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The Entrepreneur Factor

Tag Archives: Ozark Softscape

Most fans of online multi-player games are well-acquainted with the names of the gaming genre’s development giants, Sid Meier and Will Wright. Their contributions (respectively, the Civilization and SimCity gaming franchises) have sold in the millions worldwide. Very few fans of the genre, however, are familiar with another figure in that industry, Daniel Bunten.

Bunten surfaced as a capable developer in the late 1970s. Between 1978 and 1983, he contributed his early ideas to the software gaming industry through various publishing outlets, to include a stint with Strategic Simulations Inc. In 1983, Bunten and his newly-created Ozark Softscape publishing operation signed on to contribute to a small game design operation that would eventually grow into one of the largest video game publishers in the industry, Electronic Arts (EA). His first effort for EA was M.U.L.E., a game that challenges up to four players to simultaneously colonize, populate and exploit a fictional planet. It is widely regarded as the first computer-based multi-player role-playing game ever made.

Bunten’s most successful title with EA followed 1984, and ironically, only one player could play this game at a time. Seven Cities Of Gold invited players to both discover and interact with the “New World” of the sixteenth century. With its extensively broad scale and depth of gameplay, Seven Cities was one of the best-selling examples of the industry’s scattered attempts to realize the concept of “edutainment” as a profitable idea.

Ozark Softscape shifted its publishing relationship to microprose in the late 1980s and early 1990s, during which time Bunten worked concurrently alongside Meier. Bunten’s groundbreaking progress continued with pioneering gaming titles Command HQ and Global Conquest, each of which was designed to be played over remote networks via modems.

Bunten’s most radical transformation took place outside his industry. In 1992, Dan Bunten became Danielle Bunton, after receiving sex reassignment surgery. Although regretting the decision later in life, Bunten had wanted to become a woman for a long time and willingly changed genders. The transformed Bunten had only begun contributing to internet-based multi-player video games when she died of lung cancer (unrelated to her sex change surgeries) in 1998.

Dan / Dani Bunten is one of the great unsung heroes of the video game industry. His/her story contributes immensely to the evolution of the multi-player video game genre that’s popular amongst tens of millions of fans throughout the world today.

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