Warren Spector

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Warren Spector
Spector in 2023
Born (1955-10-02) October 2, 1955 (age 68)
Alma materNorthwestern University (B.S.)
University of Texas at Austin (M.A.)
Years active1983–present
(m. 1987)

Warren Evan Spector (born October 2, 1955[1]) is an American role-playing and video game designer, director, writer, producer and production designer. He is known for creating immersive sim games, which give players a wide variety of choices in how to progress.[2] Consequences of those choices are then shown in the simulated game world in subsequent levels or missions. He is best known for the critically acclaimed video game Deus Ex that embodies the choice and consequence philosophy while combining elements of the first-person shooter, role-playing, and adventure game genres.[3] In addition to Deus Ex, Spector is known for his work while employed by Looking Glass Studios, where he was involved in the creation of several acclaimed titles including Ultima Underworld, Ultima Underworld II, System Shock, and Thief: The Dark Project. He is employed by OtherSide Entertainment, where he was part of the development team for now-cancelled System Shock 3.[4][5] He is currently working on a new immersive sim based on an original intellectual property.[5]

Early life[edit]

Spector grew up in Manhattan, which he described as a sometimes hostile environment where "short, pudgy, Jewish kids didn't fare well".[1] He showed an intense devotion to whatever topic became his focus at any given time, from dinosaurs and airplanes as a small boy, to an interest in law by the sixth grade.[1] At age 13, Spector had decided he wanted to be a film critic, and by high school, his interests expanded to include cars and basketball.[1]

Spector and game designer Greg Costikyan were friends since high school.[6]

Spector attended Northwestern University in Illinois, still intending to become a film critic, stating that he "knew more about movies than a lot of my teachers".[1] Spector earned his BS in Communications at Northwestern, and went on to earn his MA in Radio-TV-Film at the University of Texas at Austin in 1980.[1] His thesis was a critical history of Warner Bros. cartoons.[7]

All through college, Spector enjoyed gaming, and recalls that he "played Avalon Hill games mainly, and a lot of OGRE and G.E.V. games, and Rivets from Metagaming. It was all boardgames until I became friends with science-fiction writers who were into D&D games, so I gave the game a try. I was hooked."[1] Spector taught several undergraduate classes at the University of Texas at Austin, on the history, theory, and criticism of film.[1]


Tabletop role-playing games[edit]

In 1983, after a job at the Harry Ransom Center as an archivist in charge of the David O. Selznick collection ended after a few months, Spector recalls that he "was sitting around, wondering how I was going to pay the next month's rent, when I got a call from Chris Frink. He was a writer for a weekly entertainment magazine I used to edit in college. Anyway, he said that he was now editor of Space Gamer magazine and asked if I wanted a job. So, in the fall of 1983, I started as an editor."[1] Within a short time, Spector became the editor-in-chief for all Steve Jackson Games products, the company that owned and published Space Gamer magazine. Spector began producing role-playing games for the company, stating, "I supervised game development, typesetting, and the art and graphic departments."[1] Greg Costikyan developed Toon (1984), based on an idea by Jeff Dee; Costikyan only intended the game to be an article in Fantasy Gamer magazine, but Spector liked the idea and expanded it into a complete role-playing system, publishing it as the first full role-playing game from Steve Jackson Games.[8]: 104  Spector wrote the early Paranoia game supplement Send in the Clones (1985) with Allen Varney.[8]: 189  Spector also worked on the GURPS role-playing game.[9] In March 1987 he was hired by TSR, initially working on games such as Top Secret/S.I. and the Marvel Super Heroes role-playing game.[1] He also worked on The Bullwinkle and Rocky Party Roleplaying Game, and the second edition AD&D rules set, as well as board games, choose-your-own-adventure books, and novels.[9] Spector spent some time in TSR's R&D department, helping launch, among other things, Spelljammer.[citation needed]

Origin and Looking Glass Studios[edit]

In 1989, Spector entered the video game industry and joined Origin, where he co-produced Ultima VI and Wing Commander and produced Ultima Underworld and Ultima Underworld II, Ultima VII Part Two: Serpent Isle, System Shock, Wings of Glory, Bad Blood, Martian Dreams, and others.[9][10] He later became general manager of Looking Glass Austin.[9] He worked briefly on Dark Camelot, which later became Thief: The Dark Project.[citation needed] However, Spector left Looking Glass soon afterward, just before Thief shipped, to pursue other interests.[11] According to Spector, his decision to dissolve the Austin branch was prompted by the company's ongoing financial struggles and the realization that "continued existence of the Austin Studio was going to jeopardise the existence of Looking Glass overall".[12]

Ion Storm[edit]

In 1996, Spector was about to sign a contract with EA to do an unannounced project (which was revealed to be a "Command & Conquer Role-Playing Game") when he got a call from John Romero to join him at Ion Storm; Romero persuaded Spector by offering him the chance to make the game of his dreams with no creative interference and a big marketing budget.[12] Spector later agreed.[13] In 1997 he founded Ion Storm's Austin development studio, and his "dream project" later became the award-winning action/RPG called Deus Ex.[9][10] As Ion Storm studio director, he oversaw development of Deus Ex: Invisible War (2003) and Thief: Deadly Shadows (2004).[9] In 2004, Spector left Ion Storm to "pursue personal interests outside the company".[14] Ion Storm was closed by owners Eidos Interactive in February 2005.[15]


In 2005, it was announced that he had established a new studio Junction Point Studios.[16] Somewhere between the end of 2005 and mid-2007, Junction Point Studios and Warren worked on an additional Episode for Half-Life 2 that was ultimately cancelled by Valve.[17] A job advertisement for the studio called for artists for a game that has "classic Hollywood cartoons" featuring "cartoon mice, cats and wabbits".[citation needed] On July 13, 2007, it was announced that Disney Interactive had acquired Junction Point Studios.[18] His first project with Disney Interactive was a project involving Disney characters, titled Epic Mickey. The game is steampunk-themed and designed exclusively for the Wii;[19] the game was released in 2010.[20]

In January 2013, it was announced that Warren Spector had left Disney Interactive following the closure of Junction Point Studios.[21]

University of Texas[edit]

After leaving Disney Interactive, Spector worked with the University of Texas at Austin to build a new post-baccalaureate game development program – the Denius-Sams Gaming Academy. He worked with UT staff to create a curriculum and plan out courses and labs.[22]

OtherSide Entertainment[edit]

In February 2016, Spector announced he had joined OtherSide Entertainment, a studio formed by Paul Neurath in 2014 and includes several previous Looking Glass developers, as their Studio Director, after having been in an advisory role from its inception. He will be helping the studio with their current development of System Shock 3 and Underworld Ascendant, the spiritual successor to Ultima Underworld which both Spector and Neurath worked on in the early 1990s.[4] Though Spector had completed only two-and-a-half years of a three-year commitment to the University of Texas, he jumped at the chance to work on System Shock when Neurath approached him with the offer. He also believed the opportunity would help garner good favor from players that had been disappointed by his choice to work on Epic Mickey, even though he states that game had still been based on his past design philosophy used in the development of System Shock and Deus Ex.[23] OtherSide Entertainment announced in November 2022 that Spector is working on a multiplayer game with immersive sim elements entitled Argos: Riders on the Storm.[24]

Personal life[edit]

Spector met Caroline Skelley in 1984 at a comic book store in Austin, Texas, where she was employed. After Skelley got a job at Steve Jackson Games, she and Spector began a relationship. They were married on April 11, 1987. The couple sometimes worked together, such as on game supplements for the Marvel Super Heroes role-playing game.[1] The two reside in Austin, Texas. Caroline is a fantasy writer.


Video games[edit]

Year Title Role Publisher
1990 Ultima VI: The False Prophet Producer/writer Origin Systems
Wing Commander Producer
Wing Commander: The Secret Missions
Bad Blood
1991 Ultima: Worlds of Adventure 2: Martian Dreams
1992 Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss
1993 Ultima Underworld II: Labyrinth of Worlds
Ultima VII, Part Two: Serpent Isle
Ultima VII, Part Two: The Silver Seed Origin Systems
Electronic Arts
1994 Wing Commander: Privateer – Righteous Fire Origin Systems
System Shock
1995 Wings of Glory Electronic Arts
CyberMage: Darklight Awakening
Crusader: No Remorse
2000 Deus Ex Director/Producer Eidos Interactive
2003 Deus Ex: Invisible War Studio Director
2004 Thief: Deadly Shadows Studio Director
2010 Epic Mickey Creative Director Disney Interactive Studios
2012 Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two VP
2018 Underworld Ascendant Creative consultant 505 Games
TBA System Shock 3 TBA TBA
Argos: Riders on the Storm

Role-playing games[edit]


  • Double Agent: Royal Pain/The Hollow Earth Affair by Richard Merwin/Warren Spector ISBN 0-88038-551-0




On 2016, Spector won the Honorific Award at the Fun & Serious Game Festival.[27]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "TSR Profiles". Dragon. No. #123. Lake Geneva, Wisconsin: TSR, Inc. July 1987. p. 88.
  2. ^ Spector, Warren (January 6, 2014). "Choice and consequence talk". gamasutra.com.
  3. ^ Spector 2000.
  4. ^ a b Smith, Adam (February 17, 2016). "Warren Spector Working On System Shock 3". Rock Paper Shotgun. Retrieved February 17, 2016.
  5. ^ a b "How Warren Spector got back to making his latest game". VentureBeat. March 12, 2022. Retrieved March 20, 2022.
  6. ^ "Games * Design * Art * Culture". April 7, 2003. Archived from the original on April 7, 2003. Retrieved December 18, 2021.
  7. ^ "AGDC: The Warren Spector Interview". September 6, 2007.
  8. ^ a b Shannon Appelcline (2011). Designers & Dragons. Mongoose Publishing. ISBN 978-1-907702-58-7.
  9. ^ a b c d e f Spector, Warren (2007). "Tikal". In Lowder, James (ed.). Hobby Games: The 100 Best. Green Ronin Publishing. pp. 322–326. ISBN 978-1-932442-96-0.
  10. ^ a b Spector 2000, p. 50.
  11. ^ G4Icons. "G4 Icons Episode #30: Warren Spector". YouTube. Archived from the original on December 12, 2021. Retrieved August 13, 2015.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  12. ^ a b Lane, Rick (February 16, 2018). "The History of Ion Storm". PC Gamer. Retrieved February 8, 2020.
  13. ^ Game Informer. "Replay - Deus Ex". YouTube. Archived from the original on December 12, 2021. Retrieved August 13, 2015.
  14. ^ Tor Thorsen. "Warren Spector exits Eidos". GameSpot. Retrieved May 4, 2007.
  15. ^ Tor Thorsen. "Ion Storm closes its doors". GameSpot. Retrieved May 5, 2007.
  16. ^ Curt Feldman & Tor Thorsen. "Warren Spector resurfaces at Junction Point". GameSpot. Retrieved May 5, 2007.
  17. ^ Rick Lane (November 8, 2017). "Warren Spector discusses his cancelled Half-Life 2 Ravenholm Episode". PC Gamer. Retrieved November 8, 2017.
  18. ^ Martin, Matt (July 13, 2007). "Disney swoops for Spector's Junction Point Studios". GamesIndustry.biz. Retrieved August 18, 2007.
  19. ^ Thomas M. "'Epic Mickey' Spector's first Disney effort?". GameSpot. Retrieved July 29, 2009.
  20. ^ "Nintendo - Disney Epic Mickey". Nintendo. Archived from the original on May 20, 2016. Retrieved May 19, 2015.
  21. ^ Michael McWhertor (January 29, 2013). "Warren Spector no longer with Disney after Junction Point closure". Polygon. Retrieved June 1, 2013.
  22. ^ Spector, Warren (May 10, 2007). "About 2". Gaming The System. Retrieved June 28, 2015.
  23. ^ Kohler, Chris (February 18, 2016). "How System Shock Lured Warren Spector Back To Making Games". Wired. Retrieved February 18, 2016.
  24. ^ McCaffrey, Ryan (November 4, 2022). "Legendary Designer Warren Spector on His Return to AAA Gaming With Argos: Riders on the Storm". IGN. Retrieved November 25, 2022.
  25. ^ Jose Zagal [@JoseZagal] (December 22, 2015). "Time to get back to the classics... :-) Thanks @Warren_Spector !" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  26. ^ Warren Spector [@Warren_Spector] (December 23, 2015). "@JoseZagal Here's a picture of Stan Lee autographing a copy of One Thing After Another. A big, big moment for me!" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  27. ^ "Fun&Serious: las múltiples caras del videojuego". December 2016. Retrieved July 8, 2019.


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