In Wing Commander III, Colonel Blair begins Cobra's funeral: "I didn't know [her] well. Doubt that any of us did." It's a compelling moment: like the player, Blair has dismissed Cobra as a background character, unworthy of his attention. In those few words he admits, too late, understanding that she was an integral part of the squadron.
I didn't know John Watson.
I wish I had. His credits read like a childhood fantasy. He did artwork for Wing Commander II, one of the most beautiful games ever released. He wrote dialogue for Ultima VII, a title whose engrossing world is unmatched fifteen years later. He playtested Omega, Knights of Legend, Savage Empire and half a dozen other projects that more than any other collection represent an age when computer games were put together with nothing but spit, glue and love. He helped program Ultima Online, a game that changed PC gaming forever, and Crusader, a game that probably should have.
I have only scattered pieces in fading documents and old diskettes to look back at now and try to understand him: there's an angry letter in a 1993 Point of Origin, demanding to know why no one has explained the company's new phone system yet. There's his famous tuckerization, "Watson's Disease" in the original Wing Commander. There's his "Cheesy Book" easter egg in Ultima VIII. There's the 1994 AOL transcript where he and Richard Garriott met their fans face-to-face in the wake of Pagan's unpopular reception. There's the DOS kernel hack he programmed to give the game enough memory to scrape by. There's the Ultima IX script he wrote, widely considered by fans to be superior to the finished product.
But then there's the games themselves! Wing Commander, Ultima, Crusader... he touched all of them in some way. They're the games who made us who we are today, the games that form our shared youth, the games that we look back at for our fondest memories. He didn't have his name in lights like a Chris Roberts or a Richard Garriott... but he was essential to making Origin games the labors of love that they were.
I didn't know him outside of his name on my credits. I wish I could have. I don't know what kind of person he was or when he was born or what he did for fun - I don't even know what he looked like. Ultimately, all I do know is that his work had a huge impact on my life and those of my friends - and, regardless of everything else, that's one hell of a legacy.
Please, share your memories - we'll post them here. I doubt many of us knew the man, but every one of us did know his games. Honor him in some small way by sending us a note about what those games meant to you.
(Please contact email@example.com to contribute.)
[U8 Transcript | Point of Origin | WC1: Watson's Disease | U8 Kernel Hack | Cheesy Book | Ultima 9 Script]
- Windwalker - Playtesting (1989)
- Omega - Quality Control (1989)
- Knights of Legend - Playtesting (1989)
- Wing Commander - Graphics / Artwork, Quality Assurance (1990)
- Wing Commander: The Secret Missions - Implementation, Quality Assurance (1990)
- Ultima VI: The False Prophet - Playtesting, Quality Assurance (1990)
- Worlds of Ultima: The Savage Empire - Programming, World Building, Additional Art, Quality Assurance (1990)
- Wing Commander II: Vengeance of the Kilrathi - Art (1991)
- Ultima VII: The Black Gate - Design, Writing/Dialogue/Story (1992)
- Ultima VII: The Forge of Virtue - Project Leader, Design, Writing (1992)
- Ultima VII, Part II: Serpent Isle - Programming, Writing/Dialogue/Story (1993)
- Ultima VII, Part II: The Silver Seed - Usecoders, Conversations (1993)
- Ultima VIII: Pagan - Design, Level/Scenario Design, Writing/Dialogue/Story (1994)
- Crusader: No Remorse - Usecode Programmer (1995)
- Ultima Online - Additional Programming (1997)
Jennifer Ayers was kind enough to forward some pictures of John-
I am John's mother which has been a singular experience from the day of his birth on September 4th, 1969 until the present sad time. He was a kind and gentle soul even as a very young child. Words cannot adequately express how much the postings on this site have meant to me and to his father, sister and brother as we struggle to make some sense of this terrible loss.
I want to share a childhood memory of John with all of you that may bring a smile to some. We cannot even remember when John first fell in love with computer games but by the time he was 9 or 10 he was desperate to have a computer of his own. He worked all through the heat of an Austin summer at the golf course attached to our subdivision, Travis Country. He drove the cart with the ball pick-up attachment (which he thought was a pretty cool job) and ran the ball washer and all sorts of other related tasks to scrape together $400 to buy a Commadore 64. He was delirious. Shortly thereafter we presented him with a new baby brother Adam. One of my mind's fondest images is that of Adam in diapers sitting on his brother's knee with John patiently showing the little guy what keys to press on his precious computer to play Lode Runner. John was never too busy or too self-absorbed to share their mutual love of gaming with Adam. They played online together on the Sunday before his death. They were the closest of friends as well as brothers.
The loss of John has created a huge gap in the circle of our family. Our lives are forever changed and diminished, but to read your memories of his smiles, enthusiasm and intellect have brought us both tears and smiles as well as a measure of comfort. His world at work was in many ways beyond the experience of his relatively low tech parents.Thank each of you for sharing your remembrances. May you find peace and joy in this life and beyond.
I just received the email, sent to other Origin alumni informing us of John’s death. I was shocked to say the least. True, I hadn’t seen or spoken with John in years, but I would never have dreamt that I’d hear that John had taken his own life. The John that I knew was a happy guy who was full of life. I guess many things can change a person over the years.
Unlike many who read these boards, I knew John. In fact, I knew him fairly well for a time. I came to Origin in the fall of 1990. It was before Origin started its post-Wing Commander expansion and there were only about 40 people in the company. Unlike everyone else there, I wasn’t a computer guy and didn’t play computer games. I started out as a play tester working on Savage Empire. Most of the people there didn’t know what to do with me – I was more of a jock that a gamer and I didn’t know thing one about computers. But John took it upon himself to show me the ropes, help me out and make me feel welcome. He wasn’t working in QA at the time and it wasn’t his responsibility to help me; he just saw a frustrated new guy and leant a hand. Now, as I write this, it occurs to me that I don’t think that I ever really thanked him for that or told him how much that meant to me. That should be a lesson learned.
John and I were the first to people in the company to be given the title “TDA” which stood for Technical Design Assistant. Before that, Origin had programmers, artists and testers, but needed someone to do all of the other little tasks like writing “use code”, creating art, writing dialogue and other things that were needed in the emerging game technology. This lowly station eventually turned into the more respected Gamer Designers, but John and I were the first in and had to struggle for respect. John was perfect in the new role. He was bright, creative as an artist and a writer and technologically inclined and he loved games. He was a jack of all trades and a joy to work with. Every time I think of John, I remember him smiling. He always had a smile on his face.
My fondest memories of John were when he and I shared an office. We were working on different projects but we enjoyed sharing ideas and each other’s company. We even went SCUBA diving together a few times. And then there was the time that John, another designer and I teamed up to steal an inflatable blimp decoration out of a bar when were at GenCon. That was fun and that blimp hung in our office for years after!
Over time, John left Origin though I can’t even remember why now. He was probably displeased with the way things were going there – most people were. You get pretty disillusioned in a place like that when you see the favoritism and advancement of those who make friends with the right people and see the games suffer for it.
I’ve wondered once or twice where John wound up. Not too long ago I found myself wondering about him and what he was up to. Given the internet and the number of old friends that we share, it probably would have been easy to find John if only I’d made the effort. There’s another lesson learned…
To those who didn’t know John let me tell you this: he was a truly nice, decent guy. He was fun, he was creative, he had a great sense of humor and he absolutely loved making and playing computer games. Chances are, if you played an Origin game that was made in the 90’s, you’ve seen John’s work in one way or another. I just wish now that I’d kept up with him, stayed friends with him and known what he was going through that lead to his death. Maybe I could have helped him they way that he helped me back in October of 1990.
(Savage Empire, Wing Commander Special Ops I, Wing Commander II, Ultima VII, Ultima VIII, Ultima IX, Ultima Online)
John and I worked together for years on Ultima 7, Ultima 8, Ultima 9, and Ultima Online. The news of his passing has affected me profoundly – that someone who wore a constant smile on his face and had endless energy for making other people happy found his way to the darkest place a friend can know. I fell out of touch with him when he left Texas, but had a happy reunion with him in the Fairmont bar during GDC a few years ago. We caught up, drank a beer, laughed about some crazy stories of the old days and then went our separate ways.
John and I were a lot like family – we had good times and bad. God knows we spent enough hours together, thanks to crunch mode and the Ultima series! The last time we worked together we sat in offices across from one another, and saw and talked and laughed every day. I’ll remember him that way.
For us, his friends, we seek some explanation or meaning from this event, and sadly it may never come. Brian Martin speaks of lessons learned – the one I learned is that it is really hard to know how much you’ve touched the lives of others until you’re gone. Lack of time, distance, or a combination gives us precious little with which to strengthen old bonds. But, my friends, once there they never fully disappear. To all those people who worked with me and John Watson back in those crazy Origin days – I hope you’re well, I miss your companionship, and thanks for making those times some of the most memorable of my entire life.
Thanks for passing this on, everyone. John and I lived as room mates at
Shepherd Mountain after Origin moved to that area. It was during this time that he met Chenin.
Mel from Hell-
I’m heart broken about this. Thank you all for networking this news around.
This has come as such a shock, I'm not sure where to begin.
John was well-known, liked and loved by those he worked with. He had a great sense of humor. He was smart, outgoing, and a geniunely nice guy.
He loved what he did - with abandon. His creativity was endless, his imagination boundless. He could do it all, from design, to programming, to art and then some.
And I had the pleasure of being his friend while I worked at Origin.
I'll admit there were times I wanted to squash him - times when I showed up and worked overnight to add things to the game, only to find he'd cut those particular parts out of the storyline without telling me. If I could, I'd probably squash him still, just because he deserved it so.
I have many fond memories of Origin, the culture that existed there and most importantly, the friends I made while there. He was a very big part of that experience.
He was loved by many, and will be missed something fierce.
It'd be nice to rewrite #6, just for him....
I just heard the news. This is very disheartening to say the least. I, like Brian remember John as always having a smile on his face. Perseverance was his attitude, if he didn’t like something he tried to fix it. He even tried to “fix” Origin on many occasion which showed his passion for his art.
David Mark Byttow-
When I started in QA in fall of 1989, John was one of the guys who trained me and showed me the ropes. We grew up in the ranks together, I went the audio route, John went the design route. I felt we were kindred spirits, both going after our piece of the pie, and both getting to do the things we loved. I can’t imagine why he would take the final path he did, but no one truly knows what goes on.
Recently (2004) John was the initial creative director for Area 51, he left Inevitable after a few months, discourage with the developer/publisher relationship. I was told we was going back to school, and then heard he had taken a gig at another Austin developer. It didn’t seem like anything was going wrong at that time. He was typical John, sticking to his guns. If he couldn’t make the game he wanted, he didn’t want to be part of it.
Yes, like Brian, I too have learned some lessons, maybe taking for granted, a little too much, the people in my life. John was an original, he did things his way and it worked for him. I’m sorry that in the end he felt he didn’t have the support to persevere the way he had in the past.
You will be missed John, that is definitely true!
WC 1-2; U6, U7’s, Martian Dreams, Savage Empire, Strike Commander, Knights of Legend
The news of Johns death was very shocking to me, having worked closely with him for over 2 years at The Collective. Here, John worked on a number of games including Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure (which he had a huge, positive impact on), The Da Vinci Code and the currently unreleased Silent Hill 5. John was a very talented, humble and kind person to work with - a model employee in many ways and a very like-able guy. He was always in high demand internally for the each project that the company worked on. I know that he had many admirers and will be missed.
I thought I would just drop a note as I just found out the news of John’s death. I knew John as he and I worked together over at The Collective in Newport Beach, CA.
In the last 6 months I left that company for a new gig at Volition, but it pains me to say that after I left I never did give John a call.
I am sitting here typing this out looking at his phone number in my cell, and just really can’t believe it.
John was a great guy and someone who was fun to work with. Hi passion for making games was evident in his work ethic. I will miss the debates and discussions and the time outside for smoke breaks, even though I don’t smoke.
May he rest in peace.
This is very distressing news. I will always remember John Watson as he was in the Wing Commander and Ultima days, youthful and full of enthusiasm. I guess we all were back then, to some extent, but John more than most. In those days, the idea of a "game designer" who would set out the scenarios and script all the action was in its infancy. It took talented individuals with lots of creativity and a good understanding of the technical side as well. But in addition to technical and creative skills, John brought a cheerful optimism to the job that was valued by those who worked with him. He will be missed.
I expect many of you may have heard the sad news of the passing of my friend and colleague John Watson. John was a key contributor to many products in his time at the company I co-founded, Origin. In fact John's talent was so strong, that I fully expected him to surpass most of us who came before him with his skill and passion for the business. He was a happy spirit whose mere presence on the team helped us to overcome the difficult challenges we regularly face in this biz. He will be missed by those of us who worked with him, and by players who will not get to see his future contributions.
To say that I’m crushed and baffled by this news is an understatement. I met John a few years ago when I was hired by The Collective to work on Getting Up. John and I were very soon paired up to work on the main characters navigation and we very much enjoyed creating hundreds of player moves and pushing the envelope of what had been done in games up to that point. The level of creativity and attention to details that John brought to the task was amazing. John could always do so much more than he gave himself credit for. He often knew the answer to his own questions, but was just a little afraid to trust himself. We had great times and created great things. If I was starting my own company, John was at the top of the list of people I’d want to bring with me.
In the last few months we were moved around cubicles and once again John sat next to me working on characters for Silent Hill 5. I was very glad to have him again nearby because he was always in for an interesting discussion/debate and we shared many musical interests and life experiences. In the last few weeks we were having amazing, long, drawn out discussions about the universe and our understanding of it. John was so well read in so many topics that it was always fun to have discussions with him. These debates were going on for many hours each day when we were all supposed to be working. We were talking about amazing things: The edges of human understanding, of ourselves, Mathematics, M theory, black holes, numbers, strings and dimensions, crazy and interesting things. John loved those discussions as much as us.
On Aug 27 The Collective moved into a brand new headquarters and John had decided to go on as a contractor for us while working for his friends in Austin on a new MMO idea. He was so excited to be working on an MMO and really ready to unleash his ideas on the world. He wished us all a goodbye the week before and said we’d all work together again in this small incestuous game industry.
John you will be missed. Games will not be the same without you here.
I was really shocked to hear what had happened to John. I worked with him on Getting Up and the DaVinci code at the Collective. He was a kind positive guy to work with and I remeber sharing a few laughs and a beer or 2 at company milestone parties. I never met his family but hope if they read this will know how much he will be missed.
I had the privilege of working on the same projects with John for the past 3+ years he was here at Collective. The things I remember most about him…
He would challenge himself with creating new and innovative methods for doing a wide variety of things.
He would help evolve and solidify ideas in the minds of others – usually with spirited debates, but respectful of others’ choices at the same time.
It’s a tough balance to strike when you’re passionate about something, but he could do it.
A great sense of humor, and a kind, intelligent person.
Like many of you, there are a lot of things I would have liked to say and ask him about.
But if you got a chance to speak with him, even a little, you might be able to imagine what he’d say.
Maybe he’d use an analogy, or maybe he’d relay a previous experience, but you can be assured that you’d get a new, in-depth perspective.
Hi my name is Kevin Christensen. I am a Lead Programmer at The Collective.
I am not sure if you are interested in non-Origin stories but I had the pleasure of working with John on Getting Up and Silent Hill 5 at The Collective. He was very intelligent and it was something I found out the very first time I worked with him. I had worked directly with him on many game features for Getting Up and Silent Hill. He had an amazing ability to create solutions for the problems we faced. If it was a bad idea he would tell you why and in great detail. John was very passionate with his work. He could tell you everything you needed to do to finish something. He was definitely a star player. When we were forming the Silent Hill team I was glad to hear he was going to be a part of it. Everyone was. He had a reputation at The Collective as a great guy. He was fun to work with and smart so you knew anything you worked on with him would be easy. I remember many late nights trying to solve one more problem before going home. We were in the trenches together many times and I would have done it again anytime.
I found out a little while after I had started working with him that he had worked on the Ultima games at Origin. That was exciting. I was a huge fan of the series and it was great to hear the stories of what it was like working on those games. I had often dreamt of working at Origin in the heyday and here I was working with someone who had worked on some of my most favorite games. It’s not often that this happens to anyone. If those teams were composed of people anything like John, it’s no wonder why the games were so good.
I still have John’s good bye email. He had just left the company on 8/22. But, I knew he would be back, contracting to help us close out Silent Hill so it wasn’t really a good bye. The team was really sad to hear the bad news this Monday (9/10). I still can’t believe it. It was only two weeks ago that I saw John for a good bye lunch. We would catch him reading books at lunch or playing games, but we finally got him to come out with us to one of our favorite places. He was happy about his new company, though sad to leave the friends he had made at The Collective. And I remember the last day I saw him. I didn’t say good bye. It was “see you in a couple weeks/months”.
I wish he never quit. I am sure things would have been different.
Good bye John.
I am extremely shocked and saddened to hear of John's passing. I had the great honor of working closely with him for several years at The Collective in Newport Beach. During that time, we had many good discussions and debates (What makes a good real-time strategy (RTS) game? What makes games like WoW, or any game for that matter, "fun"?, etc.)
David Kristofer Fried-
The things that I most admired (and will remember him most for) are his up-beat and positive personality, well thought-out and clearly articulated opinions (on a wide spectrum of topics ranging from game design to politics to relationships to you-name-it), and sharp intellect.
He is a star that has burned so very brightly... and his impact on my life will not be forgotten.
John... I miss you already.
I worked with John Watson for over a year at The Collective. I’ll admit I didn’t have a clue about his previous experience for a long time. John usually didn’t talk about his time with Richard Gariott or his work on the Ultima series unless it was relevant to the discussion, and even then you weren’t sure whether he’d worked on it or was just talking about it (unless you asked him about programming pathing for the secondary characters, which according to him was so easy to do!). John had a passion for game design that is unparalleled by anyone I’ve met in the industry. He could go on for hours about how to do things correctly, and you know what? He was right almost 100% of the time.
(You can download the resume in MS Word format here.)
It wasn’t until I helped him update his resume in March-June of 2007 (yes, 3 months ago) that I realized what an elite designer he actually was. I’ve included it for everyone to see (sans addresses and numbers). I was completely awed by what I saw on there, but I knew we were practically brothers when I saw he started in Quality Assurance back in 1989 (I removed that from his resume because QA work was superfluous compared to the rest). Suddenly, John’s seemingly elitist attitude at work made a lot of sense. The design sense that he displayed in everything he did at work was just second nature to him. I only wish that someone would have given him a project to lead, because I know he would have produced a kick ass game.
When I last talked to him in person our discussions mainly focused on creating a MMORPG. I can’t do justice to his ideas but to give you a taste, the system would allow large scale wars and “griefing” but the system itself would correct and weed out the people who took things too far. If griefing others was your thing, go for it, but there’d be a price. I really can’t do it justice, but it was inspired when he explained it to me. Some of the nuances of his thought process were just beyond my understanding, but his confidence in them assured me that were he given the opportunity, it would work (he would make it work).
Some of my favorite John Watson moments:
1. We both wanted swimming in the game we were working on but everyone said it was impossible to do. In one week he had a reasonably good version of swimming working IN GAME.
2. We all started playing WoW together and I wanted to group with John but he was too busy. I got up to 18 over the course of 2 weeks and then John said he was going to start playing. He was level 18 in one day. Damn Warlocks…
3. He was so committed to work that even after I helped with his resume it took me almost 3 months to get a cover letter out of the guy because he was so busy.
When I last chatted with John on August 1st (over IM), he told me he was going to Austin to begin a startup with some guys he had worked with from Origin. He had signed a contract to work 3 days a week with his old company while spending the rest of his time working for the new one.
I’m still in utter disbelief that he’s gone… And I don’t believe even for a second that he would ever take his own life. That’s just not part of his character.
When I joined Origin in 1993, I was part of another "QA graduating class" along with Starr Long and others. The game designers--people like John Watson, Mark Vittek and Steve Powers--were exactly where we wanted to be...they were people we admired, played games with, and for whom we sometimes felt a sense of awe. In my eyes, people like John were living the dream. He had more raw creativity than most people I've known, and his passion for games was profound and inspiring.
Rudy Pollorena Jr.-
They called him John Watson. I called him 'J-Dub' since meeting and working with him on Marc Ecko's Getting Up; the glory days at The Collective. I also worked on a few other projects, but GU was where it all began.
J-Dub was one of my favorite people when I was working at The Collective. His happy spirit, his determination, in not only the newest game mechanic brewing in his noggin, but ANYTHING that interested him, he got you interested. Much like what Kurt A. was talking above, Watson would carry and initiate a crazy conversation about things that weren't your every day water cooler conversation. We'd talk about the position of the sun, the wind, why the dirt looked a certain way near the nicotine lounge. In fact, I hated second hand smoke, but I was willing to suck it in to hang out with J-Dub outside on breaks - He was that kind of guy.
During the days of Getting Up, Watson would be one of those guys I'd run level ideas by, misc. game mechanic ideas just to see his reaction. If he was stoked, I was stoked. If I was hesitant, he'd be able to paint the silver lining even if it wasn't a good idea. I liked hearing his constructive rebuttal, because as a designer, I would learn even more from him . To be honest, upon reading this memorial, I really hadn't the clue as to his background in games; how deep and old school Watson was. Sure, we'd talk about the past, but for some reason, maybe I'm getting old, I don't recall him bringing up his Ultima days...makes me even more proud of the guy. He was a designer's designer. Always able to dissect an idea or relay race any idea to the finish - His attention to detail and quality was ADMIRED.
I described his work ethic. And to describe him as a person, he was cool as f*ck. I loved the guy, I mean, every time I'd see him I'd say something to him even if I had nothing to say cause he always had some fun, witty response. Even during the times he was 'complaining', the dude was happy - not many people can pull that off. I don't want to use the word 'miss' when describing J-Dub, cause his spirit inspired me, and it will always be with me, games and life. I'm glad we met J-Dub, until next time homie. Thanks for everything.
I worked with John for many years at Origin. I remember most his youthful exuberance, and love for the industry. When people mentioned Origin Culture in a positive way, more than a few people would glance over at John. Origin would not have been the cool place it was without his infectious energy.
From Scott Jones (Scottie-cakes)....-
He seemed to be everywhere, contributing to all the many projects any way he could. He kept track of what was happening in the different production teams better than I could. And he championed good ideas, and in many cases got them implimented in the games we made. Suffice to say he made a significant impact on the company, the people, and the games.
I lost track of him after Origin, but the need for this eulogy comes as quite a shock. I always thought there would be one more Origin get-together where we'd all get to exchange stories again and catch up with each other. That can't happen now, not really. Not with John gone.
When I heard this,...I froze.... I just had to sit there and think a moment,...I had to sift through my memories of him to try to figure out how something like this could happen. I'm at a loss...
Robert "Bob" White-
I first met John back in 1994 when I became an intern at Origin Systems doing concept work for Ultima IX and learning the ropes. I was scared to death... My talents were being truly tested for the first time, and I was absolutely a little fish in a big pond. I had friends who worked there, of course....good people like Brian M., Mike M., and Richard G., and Michelle C., Mel Y.,....and many others who already knew me,..and my talents,...from the old "spook-house" and SCA days... But actually being at this new job meant that I was suddenly in really unknown territory, and I knew I had to sink or swim on my own merits in the eyes of a lot of "unknown" professionals in the industry.
John was one of those "industry professionals" who didn't know me from Adam, but who approached me with more than merely a sense of friendship... He saw my concerns, my worries, and my fears, and he helped me tackle them by just being "good people". He (like many of the friends I already knew) downplayed the stiff "professionalism" part and really helped me feel like part of the creative team... He showed me aspects of the fun side of the industry,..and helped me loosen up a bit and really fit into the unique (and sometimes cracked) "family" there... He took part in office-pranks (and was the target of them himself, from time to time). And he always took time with me to talk, laugh, and commiserate with me when necessary (which it sometimes was). And he did all this even though he'd never met me before.
He was that kind of guy.
He had skills and talents, that can't be denied,...the industry bears plenty of witness to this, just as it bore witness to his disenchantment of it (something we all face from time to time)... I knew him during such a time as well... But his works in the industry pale in comparison to the fact that he always could be classified as "good people"... That's the type of person he was when I met him and knew him... That's how he, and so many others, really "stood out" among those I have worked with in and out of the "industry" over the last 13 years...
...That's how I'll always remember him...
...and that's why I'll miss him...
It's startling to walk into work and receive such a stunning blow. I haven't seen John since a couple of conferences (more than half a decade ago) when we happened to bump into each other. Prior to those chance meetings, I had spent many hours working with John on the original concepts and design of Ultima IX and Ultima Online, during one of the wildest professional roller-coaster rides of my life.
I first met John when he was one of the hiring panel members for me when I applied to Origin. John struck me as a fun loving and exuberant personality, but a consummate professional. I was familiar (through my friend Richard) of his skills and an amazing body of work. Coming from a position in research and development and stepping into a game company was very jarring, but I was put with John and Brian and they showed me the path. John always gave me respect even though I was the junior member of the team. He had a fascination in my past work and always wanted me to tell him about various things in astronomy or to confirm something he had heard on the news. His genuine curiosity often led me to sit with him for long periods of time, talking over some very interesting and subtle points of scientific philosophy. I was in turn, fascinated by his stories of his early era in game development, querying him on design decisions and procedures. He had a creative spark and humor that was infectious. I remember many long hours of dialog compositions, design discussions (often quite animate :o) ) , and programming "tournaments". I also remember the all night Warcraft and Starcraft sessions, yelling at each other across the hall, between the offices. And I remember working with John to plan and execute many "pranks" around the offices.
John will be missed and the community and the world is a lesser place with his absence.
Watson… you there? L Sorry, you probably can’t read this, but you can probably hear it… I write to you with a crushed heart… You are an excellent example of a hard and dedicated worker. You worked smart and hard and were always fun to mess with. The conversations around the office during the Getting Up project were fantastic. People would bicker, argue, and give phenomenal constructive criticism. You were always there sitting in the middle – expressing ideas, opinions, and arguments to anything that would come up. You are very intelligent, humble, knowledgeable, and passionate about everything spoken of. Wish I could’ve spent time in the trenches with you during the long nights of Silent Hill as other people have expressed in prior posts. John, you’ll surely be missed – buddy!
Susan S. Won-
Rest in Peace Friend,
It breaks my heart to even think that John is gone. He was the one of the most sweetest guy ever. I can still remember vividly the times we chatted outside of The Collective office. He always gave me the big smiles with big wave...regardless he was stressed or not. I remember him reading his book between the breaks from work...It really really saddens me that, that is the all the memories that I got of him. I told him I would contact him and keep in touch after departing from The Collective and I never did. Miss you John~
My name is Jim Hall and I was a friend of John's even before he started his game marking career. He and I were roommates in Austin Texas between 1987 and 1989. We had first met as coworkers in a local grocery store chain in Austin Texas. Later, when I was a student at Austin Community College he was very excited about a new play-tester job he landed with a small little game company called Origin Systems. After a while we went different ways since I had left Austin to complete college. I briefly spoke with him back in 1993 about a job possibility with Origin after graduating and then at a mutual friend's wedding in 1995. Thinking back on those days in the late eighties I remember that he had an extremely impressive art talent. I think I kept one of his pictures in a scrapbook somewhere. He also had a real good nack for Role Playing Games of various flavors and always gave a creative twist to everything he did.
His sudden departure is too sad to contemplate...
In memories he was full of life and excited about the possibilities of the future....still hard to believe.
Earnest prayers for his friends and family as they go through this ordeal.
I was shocked and still am to hear about this, I worked with John at the Collective in Newport Beach.
I can still remember the night long debates that would go on between him and others during my stay there.
I think it is safe to say that he left a great impression on me since I sit here heartbroken about the news.
You will be missed John.
I worked with John at The Collective on Getting Up. Much like everyone else, I am shocked and saddened to hear of his passing, and I have a very hard time believing that he took his own life.
Things can be weird when you relocate and start a job at a new company, it can take a long time to get used to things and feel comfortable again. Shortly after I started at The Collective we had a company party, and John Watson was one of the first people I really talked to. I liked him right off the bat. He made me feel welcome, he felt like a friend right away and he made me feel comfortable enough that I knew that I would be alright and could hack it out here in California. Thank you for that John.
John and I were always joking with one another, a mock rivalry if you will. The last time I saw him was about 3-4 months ago as I was walking out of the studio. He was outside smoking and I yelled to him "Up yours Watson!" to which he replied something like "Right back at you Torgoley!" ...both of us had a smile on our faces the whole time. On getting up, we spent so much time together that we had all developed that sense of brotherhood, a closeness that allowed us to rib each other in a lighthearted way.
Through many many late nights at the Collective, a handful of us would talk about various topics, usually politics, science, philosophy, etc. John would always be there with thoughtful insights and was often the voice of reason during the more heated debates.
I'm sure everyone who met him can attest to the fact that he had a genuine personality, a definite character and confidence, but not cockiness.
This is the first time I've heard what an amazing resume he had. I understand now why he knew so much about games. it is a true testament to his character is that this guy was a highly experienced pioneer in the industry, and was able to share his knowledge without making you feel like a noob.
Since I left the Collective I didn't really have much interaction with John, but now I really wish I had. I really liked that guy.
You will be missed John, I hope your journey continues as you wish it would, and may you rest in peace.
To know and collaborate with John Watson was a gift, his passion and talent inspired me on a daily basis. I worked with John on Getting Up and Silent Hill, in those 4 years I felt a kinship with him personally and professionally. He wanted to push the envelope, was driven by any challenge, and wanted the best or nothing. His social political/discussions were legendary, his wit was sharp, and his impact on my life is profound.
I’ll miss you John.
My name is Joseph Mauke, I am a Sr. Designer at THQ and like most of the people here I worked with John Watson on Getting-Up. GU was less like a team of game developers and more like a Family. I know people say that, but for those of us that worked on that game, we know it to be real. When Getting-Up wrapped, the party for it was less like a wrap party and more like a High School graduation, where saying goodbye was really hard to do.
John and I spent a lot of time working directly with each other and I have to say that he always listened to your ideas and took to heart your point of view. Working with him was an absolute pleasure because of the kind of person he was. He was a consummate professional in every sense of the word. And he was always good for a funny joke or an interesting jab. He could still use some work on his “your mama” jokes, but we still loved him. I think it was John that sparked Kurt’s infamous “This is a WOW discussion free zone” sign over his cube…lol.
I wish I would have kept more in contact with him, and his passing made me realize that I shouldn’t let those friendships made at the Collective slip away. I will always treasure my memories of him, as he was one of the smartest, and funniest people I have ever met. I’ll never forget the ponytail, the really cool, yet weird finger armor, and most of all the John Watson Knowledge Bombs. Man those really were cool.
Goodbye Watsioni….you will be missed.
It pains me greatly that the first time I hear about John, after not seeing him for years, is that I can never say goodbye. It pains me that I didn’t get to spend more time with him or know him better, but I remember as if it was yesterday, his enthusiasm, energy, dedication at work, and the everlasting smile on his face. Even when he got angry you could tell his mind was racing through possibilities, and he would hammer on problems until there’s a way out. His kind and gentle spirit will always be present in my memory. See you soon John.
Wow. Unbelievable. I think was one of the first to hear this news, because Jennifer Ayers called me to see if I knew where the Ex-Origin mailing list was. I was sad to say that I did not have that information, so I sent out information to some key players and I hoped that the news got out and that the news keeps going, quickly, so we can all be part of an event where we can pay him his due respects.
John was always a positive fixture at Origin from the day I walked in the door, and like many people – I have a hard time picturing a time where he wasn’t smiling and happy. He always seemed “up” and willing to work with people that needed a hand. In fact, I remember thinking that he might actually be one of the people that would land their own project within Origin based upon their charisma and merit, a rare event anywhere.
It’s true that I haven’t seen John since those days, but I’ve always looked for him because I was always curious as to what he would be working on. John, we are going to miss you. I hope that everyone takes a little time out of their lives to slow down and enjoy the wonders of our friendships and family bonds we have while they are still within our grasp.
Rest in Peace,
Ultima 7: Black Gate SNES, World of Ultima Savage Empire SNES, Wing Commander II SNES, Wing Commander: Prophecy
I don't know were to start. Typing words on a keyboard seems so woefully inadequate to describe the loss and rage I feel. I was John's friend and coworker for the last 3+ years at the Collective. We worked on Getting Up, DaVinci Code, Dirty Harry and Silent Hill 5 together, never more than a few seats away from each other. I considered him one of my best friends and I'm sure he did as well.
Mary Margaret Walker-
Details are almost non-existent as of yet, but I for one do not believe that he took his own life. I think it very premature to conclude this and I don't know why or were this information came from but unless I see concrete evidence, I will NEVER believe it. That would be so anti-John as to be ridiculous. He was very excited at the prospect of his new job in Austin working an MMO. While working part time for them and part time as a contractor for Collective until Silent Hill 5 was finished. He had played WOW extensively and had a multitude of ideas to improve the genre that we would regularly bounce off each other. He was going to start a warlock (His favorite class of character) on the server we all play on here, as he had several characters on a non different PVP server. He was looking forward to working with us in the new building for what he called a "stint" until January when his lease was up and he would be moving back to Texas to work full time on the new MMO.
This is a copy of the last email I got from John:
From: John Watson
To: TC - Team SHV - Everyone
It may be kind of premature to do a goodbye email (besides, I think they’re proscribed) so this is just a so-long-until-I-see-you-again email. More likely than not, I’ll be working with you guys for another stint at the new building. If anyone should need me for anything, here’s my contact info:
Email and IM (GTalk):
Hope to see you all again soon.
For me none of this adds up, something else must have happened. This is the source of my confusion and rage. But this all I will say about it until more details come as I wish to respect the privacy of the family.
People talk about long conversations they have had with John, I don't think anyone can top the discussions we had. We talked about everything and anything, sometimes for 8 and 9 hours straight. In John I found a kindred spirit that is so rare that I have only seen it in a very, very few people in my lifetime. He liked nothing more than to plumb the depths of human understanding and perceptions. We explored topics that ranged from the beginnings of life to the end of the Universe. Our most spirited discussions were about the philosophy of Mathematics (M Theory), God, religion, politics, theoretical physics, aeronautics, cosmology, futurism, time travel and course game design. John was very well read on all of these subjects and I can honestly say he was one of the only people able to influence my own perceptions of the Universe.
Being religious myself, one thing in particular stands out in my mind when I think about John. He told me his father was a devoutly religious man and that John currently considered himself an atheist. This caused friction between them at times. But I also know that he loved and admired his father a great deal, especially his father’s faith and ardent belief in God. He told me a story that his father had an experience that triggered him into his religious calling. It had to do with an accident in which he was hit by a tank in his military days. Needless to say he survived, but he emerged out of it a changed man. He had experienced a profound calling to God. This awakening kindled in him a great faith and motivation for service. I could tell this story had a special meaning for John as it came up several times in our discussions about God and I couldn't help but sense a deep desire, that John wanted to be hit by that same tank. Seeing this in him, I offered to hit John with my car as an experiment, but he politely declined. He researched the topic of God and the Universe extensively, reading all about the ancient philosophies and proofs of God from writings of Thomas Aquinas to Hutchinson on Modern Atheism to form new arguments. I must confess I loved very minute of those arguments, they will be one of things I miss most.
When I found out John was leaving the Collective I was really bummed, this place would not be the same without him. In the back of my mind I knew that I might not see him ever again. But people move around quite a bit in this industry and I could hold out hope that one day we would be on the same project again. Maybe that would have been better if I didn't know he was gone, then in my mind I would have simply imagined John having the time of his life doing what he loved, working on a challenging game he was passionate about and I would simply wonder why he never contacted me. We all live with our illusions I guess, but then again perhaps it is better that I know.
Things I think of when I recall John are things like his finger armor, a white board next to his desk that read "Watson it's 6:00AM GO HOME!!!", Count Dubula, 5 points on our "Burning this Mother Down!" game, his assertions that mathematics may not be immutable (Which I considered a great heresy and sparked many a conversation that sometimes sent people screaming out of the room :) ), the multiple all nighters on the SHV prototype, a smiling knowing face. Kind and sharp, argumentative and belaboring an important point, but mostly I remember a vague reflection of myself in him.
The thing I will remember most about John is that he had the heart of a great philosopher and the mind of a modern scientist. I take solace in now that he is passed, he knows the truth of existence and finally has the answers we were always looking for and arguing about. Knowing John, he would probably disapprove of this, but I pray for him.
It is wonderful to see so many people share their feelings on John. I worked with John at Origin in the early 90s. As Herman says, we were all so much younger and fun and work went hand in hand on a daily basis. John was full of fun but very serious about his work and his career in the games industry. For me he was just a sweet boy and a sweet friend. I will always remember him that way.
I hardly knew John at all. He'd been at Origin for some time when I joined it in 1991, and was still there when I left in 1995. Since I was not involved with Ultima at all, I had little opportunity to get to know him very well. But I knew who he was and admired his incredible gaming talents. It is sad to know that he is gone. Working at Origin was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. But not as incredible as the people that I worked with there -- people I will never forget. To lose even one who I barely knew hits hard. I am diminished by his passing.
Melissa (Rhea) Windisman-
I also knew John before he joined Origin. I laugh when I hear about the ring armor…when I was with John, he wore a silver ring with a cross on it. We met in our church youth group, and regardless of how John felt about religion, he was fun to be around and we all loved him.
Elizabeth Froebel Dahan-
John and I were in a relationship together for 4 ½ years and I have an abundance of fond memories of him and Origin. I was just one of the “significant others”, never really a member of the Origin family (although I always wanted to be), but through John, I felt the passion that went into making a game and I always knew when it was “crunch time”.
John was a master of creativity and he absolutely loved playing and designing games. I can remember him taking me into Garriott’s office to show off a game intro. It was the Guardian, of Ultima 7, also known as “the red Muppet head”. He was always so excited to show me all the stuff that he was working on, and he was right…it was awesome! Today, I too, play a warlock in WOW…I would have loved to play that game with him.
I caught up with him a couple of times after we parted, but we eventually lost contact. I often wondered what new adventures had come his way. I am deeply saddened by this loss, but I’m touched and comforted to know that so many others share and delight in the memories that he left behind…even all those years ago.
John will always have a place in my heart.
I met John about 14 years ago because he was good friends with my boyfriend at the time. A big group of us were planning a fabulous scuba trip, and those of us who were not certified all took a scuba class together. Because my boyfriend was already certified, and everyone else had a dive buddy, John and I took the class together. It was a lot of fun! I thought he would kill me during "buddy breathing." If you are not familiar with this, it is where you share a regulator with your buddy, you take a couple of breaths, hand the regulator over and blow bubbles while your partner takes a couple of breaths. That was the longest "one, two" of my life. I blew bubbles until no bubbles were coming out and John was still breathing. Hysterical!
Another memory of John I have was when he went with us to the Metallica "black" concert. We were on the third row (yeah!). Good times!
John was a great guy with a quick smile and I will always remember that about him.
I also remember him speaking of his father, I believe he said that he was an Anglican minister. I think he must have had a big impact on his life, because I see that others mentioned him speaking of his father also.
If you are part of John's family or a close friend, my heart goes out to you. I am so sorry for your loss and I hope you are feeling better soon.
p.s. I can't believe he still had that finger armor after all those years!
My name is Nick Hodgins. I knew John back in his Austin days of the late 80's/early 90's but lost contact quite awhile ago. I knew him through Jim Hall and remember attending numerous beer parties at their apartment. Those were good times. I remember how John had two big passions in his life, music and computer games. He was an avid listener of heavy metal, Iron Maiden, Metallica, and so on. He often liked to discuss the deeper meaning behind some of the lyrics and gave me a new appreciation of the genre. Then there were computer games. John loved them. I shared this passion as well, we both played a lot of the same character role-playing games, Bard's Tale, Might and Magic, Pools of Radiance, and, of course, Ultima. There's was no greater fan of Might and Magic than John, period. Hell, i remember him showing me all the dungeon maps of every Might and Magic game that he had mapped out by hand on graph paper. It was a thick stack!
Anyway, I certainly was envious of John when he landed a job at Origin as a playtester. Now there was someone who was "living the dream".
Somewhere in the mid 90's I and several other people, lost touch with John. I don't know when it was that he lost all hope. I certainly wish that he finds the peace in the great beyond that apparently he couldn't find in life.
And me? I'll always remember John as someone who couldn't wait to see what was over the horizon next.
So long John. Be at peace.
John was a really amazing guy…
This is hard to write…The night I found out the news I went home and bought a pack of clove cigarettes, and sat on my porch until 4am talking about the universe to my neighbor. That’s how I remember him. Consistently questioning everything….
We worked on silent hill for a good year and a half…and he was most definetly one of my favorite people here. He had awesome ideas…was deeply philosophical…
The news is shocking. I really don’t get it. He was unique…talented…and I only wish I could’ve hung out with him more.
I keep thinking back to some creature called the lurker we were trying to get approval on. He did all these sketches he kept giving me for ideas he thought were rad…and wanted me to redraw them all rendered and nice so we could get the idea through. I wish I could find those old sketches of his. He truly loved his job…and had incredible passion behind everything he did.
I only wish I’d stayed late and gotten in on those late night WOW battles…
Gonna miss him a lot…
His life points beamed invincibly
as he swaggered care free
among the Origin halls.
Surrounded by kindred spirits,
he was home there.
We were all home there.
In time, we expect the road to overtake us all,
but the brevity of his life is in such stark contrast
to the exuberance that shone in his eyes,
that I had to doubt for more than a moment that
it was the very same John Watson that I knew.
Since they rarely open those pearly gates for the likes of us game geeks,
I pray that John will take a moment to once again apply his cleverness
and guile to sneak a few more of us in under the radar. We were a family,
News of John’s death reached me days ago (on 9/11/2007), but it’s been difficult focusing my thoughts. Recollections of him now frequently flood my mind. I have so many good memories of him that I could write a book, and it’s hard trying to really describe what was so unique about him without going into a lot of detail. I last ran into John at an E3 in California several years ago. He talked about how he might one day move back to Austin, and I looked forward to the possibility of being able to see him on a regular basis once more.
My first real encounter with John Watson was in January, 1991 at the initial Ultima VII design meeting. The game was only in its infancy but John’s head was already filled with ideas and suggestions of where the game should go. He was the very epitome of a great game designer – replete with knowledge of the industry, incredibly enthusiastic, and loaded to bear with ideas that could elevate a simple concept to its full potential.
We eventually became very good friends and roommates and lived together at International Residence and Hunter’s Chase. He used to drive a motorcycle in those days and I can still see him coming into work every day with his trademark black boots, black pants, black shirt, and black helmet in tow. I had one black shirt in my wardrobe in those days...and it was the only piece of clothing he ever borrowed. I eventually bought that motorcycle from him.
I always enjoyed those nights and weekends when we were both free and could simply sit and talk. We talked about philosophy and the meaning of life, women (on many occasions), religion (one of his favorite topics), politics, science (especially physics), and everything else under the sun. We talked about the future – about game ideas we had, and how we’d both like the creative freedom to pursue those visions.
I remember being awed by John’s relentless desire to try new things. He would play every game that he could get his hands on...and master it. While he read some nonfiction books, he was particularly well-versed in fiction. I don’t think we ever talked about a work of fiction that he hadn’t already read or, upon being told about it, didn’t read shortly thereafter. I’m sure it contributed to what made him a superior game designer. He had a curiosity about him that pushed him to experience new things and the patience to finish what he started.
While most people in the game industry focus on a single discipline (and are only very rarely competent in a second), John had the amazing ability to seamlessly shift between art, programming, and game design. I'll never forget how impressed I always was when I'd see him writing usecode to implement something that he had conceived, flip over to DeluxePaint to create the art that he needed, and then transition right back into the usecode to finish the idea. He was able, at times, to go from concept to finished feature entirely on his own. His multiple talents gave him a design freedom that few others will ever know.
While we were living together he once told me that he would never get married. He was dating quite a bit at the time, working long hours but having a lot of fun doing it, and didn’t want it to ever end. Six months later he was leaning against the stove in our apartment and sheepishly trying to find the right words to tell me that he was getting married. I pointed out what he had previously said and suggested he might be rushing into things, but that was John. He lived for the moment. He was in love and ecstatic and wanted to take it to its conclusion. He had absolutely no doubt that it was the right thing to do.
Origin in the early-to-mid-1990s was a very special time and place for me. John Watson was a huge part of that. His love of games, his natural curiosity, his unique mix of intellectual sophistication and innocence, his easygoing and cheerful nature, his passion and sincerity...with John, you could work 60-100 hour weeks for 12 months straight and still think you were having the time of your life. He was that fun to be around.
John Watson was as good a friend as one could ever hope to find, and years of separation and thousands of miles did nothing to dull the strength of that bond. I will miss him.
- Tony Zurovec, September 16, 2007
I joined Origin in 1992 in QA. John was an inspiration for me and my fellow testers (like Harvey Smith) who aspired to be in product development. Not only did he have tremendous talent he was also “good people”. I loved talking to John about game design and we had some interesting debates on how hard the puzzles he put in games were. There was this one puzzle in Serpent Isle that involved a prison and a bunch of switches to open and close the cells. There was a pretty intricate series of things the player had to do to get past this area. I was constantly nagging him to dumb it down because if I couldn’t figure it out how could he expect the player to? His initial retort with a big grin on his face was that the players were probably smarter than me. Hah! That was classic John and completely disarmed what could have been a classic QA vs. dev argument. I also remember specifically he was part of my pivotal transition from QA to development. When he was working on the initial script for Ultima IX he asked me to help play test the plot via paper game. He was one of the people who took me seriously and saw my potential as a developer. While Richard Garriott was the one who gave me my first development job as Associate Producer on Ultima IX I know that John’s respect for me played a critical role. I also liked John’s style because he defied the stereotype of the nerd. He had long black hair, black nails, Nine Inch Nails t-shirts, big rings on his fingers, etc. Rock on John, you will be missed.
John and I met at a party at Richard Garriot's house in the early 1990's. It was a western-themed party so most people were in costume. I had gone with a friend, the only person I knew there, and was just sitting, taking in the crowd when I saw a really handsome cowboy, dressed all in black and my heart skipped a beat. I had to meet him. In fact, I spent the rest of the party nagging my friend until he gave in. We were introduced something like 4 times in a row by different people that my friend Eric rooked into helping. On the third 'introduction' John blushed and flashed this bashful smile and I knew I was in serious trouble. John and I dated and it was one of the happiest times in my life. We married shortly there after and although we parted ways, I frequently thought of him and hoped that he was happy. When I learned that he had taken his life, I was in shock. When it actually sunk in, it devastated me.
John's life was celebrated tonight by his friend's in Austin. I sat there watching people talk and laugh, look at old pictures and walk down memory lane. The crowd was considerable. The events leading to his death are not known to me but on the chance that it may have been different - I wish that he had known how many people loved him. My hope is that his spirit is at peace somewhere in the cosmos.
The world feels empty these days.
It is quite difficult writing these words and only now am I able to put some of my thoughts down. I haven't seen John in many years but I frequently wondered how he was doing and what he was up to. John was the type of person you always remember, with his quick wry smile and friendly, charismatic nature. I met him prior to his Origin days, and we had some good times -- from sharing game knowledge on the C64 to partying with friends. We went different directions for a while, but after a couple of years, I ended up at working at Origin while John was there, but unfortunately in a different department. I think working with him directly would have been as fun and rewarding as anything else you did with him.
You always knew John was living life like it should be led. Working at what he loved, playing at what he loved, and making fast friends. Perhaps it can be said he lived a lifetime in his shortened years, even though it wasn't long enough for any of us. John you were loved and are greatly missed, I hope that you have found your peace.
Sergio Rosas called me yesterday with the news. I guess things like this shock us into reality, but I just wish it didn't have to be. I spent many a long night with John at Origin, working, playing, talking. Rarely in that order.
Too many Nine Inch Nails CDs. I still go get every one.
Too much time playing C&C, Warcraft and other RTSs. I usually lost.
Too much talking about how he was going to wipe out on that bike. He made those boots work.
Too much time spent moving the office plants around the 5th floor.
You're welcome Mike G.
Too much time spent designing the new worlds that we wanted to make, ripping apart the ones we didn't.
Too many 3:00 am dinners.
All of it not enough.
John, Ragnar and I were a little late-night club for a couple of years, and I'll remember of our time together as some of the best times I had in Austin. Time spent with him was a really important part of my mid-20's, and as they say, that's when you figure out who you are. I'd like to think he played a big part in that. I loved talking with him, about anything, and I loved arguing with him, about anything. I wished I kept up with him, as Brain has put it so clearly, and I'll put it so bluntly, don't wish anymore, do something about it. My thoughts go out to all of my Austin Family, I miss you all. Shoot me an email, I promise, I don't mind.
BTW, and some of you like Scotty know this, but the mouse pointer artwork that I did for u9 (and that was ultimately used not for that, but for first round of UO) was based, in large part, on John's finger armor. He even let me borrow it for a bit, to figure out how the joints worked. (I could only get it on my pinky. I don't know where he put all those late night dinners. He and Ragnar used some kind of dark mojo to steal my metabolism. I still carry the proof.) There's a very old link to a still of it here:
...I need to go find all that Nicodemus artwork I did. The nose never
During my time at Black Isle Studios, I had the opportunity to work and live with John Watson. John worked on the ill-fated Stonekeep II for a while before becoming the lead technical designer on another eventually-canceled project called The Black Hound. For a long time, John and I were the only two designers working on the project. John's experience brought a tremendous amount of insight to our team and his enthusiasm inspired me to make our game better than I hoped it could be.
We disagreed about a lot of things. I remember that our debates about inventory "bags within bags" were titanic struggles of epic proportions. But that was what was great about working with John: not many designers have the passion and endurance to go to the mat on something that low level. Of course, John's creativity did not stop at technical design. He was always there to bounce story and character ideas off of when I was feeling burned out or frustrated.
I saw John out of the corner of my eye at a convention a few years ago, but almost immediately lost him in the crowd. Like many from his not-so-recent-past who are shocked by the news of his death, I wish that my last conversation with him had not been so very long ago.
I cannot believe he's gone, and it just makes no sense. He does not wear suicide well. My thoughts turned instantly to blaming some suicide-inspiring anti-depressant when I heard this, and I find myself wanting to read the coroner's report.
I never formally worked with John, but when Origin published Abuse, we ended up meeting each other and chatting, usually at one of Richard Garriott's brilliantly hedonistic adventures.
John was one of those few people I've met who I instantly took a shine to. I knew within 5 minutes that he was quality peeps. He had a thoughtful, gentle soul and a warmth that quickly filled a room. His wet, curly brains revealed themselves within moments of meeting him.
Neverminding his impressive design talent, I think if the industry were stuffed to the gills with people sharing his life-enriching personality, the world would be infinitely better off for it. I hoped he rubbed off on others. He certainly rubbed off on me.
Seeing all these wonderful old friends gather here to remember him makes me want to fly to Austin and eat a roast pig in barbarian garb or throw some beads and await bared breasts or just have a great time and great conversation with too many long lost friends.
Perhaps this otherwise senseless death has done some good. It's an awful price to pay, but I think his sacrifice has reminded us to appreciate the beautiful people around us and the light they bring to our lives.
I suppose we all go someday.
I hope I transcend from genes to memes as gracefully as John.
Man.... where to start....
William R. Shockley-
Well I heard the news a few days ago, and it sucks to hear anyone pass away, especially someone you knew. I kind-a knew John from The Collective and he was a great guy. Very polite and respectful is what I remember most and his glasses and his trademark smile. I remember seeing him off in the distance smoking a cigarette and reading a book during lunch occasionally; it struck me cause I don't see people do that at all in the video game industry, he seemed at peace, relaxed, ready to tackle the next block of code back inside. I remember him working on Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure, pumping out fixes left and right to Trane's environmental functionality. He was hard working and focused and an extraordinary guy in the working environment. I didn't know him outside of work, but from my perspective he was down-to-earth, talented, and respectful.
I'm sad to hear he's gone. My sympathy goes out to his Family and those closest to him.
This is truly very sad news indeed. I had the privilege to work for John on one of his undocumented projects with Tektonic Studios back in 2002 to 2004 where he was lead designer for an upcoming MMORPG game titled “Ninth Domain”. Coming from an old school game type background, I was impressed with John’s young but original ideas and overall vision of the game. I had the opportunity to spend a few occasions with John outside of work and he always made me feel comfortable although I was much older than the rest of the gang.
When the project was cancelled John and most of the others moved on. I heard the news today while working from the same office John once occupied while we worked together on our failed project. I’ve always wondered where we would be now if we were all allowed to finished what we had started and worked so hard on way back in 2002.
RIP John Watson, you will be truly be missed.
I don't think I can ever express the emotions that I have had since hearing about the loss of John. I have known John since we were little kids. Our families shared more adventures than I could ever write about in this. Many Friday nights were spent at the Watson's house enjoying Conan's Pizza, many, many games for us kids and the countless arguments we had over who was going to be the one to ask the parents if we could have a sleep over. I don't think I could ever add up the number of hours John, his sister, my sister and I spent playing hide-n-seek or Life. I think for my sister and I, we will never forget the birthdays spent at Taco Bell. It seems that whenever the Watson and Caruthers kids got together you could almost guarantee someone was going to get hurt. My sister broke her leg falling from the attic over the garage, because they didn't know you couldn't walk on sheet rock. I broke my arm playing Shoot to the Moon in their front living room.
Chenin Camille Buck-
John will always be the brother I didn't have. The last time I saw John was at my Dad's memorial service in Austin 5 years ago. Although time had gotten away from us the instant I saw him and the Watsons it was as if time had never been a factor.
It warms my heart to read that he had some wonderful friends and co-workers. To the Watson - please know that you will always be family to me and that I think of you everyday and wish there was something more I could do.
John was my best friend. In many ways, I believed him to be my soul mate. I will never be able to express my sadness at not being able to help him when I knew he needed it. He was *always* there for me. We met playing games and fell in love playing games and broke up as a result of his playing games (haha go figure), and through it all he remained my best friend. I will forever be grateful for all that he gave to me, for how much better he made my life. I just wish I could have done the same for him. It's hard not to regret the things I did not do, or didn't know how to do. It is easy to see, however, that he touched the lives of people he never even met, in ways he never realized. He was the most beautiful person I know, I am so thankful for the ten years I had him in my life. This website has helped me deal quite a bit with all the mess this last month has been, just being able to read what other people remember, and to see how much he meant to so many. Thank you for this.
Joe Garrity of the Origin Museum remembers-
September 4th, 2007-I was standing among many Origin alumni, listening to a speech delivered by none other than Warren Spector. The event was a fundraiser for the University of Texas' new Videogame Archives, and I was honored to be present among so many great designers, developers, and artists. Warren's address to the crowd was a tribute to the hard work and exceptional knowledgebase of game makers past and present, but we all knew that it was pointed mostly at the Origin crew-his friends. He told us that, "Some videogame information has already been lost forever, and we've even lost some game developers, whose knowledgebase and stories we can never recover." Little did we know that we were losing more history that very night.
Keenan Weaver remembers Crusader: No Remorse-
I'm an Origin fan. I work hard to preserve gaming history. Sometimes, When I get up the nerve, I even 'cold-call' developers, and tell them that I'm a fan, and that they're remembered. I never got a chance to call John Watson. I think now that if fate had intervened, and his name was next on my history 'wish-list', perhaps I could've told him that he is remembered. An unexpected call from a fan, just to say hello, and tell him that his work and life were appreciated...Damn.
I didn't know you John Watson, but I wish I still had the chance to tell you...
that I think you're Great.
I received my first computer game on my eighth birthday, November 24, 1996. Actually, it was a three-in-one compilation called "Space Adventure Pak", which included Shockwave Assault , Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger, and Crusader: No Remorse. When I first laid eyes on that colorful image of the Crusader holding an assault rifle, I was instantly grasped. I immediately installed the game and a lifelong love was developed. There has never been a video game ever in my life that has affected me as much as Crusader. I fell in love with the characters and the story, the beautiful graphics were incredible eye-candy, and the music was unbelievably catchy. And John was one of the men that made this game what it is.
Alex Von Tolmacsy-
When I beat No Remorse for the first time, I remember watching the credits and I thought to myself, "these guys are my heroes". It is quite astounding, since I was only eight years old at the time, but they were. John's name came up amidst the other Usecode programmers, overshadowed by such names as Eric Willmar, Phil Wattenbarger and Mark Vittek, but it is in no way possible his work was overshadowed. I may not know exactly what he did to help create this game, but what I do know is that his work on it has affected my life in a critical way. This is the first loss I know of from the Crusader development team, which I'm sure is affecting them very much. I give John's family my sympathies. Thank you, John, for help creating one my most favorite video game ever.
I cannot tell you how much this saddens me. Despite never knowing or having met John Watson, reading through his list of credits and accomplishments as a developer is like reading through a list of my favorite memories of PC gaming and growing up with Origin. The first game that visually blew me off my feet was Wing Commander II, a game where Mr. Watson contributed heavily to the artwork. I feel that a bit of the PC game industry has died along with Mr. Watson. I wish very much that his career had continued well through my adulthood.
Erik van Galen-
I will forever treasure the contributions of John Watson. I want all who know and work with him to understand that he will be missed, even from those of us unfortunate enough to have never met him.
I am really upset and strucken by this, I have seen his name in the credits of many games i have played, like all the ultima 7 games, wing commander gamers, ultima 8 you name it, and never really thought much about him, or the other credits except that I always thought that those guys where awsome and that I looked up to them for being so creative, for being able to create such wonderfull pieces of art, like ultima7 The Black Gate or the Serpent Isle, mann I have spend sooo many hours in these game just dreaming away in a world like that. A world he contributed soo much to that it made the worlds come to life.
Some important closing thoughts from Brian Martin-
And then you hear that a guy like John has passed away, one of the most creative guys, with an awsome spirit who did soo much for these games.
Well :( He will REALLY be missed, cause creative minds like his. should honored and respected.
John, I am sorry to have never met you, It would have been awsome, well Rest in Peace man, I know that you are with Jesus, with God in a better place then this crap world that we live in!!!.
With Great respect and Honor.
I am impressed but not surprised by the number of people who have posted their memories of John and expressing their friendship, love and admiration for him. I know that this is a naïve notion, but it struck me that, had John been able to read all of this before he died, he may not have taken his own life.
While John’s passing is profoundly sad, we should all take something from it; namely, we should remember to tell our friends and loved ones how much they mean to us and how much they matter in our lives. We take each other for granted far too often, or we’re uncomfortable sharing our feelings or whatever, but if John’s death teaches us anything, it teaches us that you never know when that buddy or that loved one will be gone and then it’s too late to tell them how much they meant to you. I suggest that we all go hug someone or shake a buddy’s hand and tell someone out there how you feel. What the heck, it sure couldn’t hurt anything and you never know what good it may do.