PAX Prime 2013 Interview: Ben McGraw, Breadbrothers Games

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

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Breadbrothers Games logo

At PAX Prime 2013, I was fortunate enough to get the chance to interview the maker of Sully: A Very Serious RPG, Ben McGraw of Breadbrothers Games, in person. It was great to meet Ben and demo the game firsthand to see what it was shaping up to be. First, though, I’m going to present a pre-PAX interview between Ben and Scott MacDonald, our Review Manager, via email.

Scott: How long have you been involved in the game industry? What inspired you to want to be involved in the creation of video games? Do you still work as an engineer, or is this now your life?

Ben: Gaming industry? I’m fairly an outsider to the professional life. But I’ve been making games since 1997 as a hobbyist, and in fact learned how to be a programmer in the VERGE-RPG community back then. A decade of making game jam and compo games (and being a Silicon Valley software engineer professionally), and I decided to throw my hat into the indie scene full-time…

Scott: What events led to the formation of Breadbrothers Games? How large is your team, and what titles have you previously released?

Ben: This is actually the second time I’ve attempted “Breadbrothers Games,” the first of which was self-funded back in 2005. I spectacularly failed to complete three games, the third of which was (seven years later) completed by Gaslamp Games: Dungeons of Dredmor.

Scott: Is it safe to assume you have a brother, hence the company name, or do you and your close coworkers just enjoy bread that much? Bread Man seems kinda feisty for being bread, too.

Breadbrothers Games logo

Ben: I have two brothers, neither of which is involved with games. The name’s origin is far, far sillier than that. Sometime in 1996, I was playing a game of Risk with six high-school friends. I proposed an alliance to my best friend, Wyatt Peterson, that as the two most powerful players, we should form a non-aggression pact: he’d roll westward over Europe and Africa, and I’d roll over the Bering Strait and take over the Americas. (We were looking at a shared front in mid-Asia. I had elected for the Australian Stronghold strategy early on, and everyone knows you don’t get into a land war in Asia…)

Anyway, he wanted some assurance that I wouldn’t betray the alliance—a wise move, considering my Risk history. So, I looked around and found a fresh loaf of Italian bread and a 2-liter [bottle] of Dr. Pepper. We broke bread together and drank from a chalice of Dr. Pepper and swore the oath of the Bread Brothers there and then. The four other players soon fell to our mighty alliance, and when we met on the other side of the world after crushing the last of our foes, we just ended the game.

Scott: How did you come up with the idea for Sully: A Very Serious RPG? How long has it been in development?

Ben: How long has it been in development? Depending on how you count, either 1.5 years…or 17 years. The first time I made games was with the VERGE 1 RPG engine, made in 1997 for DOS by Ben “vecna” Eirich and Brian “Hahn” Peterson. It was fairly popular for a few years because it was at the top of Yahoo!’s (this was before Google existed) search results for “Game Creation Engines,” and RPG Maker was not yet a thing in America. The demonstration game for VERGE 1 was The Sully Chronicles, a game about Sully Clam, a naïve hero named Darin, and his girlfriend Crystal, who’d be kidnapped by a demon named Lord Stan. This was made by Brian Peterson to show off the capabilities of the engine and was open-source to allow people to learn how to use it. Thousands of young programmers got their start using this game.

The Sully Chronicles (DOS) | Sully The Sully Chronicles (DOS) | Lord Stan The Sully Chronicles (DOS) | Lord Stan's plan The Sully Chronicles (DOS) | Crystal panics
The Sully Chronicles for DOS
The Sully Chronicles (Windows) | Sully The Sully Chronicles (Windows) | Lord Stan The Sully Chronicles (Windows) | Lord Stan's plan The Sully Chronicles (Windows) | Crystal panics
The Sully Chronicles for Windows 9x

Scott: What role did you take in the game’s creation?

Ben: I was the maintainer of the game from maybe 1999 on. The last major refresh I did was in late 2004…although there was plenty of new stuff worked on since then that made it into Sullly: A Very Serious RPG. Over the years, I became more of a core member of the VERGE community and was involved with subsequent iterations of the engine and spent a few years tinkering with this game in various forms. When I decided I wanted to make a go at RPGs again, I had a few games in my history to choose from, but I decided that a re-imagining of The Sully Chronicles would be a good first go because the characters were dear to me, and I sort of wanted some closure from all those years of VERGE. So I got permission from the game’s creator, and then set off to re-imagine the game, Battlestar Galactica-reboot-style.

Go to page 2 for the PAX Prime 2013 portion of our interview →

About Josh Speer

Josh is a passionate gamer, finding time to clock in around 30-40 hours of gaming a week. He discovered Operation Rainfall while avidly following the localization of the Big 3 Wii RPGs. He enjoys SHMUPS, Platformers, RPGs, Roguelikes and the occasional Fighter. He’s also an unashamedly giant Mega Man fan, having played the series since he was eight. As Head Editor and Review Manager, he spends far too much time editing reviews and random articles. In his limited spare time he devours indies whole and anticipates the release of quirky, unpredictable and innovative games.

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