Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Dark Castle Blog "WEEKLY!?? Update (9/3/10)

Welcome back, dear readers, I am guessing you didn't expect to hear from me again so soon. Well, this week, we will be chatting with someone from Super Happy Fun Fun, Bill LaCoste, the producer of Return to Dark Castle.

Jon God: Can you tell me when you first got involved with Return to Dark Castle?

Bill LaCoste: I got involved with Dark Castle way back in April of 2008.

Jon God: Had you ever heard of, or played any of the original games before then?

Bill LaCoste: I had heard of Dark Castle before then, but never played it. My last Apple computer was an Apple IIe, which I had when I was in middle school and high school. After that it was straight PC gaming for me. I certainly loved it when I had it and was excited about games like Karateka, Wasteland, Haunted House, and many other text adventures. But that's not DC related, so feel free to do what you want with that info.

Jon God: What is interesting having worked on cell phone games up till then, suddenly working on a computer game?

Bill LaCoste: Well, my career spans farther back than that. I began my career in 92 working at Origin on PC games and some Mac ones, then moved over to Iguana in 95 working on consoles, and then finally over to SHFF in late 2005 to work in mobile. To me, it was just another product on a different platform and I was perfectly comfortable in getting it developed and out to the market.

Jon God: Is there anything specifically you had to do differently with this game over any previous games?

Bill LaCoste: In relation to my previous PC/Mac experience, no. I took the same approach in looking at the available operating systems, their specs, and made sure that we covered a good range of operating systems, graphics cards, and input devices. As you know, though, it's impossible to catch every single combination, so we do what we can and work with the developers to fix issues when they arise.

Jon God: What is Super Happy Fun Fun's decision, as to when the Level Editor will be released?

Bill LaCoste: Right now, it's on hold until all of the issues and have been addressed. We realize this has been an ongoing issue and that people are excited about seeing it, but with a product like this it's very important that the UI is solid and informative, and that the game is not adversely effected by the creation of new levels. I also should mention that both SHFF and Z-Sculpt have had limited and resources to make this happen. I certainly hope that we'll be able to make this happen soon.

Jon God: What is your opinion on porting Return to Dark Castle to other platforms, such as the Playstation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, Playstation Portable, or Nintendo DS?

Bill LaCoste: I think in some ways, it would be a welcome product on the PSP and the DS, but a lot of design and prototype work would need to be done at the beginning, because you have to design for the device. The challenge is doing that and maintaining the same unique, challenging, and classic gameplay that the game is known for.

Jon God: Have you ever visited the Dark Castle Forums?

Bill LaCoste: Yes, many times. I think it's important that we see feedback from our customers who have been so loyal to the product for many years.

Jon God: Will there ever be a chance, for those who missed it, to play Dark Castle Mobile (The original cell phone Dark Castle by Super Happy Fun Fun)?

Bill LaCoste: Not unless you have one of those really old phones. For mobile devices, I feel the right way to go is forward with a new story/product built for modern devices.

Jon God: Did you request any large changes to Return to Dark Castle after becoming the publisher?

Bill LaCoste: Nothing major because I understood the game and the market we were going after. Most of the changes were just aesthetic and under the hood.

Jon God: What made you suddenly go with a new type of DRM near the release of the game?

Bill LaCoste: DRM is always a nasty subject. A lot of customers hate it, but it's sometimes necessary for developers and publishers to implement a system so that the end user has to make a conscious decision of whether or not to steal the product or buy the product. It's that simple. Many people on forums will argue that it can be cracked easily, and I truly understand that, but we need that line to protect the product. The developers work VERY hard on these products and deserve to be paid for that work. The original DC titles had well over 1 million people play the game, but only a fraction of those people actually purchased it. I think that's sad and there's a lot of hypocrisy there.

Jon God: What is Mark Steven Pierce like as a (boss)Co-Worker?

Bill LaCoste: I enjoy working with Mark. I think he's passionate about making games, has a long history of successful titles, and cares about the people he works with.

Jon God: Have you thought of sequels, or expansion packs to Return to Dark Castle?

Bill LaCoste: Absolutely. I think the product has a great community, following, and history. I would like to see it move forward as a whole, though. Advancements in graphics, technology, and gameplay, while still remaining true to the original titles. I think that can be done and we'll see what the future holds for DC.

Jon God: Have you thought of rereleasing the original Dark Castle titles at some point?

Bill LaCoste: I think there has been some discussion here and there, but nothing in stone. The focus for Z-Sculpt has been on RtDC.

Jon God: What are the chances for a open, or closed beta for the level editor?

Bill LaCoste: Those chances are high, I just don't know when. I know a lot of people would like to help out with this and it would give us a much better chance of catching bugs and improving the editor before final release. Beta testing with the community has been discussed and I'm 100% in favor of it.

Jon God: Alright, thank you for your time, and work on Return to Dark Castle.

Bill LaCoste: No problem, my pleasure.


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 tiny cell where prisoners were left to die.

Answer for last "week's" puzzle: Bailey


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.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Dark Castle Blog "WEEKLY!?" update

Dear readers, it's been a while. Today I have a special treat for you though.
Joe Williams, CEO of Delta Tao, one of the people that made the remake to the original Dark Castle, Color Dark Castle, in 1994.

Jon God: Hey you got a moment?

Joe Williams: Sure. What's up?

Jon God: I was curious on some dark castle history, if you have the time for a few questions.

Joe Williams: Sure. I'm not the biggest expert, but I'm game.

Jon God: What made you originally want to port Dark Castle to Color?

Joe Williams: We just thought it was a great game, and it was a shame to see it go out of print. And black and white games weren't marketable in 1992 any more.

Jon God: In the manual to Color Dark Castle, you said that Color Beyond Dark Castle was planned. Did it ever get beyond planning?

Joe Williams: Nope. Sales for CDC were disappointing, and it was more work than we expected. Return to Dark Castle includes all the BDC levels, though we gave it back to Mark before it was done.

Jon God: Any figure you can cite for the sales?

Joe Williams: I'd just be guessing. Maybe 10,000?

Jon God: The manual lists Howard Vives as credited to the artwork for Color Dark Castle, was he a part of Delta Tao or was he brought in to help?

Joe Williams: He was an employee. Our main artist for all our games.

Jon God: What made you go with different intro/main menu screens?

Joe Williams: Were they different? My memory has them nearly the same. We worked pretty hard to be true to the original.

Joe Williams: I just let Howard go nuts on those, and do what he wanted.

Jon God: Who's idea was it to include the new Secret Level?

Joe Williams: Timmer's.

Jon God: Was there a conscious decision on turning the Water from Fireball 2 and Fireball 3 into lava?

Joe Williams: Yeah -- it seemed more dangerous that way.

Jon God: In Color Dark Castle it was added that you could hit command Q to return to the great hall. This made it easy to skip the dungeon. It also could be used to avoid losing lives, was that something done on purpose?

Joe Williams: Yeah, I guess so. The whole "limited number of lives" thing was kind of dated by then.

Jon God: Was there any other extras added to Color Dark Castle besides the Secret Level? There were rumors of another date easter egg.

Joe Williams: Not that I remember, but it wouldn't surprise me.

Jon God: What convinced you to let the relatively new software company Z Sculpt start working on a Dark Castle Sequel?

Joe Williams: We weren't doing anything with it, and they seemed pretty fanatical.

Jon God: How much involvement did you have with the development of Return to Dark Castle?

Joe Williams: I was pretty involved in the early days, but we pretty much canceled the project years before it released. Zack got married, and the project fell impossibly behind schedule. I'm glad it did eventually get released.

Jon God: What do you think about Return to Dark Castle, now that it has finally been released? Did you play it?

Joe Williams: A bit. It was way too hard for me. I've got old-guy slow fingers.

Jon God: How much did the rights to Dark Castle cost originally?

Joe Williams: No cash. Aldus had bought Silicon Beach for its graphics stuff, and didn't want to be in the games business. We swapped them some graphics technology we had developed for Zeus. It may have eventually found its way into Photoshop when Adobe bought them.

Jon God: Small world. Dick Noel, who is he? In the Color Dark Castle manual, it says he voiced Fred Flintstone, but I've not been able to find out if it's true, or what. I asked Jonathan Gay, the original programer to Dark Castle, and Beyond Dark Castle, but he wasn't fully sure either.

Joe Williams: Yeah, I've never been able to validate it, either. He's in the credits, and that was in the notes, but I don't know the details.

Jon God: It was a shame, I always wished there'd be a Beyond Dark Castle Color, I thought you guys did a great job on Color Dark Castle. I made this at one point, not sure if I ever E-Mailed it to you.

Joe Williams: Did you like RTDC?

Jon God: I did indeed. Though, each game in the series has been a bit different than the previous in style. The first was mostly an arcade game, high scores, lives, ect. Beyond Dark Castle was more adventure-y, but still contained lives and high scores. RTDC is a straight up adventure game. I also would have loved to see Delta Tao's touch on BDC.

Joe Williams: My take on it would've been even more adventure-y.

Jon God: Aye, Color Dark Castle was more adventure-y than the original.

Joe Williams: Was it? I don't remember changing that much.

Jon God: It had a saving system, and when you beat the game on advanced it scrolled credits, making you unable to continue playing indefinitely until you ran out of lives.

Joe Williams: Oh, yeah. Saving was a big change, I guess. Not difficult, but it meant you could do it in pieces. With the original, we had to leave our Mac on all night and not do anything else with it until we finished the game. Not to mention all the dungeon runs to pile up lives... I always thought the high score was backwards -- it was harder to get a low score when winning the game than a high score.

Jon God: There was someone on the Dark Castle forums who beat the original on advanced with 13 rocks.

Joe Williams: LOL! Players can be amazing. I always thought of myself as an expert on Spaceward Ho!, but there are players who are much better than me.

Jon God: The same person beat all of BDC, starting on beginner and ending on Advanced, without dying or falling into the dungeon once.

Joe Williams: I never beat either game on advanced.

Jon God: There was a special ending for Beyond Dark Castle on Advanced.

Joe Williams: I told you they were fanatics.

Jon God: Did you ever get a chance to try the RTDC level editor?

Joe Williams: Yeah -- it seemed great!

Jon God: Awesome. thanks for your time.


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 the open area inclosed by the castle walls.

Answer for last "week's" puzzle: Quarrel


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.