The Burger Speaks: An Interview With An Archmage
December 27, 2010 Page 4 of 7
I've been holding off on this question for awhile, but I have to know. How'd you get to be called "Burger"?
RH: Remember when I told you I was flat broke? When we founded Interplay, we didn't pay ourselves much. We were starving. When I was at Boone Corporation, I was being paid twelve thousand a year. Slave wages. I was a kid; I didn't know any better. My entire life was get up, go to work, work until I'm too tired, sleep, repeat. Didn't have time for cooking, and I didn't have any money.
There was a place called Hamburger Stand. They sold 29 cent hamburgers. Since I spent most of my time at the office, I didn't want to walk over, buy a burger, and walk back.
So I'd buy a bag of twenty of them. Blow six bucks, get twenty burgers, go to my office, and put them in a drawer. I was too cheap to buy a refrigerator -- well, really too broke. Every so often I'd open the drawer and eat a burger.
I had an office mate who was a health food nut, constantly complaining about how I should eat right, exercise like he did. One day I was working all through the night. I didn't leave. It's the morning, and he comes in, sits across from me. I'm still working.
Around 3 p.m., I'm done. Burger time! I pull open the drawer, reach in, put the bag down, grab a burger, and start munching. Wasn't thinking anything about it. That's when my co-worker looks at me, looks back, looks at me -- and it dawns on him that the bag has been there for who knows how long. Those burgers are pretty firm.
He just loses it. He jumps up, his chair goes flying, he goes, "That burger is insane! That burger is insane!" He runs out. I'm sitting there like, "What's with him? Whatever." Then later Brian Fargo comes in and asks what I did to him. I didn't do anything. What's going on? My co-worker had gone to the restroom and tossed his cookies. That's how disgusted he was.
So then, the rumor started. "Did you eat any burgers lately?" So they started calling me Burger. I played along. "Okay, I'll get a burger. I'll eat a burger." Later on, unbeknownst to anybody, I had an issue with the name I was given at birth. So I would rather be called Burger than by that birth name. "Just call me burger." For the next twenty years, that was my name. Everybody called me Burger. Now my name is Becky. I finally shed the name Burger.
After Tass Times in Tonetown was finally earring a real salary. Then I started eating real food. It was also when Brian Fargo started developing a taste for sushi. I didn't want to eat anything else but burgers by then -- I was in a rut, McDonald's, Wendy's, Arby's. Brian took us to a sushi place. I was like, "Ew!" But the rumor was that I would eat anything. Brian said, "I don't know what's in that tray, but if you a big helping of it, I'll pay for your meal." Free food? I was so there. It wasn't bad! Today it's my favorite food.
What was your involvement with Bard's Tale?
RH: Brian Fargo had a high school buddy named Michael Cranford, and we were playing Wizardry all the time. Cranford was doing a D&D session where he was the game master. All throughout Interplay we thought we had to do a Wizardry killer. So, the project was given to Cranford to go ahead and write Tales of the Unknown, and that is the name of the game. They thought we were going to call it The Bard's Tale, and the sequel would be The Arch-Mage's Tale, and later on The Thief's Tale. But the title was going to be Tales of the Unknown.
The problem was Cranford, while he was okay coming together with the scripting and so forth, he couldn't do high-performance graphics. That's what I did. So, at this time in Interplay, I was becoming the tools programmer, or the technology programmer. I wrote all the graphics routines, I did all the sound routines, the animation. I also did the graphics editor, called Quick Draw. Apple later used that name -- damnit, I should have copyrighted it. But I wrote the art program that all the artists were using.
The tools, the extractors, every single piece of software so all the heavy lifting work -- I wrote that. Whereas Cranford wrote the actual game logic, and the text instruction and some disk routines. I remember we had wars because I would write in an assembler called Merlin and he was using Orca/M. So I would have to write it in Merlin, then translate to Orca/M or give it to him for translation, and we were constantly back and forth. It made a rift between us.
Once Bard's Tale was almost done -- we had a couple bugs left, Cranford had fixed them -- Cranford then had the final floppy disk, and he came in and held the disk hostage. He told Brian to sign a contract, which changed the terms of the deal with him and Interplay, or he was not going to give the disk to Brian. He was going to sell itself or something of that nature. We needed the money, so Brian signed the contract, and Cranford gave the disk, and the game shipped. Thankfully for Interplay, it made us a boatload of money.
However, that contract had a clause in it that basically said that the sequel, The Destiny Knight, was Cranford's and Cranford's alone. I did do some more functions, more assembly, more routines for Cranford, but basically the engine is Bard's Tale I. He just changed the scenario code. He recycled all the code I wrote, used all my tools.
Unfortunately, when Cranford plays D&D as the dungeon master, he plays it so that if everyone in the party dies, the DM wins. This is totally against how D&D works -- the DM is not supposed to be a participant, he's supposed to make it fun for everybody. That showed up in the way Destiny Knight played. Destiny Knight was a very difficult game. In a way it was because Cranford actually said if people get killed, he wins. I was like...Okay.
Once Destiny Knight was done, the contract between Cranford and Interplay ended, and that's when I said I wanted to do Bard's Tale III. I have ideas, let's get Michael Stackpole involved so we can have a professional writer, and I'm just going to take all of Cranford's code -- because I considered it a P.O.S. -- flush it down the toilet, and start from scratch.
All the graphics routines I kept. But I improved upon them, and I added multi-sized dungeons, increased animation frames with better compression. I even came up with two voice audio on the Apple II, which was not really done except for music programs. This was in a game where music was an integral part of it.
I was even able to shove in some Monty Python references, Sir Robin's Tune -- "Bravely ran way," which lets you run from combat. When you go to the temples, they say "dona eis requiem" and you're healed.
I also introduced female characters -- for obvious reasons! I was so pissed with Cranford, I kept saying, "Where are the girls?" He said, "Girls don't play this." If he only knew...I also added new character classes, geomancers, necromancers, and so forth. All of this stuff, and I only added one more disk because I used some really sophisticated compression algorithms. At the same time I was doing this game, I was doing the graphics routines and all the tools for Wasteland. That's why Wasteland has similarities in the graphics and monsters -- it's the same code. It was my code I wrote.
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