Mike Berlyn

This is the second part of the story about Sony Bend I previously posted. This follows up on Mike Berlyn, who was a founding member of the game company Eidetic (now Sony Bend), who left the company in 1997. Read on for the gory details.

While I was looking at Eidetic’s old web pages on the Internet Archive’s Wayback machine, I noticed that all the pages from 1998 on only list Marc Blank, instead of both of them; Berlyn is listed through 1997 but then disappears. So what happened? It seemed odd to me that someone with the game development background that Berlyn has would leave a dream job, so perhaps there was more to the story.

Off to Google again. And I found an interesting page: A timeline of Cascade Mountain Publishing on Adam Cadre’s website, which basically accounts for Mike Berlyn’s whereabouts and doings after leaving Eidetic. A little reading between the lines also perhaps provides some answers as to why, but more on that later.

First, a bit about Cascade Mountain Publishing (as with Eidetic, I don’t have a link because it doesn’t exist any more). Back in 1998 or 1999, I came across this company’s website and I was very interested in it, for a couple of reasons. First, they were also located here in Bend, Oregon. Second, they were a new software company, whose goal was to publish ebooks and computer games, which would make them Bend’s second video game company (after Eidetic). More power to them, I thought.

Around 2000, they disappeared. Not in the same sense that Eidetic “disappeared” when they became Sony Bend, but actually went out of business and folded. So much for that venture.

Then I came across Adam Cadre’s page about this company, and learned a lot more about Cascade Mountain Publishing and Mike Berlyn than I was expecting. It’s an interesting read, I recommend it, but I’ll summarize some of it here.

Early in 1998, Berlyn prematurely announces his company, and his goal is to publish and sell text adventure games. The business decision to try to make money from text adventures—even five years ago—is dubious at best: basically, while there is a small renaissance of the text adventure—also known as “interactive fiction”—among a certain community of aficionados, this target audience is a dedicated group of hobbyists who are interested in sharing their craft for free. Oops.

The company actually releases a couple of games, but then basically botches every attempt at marketing the games and themselves. Business is abysmal, and by early 2000, finally gives up the ghost. Berlyn, by all accounts, vanishes; messages and emails go unanswered, and the Cascade Mountain Publishing website disappears.

I’ll just quote the final part of the timeline directly:

So what happened?

Tyson Boucher discovers that Mike Berlyn hasn’t vanished completely. Since his disappearance from the IF community, it turns out, he has posted nearly 500 messages to…

…wait for it…

…rec.gambling.craps.

No word yet on whether this new venture is more lucrative than the late Cascade Mountain Publishing.

As I mentioned, reading between the lines, it’s not all that hard to draw some conclusions about why Berlyn left Eidetic and floundered on his own. (That’s an exercise I’ll leave to the creative reader.)

So where is Mike Berlyn these days? I have no idea. Perhaps still in Bend, perhaps moved on. Anybody know?

6 thoughts on “Mike Berlyn”

  1. Mike Berlyn is my Step-uncle. he moved to Florida and is currently a great person and friend. also, he no longer has an interest in game design or such, but he still works with computers. lol, he is currently teaching me geometry and taking care of his aunt sylvia. i suppose he got out of the game buissness because of the Violent content that we (the video-gamers) constantly demand.

  2. I worked with Mike at ‘Blank & Berlyn’, later, ‘Eidetic’ in Bend in 1995 or so. I was curious about Mike also.

    I would guess that Mike may have gotten tired of working with one or two jerks (I wish I could find a nicer way to phrase it) there. Marc Blank was very smart, but could be pretty obnoxious as a person. Chris Reese worked really hard, but wasn’t that smart and very good at minimizing his shortcomings while maximizing (or creating) others’. That was my motivation for leaving.

    Anyways, is Muffy still around, cousin of Mike’s? Tell him to say hi, please.

  3. I’m trying to find this Mike Berlyn. Does anyone know where I can contact him? Please, send me an e-mail if you do.

  4. Local media stealing stories — again
    It’s pretty common for media outlets to be taking stories from one another, but now they’re taking their tips from bloggers? My buddy Jon has suddenly seen something posted on…

  5. I am trying to help Marco Thorek update out-of-date bigraphies of Infocom authors on Marco’s website http://www.infocom-if.org/
    aka Inforcom: The Master Storytellers. If anyone can tell me how to contact Mike Berlyn, so that Marco can approach him for an update, I’d appreciate very much. Thanks!

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