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The Burger Speaks: An Interview With An Archmage
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The Burger Speaks: An Interview With An Archmage

December 27, 2010 Article Start Previous Page 5 of 7 Next

Coming back to Cranford. I received an email from him in which he wanted to "correct" me on a few things. He goes into a spiel and claims you had nothing to do with Bard's Tale I and II, that you were a hermit, out of touch with the larger process. What's the guy's deal?

RH: Two things. Why don't you ask him to explain to you how the graphics routines work? How did he do the animation? He probably won't be able to tell you, because I'm the one who did it. That should right there tell you the truth.

As far as me being a hermit, there's a semblance of truth to it. Due to the fact of certain aspects of my upbringing, and the fact I was running away from my transgenderism, I did intentionally lock myself in a room because I did not want to face the world because I was embarrassed about how I looked, about how I was.

I harbored this big secret, and I didn't want anyone to know. I wanted everyone to call me Burger because I didn't want them to call me that other name.

So, unfortunately, he is right. I mentioned earlier that my workday was get up, go into work, work until I'm too tired to work, leave. As far as out of touch, well that's his word against mine. I produced all these games, I wrote all these games, I made a lot of money for Interplay, my track record speaks for itself.

I'm the one who wrote all the ports, I did the IIgs versions, the C-64, the fast-load drivers. There was so much stuff in there -- right now I'm taking my old Bard's Tale code and porting it to iPhone. And that's because I wrote the frickin' thing. So...

I've tried to contact him about this, but he didn't respond.

RH: Well, the trouble is that after Bard's Tale II, Michael did Centauri Alliance. He took the code drop he had of Bard's Tale II and used that as a base for a sci-fi game. I understand it wasn't a commercial success. It wasn't going to make him millions.

Then he went to college for, of all things, a philosophy degree, and then he went into theology. In fact, if you look in Bard's Tale II, many of the cities in the game are lifted directly out of the bible. He got religion into him. I haven't spoken to Cranford since my transition, so I don't even know what he thinks about it. But I'm certain that since that letter came after my transition, he may also think ill of me because of my transition, which would go against his religious beliefs.

I wanted to talk a little about Dragon Wars.

The Bard's Tale IV until three months before we shipped it!

So many innovations on the engine. What are your thoughts on Dragon Wars?

RH: I think it was my best work. As you saw from Bard's Tale II to III; it was a huge leap in technology. As I was making Bard's Tale III, was already making notes about where to take the engine next. So once we finished Bard's Tale III and got it out the door, I took a clean sheet of paper and wrote the Bard's Tale IV engine. This engine was totally using windows and stuff like that, I had a huge screen for the graphics so it was a majority of the screen, but I still had little bars. I thought, what if we just had the name of the character and graphic bars for your health, magic -- so we could put more information in a smaller space.

But it was the same design, with the pillar with the magic spells, the box on the bottom for the text. I had pop-up windows. I had daylight, sunsets, I even had versions that actually had the sun moving behind the graphics. We ran out of space for that one. The automapping was in a pseudo-2D, and I even had the ability to print, because I wrote printer drivers for all the popular printers then. If you hit control-P, I would detect what printer you had and actually print out to the printer. All of these little innovations were done.

I wanted a story. Mike Stackpole was busy doing novels and wasn't available, but we got Paul O'Connor. He started working on the scenarios. I actually found the book of all his notes and all my programming notes and everything. I just told him, design me a game and let me figure out how to make it real. So he just went nuts; there was this gigantic map and all this text, all this stuff. I said, "Hell or high water, I will figure this out!" And I will shove all this game into a couple of floppy disks. And I did.

One of the problems was that Paul O'Connor, just like the problem I had with Bard's Tale III, was that the scenarios were very linear. I wanted this game to be truly open-world. You start off in the Purgatory, but I intentionally put six different ways to get out of that city. And each one takes you on a completely different side quest. You can then go back to the other cities, but you could take them in any order.

I wanted it so that no matter how it was, only when you were powerful enough to defeat Namtar, the bad guy -- until then you could play it any time, in any way. That was a huge challenge, and one of the problems was that the stories I was given were like -- if you defeat this castle, which talks about this war you did -- but you didn't necessarily win it.

I must have written a novel's worth of text in addition to what Paul did to fill in all the blanks. I even wrote extra side stories about princesses, and this brother and sister, and even had a place where you ended the game because you ended up ruling a kingdom. Even though it was technically a good ending, you didn't actually win the game because Namtar is still running around. But now you have to protect your kingdom.

It was everything I could think of on what would be the next generation game, and, honestly, if the series had kept going, I would have done another engine with more innovations, and who knows what Bard's Tale or Dragon Wars would look like today had I continued to improve the series. It may have been World of Dragon Wars for all I know. Dragon Wars is one of the titles I'm most proud of for my entire career.

Article Start Previous Page 5 of 7 Next

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