Dark or Light

Dev Profile: David Bowman

Dana Massey Posted:
Interviews 0

The Controversial Gaming Personality Discusses His Past, Present and Future.

David Bowman, the creative force behind Horizons, is perhaps one of the most polarizing personalities in the MMORPG industry. As we continue our series of developer profile Q&As, we aim to get to know the man a bit better and see what motivates him.

MMORPG.com: Can you tell us a bit about what you currently do, and the day-to-day responsibilities of that job?
David Bowman:

My official title is CEO and Creative Director. The team at Tulga Games is a talented, dedicated but small group that is focused on growing Horizons. Since we are not a large organization, we all wear multiple hats. I deal with issues ranging from investor relations to tears in the terrain. I try to focus at least eight hours a day on direct product improvement. When we realized that we needed a tutorial specifically for our Dragon customers, I worked with the team to lay out the design, and then, since everyone's time is currently committed to existing responsibilities, I spent my evenings building the island, creating the quests, and writing the dialog and encyclopedia text. We didn't like our early play experience, so we rebuilt Lesser Aradoth, to make it more beautiful, and fill it with quests and monsters. This time, Jason Murdick worked with me in the evenings, doing much of the monster creation.

MMORPG.com: How did you arrive at your current company? Can you run us through what brought you to this company and into the industry in general?
David Bowman:

After working for years as an orientation and mobility instructor for blind people, I had an argument/discussion with my wife which boiled down to “If you spend every evening making games for your friends until 3:00 a.m., why don't you get a job in the industry so you are happy?” Even though I tried to explain to her about the hours and the difficulties, she insisted that I do it or give up the evening pastime. I applied to Bungie software that evening, and was hired to work as a designer on the Myth series.

Bungie was great, and the team was fantastic. I learned a lot from Jason Jones, even though he might not have realized it at the time. We worked at an incredible pace, and launched Myth II: Soulblighter. The team was working on what was to become Halo at that time. Rumors were that Microsoft was interested in buying us. I wanted to do massively multiplayer games but Bungie (very wisely in hindsight) was not interested. So I applied to Turbine, who at that time was in development of their first MMP, Asheron's Call.

I started working on the design for Resurgence, a MMP that was never developed. Turbine began running into financial problems at this time, so I did what I needed to do to help the company survive. We worked crazy hours to run the events for Asheron's Call, which resulted in growing subscriber numbers. This didn't translate into more money for the company, since MS owned AC and Turbine was just a contractor by then. I negotiated with MS for the rights to do a sequel, which was very difficult, since the Turbine development team had no love of MS and MS thought very little of the development team. MS had a group that thought they could make a better MMP as long as we had the technical ability to create it, so we entered into a contract to create AC2 with MS. At that time the Board of Turbine hired Jeff Anderson, who has since proved to have been a very good thing for the company since he has been able to sustain them while they create their next generation products.

I was interested in doing a MMP where players could change the world, not just their characters. The Turbine technology would not let me do such a project at that time, so I began looking at other companies to see who was doing that type of server technology. I met with the team at Artifact Entertainment at E3 and was convinced by Rick Simmons that the server technology was what I was looking to find. I was hired in May 2001 to bring their project Horizons: Empires of Istaria live in November, which is when they had budgeted and scheduled completion.

I will leave the details of that experience for a book. We launched Horizons: Empire of Istaria in December of 2003. The game did not achieve the forecast subscriber numbers, and so the incredibly expensive hosting and hardware contract combined with the salary costs of having a MMP team lead to the filing of Chapter 11 for Artifact Entertainment. Chris Tulumello, who had been contracting with Artifact Entertainment, agreed to acquire the assets of Artifact Entertainment as long as the core team was kept intact. The team agreed and so we began working for Tulga Games. Since that time we've been focused on correcting the problems that hurt us at launch, and living up to the expected content and features that were based on cash flow and personnel projections that were never met.

MMORPG.com: What to you is the most challenging part of your current job?
David Bowman:

Keeping a team motivated through the uncertainties of a small company competing in a large company arena. Our competition is well-funded and often times staffed by people that have worked with us in the past.

MMORPG.com: What is your favorite part of your job?
David Bowman:

Working with extremely bright, talented people to entertain thousands. It is a joy to come into work knowing that what you do that day can make a very direct difference in the lives of thousands. Doing that with a now seasoned team surpasses any other jobs that I've done.

MMORPG.com: David, you are a well known name in the industry and obviously quite controversial in some circles. What reaction do you have to those who react strongly against you?
David Bowman:

Critics exist in every entertainment industry. I personally listen to them but do not let them sway me from what I need to do in order to make entertaining worlds happen. I have made mistakes, and I'm sure I will make mistakes again in the future. Every decision that I have made has been based on a desire to build these worlds with a talented team. I have successfully launched these worlds while others have tried and failed. My contributions to them have made them more entertaining. I have often had people who did not know who I was mention their favorite experience in Horizons or Asheron's Call and they were elements that would not have existed if I had not kept moving forward. One lesson that I'm still working on, is to not prematurely share my excitement about some aspect of Horizons until it has had enough testing to make sure it will reach the audience.

MMORPG.com: Finally, as a senior voice on the Horizons team, could you deliver a message to your game’s fans about the future of the game.
David Bowman:

Horizons is a great game. I'm proud of it, but not satisfied. I continue to work with the team to make it better, to make it what we know it can become. I am definitely not interested in making Horizons a copy of any other game. We have a wonderful audience, and the numbers are growing. We will keep building for as long as we have an audience and the company is here to house the team.

Many thanks to David for participating in this series.

As usual, your comments are encouraged in the following comment thread.


Dana Massey