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Choplifter: From 1982 to 2012
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Choplifter: From 1982 to 2012

January 13, 2012 Article Start Previous Page 5 of 5

Boy, that is something that has not changed at all. So from your perspective, why was Choplifter that massively successful?

DG: Probably the biggest thing was the tie-in with the Iran hostage crisis, at the time. I know you weren't around for that, but we'd been living with the Iran hostage crisis for like two years. Everybody heard about it over and over again, every day. Everyone was frustrated by it. There were guys over there, we couldn't get them, and we couldn't do anything about it. We tried, and we failed miserably, and so all of a sudden here was a game where you went and rescued the hostages. It was big.

It was also a game that had the reputation of being non-violent. What that meant was, you're trying to rescue people, not kill people. So between those two things, every kid wanted it, and every parent was willing to buy it for them.

Sometimes I would go in a computer store, and I'd just stand around, and eventually a mother would walk in and say, "I want to get that helicopter game for my kid -- the one where you rescue people." And you could just see this happening on every street corner, and every city.

So there was a magic element, a magic tie-in to what people were frustrated about at the time, plus the fact that it was something that parents could feel good about buying for their kids, who were going to play games whether they wanted them to or not.

I want to emphasize that I think being a really high quality product is important in that environment than if you can catch people's attention. It's got to be something that really works, is really well done, polished, for it actually to benefit from that attention. Just capturing that attention isn't enough to make a blockbuster. But once people get it, if they're really happy with what they got, then you've got something that's timeless.

And, from my perspective, it's designed like an arcade game. I think that simplicity probably added a lot to it.

DG: Yeah, yeah. Simple to learn, hard to master. And people still wrestle with that, because people that build games, they're gamers. To them, simple to learn means it's only got fourteen control sequences that you have to remember. And to your grandmother, simple to learn means something completely different.

That's always, I think, a source of contention in game design. I think very few games these days are actually designed for beginners, unless they're designed for children, in which case people get it. They've got to be really, really simple. I personally think all games can be really, really simple.

I agree.

DG: It doesn't mean that you're going to be easily able to master them, it just means you get started right away, and you can do stuff right away. That was a big design goal for Choplifter HD, and I think they pulled it off really well, and that's one of the things that they really wanted to try to hold onto from the original version. If Choplifter comes out, and it's massively hard to learn, it's not Chpolifter, really.

This is the first Choplifter I've actually been involved with, from a design point of view. The other ones were all licensing deals, so I didn't have anything to do with actually building them. But on this one, the team and I had a common sense of what we wanted to try and accomplish with it, so I think the results are pretty cool.

inXile entertainment's Choplifter HD

Where did this project come from? Have you just known Brian Fargo a long time? You said he was a fan of it.

DG: I have known Brian a long time. I met him decades ago, but he texted me. He started going, "We're inXile, we're a separate company. I'd love to redo Choplifter. What do you think?" So we began working closely at that point, which was just a year ago. It wasn't like we were sitting around drinking, going, "I want to do Choplifter."

This is really his baby. I mean, I was involved as a consultant, and in various capacities. And just to cheer people on, and give people the sense that we were really going in the right direction. But I don't want to take credit for the design -- I really didn't do that much work on it.

Do you have a piece of the IP? Where is the IP right now?

DG: That's a very complicated question, and I really don't want to say anything about it, because anything I say would be wrong. I will refer you to Brian for all such questions.

You said you were involved very early in the design of it. Were you just brought in to maintain the Choplifter vision? What did that entail?

DG: Yeah. I spent like three days, intensely with the team. They had already gone a ways along in trying to find what they wanted to do with this, and so I came in and they just laid it all out for me and I had my two, three, and four cents' worth of input. And we wrestled back and forth about some big picture things. I didn't say much about the little picture stuff. Yeah, I would say it was like a big picture rehashing of the details they'd come along with so far.

And then I've been in a couple times to just kind of look over their shoulder and go, "Yeah, yeah, that's what I was thinking. What do you think?" So it's just sort of like the grand old man influence, and, "Hey, what do you think?" I was never in charge of the project. I never had a leading role in it, or anything like that. Just a design consultant, really.

But we've got some kind of tie into the original vision, and I could help them maintain that. And it turns out there weren't a lot of things that I had to say that weren't exactly what they had in mind. Because I think they really got the original. They got what was really cool about the original, and they were really trying to maintain it in a 3D world.

Your name is on the title screen, even for the other versions of Choplifter that you weren't involved in.

DG: Yeah.

Have you ever been recognized by your name by people who aren't necessarily in the games industry?

DG: Well, yes. By players of games, definitely.

When you introduce yourself as Dan Gorlin, do people often go, "Oh, the Choplifter guy?"

DG: Twenty years ago, yes, they often did, and it was because they'd played the game. When you play the game, you can't help see my name over and over again. So it's the kind of thing where you're, "Dan Gorlin, Dan Gorlin... That sounds familiar. Why does that sound familiar?" So yeah, I got that a lot, early on.

Article Start Previous Page 5 of 5

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