After graduating from college Berry programmed text based video games as a hobby when computer games were still designed in basements and garages and released in zip block bags. Berry's first foray into the world of computer game design was a real time auction game titled Wheeler Dealers. While the game sold poorly (only around 50 copies were sold) video game programming became more than a hobby for Berry at that point. After Wheeler Dealers Berry began to developed two strengths: complex and engrossing resource trading and management mechanics as well as fully fleshed online and cooperative play. Berry's next game was a football simulator titled Computer Quarterback, which went on to sell well for publisher Strategic Simulations ( SSI). Originally intended to be Berry's master thesis the game and Berry's devotion to the game industry caused Berry to drop out of graduate school and become completely dedicated to the computer video game industry. Eventually Berry would found Ozark Softscape, a small closely knit group of computer game programmers. After developing two more games for SSI (Cartels and Cutthroats and Cytron Masters) Berry and the team at Ozark had caught the attention of Trip Hawkins, the founder and then CEO of Electronic Arts ( EA) .
Career at EA
When Trip Hawkins first came in contact with Berry and Ozark Softscape he intended to purchase the rights to one of Berry's previous games, Cartels and Cutthroats, however when all attempts failed Berry assured Hawkins that his team and him would be able to program and develop an original game that would be far superior than Cartels and Cutthroats. That game would go onto be Berry's Magnum Opus, M.U.L.E. Loosely inspired by Robert Heinlein's novel Time Enough for Love, M.U.L.E. was an abstract, science fiction, resource management game. M.U.L.E. was a diffusion and amalgamation of every game Berry had up to that point featuring real time gameplay as well as an auction house and most importantly based around the laws of supply and demand. The most notable aspect of M.U.L.E. was probably the actual M.U.L.E. (actual name being "Multiple Use Labor Element"). The reason behind putting the M.U.L.E. in the game was simply that Berry wanted players to input their commands in a more interesting way than simply entering text or selecting actions from a menu. In M.U.L.E. players would have to select their genetically engineered robotic tool and designating what the player desired it to do. This meant that the M.U.L.E. could only do one task at a time which forced players to strategically balance their actions and resource management. Players had to avoid concentrating too much time on a single resource otherwise the player could be devastated in the event of an unexpected drop in price for a resource. Though M.U.L.E. was a creative and original game it only sold reasonably well and the game was unfortunately the victim of rampant piracy. Despite this M.U.L.E. continues to be cited as one of the most important games ever made. In fact various developer (i.e. Will Wright, John Romero, ect.) continue to claim that M.U.L.E. was not only the game that inspired them to pursue a career in video games but is the basis of major mechanics in their own games. M.U.L.E. also was one of the first games that relied on cooperative play on a single computer and was capable of processing up to four players.
Though M.U.L.E. is universally accepted as Berry's most important game Berry''s career fortunately did not stop at M.U.L.E. Berry's next game was The Seven Cities of Gold, which while more simplistic when compared to M.U.L.E., was Berry's most successful game, selling 150,000 units. Seven Cities was a slight departure from the norm that Berry was known for at the time. Firstly the game had a more well defined story versus the more abstract stories of Berry's earlier games in that players played as a conquistador in search of gold. More importantly is that Seven Cities was a single player only experience and lacked any type of multiplayer or cooperative mode that Berry is known for. The Seven Cities of Gold also has the unusual distinction of being the only game that Berry developed that had a full fledged sequel for, Heart of Africa. Berry's next two games (Robot Rascals and Modem Wars) however saw Berry returning to multiplayer focused gameplay. Robot Rascals was a multiplayer only family game and it is unfortunately widely accepted that the fact that the game multiplayer only, at a time when the single player experience was held in higher regard than the multiplayer experience, was what hurt the sales of the game. Modem Wars was a classically styled RTS that has the distinction of being the first multi-computer online game. As the titled suggests players competed against one another via an internet connection through a modem. Despite EA and Berry's best efforts both Robot Rascals and Modem Wars proved to be disappointing when it came to sales. Berry eventually would departed EA due to Trip Hawkins refusing to fund Berry's desire to port M.U.L.E. to the NES.
Career After EA
After leaving EA Berry decided to work for Microprose Software ( Sid Meier's and Bill Stealey's studio). In a story that Berry claims is true, Berry was given the choice between a video game adaptation of Civilization or Axis and Allies. Berry claims that Sid Meier talked Berry into developing the Axis and Allies game titled Command HQ, and Meier would develop a game titled Civilization (which would go onto become one of the most profitable PC game franchises). Berry's next game for Microprose would be Global Conquest which was one of the first games to feature 4 player competitive online play. Despite this the game did not sell very well, which Berry claims was in large part due to a fatal bug being present in the first batch of games released to the public.
However Danielle Berry is as well know for her influential games as she is about her personal life. By the time Berry started development on Global Conquest Berry had dealt with his (not a typo) third divorce and was contemplating having a sex change. Berry eventually underwent surgery to become a woman and was public about her regret about her decision in doing so, and even blamed the diminishing quality of her games on the surgery. After the surgery Berry decided to take a rest from the games industry and kept a low profile. Unfortunately during this time Berry succumbed to lung cancer due to her heavy smoking in her earlier life and passed away on July 3, 1998. Despite her untimely death numerous game developers continue to cite Berry as one of the most important developers in the history of game development who inspired them to pursue a career in game development.
Awards and Accolades
- Was bestowed the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Computer Game Developers Association in 1998.
- Posthumously inducted into the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences' Hall of Fame in 2007.
- M.U.L.E. was inducted into Computer Gaming Worlds' Hall of Fame
- The Seven Cities of Gold won Computer Gaming Worlds' reader pool for best Strategy Game for 1985. The DOS "Commemorative Edition," of the game would win an Origin Award for best Strategy Computer Game of 1993.
- Received a special thanks in the credits of Spore.
- Also worth noting is how the theme for M.U.L.E. is a hidden song in Spore: Galactic Adventures.
- StarCraft II features a resource gathering unit called a "MULE"
- Berry always referred to her sex change as a "pronoun change."
- Said the well known and often quoted saying "No one on their death bed ever said, 'I wish I had spent more time alone with my computer!'" when talking about multiplayer gaming.
- Warren Spector refused a chance to meet Danielle Berry because he was too nervous that he wouldn't know what to say, and worried he would sound like a fan-boy of M.U.L.E.
- Despite the fact that Berry claimed she screwed up on the game, Global Conquests still has a dedicated (albeit a small) fanbase that continues to play the game online 16 years after its release.