‘Bubsy’ creator and ‘Zork’ designer Mike Berlyn has died aged 73
Game developer Mike Berlyn has died at the age of 73.
Berlyn was best known for being the creator of the Bubsy series. He designed the first entry in the platformer series (1993’s Bubsy in: Claws Encounters of the Furred Kind) and was the lead designer and producer for the fourth game, 1996’s Bubsy 3D.
Berlyn entered the games industry in 1981, creating the text-based Apple II games Oo-Tops and Cyborg – both for the now-defunct Sentient Software. He worked consistently throughout the 1980s, designing Infocom games such as Suspended, Infidel, Cutthroats and Fooblitzky, along with Activision’s Tass Times in Tonetown.
In the 90s, in addition to his work on the Bubsy series, Berlyn’s other credits include being a producer for Accolade’s Altered Destiny and a writer for Activision’s Zork: The Undiscovered Underground.
In 1992, Berlyn co-founded what would later be Bend Studios alongside Marc Blank. Berlyn worked with the company on their second game, 1999’s Syphon Filter, but left the project and the games industry during its development.
“I did not like what the game business had become, the people who were driving it, or the nature of the product,” Berlyn told Game Developer in 2005. “I left before it was done and said, ‘Do not put my name on the product.’ I walked away from my own company. When you tell me you want to put a monk or a nun in my game and have them standing there holding guns so I can justify having the players shoot them, I think that crosses the boundaries of good taste.”
Berlyn eventually reentered the industry in the mid-2000s, focusing on casual gaming. He told Game Developer he found casual games “less offensive in every way shape and form”. That market, he said, “answers all of my problems with where the business had gone when I was still working on Syphon Filter“.
Outside of games, Berlyn was also a novelist in the early 80s, writing multiple books for publishers Bantam and Ace Books. He started his own company, Cascade Mountain Publishing, in 1998, with a focus on publishing ebooks and interactive fiction. The company folded two years later.
Among those who paid tribute to Berlyn following news of his death were Rebecca Heineman – who worked with him on Tass Times in Tonetown – and Days Gone director John Garvin.
I found out that Mike Berlyn passed away today. We worked together on Tass Times in Tonetown. I will miss him dearly.
— Rebecca Heineman (@burgerbecky) March 31, 2023
Sad to hear that Mike Berlyn passed away today. He was a video game pioneer and cofounded what would become Bend Studio. He was always a kick in the pants, funny, thoughtful, intelligent, and a great human being. Rest in peace Mike. https://t.co/hLfwVgmmi2
— John Garvin (@John_Garvin) March 30, 2023
Shattered to hear that game designer, programmer and writer Mike Berlyn has passed away. Suspended, Cutthroats, Infidel (Infocom) as well as games like Bubsy, and Busy 3D. Oo-topos, Tass Times in Tonetown, and many more games. RIP. pic.twitter.com/vAIJlQPe4D
— Mike Mika (@MikeJMika) March 29, 2023