Treasuring the Things that Matter
I originally wrote the blog below back in 2009. I posted it on my website, meaning it was seen by no one, and also on the blog section of Garage Games, meaning it was seen by a few people. I’ve been thinking about it again recently because it’s been exactly a year since Ken Embery died. He was a producer on many Dynamix games and I got to work with him on quite a few of them
Also, since I wrote the below, Shawn Bird passed on. It happend out of the blue. One day he was just gone. He was an artist at Dynamix who worked many different games over the years he was there. He created the Johnny Castaway character from the screen saver that Sierra released back in 1993. Btw, we once got a support call that the screen saver was broken – it’d go away whenever they moved the mouse.
Shawn also designed the manual for “The Incredible Machine” Anyway, another great game dev person that is missed by a lot of people…
In ’78 I was 17 and driving up 101, heading to a concert in San Francisco to see Neil Young. I’m not sure how that road turned into the one I’m on.
Back in 1995, near the end of November, I was moving out of Eugene first to Fresno and then eventually up to Shaver Lake in California. We were having a log home buit and we were going to stay in Fresno for roughly a year while it was being built. I had just finished off the latest version of The Incredible Machine so I was between game projects.
It was one of those rare rainy days in Eugene. I think Eugene is known as “The Sunshine City”. I stopped by JTP (Jeff Tunnell Productions) to say goodbye to everyone. In the van was my wife, 4 kids, one dog, one cat, two birds, and all our luggage that didn’t go with the moving van. My wife was pregnant with two months to go and had just gotten out of the hospital a couple of days earlier after spending a night there on meds to stop contractions.
Most of the JTP guys were in the office so I said goodbye and hopped into the van for the drive. Then I saw Darek Lukaszuk standing out in the drizzling rain having a smoke. Darek had joined up with Dynamix in the very early days; I think sometime in 1986. I was going run out and say goodbye to him too, but it was raining and I was planning on coming back to Eugene for a visit soon so I thought, “I’ll see him in a few weeks.”
The drive down to Fresno took around 12 hours or and wasn’t too bad considering how packed in the van we were. A few days later I got a phone call, “Derek was in a car crash and is in the hospital.” I didn’t hear any of the details, but it sounded pretty bad and I was hoping he’d get better and out of the hospital soon.
A few days later there was another phone call, “Derek died.”
I guess sometimes you don’t have a few weeks to come back and talk again. Here I am slowly closing in on 50 and there is Derek eternally stuck at roughly 30 years old. It’d be fun to see him like some of my other old Dynamix (and now GG) buddies on my occasional visits to Eugene and have a beer and talk, but some things just can’t happen. If you’ve every enjoyed any of the Dynamix games there is a good chance that Derek was one of the guys that helped create it.
I’ve been blessed over the years to have worked with a large number of very talented and decent people. Those are the sorts of things that I’ve learned to treasure more and more.
Here is a photo of the “Heart of China” team. That’s Derek front and center 🙂