Was there anything sort of left on the cutting room floor? Things you couldn't implement?
DG: Oh, I started off doing a 3D Choplifter. That was my first intent -- to make it 3D. And there were no vector graphics at the time. It was just raster, so I had to quit real really quickly on that score. Yeah, there was tons of stuff. Did you ever play Airheart or Typhoon Thompson?
No, I haven't, though I was going to ask about those. I never got around to it.
DG: They're also very similar. I had huge plans for all of them, and then, at some point, you just go, "Okay, what can we do in my lifetime?" Those actually were 3D games, and it was still in the raster world, and I was driving myself crazy trying to get that done.
So the only reason that I put that kind of energy into it is that, at that point, I was making too much money, and I didn't really have to worry about reality. Otherwise, I would have gone out on the 3D thing much earlier. Now, I'm just strictly in 3D, and I love 3D. I love everything about it. It's just really hard to make a game out of it.
This isn't the first revival of Choplifter you've been involved with. The other one was called Choplifter 3D.
DG: Well, I did have a deal to do a PC version of Choplifter with what was Spectrum HoloByte, and then MicroProse. It was sort of in the middle of the industry consolidation, so in the eight or nine months that the project lasted, I think the original project was bought and sold three different times. The companies were buying each other up, and at some point somebody decided, "We don't want this on our roster," and so the project was canceled.
It was a 3D version of Choplifter and we were a pretty far way into it. I don't know -- I think it would have been an amazing game, but it was not turning out like some people imagined it should. A lot of people imagined Choplifter as this war game, where things blow up, and you have scores for blowing things up, and we simply weren't doing that.
As one guy said at one point, "Wow, it's Choplifter!" I said, "Yeah. What were you expecting?" And what they were expecting was movies and lots of animated cutscenes, and lots of things exploding, and lots of scores -- just like every other war game that was out there, which I had no interest in doing at all. So there was some friction, at the point where there were a lot of middle managers involved. And the company kept changing. Eventually, the project, somebody decided that it wasn't what they were going to be doing with their company, and they wound up owning it, so they didn't do it.
Bringing that Choplifter aesthetic into the world of the late '90s, I guess, where there were these tried and true formulas. The people that were middle managers of these companies, I think a lot of them came from Pepsi, or they came from the ROTC. They were game players, but they knew what game players know. They weren't visionaries.
If there were visionaries in the company they were off in a boardroom, someplace, and they didn't even know what was going on with the development of the project. And that was a big problem with the larger companies. You had to delegate a lot of your visionary functionality to middle managers, and middle managers, they're not the visionaries of any company, unfortunately.
When I think of your video game career, I just tend to think of those three titles: Choplifter, Airheart, and Tycoon Thompson. But you did a little bit after Tycoon Thompson, right?
DG: Yeah, I've done other things with other game companies, working as a programmer for projects. Or mostly there were a lot of licensing deals at the time. What I wound up doing for a living was licensing deals, and I did that for a while, and then it just was really boring for me, so I moved to other things. But yeah, there were some LucasArts projects I got involved in.
There were little things for Electronic Arts, and so forth, and I did some conversions, too. I actually did one of the Prince of Persia conversions. So I took little jobs here and there, just to sort of move myself around. But mostly in terms of the game industry, it's just the games that I did as original titles. And I wouldn't cite any contribution I had to any team project that was memorable or exciting.
I don't know if you remember the selling numbers, but Choplifter was... Back in the day, VisiCalc was the only program that had mega sales on the Apple II, and what Choplifter did from an industry perspective, it that changed all that. Because it was the first game that came along and took the number one spot, and it did that for several years.
So at the point where Choplifter was doing that, there were a lot of companies going, "Oh, okay. It's time," and they all wanted to get in on the games market. And none of them had any idea how to do that, so there was a lot of what I call "stupid money" flying around.
People would literally walk up to me on the street and say, "I'll give you a million dollars to start a game company for me," and I would literally say, "You may as well give it to that guy laying in the gutter over there, as far as what you'll get from your money. You just don't understand what you're doing."
But companies were doing that all over the place, and a lot of people, their livelihood became getting money from these big companies that didn't know what to do with their money, but they really, really, really wanted to be in the games industry.