Brianna Code has been in the games industry for 12 years. She started at Relic Entertainment writing code for Company of Heroes and Warhammer 40k: Dawn of War. For a short time she was at Pandemic Australia before joining Ubisoft Montreal to work on the Assassin’s Creed series. Most recently she was the lead programmer on Child of Light. At Nordic Game next week, Brie Code will go on stage with a talk titled “The Best Candidate or the Best Team?”
NG: What was the first game that really made you aware of games?
BC: I grew up around computers and around games, and the first game I ever played was an ASCII version of the “Snake” game on a terminal connected through the phone to the mainframe at my father’s work. But, the game that first really made an impression on me, that changed everything for me, was The Colonel’s Bequest. The Colonel’s Bequest is a Roberta Williams/Sierra adventure game that came out in 1989 and is similar to King’s Quest and Police Quest. You can check it out in Leigh Alexander’s Let’s Play on Rock Paper Shotgun (here).
This game really got to me. The heroine is a young woman, a student. And the game is all about exploring an old plantation and getting to know the characters and stories therein. It’s not about getting points or solving explicit puzzles or winning or losing. It’s possible to finish the game without having solved the mysteries.
The game is not without its problems. The characters are stereotypes and some of them are pretty offensive. But it’s also a fascinating experiment into creating a non-linear game driven by characters and emotion. Looking back at it today, it’s amazing how the game manages to convey so much mood and a sense of the humidity of the swampy atmosphere in only 16 colours. I’m still very inspired by this game.
NG: Which game has made you most frustrated or angry?
BC: I get pretty angry playing any game that has terrible portrayals of women. I don’t play them anymore.
NG: Which game have you spent the most time on?
BC: The game I have spent the most time playing is (The Elder Scrolls III:) Morrowind. This was the first game I got really into after The Sims. I am not a morning person, but I used to set an alarm and get up early to play it before work and before my boyfriend woke up on weekends. I finished the main quest, the guilds and both expansions.
I think every minute I spent playing Morrowind was worth it. At the time I was playing Morrowind I was a young adult, recently graduated from university and working at my first real job. I went to university at 16 and at university I had been pretty busy just trying to survive on so little money and to graduate. In the relative calm after, I realised I had no idea who I was, what my values were, or what I wanted out of life. In one of Jane McGonigal’s TED Talks she discusses how playing games with an avatar that is an idealised version of yourself can change how you are in your life outside the game, making you more courageous, more ambitious, and more committed to your goals.
I think the time I spent in Morrowind was time I spent figuring out who I was and what I liked. I made my way through that world, exploring the places I liked in great detail, trying out different choices, aligning myself with certain groups, helping certain characters, developing certain skills, choosing my outfits and collecting things I liked. It was fun. I have nothing but fond memories of that game.
And Morrowind was a big influence in many of my colleagues’ lives as well. On the Child of Light programming team it became a bit of a thing to listen to the Morrowind soundtrack while coding. We were quite a few fans of Morrowind on that team.
Still from The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
NG: What game, genre or game mechanic would you like to see brought back the most?
BC: The game I want to play is a smart, deep RPG like Bethesda makes but without combat and in a bright, colourful world full of rich, deep characters.
NG: What is the best detail you ever noticed in a game?
BC: I think many of my colleagues missed-out on playing Kim Kardashian: Hollywood. This may have been my “game of the year” for last year. I’m a big fan. I closely followed the press surrounding this game was amused to see that while writers on women’s lifestyle websites seemed to love this game, the games industry press and games industry itself didn’t seem to know what to think about it.
This game has a lot of great ideas in it. My favourite detail is that the score for your clothing is the total of what is in your closet and not what you are currently wearing. So you can wear whatever you want. I also really like seeing my friends’ avatars from their game appear in my game as NPCs. And the writing is really witty.
Once, in real life I was walking down the street playing the game on my phone and not paying attention to where I was going, and in the game I came across a character in the street who said to me something like “Oh, sorry for bumping into you! I’m just so obsessed with this game on my phone.” I appreciated that moment.
NG: Which game would do well in another media form?
BC: I can’t help but to answer Child of Light here. On Child of Light the core team spent a lot of effort to develop a full world and back-story and I really liked everything they came up with. I think there is a lot more left to explore in that universe. Actually, some of the team just released a free downloadable (e-book) called Reginald the Great and I think there should be more books coming!
Brie Code’s session “The Best Candidate or the Best Team?” is scheduled for Thursday afternoon, 21 May at Slagthuset in Malmö. Read more about Brie Code on the conference website here and her talk here.
Enchanted? Brie Code – game programmer extraordinaire – another great reason to join us for Nordic Game 2015, 20-22 May in Malmö, Sweden. Register today!