|Danielle Bunten Berry|
|Name at Birth||Daniel Paul Bunten|
|Born||February 19, 1949|
|Birthplace||St. Louis, Missouri, USA|
|Died||July 3, 1998|
|Place of death||Little Rock, Arkansas, USA|
|Occupation||game designer and programmer|
Danielle Bunten Berry (February 19, 1949 - July 3, 1998), also known as Dani Bunten (born Daniel Paul Bunten), was an American game designer and programmer, known for the 1983 game M.U.L.E. (one of the first successful multiplayer games), and 1984's The Seven Cities of Gold. Bunten was a male-to-female transsexual, having undergone sex reassignment surgery in November 1992.
Biography[edit | edit source]
Bunten was born in St Louis, Missouri, and moved to Little Rock, Arkansas as a junior in high school. She acquired a degree in industrial engineering in 1974 and started programming text-based computer games as a hobby. In 1978, Bunten sold a real-time auction game for the Apple II titled Wheeler Dealers to a Canadian software company, Speakeasy Software. This early multiplayer game required a custom controller, raising its price to US$35 in an era of $15 games sold in plastic bags. It sold only 50 copies.
After three titles for SSI, Bunten, who by then had founded a software company called Ozark Softscape, caught the attention of Electronic Arts founder Trip Hawkins. M.U.L.E. was Bunten's first game for EA, originally published for the Atari 8-bit family because the Atari 800 had four controller ports. Bunten later ported it to the Commodore 64. While its sales — 30,000 units — were not high, the game developed a cult following and was widely pirated. The title was inspired by Time Enough for Love, by Robert A. Heinlein.
Bunten wanted to follow up M.U.L.E. with a game that would have been similar to the later game Civilization, but after fellow Ozark Softscape partners balked at the idea, Bunten followed with The Seven Cities of Gold, which proved popular in spite of (or possibly because of) its simplicity. By the time the continent data were stored in memory, there was little memory left for fancy graphics or complex gameplay. The game only had five resources. It was a hit, selling more than 150,000 copies.
The follow-up game, Heart of Africa, appeared in 1985 and was followed by Robot Rascals, a combination computer/card game that had no single-player mode and sold only 9,000 copies, and 1988's Modem Wars, one of the early games played by two players over a dialup modem.
Bunten departed EA for Microprose, and was reportedly given a choice between doing a computer version of the Avalon Hill board game Civilization or a version of Axis and Allies. There are claims that Sid Meier talked Bunten into doing Axis and Allies (which became 1990's Command HQ, a modem/network World War II game), while Meier did Civilization, which went on to become one of the best-selling computer games of all time. Bunten's second and last game for Microprose was 1992's Global Conquest, a 4-player network/modem war game. It was the first 4-player network game from a major publisher.
After a third failed marriage, Bunten, who had until then been living as male, transitioned to living as a woman. Bunten later regretted this decision. Bunten underwent sex reassignment surgery in November 1992 and later kept a lower profile in the games industry. A port of M.U.L.E. to the Sega Genesis was cancelled after Bunten refused to put guns and bombs in the game, feeling it would alter the game too much from its original concept.
Less than a year after the release of Warsport, Bunten was diagnosed with lung cancer (presumably related to years of heavy smoking). At the time, she was working on the design for an Internet version of M.U.L.E..
Effect on the game industry[edit | edit source]
Although many of Bunten's titles were not commercially successful, they were widely recognized by the industry as being ahead of their time. On May 7 1998, less than two months before her death, Berry was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Computer Game Developers Association.
In 2000, Will Wright dedicated his blockbuster hit The Sims to Bunten's memory.
Quotations[edit | edit source]
- "No one ever said on their deathbed, 'Gee, I wish I had spent more time alone with my computer.'"
- "Being my 'real self' could have included having a penis and including more femininity in whatever forms made sense. I didn't know that until too late and now I have to make the best of the life I've stumbled into. I just wish I would have tried more options before I jumped off the precipice." 
References[edit | edit source]
- Interview with Berry from Halcyon Days
- "Special Note to Those Thinking About a Sex Change" by Danielle Bunten Berry from Anticlockwise.com
- "In Memoriam: Danielle Berry" by Ernest Adams from Gamasutra.com
- "The tragic genius of M.U.L.E."
- Dani Bunten Berry, pioneering video game designer makes the Hall of Fame (2007-02-08).
- "Why I Design Multi-Player, Online Games" by Danielle Bunten Berry . Originally from Berry's personal site, archived by Anticlockwise.com
See also[edit | edit source]
[edit | edit source]
- Danielle Bunten Berry profile at MobyGames
- A tribute to Berry by Greg Costikyan
- A tribute to Berry from Gamasutra
- A list of Berry's games
- Dani Bunten Berry Memorial Site
- Dani Bunten Berry named to the Academy of Interactive Arts
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