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Why Choplifter Creator Dan Gorlin Decided to Return to Games

Reflections on Choplifter, working on Choplifter HD and how games have changed.

It took Dan Gorlin roughly six months from start to finish to develop Choplifter on the Apple ][.
It took Dan Gorlin roughly six months from start to finish to develop Choplifter on the Apple ][.

When Dan Gorlin finished work on Choplifter and Airheart, unlike many other notable designers of his day, he left video games. Gorlin's name has resurfaced a couple of times since, but becoming involved with inXile Entertainment's Choplifter HD is the first time he's generated a headline in years.

Gorlin's working out of Philadelphia these days. If you were to take his Wikipedia page to heart, he's involved in real estate. So, uh, how does one go from creating video games to managing real estate property?

"I’m one of those guys who if you ask me what I 'do' at a cocktail party, I have to think about the answer," said Gorlin in an interview with me this week. "The truth is, I don’t do anything for very long. Most people I know don’t even know about my computer gaming work. My wife (she’s kind of the same way) became a realtor six years ago here in Philadelphia and we started buying up properties and managing them, but it was just another thing to do. I am like so done with that."

Though Gorlin is collaborating with InXile on Choplifter HD, he's quick to point out this shouldn't be heralded as some grand return to video game development ("it’s not a huge time commitment for me"). In addition to consulting on Choplifter HD, however, he is actively working with Android and exploring the idea of developing software (not necessarily games) on Google's tech.

== TEASER ==
Like the original Choplifter, the HD version has you blowin' up dudes and rescuing other dudes.
Like the original Choplifter, the HD version has you blowin' up dudes and rescuing other dudes.

"My role in Choplifter HD development is as design consultant and iconic ancient legendary old guy," he said. "I was able to spend some intensive time with the team fairly early in the design cycle and share my ideas and concerns, which was a lot of fun for me. I will probably do more of the same during final gameplay tuning. Also I think the inXile guys are just the kind of people who want to pay their respects to the original designers, so I’m there to appreciate the attention."

Choplifter HD isn't the first time Gorlin's been involved with a reboot of the series, either. He attempted to create Choplifter 3D himself back in the 1990s, but that never got off the ground.

"It was going great but there was a big industry consolidation going on and our project was a casualty," he said. "I think the project had three owners in its short nine month lifespan, then it was finally cancelled. Too bad; I think it would have been a great game."

It's been a good while since Choplifter was released in 1982. The industry's completely changed since then. I asked him where young Dan Gorlin though the industry was headed back then.

"Young Dan thought of video games as an emerging art form and was excited to be a part of it," he said, playing along. "He also figured they’d be a good way to make money. Unfortunately for the art form aspect, they turned out to be a *great* way to make money."

That's true enough.

Golin is actually a founder and director of Alolki West African Dance. He's even penned a songbook called
Golin is actually a founder and director of Alolki West African Dance. He's even penned a songbook called "Songs of West Africa."

And though Gorlin is a game developer, he pushes back on being called a "gamer."

"I have never been a gamer or played games," he said. "The only games I have the patience for are the ones that are impossible to finish. For example, building games is one of my favorite games. I also love studying traditional African music and dance because I will never, ever come close to mastering it. Occasionally I play the game of making money, but unfortunately I get bored quickly and have to do something else."

That fits with his habit of moving from one thing to the next. What happens with his Android tinkering remains to be seen, but as someone who was making games, disappeared into the mist and then finds himself in familiar territory, moving back towards games haven't been a huge shift. It's a comfortable place.

"If I’ve been shocked by anything," he said, "it’s how little mainstream games have changed in the last 10 years."

Patrick Klepek on Google+