Eric Dybsand at the Game Developer's Conference 2004
This page is created to remember a good friend of ours, Eric Dybsand, who left this world on April 15, 2004 due to a sudden onset of Aneurysm. Eric devoted most of his life in developing and consulting for Artificial Intelligence system for computer games, and was very well known and respected in this community. Eric left us so fast, it did not leave much room for us to believe and accept. We put together this web page for everyone who loves him to share their thoughts of Eric, as a good friend, mentor, inspirer, and much more. Please send your thoughts to me at email@example.com (text, pictures, or anything that is easy to post), and I will post it on this web page. Please include who you are (you do not need to give me full name) and preferably how you got to know Eric.
As a freelance computer game AI consultant for over 16 years, he consulted with a number of game developers on an extensive list of computer games, including designing and developing the AI for Full Spectrum Command, a tactical command simulator used by the US Army and developed by Quicksilver Software. He also worked with Quicksilver when he designed the strategic AI for Master of Orion 3. Eric designed and developed the driver AI for a Trans-Am racing game as a consultant to Motorsims and he provided AI consulting services to Kodiak Interactive for baseball and wrestling games. He also designed and developed the AI opponents for the RTS game Enemy Nations for Windward Studios as a contractor and for the FPS game Rebel Moon Revolution and War in Heaven for Fenris Wolfe. Eric has been involved with computer game AI since 1987, doing game design, programming and testing, and is a contributing author on AI for the Game Programming Gems and AI Wisdom book series, and he is a regular technical reviewer for publishers of AI programming books.
|Hsin-yi Berg (Katy) (former coworker
of Eric at 2015 Inc.)
From the first time I saw Eric, which was at his interview at 2015, I knew that he was a very special person. If I can use three words to describe Eric, I will say wise, kind, and charming. Eric was not only smart, he was a real wise man. He was the kind of person you go to for advice on work, life, and everything. He was very observant, sensitive, caring, and kind to people. His magnetic personality bound his friends together like a big family. To me, Eric was a model for life, he will always live in my heart.
|Stefan Berg Architecture
Engineer nVIDIA (former coworker of
Eric at 2015 Inc.)
I have known Eric since he joined the Men of Valor project a little over half a year ago. Eric was a game developer at heart. He had a great passion to not only play, but also to create games. He liked to laugh and make other people laugh. He spoke his mind. He put in long hours at work. He was able to rapidly learn and work with unfamiliar code and simply get things done. When he claimed to be twice the age of most of us here, it was like an elf claiming to be 200, but neither looking nor acting like it. We would go "oh" and "ah", then five minutes later that was that and he was once again a thirty-something guy.
Eric was here for such a short period of time that I never got to tell him how much I enjoyed working with him, how much of a friend I considered him. Had I known how little time there was, I would have put an urgent tag on all the things I wanted to learn from him. Yet he did leave me with the knowledge of how valuable someone as trustworthy, honest, respectful, and caring as Eric is. Thank you, Eric.
|Kris Jackson Lead Level Designer
I've never seen Eric so happy as he was at GDC this year. He made it a point to collect four or five bags of swag for people back at the office (he was always thinking about other people). Olick (programmer at 2015, Inc) and I ran into him on the floor when he was collecting stuff, and he didn't stop until he was sure he had enough for the guys who couldn't go.
When I walked into the VU suite the night of the party, he was there with his friends showing off the game, and the smile on his face was HUGE. Kinda scary, actually. He had a big, red smooch of lipstick on his face that he
didn't bother wiping off (can anyone explain that? I asked him about it, but I never got a straight answer). He was so excited about the game. That's probably what I'll remember most. Eric loved what he did, probably
more than anyone I've ever worked with in my life. It's sad that he was taken from us before the game was done.
|Philip Berg Software Engineer and AI curious
I have never met or even spoken to Eric but he has entered my memory already before his passing when being mentioned by his co-workers as an outstanding person and AI guru. My thoughts go out to him today and will in the future whenever I pick up a book or paper about AI.
|Michael Ramsey Lead
Programmer 2015, Inc.
I first met Eric in late 1996 at a CGDA meeting. Over the years Eric, especially in the last 6 months here at 2015 has been a source of wisdom and inspiration. Eric and I shared many of conversations on everything and anything related to AI game programming, tactics over our Combat Mission games and more recently an unfinished Space Empires campaign. Eric was by far one of the most generous individuals I've ever known, giving time to explain a problem in more detail just so you'd understand it, to grabbing a bag of swag for the entire programming department, as well as buying books for programmers who couldn't attend GDC; just the sheer sincerity that Eric always exhibited will be greatly missed. Hiring Eric to work on the Men of Valor : Vietnam AI was a no brainer - here was a guy who had worked on AI for countless games, everything from turn based to first person shooters. Coupled with his easy going nature; we where excited when he decided to come aboard. I feel a sense of loss at the passing of such a special person. Eric will undoubtedly serve as beacon of inspiration for me and to others.
|Brian Holinka Desert Combat Developer
I only had the chance to speak with Eric three times at Colorado Game Developer (CGD) meetings in Denver, but those three meetings had a profound impact on me. Like many there, I was an aspiring game developer
interested in learning about the game industry. Due to the intimidating prospect of meeting real-life professional game developers, I made the trip to the Art Institute of Colorado reluctantly. Immediately upon
walking into the room, Eric made me feel welcome. Discussions with him that first night and twice more gave me the confidence to pursue a faint dream. I haven't made it all the way yet, but Eric told me everything I needed to take the first step. I guarantee he impacted countless others the same way.
Eric, thank you for the mentorship you provided to younger game developers over the years. Your influence will outlive us all.
|Tim Wilkin GameDev.net moderator, AI
Monash Medical Centre & Monash University, Melbourne, Australia
I have never had the pleasure of meeting Eric face to face. We lived half a world apart, he in the USA and me in Australia, yet our lives came together through our mutual love of AI and of computer games. Our interaction was predominantly through GameDev.net, where Eric was a frequent and very valuable contributor. His wealth of experience, his wisdom and his love of AI made him the sort of person whose opinion warranted sincere consideration, for in the end, it was almost certainly
the right thing to do. One can only arrive in such a place from years of extensive and in depth study and application of techniques. Eric's knowledge knew, as far as I could tell, no limits within AI.
When I heard of Eric's sudden passing, I felt truly shocked and saddened. We will all, in different ways, feel his passing. For me, it won't just because I have lost a kindred spirit with whom I have had many interesting and challenging discussions, but because I will now never have the chance to sit down with Eric and enjoy a good beer while we chat about life, games and AI. I now sincerely wish that I had made the trip to the GDC this year and had that beer that we'd talked about.
To Eric's friends, colleagues and family, my thoughts and my heart are with you.
|Matt Campbell Lead Animator at 2015,
Eric was the most humble man I ever met. He always went out of his way to help you out. I never saw him in a bad mood, even Monday morning. I will miss Eric very much.
|Dave Mark President & Lead Designer
Intrinsic Algorithm, LLC
A little over 2 years ago, I attended my first GDC (2002). I had just entered the business and knew that I wanted to be involved in AI. After meeting him at the first roundtable, Eric immediately began supporting me
and encouraging me. He was kind and supportive to my wife and business partner, Laurie, as well. I spent a good portion of the week with him, Steve Woodcock and Neil Kirby. By the end of that first GDC, I felt that
Eric was not just a peer, but a mentor and a friend.
When I arrived at the GDC in 2003, it was as if we had never left. He invited me to the Colorado Game Developers Dinner (his reasoning being that I lived close enough in Nebraska, that I had done business
consulting in Colorado, and that my flight connected in Denver; that was enough for him!). He was genuinely concerned with the trials and tribulations of our project. He continued to support and encourage me in my efforts. What struck me, though, was that I always felt like an equal with him. Certainly this didn't come from inside me; it was Eric that made me feel that way when I was with him. He didn't judge me on what I had done or not done in the past. He appreciated me for what he thought I COULD do. When he introduced me to
people, he would talk about me in terms I felt I didn't deserve. At one point, I told him he didn't need to BS about me like that to people; that it was a little embarrassing for him to trump me up like that. He simply looked me in the eye and said, I don't do that. If I tell it to people, that means I think it's true. I began to realize that was the way he treated everyone. This is a rare gift in people that they can truly inspire people
to believe in themselves.
When I arrived this past year, I immediately found Eric in a conversation and the circle promptly widened enough for me to step in as if we had never left. It was as if he was a part of that place, the layout of the center, the Xbox lounge, the muffins for coffee break, the signs, the candies on the table and Eric. In a way, I'm glad we are not returning to San Jose for the GDC in 2005. There will be roundtables and lectures next year. There will be old contacts to renew and new people to meet. There will be things that are the same and things that are different. But if I were to walk into the San Jose Convention Center next year, it would all be different. It would all be empty and strange because my peer, my mentor, my friend, Eric Dybsand, wouldn't be there to greet me.
I could talk about what he accomplished as a game programmer but there are many other game programmers who accomplish things as well. I could talk about how his technical ability was impressive but there are other programmers who are just as technically proficient. The reason Eric stuck out to me (and so many others) is not for the intelligence that he brought to life in his computer games, but for the inspiration that he brought to life in the people around him. If all the technical wisdom he passed on were to go away, he would still represent one of the most important boosts to my career. Now I just need to remember how he made me feel, how he believed in me, and how I learned that I had better start believing in myself.
|Jim Mapes Mountain Man Online Games LLC
I met Eric back around April or May of '03 at the Colorado Game Developers meetings. He had helped found this chapter of the IGDA. Several times over the next few months we discussed games & ideas, he had been around a lot and had good advice to offer. Then he went to work at 2015 in Tulsa and other than email postings to the CDGA forum I didn't see him until GDC this year. It was good to see him, as many noted, Eric had a way of including people. He was a person with immense talent, and yet humble, treating others as
equals. While I never got to know him really well, it was apparent before he passed that he was someone I would want to know for his wisdom and friendship. I pray that he finds happiness where he has gone, it was
something he promoted in life.
|Mike Clopper Level
Designer 2015, Inc.
Eric was such a great person on many levels that we are all going to miss him terribly for quite a long time. I'm glad that I got to know him and I had the opportunity to work with him.
|Bob Scott AI Programmer
Stainless Steel Studios
I've only known Eric for about 4 years and most of my time with him was at GDC. The first time I met him he immediately took me aside to discuss the work I'd done on Empire Earth. I was astonished - I didn't think anyone would know who I was, but Eric did. He instantly made me feel like one of the elite - even though it was completely undeserved.
That was the thing I'll remember best about Eric - his ability to meet new people and instantly make them feel like they belong. I'm saddened that I didn't get to talk to him more at the AI dinner this year. We planned on talking more after he'd had a chance to play Empires - I was looking forward to his opinion on the state of our AI.
He will be sorely missed at GDC.
I got to know Eric a couple of years back when I did a story on the Colorado Game Developers group. Eric was, as always, smart, helpful and encouraging.
I used to always kid him that that the parties at E3 were better than the parties at GDC. He always told me that I should come to GDC and get to the AI Programmers dinner for a taste of the best of GDC.
This year I was back at GDC and made a point of getting to the dinner. I know Eric was very proud of that event--it represented a lot of years of love and hard work building up the AI community. He kept pointing me to people and presiding over the event like a proud father. I have the photo of the event.
I didn't know Eric well outside of the game dev group and game world in general. But I knew him well enough to know that we lost someone special.
As I said on our local game dev list--when Eric left Colorado for 2002, I felt like we were loosing a big part of our little game community. Now that he's gone, that gap just feels that much bigger.
President DreamQuest Software
The loss of Eric has left all of his old friends in Denver shocked. We were saddened once before when he left our community and are now grieved that he has left all of us. He helped found our Colorado chapter of the IGDA. I can attest that his passion for gaming and AI helped inspire me and many others to pursue our dreams in gaming. DreamQuest Software would not be where it is today without Eric's inspiration. His no-nonsense and direct approach really connected with me. I continue to quote many of the AI 'secrets' he and his fellow developers shared at previous GDC roundtables with our staff here.
I am glad I got to see him (even if briefly) at the GDC this year. I hope others will join with me for a brief memorial service in Denver on April 27th (details to be announced, even if we just meet at D&B in shorts, as Eric would probably want). The gaming industry needs more dedicated and passionate leaders like Eric! His inspiration will live on in all of us.
|Adam Phillips Lead Artist
Lost Art studios, LLC
Eric was one of the best mentors I have ever known. I never got into coding but I loved to talk to Eric about all the AI he worked with. I remember having many conversations about robotic events he had attended and some that he judged.
I will never forget the trips to Governor's Park (local pub) after the game dev meetings to spend a few hours discussing our Planet Side addictions. One of Eric's favorite memories of planet side was the battle for Nom Bridge; it always brought a smile to his face.
I will miss his opinions, suggestions, guidance, and so much more. Eric, when we meet again next round's on me.
|Paul Tozour AI
Developer Retro Studios
Eric was passionate about advancing the state of the art in game AI. I will miss him as a person, and I will always regret that I never fully understood how much I could have learned from him. He will be sorely
|Brian Robbins Senior Creative
Technologist Fuel Industries
fellow Colorado Game Developer, and friend
Eric was one of those rare people who you could immediately tell was incredibly smart. Not because of the way he flaunted his intelligence and knowledge, but because he didn't have to. He was a great contributor the
entire game development community. Those of us who had the chance to spend time with him knew his dedication to helping others was complete. He was always happiest when helping someone else out. Whether it was telling someone about a new AI method he was working on, or just trying to get one
more free swag to bring back from GDC, he was always thinking of others.
The last 20 years of his life were dedicated to the craft of computer game development, and the people making those games. In 1987 along with Bob Rakoski and Mark Baldwin he started a monthly meeting of game developers in Colorado. Today that is now an official IGDA chapter, and as far as we know is the longest continually meeting group of developers in the world.
He was also very active in the AI programming community. Steve Woodcock, Neil Kirby and Eric Dybsand (the 3 AI guys) have hosted the AI roundtables at GDC, as well as organize the AI programmer's dinner since before many of us have even been attending GDC. Beyond that he has contributed to numerous books and articles on AI.
My only regret for Eric is that he was such a modest person. I fear that too
many people in this industry will never realize that he is gone, not because
his contributions won't be missed, but because he was always very reluctant
to take credit for many of the things he did. As a result many of the
people's lives he has affected over the years may not ever realize the effect he made.
|Drew Sikora Staff Writer GameDev.net
Knowing Eric for almost 3 years was certainly not enough by any means to get to know such a deep and rich person so passionate about his field of work. Back when I hung out more on the Game AI forum on GDNet, and no doubt still to this day, Eric was always one of the first ones to step up to helping a person, or sliding in a funny remark here and there that would make me laugh. It was always a pleasure to sit down and talk with
him about AI - again it was his passion that shone through as he would talk animatedly about the field he loved. In fact, I still remember the excitement that shone in his eyes as he talked to me about his current
work over at 2015 at this year's GDC. It's sad that someone so dedicated to his work be taken from us so soon. Thanks for all the great times Eric.
Miss ya buddy.
|Michelle Whitmore Human
Resources 2015, Inc.
I first met Eric when he applied for an AI programming position back in August 2003. I still have the email, and it stands out in my mind because he stated in his cover letter that he had "1.5 decades of experience" in AI Programming for games. Decades. You don't run across that too often!
From his very first day, Eric fit in at 2015 like he'd been here all along. Always in a good mood (especially when the Broncos won!), happy to be working on something he cared so much about, always willing to help
out whenever he saw a need. He really cared about making an positive impact, both personally and professionally, each day he was here. His happiness and enthusiasm were contagious.
He'll be greatly missed.
|Theresa Kempker Spouse of Eric's good
My spouse, Neil Kirby, along with Steve Woodcock, has been presenting with Eric at CGDC for a long time. From hearing about the preparations for the roundtables, and then about the presentations themselves, I had a very favorable impression of Eric. Neil usually returns from the conference on a high, in no small part due to the fun he has with Eric and Steve. Yet a few years ago, Neil returned a bit subdued. Eric had taken him aside and told him about his health problems. A heart transplant would solve most of the problems, but Eric
wouldn't even apply to be on the waiting list. He had no children, no spouse, no one dependent on him, so he felt that he shouldn't take a heart from someone who needed it more than he did. That selfless act still amazes me.
The Biblical psalmist begs, "Create in me a clean heart, O Lord." Eric may have needed better cardiac muscles, better blood vessels, but there are few hearts cleaner and better.
|Daniel Greenberg Creative Director for the Tolkien
Franchise Middle-Earth Online
I met Eric over a decade ago, and always I looked forward to seeing him again every year at the GCD. Year after year he showed his dedication to AI and the developer community through his energy, his organizing skills, and his terrific AI roundtables. The whole art and science of artificial intelligence in games owes a big debt to his generosity . He had a deep-down goodness and decency, welcoming newbies not as rivals but as valued colleagues. He never hoarded information, but shared his best stuff freely.
We never thought much about it at the time, but in retrospect we can see
that he's made a major impact on the state of the art of applied AI.
Our industry is richer for it. Our games are better because of it.
And GDC will
I first met Eric in 1994, at the GDC. After an AI roundtable he sought me out to kick around an AI problem I had, and after we had discussed it for a bit he told me to talk directly to some 'old hands' in the field about
it. I was a little reticent to call up famous developers that had never heard of me before, but Eric just looked at me and said "Don't worry; they'll WANT to talk to you! Go ahead, you'll like them." He was an
anomaly for a techno-geek; wise beyond description. He would have made an excellent teacher, with his desire to share knowledge and his ability to inspire confidence in others. We will sorely miss you, Eric. I selfishly wish that you had asked for that new heart, but that wouldn't have been in your nature.
|John Mancine AI Programmer
Human Head Studios
I had the pleasure of meeting Eric at GDC this year. I was immediately struck by his easy going attitude and genuine good nature. Eric was so unbelievably humble despite having earned obvious veteran status amongst the development community. I will always hold Eric with the highest regard, and I am deeply saddened by his untimely passing.
|Roger Smith Vice President and Group CTO
I am very sad to read the posting on the IGDA web site about Eric's passing. It is a pity that the world is losing such a great guy so soon.
I first met Eric at GDC in 1999. It was my first time there and I was teaching a tutorial on military simulation techniques for game programming. As so many others have, I fell in with that crazy bunch of guys that run the
AI Roundtable, gorge themselves on Chinese food, and generally cause trouble around the conference. Eric and I exchanged AI ideas during GDC '99, '00, '01, and '02. He was always eager to share his experience and I was grateful to learn. I believe it was in 2001 that he wrote a favorable review of my tutorial for GD mag, Gamasutra, or some other venue... a favor for which I am in his debt. He had a gift for inclusion - making people feel welcome and extending an open hand of friendship.
Fare thee well in the next life.
|Matt Gilgenbach AI
Programmer Heavy Iron
Hello. I met you at GDC, and I also was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to meet Eric Dybsand at a roundtable discussion on AI. I'd like to offer my heartfelt condolences to you, everyone at 2015 and Eric's
family. Although I only briefly met him during this year's roundtable discussion, his passion for game development and artificial intelligence was apparent. It was clear that his involvement in the roundtables was due to his interest in helping out those with less experience. Eric's unexpected death will have a negative impact on the game industry as a whole because we have lost someone committed to improving it. He will be missed.
|Matt Pritchard Programmer, Graphics Engine and Optimization Specialist
The first time I met Eric was at the 1997 GDC, along with Neil (Kirby) and Stephen (Woodcock). Though they were already old hands in the industry and I had yet to see my first game completed, I was warmly
invited into their circles. In addition to his considerable experience in game development, I found Eric to be a man of significant humor, modesty, and an enjoyably skewed view of the universe. A truly nice guy and warm heart to those who knew him, I saw him last at the 2004 GDC AI dinner. If anyone needs further proof of the arbitrariness of the universe, you need only point to the fact that now he gone.
I just heard about Eric. I worked with him for about 2 years on Enemy Nations and while we didn't always agree, I really valued the fact that he cared about what he did and he wrote a killer AI. He was also a really good person to work with. The world, and the game development community are poorer for his passing.
(also posted notes about Eric on Enemy Nations Homepage)
|Jennifer Pahlka Former GDC director
I was shocked to hear Eric had passed away as I had just seen him at GDC. As always, so warm and energetic and full of great ideas. I met Eric in 1996 when I first starting working in on the conference, and he was
immediately welcoming, helpful, and respectful. To me, he embodied what is best about the game development community: intelligent, gregarious, passionate about his work, always looking to share knowledge and trade ideas, always looking for ways to help others. His warm welcome and encouragement helped me realize how special this community was and made me want to become part of it. For me, the GDC won't be the same without him.
|Michael C. Neel
First, I never knew Eric personally. I have a passion for following game AI development, and though Steve Woodcock's site I learned about an upcomming project Enemy Nations. I followed it to it's release, and bough a copy directly though Windward, as they didn't have a publisher. I remember getting two copies for the price of one because I was in the USAF, and also thinking how cool that was that a game company did such a thing. I was and still am amazed by the AI Eric wrote in this game. We (the gamers) have lost a true visionary.
Announcement at Gamasutra.
Notes about Eric on
Enemy Nations Homepage.
GDC 1997 Everybody loves Eric!
GDC 1998 Everybody loves
2015 Christmas Party 2003
Left to right: Neil, Steve, Eric, John.
When: Wednesday, April 21, 10:00 am.
Where: Woodward Park.
When: Tuesday, April 27, 10:00 a.m.
Where: Banks of Cherry Creek at the Cherry St. bridge in Glendale Parking at nearby Creekside Park, Clermont and Virginia Ave.
Photos shot by Eric's good friend Neil Kirby.
When: Saturday, June 26, at 10:00 am
Eric’s Ashes Ceremony (by Ron Martinez)
June 26, 2004
A small group gathered on this brisk overcast day atop Loveland Pass about 55 miles west of Denver. This is near the Loveland Ski Area that Eric loved so much. In earlier years, we all had so many good times here…
After a brief ceremony of poetry readings and talk of good times with Eric, we began to spread his ashes.
An unusual thing happened.
At the very moment we released the first ashes, waves of snowflakes began to swirl upon us from above. Was this a mere coincidence?
After the spreading was complete, the snow stopped and rays of sunlight squeezed through the northern clouds. Was this a second mere coincidence?
Such was Eric’s life. Good things always came to good people like Eric.