Representatives from Waltham, MA developer Blue Fang Games (Zoo Tycoon) have announced that game design veteran Steve Meretzky (Planetfall, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) has joined the studio has a senior designer.
As senior designer for Blue Fang, Meretzky will help shape the vision for the companyís development projects, as well as be responsible for creating functional designs and, as the company puts it, "continually ensuring the quality of the gameís design throughout development."
Meretzky has worked in the industry for more than two decades, starting with a tenure with text adventure developer Infocom, where he was behind some of the company's most famous titles, including Planetfall, Sorcerer, Zork Zero, Leather Goddesses of Phobos, and the The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which he co-wrote with Douglas Adams.
Since then, Meretzky has worked in a consultant role with a number of high profile developers, including Blizzard Entertainment, Hasbro and Disney, as well as designing further games, such as Legend Entertainment's Spellcasting 101 series. He also co-founded developer Boffo Games, creating the studio's Hodj 'n' Podj and The Space Bar, and served as creative content director at WorldWinner, Inc.
Blue Fang also notes that Meretzky has a number of awards under his belt, including a BAFTA award for his work on The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and has been admitted to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America for his work on interactive fiction. Meretzky is also a founding member of the International Game Developers Association, organizer of the Casual Games Summit at the Game Developers Conference, and founder of Post Mortem, a monthly gathering of Boston-area game developers.
Said Meretzky in a statement, ďIíve always admired the quality of Blue Fangís games, the focus on family-friendly designs, and the companyís commitment to quality of life issues. Iím delighted to be joining the team, and I look forward to playing a lead role in the innovative new projects that are underway here.Ē
He added, ďThe Zoo Tycoon games are beloved by millions, and I hope to be able to help take animal-based games to an even higher level, a level that will set a new benchmark, even though Iím not really sure what a benchmark is.Ē
[UPDATED 09:00am PST] Speaking to Gamasutra about his past and future with Blue Fang Games, Meretzky said that he and the studio have a long history.
"Iíve known Adam Levesque, Blue Fangís CEO and Creative Director, for nearly 20 years, going back to Infocom days," he said. "And Iíve known Blue Fangís President, Hank Howie, for quite a long time as well Ė in fact, weíre in the same monthly poker game, so even before going to work at Blue Fang I have a long history of taking money from Hank!"
Asked if fans, considering his career and pedigree, could expect a more 'adventure'-ous turn of style in future titles from Blue Fang, Meretzky would only offer that "I think itís very possible that you might have that expectation," but added the following company-vetted information on what he'll be working on going forward:
"Iíll just answer completely and honestly, and leave it up to Blue Fangís management to censor out anything that would be considered company confidential. Out of the gate, Iíll be working on the next generation of ██████ ████████ with perhaps thousands or even millions of ████████. Youíll be seeing a lot of ████████ and ████████ and ████████, but thatís just the beginning, because after that we ████████ ████████ ████████ ████████ plus ████████ ████████. ████████ new frontiers ████████ ████████ ████████ excited and passionate ████████ ████████ ████████ Cameron Diaz ████████ ████████ ████████ ████████ ████████ ████████ ████████ ████████ three sheep and a melon."
Finally, we asked Meretzky to comment on the state and the future of PC game development, especially of independent development, as we move forward into 2007, to which he added the following:
"Iíve spoken out in recent years about the growing prevalence of imitative game designs and of the depressing dominance of violent themes and gameplay Ė not because I think itís ďbadĒ for children, and not even because Iím worried about the specter of censorship, but because I just think itís creatively bankrupt. One of the reasons that Iím excited about joining Blue Fang is because itís one of the rare PC developers that isnít walking in lockstep toward that vision of the future of gaming.
More generally, I think this is an exciting time for gaming. The big companies and the mega-dollar projects will continue to get less and less creatively interesting, even as they get more technically impressive. But there are more avenues than ever for interesting indie projects to find the light of day, whether itís the innovate stuff you see in the Independent Games Festival, or a fun little free Web-based game like Dice Wars, or wonderful student projects like the USC-made game Flow, or games with an important social message like Darfur is Dying, or all the amazing stuff thatís going on in the exploding serious games scene. Those are the sort of places where I anticipate the most exciting developments of tomorrow to come from."