and made a dating game. I’d been playing a lot of visual novels while drinking and watching Ranma 1/2 and feeling miserable, so I guess all that crept in and came out as a decent harem game.
Ugh, the downward slide. Our first real loss. I wanted to do a swan song about the power of text adventures and spent a lot of time on this, going so far as to have all of these atmospheric wind sounds and spoken dialogue via a speech synthesizer and all that shit, but neglected to write a script that didn’t need a title that was better than “Words of Terror.” Terrible. To this day, I sometimes burn a copy of it onto a cd and then piss on it in the urinal.
Really cynical. You can tell where I was at.
Forgot to title this or maybe I never had one.
Dried out a bit and just went for a really normal game. Fantasy/RPG with a kind of Middle Earth/Game of Thrones/Wheel of Time kind of title. Who could resist?
A joke that went too far. I’d moved into a larger office at this point and had hired some employees. During a brainstorming meeting, I described our next game as a Historial Moneygrab, which they thought was pretty funny. The name stuck and nobody was willing to come up with a better one. The game? It was some sort of World War 2 thing. I dunno, I just did the engine.
Pretty well received sequel to the ill-named Game #17. People dug the cart trading mechanics.
Our last cart racer. I wanted to do something really forward thinking, so we made a cart racing sim. A lot of the player’s time is spent shopping for parts, tooling up the cart in their home garage, doing pit stops, and of course racing with super accurate cart physics.
I felt like we had to do something to really put us on the map and distance the company from its past. Something edgy. So this was an action game where you played an everyday guy who had been cursed by a demon to travel through the netherworld and eat people’s bone marrow to stay alive.
An edgy update of a Sid Meyers’s classic.
These goof-ups started becoming more frequent. I think this might have been a roguelike.
I had a dream that Will Wright was going to make a game that would let people pretend to be other people who did mundane things like go to work and poop in the toilet. I figured that since Will Wright tends to make good games, it’d be worth a shot.
Still edgy, but we were working off of the Chicken Run IP. I remember liking Tenchu a lot at the time, but wishing there was more killing and less sneaking.
A return to the world of Western Erections, this time as an object hunt game. Can you lasso all the escaped dicks and get them back in the corral before hoss comes home?
A sequel to Racist.
Educational games were big at the time, so we decided to make a vocab game starring me. I would be on screen and say things like “PRONOUNCE THIS WORD!” and then the player would speak into the mic and I’d either say “EXCELLENT!” or “TERRIBLE! IT IS PRONOUNCED” and then a very accurate speech synthesizer would do an impression of me over-enunciating the word and give a definition. People were really impressed with the speech recognition tech at the time.
Some company called Sany released a Playstation 2 knock-off called the Playsystem 2. Long story short, we convinced Sony to let us do a Final Fantasy 10 port.
We made this game because I was cheevo hunting. Specifically, Game Dev Tycoon has a cheevo for making a game within the game that is the game beyond the game; the game that I am playing. Didn’t get the cheevo, probably because I made it a Casual-Simulation instead of a Simulation. Or a Casual. Not sure.
Sony got weird after the whole FFX port and locked us out of doing stuff on the Playstation 2, so we were forced to go with the Playsystem. Killy Magoo is a quasi-sequel to KILLADOODLEDOO, featuring a minor character from that game.
The game I’m most proud of. Co-developed with my brother and pronounced like Hercules, it was an epic coming of age tale about one young fellow and his epic journey to stop the evil Giganut. There was a skill system reminiscent of materia/Bust-A-Move, combat that was like Magic the Gathering, a city of dogs, a mysterious and vaguely sinister entity known only as McDoodle, and more. So much more. The first and last word on everything that is JRPG.
We were so excited about Testicles that we pretty much coasted through the next game, which was a narrative hidden object game for kids about superheroes trying to find their lost powers. Terrible, terrible, terrible.
A return to the company’s cyberpunk porno roots. Cybersax puts the player in the role of a down-on-their-luck street musician just trying to get by in the year 20XX. The game’s central mechanics involved managing depression in a dystopian future where all the player wants to do is connect with another human being but winds up dealing with an endless series of similarly struggling and desperate personalities.
Despite Sony’s betrayal, we still had the rights to make games called Final Fantasy X for the Playsystem, so we wound up making a knock-off/parody of FFX-2. Probably too bitter and obnoxious for anyone but us to really appreciate.
Kind of a Wasteland-inspired Zelda 64-esque. The player wandered the wasteland, hunting down a maniac that called himself The Dick Irradiator because he would sneak into people’s homes and saturate their crotches with radiation, which lead to a massive outbreak of dick cancer. His ultimate goal was to be the only male in the wasteland with a cancer-free penis, in hopes that every female would then come to him to have sex.
Sid Meyers’s Sid Meyers was a game about being me, Sid Meyers.
I was at a Hollywood party and overheard someone talking about “The Matrix.” It sounded really cool so we made a game about it, but I totally misheard the name and the design kind of followed suit.
Monica Lewinsky was big at the time, so we decided to make a game about being the president and strategizing how to get the most head from underlings while kicking nosy reporters’ and Secret Service agents’ asses. Didn’t really go anywhere.
I got word that some shitbird was running around making strategy games using a knock-off of my name, so I made a sci-fi strategy game using both his name and my name. Sid Meyers’s Sid Meiers’s UFO.
Let me tell you: juvenile post-apocalyptic rpgs were IN for a few years, man. Couldn’t do no wrong. This one was about being a bounty hunter that went after giant mutants, which were wandering the wastes and engulfing whole settlements in feces, and collecting their colons.
What’d I tell you? Gangbusters. We didn’t even have to have a good tagline: DI is back and he’s irradiator than ever!
We just went whole hog on this, and did the best sim-action racer out there. 2000 real cars, 10000 real racists, in-game stores of all the major auto part retailers, open-world, customizable car interiors; everything you can think of when it comes to racing, we had it.
A sequel to Meta Time Waster, rebranded so that we could piggyback off of our last game and maybe do a ______ Fantasy series about people’s secret inner desires.
We were so rolling in it, I didn’t even have to name this one for it to do some gangbusters capital. It was basically a sequel to Kung-Fu Master, though.
Not even a moronic name on our Sim City clone could stop the cash. Crazy times. I remember going over to AOL’s offices after work and shooting skeet with Ted Turner and their huge surplus of AOL mailers.
I mean fuck, we even got Software Toolworks to let us do a Turbo Hypertyping version of their typing software.
I mean, fuck. What was this game about? Somebody tell me what the hell this game was about. We certainly didn’t know. People still love it to this day and I have no idea why.
Of course, nothing lasts forever.
The bubble burst and we were pretty slow to catch on.
Like, really slow. This is a sequel to a game that doesn’t even exist. And we messed up the caps.
We got pretty desperate. This was a Wally Beamish knockoff, but twelve years way too late.
We spent 18 million on this crapsack and even named it after exactly what we thought everyone was into: popular strategy bullshit. FMV cutscenes up the wazoo, celebrity designers, licensed characters from like five different sci-fi franchises that were about aliens. I even got that blowhard Sid Meier to blurb us. Nada.
So we went back to the well and dug up all of the content we cut from the first game, fed some interns a bunch of Red Bull and let them riff on it for about six months before putting it all together and pushing out the sequel. Who knows. I guess sometimes people just coast on their memories, and really anything that brings those things back to life will fit the bill.
Spiritual sequel to KILLADOODLEDOO and Killy Magoo, slash franchise crossover extravaganza that let the player select their favorite player character from other top Sid Meyers’s IPs. Good bank, natch. I think it was a bit too silly for the reviewers.
Yeah baby, you know it. This is the face of Sid Meyers’s crawling out of the gutter. An alt-history sim about macaroni markets. You know we got it!
Yup yup yup.
We don’t talk about Real Guys, though. I fired the whole team and brought in some fresh talent after this.
Which paid off in spades. Dookey was the hunting game of the decade, perfectly blending twitch gaming with the more contemplative aspects of hunting stuff, and selling more copies than almost any game you could possibly think of. Our first perfect score, and well deserved I might say.
After the old Dookster, we pushed out our first MMO and I took my first money bath. Despite our past of bungling of game titles where we wound up using the catalog number instead, Game 72’s weird name caught on and was like a cultural passphrase for some secret club that pretty much everybody knew about and had access to.
This also marked the point where we started transitioning into a more mature company, one that could take risks and just do whatever it wanted because it had the money and could take the hit. Multiple hits if need be.
Like this pirate game for casuals.
Or this lawyering game, which shipped with an actual study guide for the bar exams the player had to pass before playing the game proper.
This werewolf game we licensed from World of Darkness and intentionally didn’t title. At this point we were just testing the market, seeing what was out there that we’d overlooked, trying to find footholds that other companies hadn’t exploited yet.
Man, we didn’t even have a pretense for the graphicsv5 Grinder series. We just told every consumer to their face: we don’t care about you or what you want. We need to grind up some XP to see if there are any higher level 2D graphics engines in this game.
Which went over quite well, actually.
What you don’t see behind the scenes here is that we were doing a lot of backend stuff: building a new engine, licensing it, monopolizing digital distribution channels, and developing our own console.
Full 3D, sensurround sound, smellovision, biometrics, and a rumble cocoon that the player could climb into for the full-body rumble.
So of course our first game was Shitbusters 2, in which we knocked it out of the park by making the most generic game possible and ensuring that its aesthetics were as smooth as a plastic asshole.
That’s the hit parade.