Wednesday, December 24, 2008
I am still debating weather to make this a bi-monthly update, or not, let me know what you think, or want, via the forum or comments down below. This week I will interview Jonathan Gay, one of the original creators of Dark Castle, and Beyond Dark Castle. He went on to create Flash, and then form his own company, Greenbox Technology.
Jon God: Have you ever thought about returning to game development?
Jonathan Gay: I really enjoyed building Airborne! and the first two versions of Dark Castle but I've have not been tempted to try another game. I find game technology very interesting but I've always spent more time programming than playing games and I find it's interesting to keep trying new things so it's been good to get to work in a variety of areas of software in my career.
Jon God: Have you gotten a chance to play Return to Dark Castle, if so, what did you think?
Jonathan Gay: I have not played Return to Dark Castle. I have a fondness for the simplicity of the original Dark Castle so it does seem like an interesting challenge to try and keep that feel while taking advantage of the capabilities of modern computers.
Jon God: What inspired Dark Castle?
Jonathan Gay: There were a combination of things. The technology we had available on the Mac was one driver. We had gained some skills with working with digitized sound on the Mac from Airborne! and I also did some work to get smooth flicker free animation on the Mac. We also wanted a game that made sense with the mouse and the keyboard as input. Many arcade games used a joystick but that was not available on the Mac. Having a talented artist and animator, Mark Stephen Pierce, on the team was also a new thing for Mac games at the time so that allowed us to do good animation. Mark was in San Francisco and I was in San Diego so we met for a couple days in San Diego to develop an idea, Mark started sending artwork and animation mockups and I started making it work.
Jon God: How long did it take to write Dark Castle?
Jonathan Gay: It took about a year.
Jon God: Was there anything you could remember that didn't make it into the games?
Jonathan Gay: There were certainly some sound effects we did not use. I think we used most of the animations that Mark created.
Jon God: Was the original vision of the game supposed to be scary or comedic?
Jonathan Gay: I think we are aiming for a touch of serious but fun. Kind of like the experience of the Pirates of the Caribean at Disneyland.
Jon God: Did you ever expect the games to do so well?
Jonathan Gay: It was early on the Mac so we did not really know what to expect in terms of sales. I wanted to make the best game on the Mac but I assumed that it would fade away in year or two as people wrote new and better games. The game sold well but we never really knew how many copies were out in the world as a result of piracy.
Jon God: A lot of people switched to mac, because of Dark Castle, and Beyond Dark Castle. In general, Dark Castle defined mac gaming for years, and showed what the mac was capable of, was it hard to achieve such quality?
Jonathan Gay: The key to the quality was the team of a good programmer and a talented artist. The game was certainly a lot of work. The startup screen was written in Pascal but the whole game was written in 68000 assembly language which can be tedious. The debugger, MacsBug, I used was not very sophisticated at the time so it was pretty low level work. Defining the animation offsets and sequences using assembler macros and def statements was also pretty tedious.
Jon God: Did you ever have plans for a third Dark Castle?
Jonathan Gay: No. SuperPaint was making much more money than the games for Silicon Beach Software at the time so that pushed the company to focus on graphics software.
Jon God: Did you ever imagine that 22 years later there would still be people playing what you helped create, along with having communities based around it?
Jonathan Gay: I never would have guessed it. I think Dark Castle was the first game on the Mac to bring together digitized sound, good animation and game play with a bit of depth. I think that first experience of hearing sounds react to you actions and working to get the timing right to get through the various levels seems to have had a lasting impact on people.
Jon God: How did you originally get involved with the project?
Jonathan Gay: I had met Charlie Jackson, the founder of Silicon Beach Software, at a Mac User group meeting. He did not have much startup capital so he was looking for programmers who could work and get paid royalities after the game sold. Since I was still in school and living at home, I did not need an income. The first game I did for them was Airborne! That did well so took what we learned about building Mac games, found an artist and we did a second more ambitious game, Dark Castle.
Jon God: The credits list Dick Noel as the person behind the sounds, but I have been unable to find any information on him, anything you remember about him?
Jonathan Gay: I never met Dick. He was a professional voice. He was reputed to have some work on some of the Flintstones cartoons but I was never clear on which character or how much he did. Eric Zocher went to his home studio with a list of sounds we wanted. Eric spent an afternoon and came back with an audio tape. Dick did pretty much all of the human sounds. The rat squeak was a women in the Silicon Beach office and the clanking noise was a metal part under a folding table in the office.
Jon God: How hard was it to fit a game of such high quality on two 800KB disks?
Jonathan Gay: Fitting it into the 128k of RAM on the Mac was a bigger issue than the disks. We had some very simple sound compression and some simple image compression but since the images were all 1 bit they weren't that big. Since the code was written in assembly language and the data for the levels was defined by hand, that part tended to stay small on it's own.
Jon God: Do you by any chance know when the game was released, more then just the year?
Jonathan Gay: I don't recall.
And there you go, see you again after christmas!
PUZZLE & ANSWER:
Each week, I hope to have a puzzle for you to solve, which will somehow relate to Dark Castle. This week's puzzle is in the form of a description without the word it belongs to, relating to castles.
Description: I am a punishment frame that usually grips victim's hands and head, so onlookers can throw garbage.
Answer for last week's puzzle: Atilliator
Feel free to send in feedback, what you did/didn't like, what you'd like to see, ect, as I would love to hear it.