Today's 'Playing Catch-Up', a regular column which talks to notable figures in the video game business about their notorious past and intriguing present, talks to Aero The Acrobat creator David Siller, a multi-faceted veteran of the games industry for over twenty-five years.
Siller is a man of many hats. A confessed “gamer geek,” Siller’s career begins way back in the early 80s, in design, marketing, and even presidency for a number of arcade game developers. Siller was hired at now-defunct Sunsoft of America in 1992, where over two years, he produced and did conceptual design for multiple titles in the Looney Tunes franchise, as well as creating and designing the Aero the Acrobat line of 2D platform games.
Later, at Universal Interactive Studios, Siller was producer on another hit mascot, Crash Bandicoot. Later still, at Capcom, Siller acted as producer and designer of 2002’s Maximo: Ghosts to Glory for the PlayStation 2, a game he proudly describes as the first notable Capcom success outside of their research and development facility in Japan. In addition, Siller has worked as a production consultant, and even a journalist, as part of the “Review Crew” for Electronic Gaming Monthly, and one of the first to embody the magazine’s “Sushi-X” persona.
We last heard from Siller as he was brought in to Midway to work as something of a mentor and design assistant on a couple of projects in their final phases of development. The first, Freaky Flyers, shipped in August of 2003, and enjoyed moderate success. The second, Crank the Weasel, an action-platformer starring a cartoon weasel inappropriately slapping women on the posterior and sneakily robbing people of their money, unfortunately had its plug pulled after going through its fourth major renovation. “That’s the first company I couldn’t put out a hit for,” he told us proudly, with the air of someone feigning disappointment for that unsightly B+ on their report card.
Siller was forced to leave Midway and relocate to Texas in 2003, due to family illness. Thankfully, that’s been successfully treated, but Siller now finds himself without steady employment. “I’ve been working independently,” he said, “doing some design and production work here and there. I want to start my own studio, but I haven’t had the necessary backing or VC [venture capital].” Siller did manage to produce developer Atomic Planet’s port of his original game, Aero the Acrobat, for the Game Boy Advance, and is currently pushing for a follow-up. “I’m trying to finish putting together what I call the A-Z Force, which would be the second Aero game and its spin-off, Zero the Kamikaze Squirrel, re-developed as a two-for-one pack for GBA,” he said. “I’m talking with some publishers about that.”
Primarily, though, Siller wants to go back to designing original titles. “I think the number of great games has diminished,” he said, but also argued: "It's all about planning. The car you drive, the consumer electronics we worship, they're all blueprinted before they built one part. I believe games should be born. I believe the games should be born to be compelling, and bring some value to the playing audience. Not just a me-too game, but add some kind of innovation, or reintroduce a concept."
[Frank Cifaldi is a Las Vegas-based freelance author whose credits include work for Nintendo Official Magazine UK, Wired, and his own Lost Levels website.]