I didn’t have time to play Arena last week, unfortunately. Rather than leave Arena completely off the lineup for this week, though, I figured I might write a little bit about the game more generally, outside of the context of my immediate play-through.
To be honest, until I started playing this game, I had no idea who the creative team was, other than that it was Bethesda, which of course looked rather differently then. When I think Bethesda, or The Elder Scrolls in particular, I think Todd Howard, but he didn’t come into the company later; his first project, in fact, was play-testing the CD-ROM version of Arena (on the first in the franchise, he said, “I played that game to death for awhile, and I still love it to this day. Despite its age and size, I think it’s a very elegant game. It knows what it is, and does it very, very well”).
The “Chief Designer” in the Arena manual is VJ Lakshman. He’s credited with writing the Designer’s Note in the manual that I’ve referred to before (he wrote about the cliche of “good vs. evil”). No other individuals are credited in the PDF copy of the manual that I have. I’d never heard of him before.
Moby Games has a profile of “V. J.” or “VJ” or “Vijay” Lakshman. I’d never heard of Moby Games, either; maybe I should have. It’s a platform designed to “meticulously catalog all relevant information . . . about electronic games . . . on a game-by-game basis, and then offer up that information through flexible queries and ‘data mining,'” according to its FAQ page. Anyway, VJ has been associated with several projects, many of which I’d heard of and many more of which I had not heard of, going back to NCAA: Road to the Final Four in Production and Quality Assurance, in 1991, for Bethesda.
According to that Moby Games profile, Lakshman has worked as a senior executive for FASA Interactive, Bootprint Entertainment, and Vivendi/Universal Games, and he apparently “spearheaded the Massively Multiplayer Online Game initiative with Lord of the Rings Online.” Interestingly, this article appears to have been written by…well, Vijay Lakshman himself. There’s a link to his LinkedIn page; it looks like he’s doing consulting work now, according to the LinkedIn profile. It does not appear that he’s worked directly in the games industry for some time now. Indeed, on Moby Games, his last listed game credit was for Skullgirls in 2013, and before that two National Geographic Games titles in 2010.
Moby Games’ Arena credits page lists Lakshman as Lead Design, co-Documentation, Producer, and Director, with Ted Peterson listed as design and Julian Lefay listed as Lead Programming (the rest of the team is rather small, but to save space I won’t list them all here).
As a fan of the franchise, I’m somewhat familiar with Peterson’s role and reputation, though honestly only in passing. Next time I have a slow week for gameplay, or next time I just feel like it, I think I’ll go a little deeper down this rabbit hole and highlight Peterson’s involvement with the series.