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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 7 of 7
 

I saw where someone had asked you if you could design any game, what would it be, and you said Wasteland II. I know a lot of gamers who would love to see that. Is there any possibility at all that you might do it?

RH: Ask Brian.

He's the one with the keys to the franchise?

RH: Talk to Brian Fargo. Leave it at that.

Speaking of him, what did you think of his Bard's Tale game?

RH: [Sticks finger down throat, makes gagging noises.] When he first described it to me -- he wanted to do a parody role-playing game. In my opinion, the Bard's Tale that Brian released was The Princess Bride. It even had Cary Elwes as the bard; the humor and everything was The Princess Bride and was not Bard's Tale.

Bard's Tale is a game, a gritty role-playing game, with a party fighting monsters in a fantasy role-playing setting. It wasn't The Princess Bride or Shrek. Now, the game that was shipped was one Brian wanted to make, so that's fine. But to me that Bard's Tale game, I would disavow any connection.

If I were allowed to do Bard's Tale IV, I would do what I did in Dragon Wars but with the next technology. It would have 2011 technology. I would make something that would be pretty damn awesome. I just need someone to give me ten million dollars to do it. Unfortunately, my pockets -- let me look in my purse. There's fifty bucks in there.

Maybe we can do a petition?

RH: Woohoo!

One last thing I wanted to ask you about was your port of Half-Life for the Mac. What happened with that?

RH: Let's just say that someone at Apple -- who will forever remain nameless -- get someone drunk long enough and you might get the name, but that doesn't matter -- overestimated the number of sales would be potentially sold on the Mac. Let's understand this. This was 1998, 1999. The Macintosh was dying. Sales of Mac games -- I was doing them, selling them through Logicware -- we would sell between 8,000 to 40,000 units. Anything that sold 40,000 units was stylin'. That's an awesome sale.

They fund the development of our project, funds our company, and we bust our asses. I worked on it -- Andrew Meggs, I gotta give a shout out to him. I specifically hired him -- Andrew, want to work for me, you'll work on Half-Life. He said, I'll be there tomorrow morning. Everybody at Logicware had some hand in that game. It was a labor of love, and we made that game rockin'. We were playing against PC versions -- in fact, we had a special server that was totally interactive and everything.

We were about three weeks from master. We just had some minor bugs here and there, just a little polish needed to be done. We were all set to do the maintenance to do the game forever. We were really into Half Life. We wanted this franchise to live forever, and we were gonna do it.

Then the orders started coming in. Okay, Half Life is now available for pre-order, not to the general public, but to stores. The stores said, we love this game, we'll take 50,000 copies! Of course, someone at Sierra was saying, where's the extra digit? Shouldn't there be an extra digit there? Of course, they asked the people at Apple -- but they never quote sales figures.

Things happened. Things where people were upset. We were oblivious to all this; we were just working. Then one day I get a phone call and my friend at Sierra told me -- are you sitting down? No, but I can be. "Please sit down." So, I sat down. "We're cancelling Half Life." So at that point, I just dropped the phone. I picked it up, and asked them to repeat it. "We're cancelling Half Life. Thank you very much for the work, you did a great job." But what if we publish it? We'll pay you money. "Nope." It was set in stone. It was done.

It was pretty dismal when I went over to the team and called them together. We were paid in full, we got our early completion bonus. Take three weeks off. You can work on Half Life if you want, but we are going to avoid answering the phone right now and lay low. There's going to be a shit storm, and, yeah, we all ducked.

The press started going wild, saying Logicware screwed up the port. We didn't do anything! We were sitting there playing the game amongst ourselves, and saying, it's really great. There were all these companies, Mac Play, etc., and they all contacted Valve and throwing money at them. Please let us publish it instead! Nope. Nope. That was the answer. Nope.

As a result, we were told to take the code and bury it. And it's been buried away since.

We don't want to end on that tragic tale.

RH: It was pretty depressing. Oh, my God.

Think about all the Mac users.

RH: Oh, we took flak for a year for that. They were convinced it was cancelled because we screwed up. If they only knew!

As someone who has so much experience, going all the way back to the 8-bit platforms, all the ports and everything, I want to know what your favorite 8-bit and 16-bit computer.

RH: The 8-bit has to be the Apple II. That was by far the most versatile computer I've ever used. Even to this day, it's still more versatile. If I wanted to do a peripheral, it was trivial. I must have wire wrapped 20-30 different peripherals, some that even became commercial projects, like my Harmony hand scanner. There was a Focus hard drive.

Of course my Apple II development kit -- I even did a card that let you control a 1541 disk drive so I could do my development on an Apple II, write it to a C-64 disk, and put it on the C-64 and run the game. That's how I was doing my ports. I had my source code on an Apple II.

Later on, they evolved it to the IIGS. I remember for many years the only way you could pry a IIGS away from me was from my cold dead fingers. It wasn't until 96 or 97 that I finally moved up to a PC. And that was a sad day for me. I really couldn't use the Apple II anymore. That was it.

As far as 16 bit is concerned, it would have to be the Amiga. The OS was way ahead of its time, the guru meditation errors were my friend, many, many times, usually because I had a bug that caused it. It was just so well done. And of course it got revived with the 3DO, because that console used a derivative of the Amiga OS.

That's all my questions. Anything else you want to add?

RH: Don't do it -- it's a trap!

I'm one of the old-timers who is still in the business. Most old-timers have retired or gone on to greener pastures. What drives me is that I constantly want to learn, better myself as an engineer, better myself as a person. I'm constantly looking for the next best thing.

If someone were to wave a big check in front of me and said, Becky, could you do Wasteland II or Bard's Tale IV, but I may be turning in my resignation wherever I'm working.

Right now I'm working at Ubisoft at Toronto, working on the next Splinter Cell game, doing their engine work, and enjoying every minute of it. Previously I worked on Kinect, the camera and the motion capture stuff. All I can say is that I ain't done yet. Let's see what I come up with in the next ten years.

Do you think Kinect is going to take off?

RH: It's awesome. The moment I saw the proof of concept demo, I knew Microsoft had something. I was privileged and honored to be part of that. I got to work on the camera, the micro controller on it, the coding in the camera itself. I did the code optimizations that run in the 360. I put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into that -- and well over 100 engineers who worked many hours. There were lots of pizzas and late nights because we believed in this thing. Microsoft of all people! They allowed this thing to be done.

It's one of the few times I saw a major company take a huge risk. This camera could have easily never gotten past the design stage. We kept working at it, trying to make it so that all you had to do was a put a camera in a room, stand in front of it, it recognizes you, and you can play the game. Nothing else. That was our thing -- we didn't want to make it so that you had to program it, do these poses -- no, it had to be done automatically. When I got off that project, it was doing that. Now that I got to play the retail version, I'm so proud to have been part of that project.

What's even better is that people have reverse engineered the driver to the camera. Just seeing what people are doing on YouTube with the depth camera -- to me, that camera just opened up the door to a whole slew of new innovations. I predict that in the next three years, we'll see some games that nobody ever thought of because that camera let them do it.

It's been an honor chatting with you.

RH: It's wonderful to talk to you.

The pleasure was all mine!

RH: If you got more questions, you know where to find me. Also, a little plug -- I also do comic books and novels. If you want to read my Sailor Moon mixup go to http://sailorranko.com. You see, I do more than program! Now, I'll go find a burger.

It's burger time.

RH: It's burger time!


Article Start Previous Page 7 of 7

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