The news of Ian Trout’s dying of cancer likely won’t be huge news in the industry, but it should be. He founded SSG with Roger Keating in the early 80s and their direct work resulted in some first class game design like Carriers at War, Reach for the Stars,Warlords II, and other titles.
But it’s for the Decisive Battles series that we wargamers will most remember Trout, I think. 1997’s Ardennes Offensive, 2003’s Korsun Pocket, 2004’s Battles in Normandy and 2005’s Battles in Italy. Like many of SSG’s games, these titles had excellent AI, strong scenario design, a good user interface and superlative replayability for an historical wargame. If you haven’t played at least one of these games, then you’re missing something.
I’ve had the good fortune to meet and even become friends with a number of game developers over the years, but most of us don’t get that chance, and we rarely get the chance to even meet many whose work we admire. There are many developers I’ve only shaken hands with, dozens more with whom I have exchanged a single email and hundreds upon hundreds who’ve done great work that I will never meet.
I never knew Trout the man at all, not even on an email basis. I can admire his intelligence, and his art and his appreciation for how a wargamer would want to get the busy work out of the way. If you seek his monument, look around you.
Unlike Wren’s cathedral, of course, there is little permanence to games and in forty years even the giants of our past like Chris Crawford, Will Wright and the peerless Dani Bunten will be as remote as Nap Lajoie.
But for now, take time to load up an SSG game and appreciate the fact that what you see was made by a person of great skill who will no longer be able to do so. It is a genre with too few great lights to have one extinguished while still so vital.
Say a prayer for, or think a kind thought for, the family and friends of Ian Trout and his colleagues and peers at SSG and Matrix Games.