Mechanical Donkeys (M.U.L.E.) – Article by John Szczepaniak in Gamer’s Quarter Issue 6 (Q3/2006)

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Shortly after his four-page article for Retro Gamer, John Szczepaniak published the full interviews he led with Trip Hawkins, Jim Rushing and Joe Ybarra in The Gamer’s Quarter. In addition to that, there are more interesting insights into M.U.L.E.’s legendary playtesting sessions from someone (Ted H. Cashion) who participated in them.

The interviews contain a lot of interesting quotes, which I summarise here. Also, important insights into M.U.L.E. development have been added to the ever-growing “Executive” Summary of M.U.L.E. insights from the original development team.


Joe Ybarra

“One of our mottos at the beginning of EA was that products needed to be “simple, hot and deep.” […] M.U.L.E. really exemplified all of those elements. Of being simple to play; it was very hot in that it was exciting; and then deep because the more you played it the more you began to realize how much depth there actually was in the simulation.”

Joe Ybarra, 2006, about the qualities of M.U.L.E.

“I can remember many nights I would come
home from work and fire up the Atari 800 and sit down with my, at the time, two-year-old daughter on my lap […] testing this game.”

Joe Ybarra, 2006, on playtesting M.U.L.E.

Trip Hawkins

“Dan Bunten was a good leader because he had the right values. He cared about people and was very kind, and had a big personal committment to innovation, technical quality, and using games to promote social interaction and learning.”

Trip Hawkins, 2006, on Dan Bunten’s leadership qualities for Ozark Softscape

“We were all disappointed that the public couldn’t fathom M.U.L.E. [due to the low sales numbers], because all of the developers and employees and critics thought it was the cat’s meow.”

Trip Hawkins, 2006, about M.U.L.E. unsuccessfulness at release time

Jim Rushing

“We all know Dan was a genius… I feel very fortunate to have worked with him.”

Jim Rushing, 2006, on work relation with Dan Bunten

“It was just a very tight, trusting group of four guys.”

Jim Rushing, 2006, on Ozark Softscape team spirit