DICE Feature: 'The Battle Of Bunker Hill': Celebrity Designers Get Fingers On Buzzers'

On DICE 2006's second afternoon, 'The Battle Of Bunker Hill', was trailed as a mysterious showdown between two game design giants, but turned out to be a gigantic woodgrain TV, a couple of old couches, a game of Pong, and a handful of industry legends playing a rather amusing game show.


Not much was publicized about “The Battle of Bunker Hill,” the 1:30 p.m. panel speech that took place on the second and final day of the 2006 DICE Summit in Las Vegas. The official description only offered that infamous game designers Will Wright and Peter Molyneux were involved, and for most of us, that was enough.

What we ended up getting, no one could have guessed. For starters, Molyneux was nowhere to be found. In his place? A gigantic woodgrain TV, a couple of old couches, a game of Pong, and a handful of industry legends.

The Battle of Bunker Hill was a trivia game show, along the lines of Family Feud. The rules went something like this: two teams of four people competed against each other to name the top five most popular responses to relatively straightforward, video game-related questions. The team in control of the board was determined at the beginning of each round by an impromptu game of Pong, in which every team member, eventually, would have to participate. The winner would then hear the question, and determine whether to play – that is, attempt to correctly identify all five answers – or pass it on to the other team.

'The Battle Of Bunker Hill' raging hard.

The playing team gives responses, one at a time, with exactly three chances (“strikes”) to answer incorrectly, at which point the opposing team has a chance to “steal” by supplying one of the remaining answers. If they fail to do so, the original team – despite having three strikes – gets the points. Audience participation was heavily encouraged. In fact, we were asked to scream and be "irritating," something of a specialty for this writer.

Red Vs. Blue - The Showdown

Team Red was led by Will Wright, Creative Director at Maxis, and the man behind SimCity, The Sims and the upcoming Spore. With him were David Jaffe, designer of God of War and the Twisted Metal series; Warren Spector, who produced games in the Ultima, Wing Commander, Thief and Deux Ex series; and Michael Legg, President of Petroglyph Games, which just developed Star Wars: Empire at War, shipping later this month.

The opposing team, Team Blue, was led by Sid Meier, the name behind the Pirates!, Railroad Tycoon and Civilization franchises. Joining him were Westwood co-founder and EA Los Angeles Vice President of Creative Development Louis Castle; Bruce Shelley, of Age of Empires fame; and Michael John, lead designer of Daxter for the PSP.

The first round of Pong pitted Will Wright and Sid Meier against each other, in a "first to eleven points" match. As it turns out, Will Wright isn't very good at Pong, trailing behind 0-4 at the beginning. "Try innovating!" suggested one audience member, but it was too late, and Meier's team gained control. They opted to play the first category, which was "Best Arcade Game."

Will Wright, Sid Meier go crazy on Pong

Meier's first guess, Space Invaders, landed Team Blue their first strike. Louis Castle piped in with Pac-Man, which was the number one answer, with thirty-three out of six hundred respondents placing it as their vote. Michael John offered Street Fighter 2, which was the number two answer, at 29 points. Unfortunately that was it for Team Blue, as the next two guesses – including Centipede – struck them out. Without hesitation, Meier's team answered Galaga – probably the most common scream from the audience – and won the first round. For the record, the remaining two responses were Gauntlet and Ms. Pac-Man.

Pong On, My Friends

The next Pong match was between Legg and Castle, both Las Vegas residents who were crucial parts of Command & Conquer's success at Westwood. It was a close match, with Castle ultimately winning the best of 5, with a final score of 5-4. The category, "funniest game," was passed back to Meier's Team Red.

Legg's answer of The Secret of Monkey Island, the obvious audience favorite, was number two on the list, with twenty-five of the six hundred respondents voting for it. Warren Spector's next answer, Sam & Max Hit the Road, was number three, with eighteen votes. Jaffe continued down the line of classic Lucasarts adventures by answering Day of the Tentacle, which was fourth on the list, with fifteen votes. Wright decided to go all the way, and went for Day of the Tentacle's prequel, the Ron Gilbert-designed Maniac Mansion, which earned him an unfortunate strike. Legg saved the day, however, by supplying the number one answer – Leisure Suit Larry, which had twenty-six votes. Warren Spector ensured the win by filling in the number five blank, which was Conker's Bad Fur Day, with fourteen votes.

Meier's Team Blue, majestic in defeat.

Michael John beat Warren Spector to take control of the next round, and opted to answer the category, Best Videogame Character, and correctly identified the number one answer – Mario, with 64 votes. Louis Castle's answer of Lara Croft was number three, with nine votes. Link, from the Legend of Zelda series, ranked number two with sixteen votes. Ultimately three strikes turned the round back over to Team Red, whose guess – Master Chief from the Halo series – did not appear on the board, giving the points to Team Blue.

The Power Of Kratos Compels You

David Jaffe, after "accidentally" hitting the reset button right as he was about to be scored on, called on the power of Kratos and destroyed Bruce Shelley in the next game of Pong, with a final score of 5-1. The category of "Best story in a game" was passed on to Team Blue, who managed to guess the top four titles – Final Fantasy, The Legend of Zelda, Half-Life, and Metal Gear Solid – but failed to get the fifth. Will Wright himself stole that one away with Grim Fandango.

Wright's Team Red swept the final round, "Best Fighting Game," with the top five answers of Street Fighter 2, Soul Caliber, Mortal Kombat, Tekken and Virtua Fighter, ultimately winning the first game of The Battle of Bunker Hill with a final score of 252 to 100, and finishing what was an extremely entertaining diversion to help round off DICE in style


[Thanks to the AIAS for the photos used in this article.]


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