Don Daglow

Don Daglow
Don Daglow

Don Daglow at the Game Developers Conference in 2010
Nationality American
Occupation game designer

Don Daglow (born circa 1953) is an American computer game and video game designer, programmer and producer. He is best known for designing a series of pioneering simulation games and role-playing games, as well as the first computer baseball game and the first graphical MMORPG, all between 1971 and 1995. He founded long-standing game developer Stormfront Studios in 1988; as of 2007 more than 12,500,000 Stormfront games had been sold.

In 2008 Daglow was honored at the 59th Annual Technology & Engineering Emmy Awards for Neverwinter Nights pioneering role in MMORPG development.[1] Along with John Carmack of id Software and Mike Morhaime of Blizzard Entertainment, Daglow is one of only three game developers to accept awards at both the Technology & Engineering Emmy Awards and at the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences Interactive Achievement Awards.[citation needed]

In 2003 he was the recipient of the CGE Achievement Award for "groundbreaking accomplishments that shaped the Video Game Industry."


University mainframe games in the 1970s

In 1971 Daglow was studying playwriting at Pomona College in Claremont, California. A computer terminal connected to the Claremont Colleges PDP-10 mainframe computer was set up in his dorm, and he saw this as a new form of writing. Like Kelton Flinn, another prolific game designer of the 1970s, his nine years of computer access as a student, grad student and grad school instructor throughout the 1970s gave him time to build a large body of major titles. Unlike Daglow and Flinn, most college students in the early 1970s lost all access to computers when they graduated, since home computers had not yet been invented.

Some of Daglow's titles were distributed to universities by the DECUS program-sharing organization, earning popularity in the free-play era of 1970s college gaming.

His best known games and experiments of this era include:

  • Baseball (1971) — First-ever computer baseball game, now recorded in the baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Daglow continued to expand Baseball throughout the 1970s, and ported the game to the Apple II in 1981, adding graphics in 1982. The simulation model in the Apple version in turn was ported to the Intellivision in 1982 as the basis for Intellivision World Series Baseball.
  • Star Trek (1972) — The second of two popular Star Trek computer games widely played in American colleges during this era.
  • Ecala (1973) — Improved version of the ELIZA computer conversation program. This project paved the way for his later work by suggesting new kinds of game interfaces.
  • Dungeon (1975) — The first computer role playing game, based on the then-new Dungeons & Dragons gaming system. The game was steadily expanded over the following five years.
  • Spanish Translator (1977) — As he experimented with parsers he created a context-sensitive Spanish translation program.
  • Killer Shrews (1978) — A simulation game based on the cult sci-fi film The Killer Shrews. The player has not many decisions to make, only when to try to escape the island during the simulation of the depleting of the food that is there.
  • Educational Dungeon (1979) — An attempt to make rote computer-aided instruction (CAI) programs more interesting by taking Dungeon and making correct answers propel the story.

Intellivision and Electronic Arts in the 1980s

In 1980 Daglow was hired as one of the original five in-house Intellivision programmers at Mattel during the first Console wars.[2] Intellivision titles where he did programming and extensive ongoing design include:

  • Geography Challenge (1981) — an educational title for the ill-fated Intellivision Keyboard component.
  • Utopia — the first sim game or god game (1982). Utopia was a surprise hit and received wide press coverage for its unique design in an arcade-dominated era. The game has been named to two different video game halls of fame.
  • Intellivision World Series Baseball (1983) — the first video game to use multiple camera angles to display the action rather than a static playfield.

As the team grew Daglow was promoted to be Director of Intellivision Game Development, where he created the original designs for a number of Mattel titles in 1982-83 that were enhanced and expanded by other programmers, including:

  • Tron Deadly Discs (programmed by Steve Sents)
  • Shark! Shark! (programmed by Ji-Wen Tsao)
  • Buzz Bombers (programmed by Michael Breen)
  • Pinball (programmed by Minh-Chau Tran).

During the Video Game Crash of 1983 Daglow was recruited to join Electronic Arts by founder Trip Hawkins, where he joined the EA producer team of Joe Ybarra and Stewart Bonn. His EA titles include:

In addition to Dombrower, at EA Daglow often worked with former members of the Intellivision team, including programmer Rick Koenig, artist Connie Goldman and musician Dave Warhol.

Daglow spent 1987–88 at Brøderbund as head of the company's Entertainment and Education Division. Although he supervised the creation of games like Jordan Mechner's Prince of Persia, Star Wars, the Ancient Art of War series, and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?, his role was executive rather than creative. He took a lead role in signing the original distribution deal for SimCity with Maxis, and acquired the Star Wars license for Brøderbund from LucasFilm.

Stormfront Studios in the 1990s and 2000s

Looking to return to hands-on game development, Daglow founded game developer Stormfront Studios in 1988[2] in San Rafael, California.

Between 1988 and 1995 Daglow designed or co-designed the following titles:

By 1995 Stormfront had placed on the Inc. 500 list of fast-growing companies three times and Daglow stepped back from his design role to focus on the CEO position. See the article on Stormfront Studios for further information.

In 2003 and again in 2007 Daglow was elected to the Board of Directors of the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences. He also serves on the San Francisco Advisory Board of the IGDA, the Advisory Board to the President of the Academy of Art University and served on the Advisory Board to the Games Convention Developers Conference until it was dissolved in 2008. In 2009, Daglow joined the board of GDC Europe.[3] He has been a keynote speaker, lecturer and panelist at game development conferences in Australia, Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States.


During the late 1970s Daglow worked as a teacher and graduate school instructor while pursuing his writing career. He was a winner of the National Endowment for the Humanities New Voices playwriting competition in 1975. His 1979 novelette The Blessing of La Llorona appeared in the April, 1982 issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine.


  1. ^ 2008 Tech Emmy Winners from
  2. ^ a b Olsen, Jennifer (July 2001). "Profiles: Don Daglow—breaking typecasts", Game Developer 8 (7): 18.
  3. ^
  • Daglow, Don, The Changing Role of Computer Game Designers, Computer Gaming World, August, 1988, p. 18.
  • Daglow, Don, The Dark Ages of Game Design, Computer Gaming World, May, 1986, p. 12.
  • Daglow, Don, Through Hope-Colored Glasses: A Publisher's Perspective on Game Development, The Journal of Computer Game Design, 1(4) (1987), 3—5.
  • DeMaria, Rusel & Wilson, Johnny L. (2003). High Score!: The Illustrated History of Electronic Games (2nd ed.).. McGraw-Hill/Osborne.. ISBN 0-07-222428-2.  Picture of Daglow Decles and Minkoff Measures Mattel softball teams, 1982
  • Diesel, Vin (Foreword) (2004). Thirty Years of Adventure : A Celebration of Dungeons & Dragons. Wizards of the Coast. ISBN 0-7869-3498-0. 
  • Fullerton, Tracy; Swain, Christopher; and Hoffman, Steven (2004). Game Design Workshop: Designing, Prototyping, and Playtesting Games. CMP Books. ISBN 1-57820-222-1. 
  • Krawczyk, Marianne & Novak, Jeannie (2006). Game Development Essentials: Game Story & Character Development. Thomson Delmar Learning. ISBN 1-4018-7885-7. 
  • Novak, Jeannie (2004). Game Development Essentials: An Introduction. Thomson Delmar Learning. ISBN 1-4018-6271-3. 

External links

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