Bruce Shelley

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Bruce Campbell Shelley is a computer game designer who helped design Sid Meier's Civilization and Railroad Tycoon with MicroProse and the 1997 hit real-time strategy game Age of Empires with Ensemble Studios. Before getting into the computer games industry, he worked on tabletop role-playing games and board games at Iron Crown Enterprises and Avalon Hill. From 2011 to 2013 he worked with Zynga, best known for Farmville, and helped develop FrontierVille in 2010.[contradiction][1] He served in an advisor role at Ensemble until it closed down in 2009 and recently[when?] stepped down from the board of directors of the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences. He also acted as a consultant on the Ubisoft game, The Settlers 7: Paths to a Kingdom.[2]


Bruce Shelley was born in Michigan, U.S. and grew up in Baltimore. He attended Syracuse University and the State University of New York's College of Forestry, earning a degree in forest biology. Shelley continued his education at the University of Virginia. He had developed a fondness for strategy board games in school, playing Risk and Stratego.

The first time he thought of making games for a living came in the 1970s, but he had a difficult time finding a job.[citation needed] In 1980, he and several of his Univ. of Virginia friends formed a role-playing game company called Iron Crown Enterprises.[3] ICE acquired the license to make games based on The Lord of the Rings. It was his first job in the games industry. Strategy & Tactics Magazine became his first publisher in the early 1980s by printing a game he helped design that was based on the American Civil War.

He worked for Simulations Publications, Inc. (SPI) briefly,[4] in 1981.[citation needed] Shelley then worked for Avalon Hill for nearly six years, designing wargames and board games; he designed several titles, and developed 1830, Titan, Britannia, and others.[4] He later credited board game design with teaching him the value of prototyping and "designing by playing". Shelley left board games for computer games after being impressed by Sid Meier's Pirates!, created by local developer MicroProse.

In 1988, he joined MicroProse Software, where he managed and contributed to the design of many products.[4] At MicroProse, he was Sid Meier's assistant designer for Railroad Tycoon (1990) and Civilization (1991),[4] and Covert Action (1990).[citation needed] Meier taught Shelley to think about game design more scientifically, that there are fundamental ideas that can carry over from game to game, and also confirmed his beliefs in prototyping and designing by playing. Shelley left MicroProse after five years with the company.[citation needed] He became a freelance writer, having five strategy guides published.[4]

In February 1995, he joined an old friend from the Virginia game club, Tony Goodman, who had just started Ensemble Studios in Dallas, Texas.[4] As a designer, he helped create the successful Age of Empires (1997) real-time strategy game.[4] He also worked on the game's expansion packs and sequels, which went on to sell over 20 million copies by September 2008. Shelley's role in Ensemble's games after the original Age of Empires was more advisory than hands-on.

PC Gamer magazine named Shelley one of the 25 "Game Gods" in 1999 and GameSpy called him the 8th most influential person in gaming in 2002.[5] Between 2000 and 2006 he served on the board of directors of the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences.[4] As of 2005 he is a spokesman and part of Ensemble's management. He shares design ideas and research, but lives away from the company. In February 2010 Bruce Shelly was announced to be working with development team Blue Byte on their upcoming city builder The Settlers 7: Paths to a Kingdom.[2]

In January 2011, Shelley was hired by Zynga as a consultant and left in June 2013. In October 2013, Shelley joined the board of advisors of iOS game developer Shenandoah Studio.[6][7]


  1. ^ JonahFalcon (February 14, 2011). "Shelley: Age of Empires III 'huge mistake'". Strategy Informer. Retrieved February 13, 2011. 
  2. ^ a b "Bruce Shelley From Age of Empires Working on Settlers 7"
  3. ^ Shannon Appelcline (2011). Designers & Dragons. Mongoose Publishing. p. 133. ISBN 978-1-907702-58-7. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Shelley, Bruce C. (2007). "Acquire". In Lowder, James. Hobby Games: The 100 Best. Green Ronin Publishing. pp. 1–4. ISBN 978-1-932442-96-0. 
  5. ^ "30 Most Influential People in Gaming"
  6. ^ Graft, Kris (15 April 2011). "The Strategic Evolution Of Social Gaming". Gamasutra. Retrieved 30 December 2014. 
  7. ^ Weber, Rachel (7 October 2013). "Bruce Shelley joins Shenandoah board". Retrieved 30 December 2014. 

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