The Obsolete Gamer Show: Frank Azor & Raymond Watkins (Alienware)


We’re talking Alienware on the latest episode of OGS with Alienware general manager at Dell, Frank Azor. Along with Raymond Watkins, technical marketing manager we decided that instead of spending time going over hardware trends and the latest tech we would discuss some of the history of Alienware and the culture behind the company.

Both J.A. Laraque and Ignacio worked several years at Alienware in Miami Florida before starting Obsolete Gamer so this was as much about reminiscing as about covering some topics and tackling some misconceptions of importance.

We had fun with this one so if you are interested in Alienware talk that is different than you normally see in articles and interviews check this one out.

Beyond the Game Trailer of Root

We go beyond the game trailer of Root the cyber espionage themed FPS game by Digital Tribe Games and Deep Fried Enterprises and speak to creators about what you can expect when you enter their world.

Step into the inexpensive loafers of expert hacker Edward Summerton. Roll up your sleeves, pop your collar and brew a pot of coffee, because today you’re going to breach the networks of a mysterious and powerful corporation.

During this undertaking of corporate crypto-espionage you will face many hostile programs, but your most dangerous enemy is the man who designed them. The Systems Administrator built the System from the ground up and holds immense power within the network. He will use the limitless resources at his disposal to prevent you from achieving your goal: total ROOT access to the System.

Steam Store Page: Get Root here 
WebsiteDeep Fried Enterprises

Ten Questions: Yehuda Berlinger: It’s Alive

Yehuda Berlinger a blogger, avid gamer, all-around artist and game designer, is also the creative mind responsible for the forthcoming and frankly brilliant looking It’s Alive board game by Reiver Games. What follows is an interview Yehuda was kind enough to offer to the rowdy lot that inhabits Gnomes Lair. Enjoy it.

Yehuda Berlinger
1. Let’s start with something personal, shall we? Nice. How did you get into game design?

The same way that artists get into art: it’s something that I must do.I can’t help but tinker with any game I have, while, at the same time, trying to figure out the reasons that the designer or publisher came up with the final rules as they are.

After some experimenting, I began to realize that there is nothing holy in the end results of a game. Often as not, they are just that way because the designer or publisher had to choose something. Often, it was the first number they came up with, or whatever matched the type of game that they liked to play.

Since different people like different things, it seems obvious to me that games should be played differently by different people. There is no “right” way to play the game, despite what the rules say. There are better and worse rule sets, but even then, if people like playing the worse one, why stop them?

After tinkering with other games, the next natural step was to take different game ideas and try putting them together into new games.

2. Is it only board games you’re interested in designing or are you looking to expand into video gaming and/or RPG territory?

Definitely not video games; they’re not my thing, even though I’ve programmed for many years.RPGs: if someone wants to hire me, I’d take a stab at it. Naturally, whenever I play RPGs, I’m always making up new classes, weapons, spells, and so on.

3. Care to mention some of your favorite games?

I interpret the word “game” fairly liberally. Not only does it include different game genres, but it would have to include different ways to play the games that I have.For computer games, I’ll play board and card games or rogue-like games. In board and card gaming, Go, Bridge, Scrabble, Anagrams, Puerto Rico, El Grande, and a few other top Euro-games. For Puerto Rico, my favorite is playing with random buildings from the sets I created. For CCGs, it’s drafting cards, and building decks on the fly.

I also love Frisbee and Soccer. I like word based party games. I like dice-light role-play and biblio-drama. And I like inventing games, as a game.

Yehuda Berlinger

 

4. So on to your brand new It’s Alive! board game. It’s your second one right? Care to describe it a bit?

It’s actually a re-theme and slight tweak of the first one. The new theme replaces the Menorah theme which appealed to Jews and probably some religious Christians.It’s gone through several other themes as well.

5. A set-collection and board game it is, then. How do those game mechanics work?

It’s a simple set-collection, auction game, where you have to collect eight different items in order to complete the set. Each round, you either buy the item for its value, toss it out for half its value, or auction it off.That’s the heart of the game. In most games, you likely have to do all three in some combination. And the game is naturally balanced so that almost every game is fairly close.

The simplicity and auction ideas are fairly reminiscent of Knizia’s design style, I believe.

6. Regarding the weird an wacky game setting/plot. Did you decide on it? Could you briefly describe it?

The new theme is entirely Jack’s idea. I merely gave my approval. I think it’s a good theme for the market he’s aiming at.It’s about a mad scientist trying to collect enough body parts to build a monster. Sometimes you find whole coffins, and sometimes the rampaging villagers try to burn you down. The truth is, I think Jack chose the theme because, when you have your entire body, you get to yell “It’s Alive!”

The game won’t be able to sit on the same shelf as games like Rummikub and Canasta, and I know that some little old ladies would buy the game if it did. But that’s not the first market Jack’s looking to approach.

7. Still, should be fine for kids. What’s the target group of It’s Alive?

Gamers and geeks.

8. Are you happy with the final product and Reiver Games? Why did you decide to go for a limited 300 copies only release?

I haven’t seen it yet, and, in fact, it’s not actually ready yet. The 300 copies is, again, Jack’s way of operating. He hand cuts and assembles each game by himself.

9. Anything planned for the future? Should we be looking forward to more designed by Yehuda games?

Absolutely. I always have a few game ideas buzzing around. Every once in a while I’ll make up a prototype and bring it to my game group. If it’s good, I’ll move forward with it.

10. Improvise, please. Is there anything you ‘d like t add. Something related to your blog perhaps?

Game design is just another art, like writing, poetry, and creating literature parodies of famous poems and legal codes. It’s what keeps me going.

Thanks for taking the time, best of luck with It’s Alive!

Thanks, Gnome.

Kondtantinos or Gnome is a classic and indie gaming writer. You can see his wonderful blog by following this link – Gnomes Lair.

Ten Questions: Vince Twelve of xii games

x_games

Vince Twelve, the evil mastermind behind xii games, the creators of such innovative, excellent, very freeware and quite indy adventure games as Anna, What Linus Bruckman Sees When His Eyes Are Closed and Spooks, gets interviewed. Right here. By a gnome. Read on, read on…

1. So, is it Vince Twelve or Vince xii? Oh, and do please add a bit of further personal info to spice things up… The tabloids will love you.

I am not Vince the Twelfth. I do not come from a long line of Vinces. I am Vince Twelve. However, if you want to save a few keystrokes, roman numerals will do.

Quick personal run-down: I’m 24, married, have a one-year-old daughter, and I live in Japan where I teach English in a Junior High School. And for the benefit of the tabloids: I’m dating Jennifer Aniston, have an eating disorder, a drug problem, an illegitimate love-child, and I’m gay. How’s that for spicy?

2. Are you more of a game designer, a programmer or even (don’t deny it) an evolving visual artist?

I’d like to someday be able to say, “Hi, I’m Vince Twelve. I’m a game designer.” But I don’t know if I’m allowed to do that yet. I have a piece of paper in the form of a college degree that proves that I can program. There’s very little subjectivity there. But proving that you can design is a very different thing.

As long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to design games. The only way I can prove to myself that I’m capable in that regard, however, is to release games and get feedback from the players. That’s why I’m always starving for any kind of feedback I can get.

As far as being an artist… while I’m quite pleased with the final looks of both Anna and Linus, I don’t have the artistic skill that I need to realize some of the games that I’d like to make. Plus I take way too long to draw anything. I’m learning as I go, but it’s a slow process.

3. Xii games. Quite a few people have been credited in your three (brilliant) games. Is it indeed a group or are people just coming and going?

Well, Anna was completely a solo outing, but I made the game entirely in a week, so I wasn’t lonely for long.

Spooks was definitely an amazing team effort, but it was still Erin’s baby. She designed, wrote, and drew everything. I joined the project after her previous programmer vanished and took all the game’s code along with him. Erin and I were in constant communication for the next few months as she finished up art and animation and I put the whole thing together. Chris Moorson was also there the whole time working on music and sound.

For Linus, I was back in the designer’s chair. After I worked up a working prototype of the game, I got Nikolas Sideris on board to do the music. But he ended up being much more than just a musician. I sent him updates throughout the development for suggestions and motivation. He was really awesome. The third major member of the Linus team was my wife, who wrote all the Japanese translations as well as providing a lot of support (and if you finished the game and saw the super-secret ending: that was her playing the sexy nurse!). It was really great to be able to share my love for making games with my wife. I definitely plan on involving her in more of my projects.

linus1

 

4.From Anna to What Linus Bruckman Sees When His Eyes Are Closed… What’s next? A paragraph long name?

What’s in a name? As the bard wrote: “A game by any other name would still not emit any odor, because it’s really just a collection of ones and zeros and not a tangible object.” Or something like that…

Yeah, I was totally pleased with the long name. I thought it up really early in development and it just seemed appropriately strange… and it makes more sense if you see the super-secret ending!

5.Right. Names aside, what’s more impressive is your tendency to constantly innovate. Anna is quite possibly the only 3D, keyboard controlled AGS adventure, and Linus really did something never attempted before. So, how important is innovation? Do you believe gamers are actually interested in it?

I do think that innovation is important, but I don’t think it’s necessary in every game. A lot of people are making games with more consideration for nostalgia than innovation, and that’s perfectly fine. Afterall, refining and perfecting old ideas can be just as important as coming up with new ones. If you’re making a game, especially a freeware game, you only have to answer to yourself, so you can make the kind of game that you want to make.

That being said, freeware game makers are in a unique position to innovate. Since they don’t have significant money invested in the game, it isn’t such a big deal if their clever, innovative idea doesn’t work so well in a game as it did in their head. Compared to a big developer with millions of dollars invested in a title’s success, or even a small developer who scraped together every last penny they could find to fund their game, this is a big opportunity to take some risks and try something new.

As for the gamers’ interest in innovation, I suppose that depends on how successful the innovation turns out to be. Afterall, “innovation” implies “new” not necessarily “fun”. I do think that most gamers are always on the lookout for something unique and exciting, and when that new idea turns out to be genuinely fun, you have a real gem of a game. I think Linus was moderately successful in this regard.

anna

6.Linus, well WLBSWHEAC, lets the player simultaneously play two games and experience two stories and two totally different visual styles with only one mouse. You’ve already mentioned the DS (and your shower) was an inspiration. Care to elaborate?

I remember reading a book about game design several years ago that had a lot of advice from big names in the industry. One of the designers, I can’t remember who, said that a good game designer is always thinking about games and should be able to come up with ten game ideas before breakfast. That quote just stuck with me, and since then, I’ve always been challenging myself to come up with different types of game design ideas.

When the Nintendo DS was first announced, I began thinking of the new types of games that could be made for the system. I figured that if I thought of myself as a game designer, I should easily be able to think up some unique new types of gameplay for such an innovative system. One of the ideas that I really liked was having two completely different worlds, one in each screen, and playing them simultaneously. I carried that idea around in the back of my head for a while until I decided to start fleshing it out for a PC game. The idea eventually grew into Linus.

One very rewarding thing is seeing professional designers coming up with ideas very similar to yours and turning them into real commercial games. I was almost finished with Linus when I heard about a DS game called Contact which displays two different worlds on the two screens using two completely different art styles for each. Even though the gameplay is very different – it’s an RPG in which you control only one of the characters – I had to immediately buy the game because of the similarities. Also, Square Enix just announced a new DS game in which you control two characters simultaneously, one on the top screen, one on the bottom. But rather than your commands being mirrored in both screens like in Linus, you control the characters separately – one with the d-pad and one with the stylus.

It’s very interesting to me to see how professional designers play with these similar ideas. It’s also quite gratifying. It makes me feel like I was on the right track with my design.

spooks2

7.Why is it such a hard and complex game?

Here’s another tidbit for my bio: I also have a degree in mathematics and love brain-bending logic puzzles. Linus, from the start, was going to be a fairly complex puzzle game with a shiny adventure exterior. I know that everyone doesn’t adore a good brain-twister like I do, so I thought I was toning down the difficulty here, I really did!

At the time of me writing this, out of the thousands of downloads from my site and from the other places that it’s been picked up and hosted, only fourteen are listed in the online Hall of Completion. (Though I’m guessing it’s just that most people don’t care enough to go online and type in their completion code…)

That being said, I knew from the get go that this kind of game wouldn’t appeal to everyone. I’m sure that a lot of people download the game because of the promise of something unique and then start to play it only to find out that the gameplay and logic puzzles don’t really appeal to them. But that’s the benefit of making a freeware game. My only real customer is myself! Sorry if anyone found it too hard.

8.What should we expect next of xii games? More innovative thinking? A sequel to the almost traditional but excellent Spooks? An action game? Erotic interactive fiction?

Right now, I’m programming a small game for someone else that I’m not sure I’m allowed to talk about. It’s just a small project that should only take a couple of weeks. After it’s done, I’ll start preliminary work on my next game.

I’ve got several ideas which I’ve trimmed down to two to decide between. I want to do something longer than Anna or Linus and tell a full story. One of the two ideas relies on me finding an artist or two who are willing to help me realize the game, so we’ll see about that. (Any artists out there want to help me out?) But you can be sure that there will be some innovative thinking included in the design. I wouldn’t make a game that didn’t have something unique to offer.

As for the sequel to Spooks, Erin is still working on the story, design, and art. It’s coming but it’s a ways off. And whether or not I’ll be coding it or xii games releasing it is still up in the air.

And I think I’ll leave the erotic fiction up to the fans. I don’t know if you’ve read the recently released “Linus Bruckman Tosses Mortia a Bone,” but it’s quite tittilating.

skyward

9.Any thoughts of releasing a commercial game?

Definitely. I would love to release something commercially. Again, however, I would need to find some artists to work with because I don’t feel that my art is of commercial quality. If I could assemble an adequate team right now, my next release would be commercial.

10.Now for the final/double-feature question. Enjoyed any of the recently released adventure games? How’s your Wii doing?

Commercially, I really enjoyed the Blackwell Legacy. Other than that, I haven’t really played many commercial adventure games lately. In 2006, my favorite game was easily Phoenix Wright for the DS. I picked up the sequel here in Japan recently. I don’t think it’s out in the West yet. I haven’t had a chance to start it yet, but I’m really looking forward to cracking it open.

Totally loving my Wii. WarioWare: Smooth Moves has to be the most fun I’ve had (and the dumbest I’ve looked) in quite a while. The one downside of the Wii is that my wife consistently beats me in tennis, and so of course that’s the only game she ever wants to play!

Cheers!

Thanks for taking the time to interview me!

Thanks for taking the time to answer, thanks for the games and good luck!


A chat with Q*bert programmer Warren Davis

Warren Davis

As the modern day video game industry continues to grow, the games from the original boom period of the early 1980s have entered pop culture status.

Among the ranks of Pac-ManMario and Donkey Kong is Q*bert.   The title character of this 1982 arcade smash has continued to live on almost 30 years after his debut, from references in television shows such as Family Guy and The Simpsons to gamers still aiming to be the all-time world champion on the title.

According to Warren Davis, the programmer who brought Q*bert to the video game arcade screen, the lasting impact of the game was not expected.

“It’s nice to hear that Q*bert is still remembered by some people,” Davis told Arcade Game Examiner. “Sometimes it seems like Pac- Man and Donkey Kong get a lot of attention and Q*bert is just fading off into obscurity.”

The initial popularity of Q*bert resulted in numerous home releases, plush dolls and more.  It also became one of a handful of video games to become cartoons, as CBS Saturday Morning cartoon Saturday Supercade included a Q*bert segment alongside animated episodes of games such as Frogger and Donkey Kong Junior.

“I wasn’t all that impressed,” Davis revealed. “It was a nice attempt to create a back-story for the characters, but I didn’t think it really needed one. It was also a nice attempt to market the character and help it reach a bigger audience, but I’m not sure that it had any effect.”

qbert

After Q*bert, Davis continued to work on video gaming titles including classic arcade shooters Revolution-X and Terminator 2.  While these titles differed greatly from his early 80s hit, the goal was the same, he said.

“My approach isn’t all that different.  Whatever the genre or style, I try to find a way to engage and challenge the player in an entertaining way,” Davis said.

In addition to game design, Warren Davis has also entered acting, appearing in television shows such as All My ChildrenHouse M.D. and the Practice, as well as films such as 2008’s Yesterday Was A Lie.

“Acting is something I started doing in college for fun, and at the time I was hired by Gottlieb, I was also studying and performing improv comedy in Chicago,” he said. “Luckily, I was always able to fit in acting on nights and weekends while my day job was making video games. After a few years, I found myself working in bigger and better theatres and eventually realized that it was something of a second career. Nowadays, I’m more interested in acting and directing than writing software, although I still dabble on software projects that interest me.”

Qbert arcade machine

Q*bert has once again entered the public eye in competitive video gaming, including the recent attempt in New Jersey by gamer George Leutz, who saw his world record attempt end after 36 hours when the power cord was jostled.  Davis, who learned of the attempt through Arcade Game Examiner, spoke to Leutz shortly after the sudden game over.

“I felt absolutely terrible for him, but he seemed to be in as good spirits as possible,” Davis said. “He had a great group of friends there to support him, and you can’t really ask for anything more than that, can you? I congratulated him, and told him that next time he tries, I’ll try to be present via Skype so I can watch.”

Even though Davis has made a mark on screens across video gaming, movies and television, he turned down the opportunity to plug his upcoming projects.

“I’m not much of a self-promoter. Maybe I’ll develop that skill someday,” he said.

 

Ugur Sener: Adventure Lantern

Adventure Lantern logo

The ten gnomish questions are, as most of you must have already gathered, the interviewing format I am now and will forever (and ever) be using. The format is perfect. It’s the questions I am worried about. I do hope that I will eventually manage to ask the most intriguing ones around this corner of the Net, but for the time being, I guess you’ll just have to put up with my (rather puny) journalistic skills.

Anyway. Ugur Sener, the founder and all-around chief/good-guy of my favorite video (+adventure) gaming e-zine Adventure Lantern, was unlucky enough to be the first person interviewed on my home site. Without further ado, let me present you with his answers (and unfortunately with my questions too):

Please state your name, age and favorite alcoholic drink

Ugur Sener. 23 (turning 24 on March 2nd). I am not much of a drinker, but let’s go with margaritas.

What are your gaming interests?

Video games are definitely my main interest. I have been playing them since I was 7 years old. I currently play games on my PC, PS2, and GameCube. Adventure is definitely my favorite genre, there’’s really no contest. I’’ve been hooked since a friend of mine showed me the first Monkey Island game many years ago. I also greatly enjoy RPG, strategy, and action-adventure games, but I’’ll give just about any video game a try.

I am also a big fan of pen and paper RPGs. I have been playing them for about 6 or 7 years. I ran my fair share of campaigns, participated in many others as a player, and have more character sheets than I care to count. Back in college I even started a club for role-playing games. My friends took over its administration after I graduated.

Finally, I am always partial to a good board game. My wife has a nice collection and we both love to play board games every time we find enough people to participate.

How would you describe Adventure Lantern?

Adventure Lantern is an electronic gaming magazine focused on adventure games. It is also a Web site that features the contents of the magazine and additional articles in HTML format.

AL is still a brand new site and our archives are humble at best. However, thanks to the efforts of the staff members, I believe we have a lot of potential for growth.

From a more personal point of view, AL has given me the opportunity to do something I truly enjoy and get more out of the games I play.

What is Adventure Lantern’’s history (so far)?

Despite the fact that the site has only been open for about two months, we have somewhat of an ‘“interesting’ history. AL actually started up as a partnership. Along with my occasional contributions to Just Adventure, I had started writing for a second small adventure gaming site. The owner and I eventually decided to start a partnership and opened Adventure Lantern.
Unfortunately, various differences of opinion eventually led to our separation. The co-owner and the staff that came from the older site decided to go in a different direction than AL. I believe this happened about a week before we were planning to release our first issue. However, the remaining staff members (Wendy, Neetie, Suz, and Berent) really came through to my aid. We were able to pull together the first issue at the very last minute and successfully publish it on January 1st.

During our second month, things ran much more smoothly. Our active staff doubled in size and we were able to post a number of articles throughout the month. I believe we were able to recover from our initial setback, and I am looking forward to our March issue.

What kind of games will Adventure Lantern cover?

Adventure Lantern will be focused on adventure games. Our main goal is to provide information about current adventure games while building up our archives with coverage on older titles. However, we are not fully dedicated to a single genre. We do occasionally extend our coverage to other types of games. This is mainly to broaden the site’’s scope.

How has the gaming community reacted towards the e-zine?

I can only answer this based on the feedback I received or saw on other sites and forums across the Web. Overall, I have seen a good deal of positive feedback. Some readers were excited to see another site talking about adventure games. It’’s been especially great to see random posts on forums talking about the launch of Adventure Lantern.

However, some readers did complain about the inclusion of non-adventure games in the magazine. A couple of members of the Just Adventure forum also informed me that some of our reviews gave them the impression that we picked our favorite games for the first issue.

Of course I am always open to any kind of comments about the site. There is no way we can create a magazine that will please every single gamer, but we can certainly try to make improvements in many areas.

Why did you choose to run an Adventure Lantern site parallel to the e-zine?

The idea is to make the site more accessible. Our February issue ended up being around 120 pages. Even after compressing the images and zipping up the magazine, it is still a 5 MB download. I want to make sure the readers who do not have fast Internet connections have a way of getting to our articles.

I also hope that making the articles accessible in HTML format will help locate them when we have a number of issues of the magazine. I wouldn’t want anybody to have to download a number of issues trying to find a specific article.

What are the future plans for Adventure Lantern?

There are a lot of things I would like to do with Adventure Lantern. The first objective is to start offering more current content to our readers. I would like Adventure Lantern to be providing coverage on new games as soon as they are released.

Another objective is to strengthen our archives throughout 2006. I would like to see us host at least a hundred reviews before the site is six months old. I would also like to improve the site UI and include more dynamic functionality. Unfortunately, a lot of that has to wait until I can purchase personal copies of Web site development tools I use at my day job.

In the long run, I do have plans to offer Adventure Lantern in multiple languages. I think it would also be interesting to feature at least small sections on other types of gaming such as pen and paper RPGs or board games. I also have pipe dreams like offering Adventure Lantern as an actual printed magazine someday, but we’Â’ll see how that one goes.

Tell us a bit about your journalistic and reviewing work for Just Adventure+

I have been an avid reader of Just Adventure since 2001. I originally joined the staff in 2003 to write about some older adventure games. I wanted to be involved in making the Just Adventure archives more complete. Then I stayed on as an occasional contributor.

I am not exactly the most active member of the Just Adventure staff, but the experience has been really wonderful. The site owner and editor Randy Sluganski has always been kind and supportive towards me. I think Just Adventure is a truly great source of information for any adventure gamer.

How would you describe the current state of the adventure gaming scene?

I am very enthusiastic about adventure games in 2006. There are a number of titles nearing completion, not to mention a host of others that have been recently announced. This could be a truly great year for adventure gamers with a multitude of titles to keep us busy. I am personally excited to see the evolution of our genre and all the games coming our way.

Thanks a lot mate. And good luck.

 

Ten Questions with Tony Gonzales

Romstar logo
Romstar logo

Tony Gonzales

What is your professional background related to gaming?

I had taken electronics in school and a regular hang out type at the local college arcade, I always wondered about the electronics inside and enjoyed looking in when they were being repaired. One particular game was a pain in the neck; the owner had it repaired several times. I idly slapped the cabinet and it did an immediate reset. Turns out that the power supply had leads poking onto a metal casing. Insulated fish paper repaired it for good. That is when he asked me if I wanted a job working on his games. I said yes and games have been a part of my life ever since. The game was Plieades, by the way and the tech at the time with the arcade later went onto fame as the world’s first videogame champion and one of the founders of a major game software company.

Personally when did you start gaming and what did you play?

Always loved pinballs and mechanical games. 7,8,9, no idea of a starting date for liking games. I loved them, though!

One of the companies you worked for was Romstar, can you tell us about what you did there as well as the company itself?

Romstar was my first manufacturing job. I was half the tech department and later headed up the consumer division. Repair, beta testing, phone counselor, manual writing, I was there. Some previous work I did with a friend on an in-house hardware game system resulted in Magic Darts for the NES. I also helped ship, beta test since I had the only truck at the company (strange but true fact, the cabinet for Ninja Warriors was designed to fit the truck, an 88 Toyota short-bed. I still have that truck today). Basically, all of us wore many hats there. Your readers may find this a bit surprising that for a game company that did manufacturing and home games as well as design, the amount of personnel was 14.

Can you tell us about repairing arcade games?

Always a puzzle, always a lot of fun, except when they don’t respond. Each repair teaches me more, and I grew hungry for more knowledge along the way. I still do. Right now as I type this, I am sitting with a Galaxian board in my lap that I had repaired.

What was it like working for SNK?

Lots of fun, lots of hard work. A great balance. Creative juices got out to play, we worked hard to give the customers and distributors good value. Great group to work with, some I still remain in contact today. A huge family, as it were. Same situation at Romstar.

Can you tell us about working on a project that never gets released, does that upset you or are you just glad you had the opportunity to do it?

Tera was probably my favorite project I worked on. That was an in-house designed hardware system. Our vice president had brought in a friend named Doug Hughes, who had designed the old US game board system for Taito (Qix). I spent a week up north on his ranch helping in the design and learning to program it. It was 286 based and programmed in Borland C. Sadly; the system never saw the light of day though some of the programming formed the core game design of Magic Darts on the NES 8 bit. I still have the schematics to this puppy. Might have to hit it up on a CPLD someday 🙂

What was your favorite game related project of your career?

Probably Tera,  I have drawings for what I hope would be a Tera ][ eventually. I revamped the design for a brand new microprocessor I hope to be working with soon called Terbium. Terbium is a 32 bit 65C02 and much more….

What are you currently working on?

I have several projects. The biggest game one I call Pinball Mind. There was a pinball made in the 1970s called Fireball and sold for homes. When the CPU dies on those, they are un-repairable. I designed a piggyback CPU board for those. I have some fun display and light animations at present and I am revamping the code into a cleaner library format. It will release with a whole slew of features to make it worth the cost, including 4 games, a built in contest, possible linking and video capabilities and a software developer’s kit. It is based on the 65C02.

Some other projects include several arcade and redemption games, an alternate reality game which has been in design and some play over the last 4 years, and some music CDs to butress 2 movie soundtracks I am composing.

What games are you currently playing?

Roller Coaster Tycoon 2. Otherwise, I don’t play too much. No time these days!

What is your favorite classic game?

Got too many for different reasons, but Haunted House pinball and Sinistar probably rank in my top, along with Tempest and Chiller.

The Interview: Judd Saul

Frag logo
Frag logo

Judd Saul

Depending on whom you talk to the term Professional Gamer either garners very positive or very negative responses. Some people look upon professional games as nothing more than nerds with too much time on their hands. Those who have seen the good ones play and win respect them for what they do and maybe even wish they could do it themselves.

What is it really like to be a professional gamer? Many people think they know based on something they read or someone who knows someone, but in reality few people actually know what goes on in the professional gaming world.

In the move Frag you get to step in the world of professional gamers to see the truth of what it takes to not only make it, but make it out alive. Here is the synopsis from the official movie page.

Exploited, abused and sometimes abandoned most gamers fail to reach the top, but like all sports heroes exist.   FRAG is the true story of professional video gaming outlining the evolution of the 1980’s arcade game competitions to the elite tournaments of today for millions of dollars around the globe.  Much like the dream of becoming a professional athlete, young cyber-athletes dedicate long hours to achieve their dreams.  They spend hours training and preparing themselves for tournaments knowing their future depends on it.

FRAG sheds light on the struggles these cyber-athletes face while breaking into professional video gaming and maintaining success.  At a young age, professional video gamers are faced with making adult decisions impacting the rest of their lives with sometime little or no support from their families.  Deeper below the surface, you will see much more, an underbelly of corruption, money and drugs.  FRAG pulls back the curtain on one of the biggest sports industries in the world, one that’s just evolving and you know nothing about.

Obsolete Gamer had a chance to talk with Judd Saul executive producer of FRAG and get some insight into the world of professional gaming and the making of this documentary.

Obsolete Gamer: Frag is a documentary about pro-gamers, what made you want to tackle this specific subject?

Judd Saul: I have always been a gamer ever since I was a kid I have owned every major console from the Atari to the PS3 and Xbox360. And I can’t leave out the PC, Duke Nukem through Quake Live.

After starting my production company, I did a lot of corporate gigs and some minor TV stuff. I got bored with it. I wanted to do my own project and I wanted to do a film on a subject I was familiar with. At this time, I ran across news of pro gamers getting paid to play. After feeling somewhat jealous, I decided to research and it was quite clear to me that this is a story that needed to be told.

Obsolete Gamer: Can you tell us a little bit about the development process behind the film?

Judd Saul: Well, I believe you start at the top to get information and work your way into the industry. At the time, the CPL was the biggest league in the business. I went to a CPL tournament in Dallas and started to meet some of the key players involved in the pro gaming industry. We started to collect information and decided that we were going to film what was going on around us and let the story tell itself. But as I was 1/3 into filming, I decided to bring in director Mike Paisley. I realized that I was getting to close to the industry to make an objective film. I needed to bring in an outsider who was not a gamer. What we realized is that we wanted to make a film that was not filtered. We wanted to make a truthful raw film about what we saw and experienced.

Obsolete Gamer: How long did it take to research and film the movie?

Judd Saul: It took a good 2 years from start to completion. 1200 hours shot and condensed to 90 minutes.

Obsolete Gamer: What is Frag’s definition of a Pro-Gamer?

Judd Saul: A gamer that gets paid to play. Whether it’s being sponsored or winning prize money.

Obsolete Gamer: What did you learn about the people who try to become pro-gamers?

Judd Saul: To be a pro gamer takes a lot of tenacity and risk. Like any sport, if you want to be the best and actually get paid to be a pro gamer, you have to practice, and you have to sacrifice. And most people including friends and family will ridicule you for trying. The best gamers have overcome adversity to get to where they are. But at the same time, most of them lack business sense and get into contracts they should have never signed.

Obsolete Gamer: What about those who do not consider gaming a profession or a sport, what has your experience in creating the film taught you about opinions such as those?

Judd Saul: Well, I will say this. I have been playing games all my life. I definitely do not consider myself a noob. But when I play someone like Stermy in Quake and lose -3 to 50, there is an obvious ability over another. I still cannot grasp the incredible hand eye coordination and strategy it takes to be that good. Pro Gamers athletes. They are intelligent, creative, and have the ability to process and react to more information than the average person.

Obsolete Gamer: What is the profile of a pro-gamer if there is one?

Judd Saul: There is not one general profile for a pro gamer. But there are profiles for certain types of gamers. This is going to get me in some trouble and spark some debate, but  what the hell.

MMO gamers are different from FPS players. And PC gamers are way different from Console gamers. I won’t get into it, but really, everyone knows what I am talking about.

Obsolete Gamer: What separates the “great” video game players from the “professional” ones?

Judd Saul: Discipline, Diet, and Focus on the strategy of the game.

Obsolete Gamer: Tell us about the lack of support these pro gamers sometimes deal with regarding their parents, friends and loved ones?

Judd Saul: Gaming is a new way of life, and it’s hard for some parents and loved ones to understand that. Even the most successful gamers still have rocky relationships with family. In fact, when we asked gamers about it, they would shut down and refuse to talk about it. It was like pulling teeth to get them to talk about it on camera. We even tried to get interview with some parents but they refused. (In hind sight, we should have done the Michael More ambush technique, but we didn’t)

Obsolete Gamer: What was one of the secrets of professional gaming that struck a chord with you?

Judd Saul: Well, when we really dug below the surface of the glamour and the sponsorships, we found that most gamers were basically gagged by contracts. They couldn’t speak about problems of not being paid with risk of never being able to compete again.

Obsolete Gamer: Was it difficult to get candid answers from both pro-gamers and their sponsors?

Judd Saul: Yes, it was. In fact memos were sent out across the industry telling gamers not to speak to us. (I found out after we were done shooting) But we still got them to speak out because of their frustration.

Obsolete Gamer: Enlighten us about the corruption involved in pro-gaming?

Judd Saul: Do you remember the movie Semi-Pro? When Jackie Moon gives the homeless guy a BIG CHECK for making a half-court shot, and he takes home the big check and learns he can’t cash it. That’s pretty much sums it up when it comes to pro gaming.

The heads of the different gaming leagues court the sponsors and promise them a great return on their investment and brand exposure. The Leagues make out like bandits, the sponsors after a while learn that their brand exposure is far less than what they were led to believe, then they pull out leaving the gamers hung out to dry because the same sponsors that sponsor the gamers, are the same sponsors that sponsor the leagues. And the leagues are the ones that usually negotiate the contracts for the gamers. At the end of the day, the gamers get paid (if they get paid at all) pennies on the dollar for every dollar brought in.

The other problem is that the gaming organizations/leagues who becomes a pro gamer and who doesn’t. The creation of “gaming organizations” has hurt pro gaming. These are groups in which someone usually with some money and some legal sense comes to the table and says, “Hey, if you sign with us, we will make sure you get paid and we will keep track of your sponsors”. The problem with a lot of these groups is that they get gamers under contract, they don’t pay what they promise and they usually enslave the gamer. If the gamer doesn’t like what’s happening they get kicked out, cock blocked from sponsors and in most cases they are not able to compete any more. I won’t name names, but I know of a gamer who has won over $300,000k in prize money and was only paid $2500 per month for 2 years, and he never saw another dime. Yeah, he got to be a pro gamer, but in my eyes, he got screwed.

I want to be clear; there are some good teams and some great sponsors out there. But for every good one there are 5 bad ones.

Obsolete Gamer: Was there something you wanted to put in the film that you could not?

Judd Saul: In hindsight, I wish I would have confronted some of the bastards of gaming directly. But, we couldn’t get interviews with them.

Obsolete Gamer: What was the biggest challenge you told that pro-gamers face?

Judd Saul: Protecting themselves legally is one of the biggest challenges. The leagues and gaming organizations hold the cards. The gamer has no power.

Obsolete Gamer: In your opinion what is the future of professional gaming?

Judd Saul: Pro gaming will get bigger, and become more main stream. To get it to where it needs to go is going to take a lot of money and someone with a pure heart to take charge. They are going to need to care about the sponsor and deliver what they promise to gamers.

Obsolete Gamer: What was your most memorable moment while filming?

Judd Saul: There are too many moments that have left an impact on my life. But the best thing was being thanked by gamers for getting the truth out.

The Interview: Chris Tremmel

Boogerman game
Boogerman game

Chris Tremmel

There are thousands of great games across all platforms that we as gamers have enjoyed for many years of our lives, but what about the people behind them. Just as there are fans of games there are the game makers themselves who weave a concept into code to be displayed on your system of choice. Many times the idea that became the mega-hit game of the year came to the developer or designer in the middle of the night, but from there it was many sleepless nights to turn that vision into reality.

One of Obsolete Gamer’s main purposes is to get the story behind the game and we do this by speaking with the designers, developers and publishers who helped bring us oh so many hours of enjoyment. Sometimes it begins with a gamer profile where we just find out a game they like and from there a dialog starts and soon you find out all kinds of wonderful information.

This is what happened with our gamer profile of Chris Tremmel. I discovered him through his clothing store, Gamer Cultoure and when he submitted his gamer profile with the game BoogerMan I wanted to find out why he liked that game and what I found out was he was one of the main creators of it. After that I had to learn more and Chris was very accommodating in answering our questions.

Gamer Cultoure logo
Gamer Cultoure logo

Obsolete Gamer: Let’s start with a little history, what was it that got you into gaming and working in the gaming industry?

Chris Tremmel: When I was a kid, my parents hooked me up with a Texas Instruments\99-4A computer. I was already a gamer thanks to PONG, and the AT2600, but the TI-99 allowed me to begin making my own games! I think I started with “porting” my choose your own adventure books into interactive form. 🙂

Obsolete Gamer: When did you begin working at Interplay?

Chris Tremmel: I officially started working at Interplay in 1992 I believe. It’s funny because I first interviewed for a tester spot. I didn’t get the job because my “autoexec.bat, and config.sys” knowledge was a bit rusty. I went home, studied up, and returned for a 2nd interview a month or two later. This time I got the job. The 1st games I tested were the original Alone in the Dark on PC, and the Lost Vikings on the Amiga.

Obsolete Gamer: Who else did you work with primarily at Interplay?

Chris Tremmel: I initially worked in the testing department but quickly made friends with a couple of designers and producers, primarily Mike Stragey and Alan Pavlish.

Obsolete Gamer: What was it like working for them?

Chris Tremmel: I hate to sound really cliche’, but working at Interplay in 1992\1993 was “magical”. I was in awe of everything being made and was thrown right in to working with some of the brightest people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting and working with. It was an amazing time as I was being taught my core design fundamentals by great guys like Mike and Alan. I knew this is what I wanted to do forever.

Obsolete Gamer: When did you first start working on Boogerman?

Chris Tremmel: I believe we started Boogerman in early 1993? It’s hard to remember exactly.

Obsolete Gamer: Who else worked with you on Boogerman?

Chris Tremmel: My boss, and the man that hired me out of test Michael Stragey. 🙂 Also Alan Pavlish was the executive producer who we would run stuff by on a regular basis. We also worked with an external animation house called Little Gangster, as well as some in-house artists, and additional programming support, but primarily it was Mike and myself.

Obsolete Gamer: How did you come up with the concept and story behind Boogerman?

Chris Tremmel: Interplay came to Mike and said “we want to make a gross-out game that appeals to the Garbage Pail Kids demographic.”

Interplay logo
Interplay logo

Obsolete Gamer: Can you tell us a little bit about the development process?

Chris Tremmel: Conceptually we knew we wanted to make a “gross” game. Mike came up with the idea of a gross Superhero and off we went! The ideas just starting pouring out from Michael and myself, I would say we were never short of ideas for characters, locations, etc.

As for the design of the characters, we worked very closely with Little Gangster and went through dozens of designs until we finally settled on what you see today. Funny enough, several of the bosses in the game including the main boss BoogerMiester were originally design concepts for Boogerman himself.

Obsolete Gamer: When Boogerman was ready to launch did you believe you had a hit on your hands?

Chris Tremmel: Ya know, this is a weird thing… I was so new to the industry and so excited and stoked every day to be making games that I never really thought about “hits”. We knew we had something fun, and we knew people responded to the content the way we wanted, so that was enough for me. I still remember our very 1st magazine preview EVER. It was in Diehard Gamefan, they dubbed it an “instant classic”, we were happy.

Now some gaming sites and magazines game you high marks while others gave you more middle of the road scores. Do you think they just didn’t get it or what was the disconnect?

I think we were pretty happy with the reviews. We had some serious competition that year with Earthworm Jim being released at the same time. I think Boogerman got the scores it deserved, it was a good game, just not everyones cup of tea.

Obsolete Gamer: What was your feeling about winning the grossest character of 1994 award from Electronic Gaming monthly?

Chris Tremmel: Honored for sure. The entire Boogerman universe is still very close to our hearts to this day (Mike and myself). I still believe the franchise has a lot of potential.

Obsolete Gamer: Was there a plan to make more Boogerman related games?

Chris Tremmel: Yes, absolutely. AND a cartoon. The cartoon was actually started, at least script writing, character design, etc. but I believe in the end Universal went with the Earthworm Jim cartoon that was in development at the same time. Which btw, I am a massive EWJ fan and I loved loved loved the cartoon.

There were clocks made, t-shirts, and even a Boogerman phone. In addition we DID start the sequel on the Sega Saturn. We had a basic design document done and had contracted some amazing matte painters to start working on backgrounds. Unfortunately, it never came to fruition. Michael and myself left Interplay to pursue work with another company, I think we both wish Boogerman 2 could have been made. We had some really fun ideas.

Obsolete Gamer: How was it to see Boogerman released for the virtual console in 2008?

Chris Tremmel: Neither Mike or myself were involved in this. I believe this happened after Interplay changed hands. We were incredibly happy to see it up there though, downloaded it immediately!

Obsolete Gamer: Did you play Boogerman a lot yourself and do you still play it today?

Chris Tremmel: Absolutely! Mike and I both played all the time while making the game, AND after the game was released. Out of all the games I have made, this one probably got played the most. I definitely still bust it out once or twice a year. I like looking back and try to figure out what the heck I was thinking with a particular layout, or just to laugh at some of the character designs. Lot’s of laughing during the development.

Obsolete Gamer: After Boogerman what came next for you?

Chris Tremmel: Mike and I left Interplay to make a game for EA based on a Saturday morning TV show called “Bump in the Night”. Unfortunately this game was never finished\released, although we did have a rad demo running on the Saturn. I ended up at Virgin Interactive after that working on the N64.

Gamer Cultoure dog tag
Gamer Cultoure dog tag

Obsolete Gamer: Can you tell us a little about Gamer Cultoure?

Chris Tremmel: Sure! Gamer Cultoure is a side project I have started that is clothing centric. It’s really a basic line of T-shirts, hoodies, etc. that are gaming themed. The line is really small right now, but I intend to continue to grow it over the next year or two. After leaving Activision early in the year I decided to take a little time off and try something different for a little while. It has been a fun, rewarding process for sure.

Obsolete Gamer: What do you think of gaming today in comparison to gaming back in the early to mid nineties?

Chris Tremmel: Oh no, this is a loaded question. 🙂 It is definitely different. The process has become more complicated, usually requiring a large number of people to make something significant. The money involved in some of the triple A games is staggering with some budgets now reaching 100 million dollars. That naturally changes everything in terms of peoples priorities, and agendas. Sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. One of the nice things though as of late is seeing the rise of the “indie” studios, small teams executing on great ideas. It is very easy to get distracted now a days when making something. The bar has been raised so high, and with so much money involved it takes some serious planet-aligning powers to take something killer to market. All of that being said, I hope the younger guys and girls that are in the industry today feel the same sense of magic that I felt in 1992.

Obsolete Gamer: Are you working on any video games at the moment?

Chris Tremmel: As of right this second, no. Expect that to change very soon. I will definitely keep you posted any news. 🙂

I quickly wanted to give a shout out to all the people I worked with at Interplay. Thanks Mike, Alan, Brian, Rusty, Tim, Burger, Kerry, and way too many more to list. All of you guys helped me get started on this amazing journey and I appreciate it to this day.

Obsolete Gamer would like to thank Chris Tremmel for taking the time to answer our questions.

Aion Assault on Balaurea – Q&A

AION Assault On Balaurea logo
AION Assault On Balaurea logo

Aion Assault on Balaurea

The free expansion Assault on Balaura is set for release on September 7th and those looking for retail boxes containing a exclusive in game pet can find them on select store shelves on September 7th in the U.S. and 10th in the U.K.

In Aion: Assault on Balaurea, the exciting new chapter of Aion, characters have the ability to align together to launch massive counter assaults against the invading Balaur on their homeland while experiencing new and updated instances and zones, an increased level cap, new weapons and items, new skills and added flight mechanics. Characters will not be alone as they explore the new areas, as Aion introduces functional pets equipped with in-game benefits.

Unlike any MMO before it, Aion is a uniquely crafted online gaming experience where flight offers much more than just a way to gracefully explore the landscape – it is a strategic and integral part of combat, quests, and exploration. Players will use flight to dive into battle and plunge through thousands of unique, story-driven quests, all while trying to save and control a world literally shattered in half from centuries of brutal conflict.

While many Aion fans are eagerly awaiting the expansion there are still questions and concerns being raised by the fans of the popular MMO. Obsolete Gamer was able to get some questions answered thanks to Chris Hager, a producer of Aion.

Obsolete Gamer: There are many people that believe the  release date will be pushed back. I am sure like with anything that is a possibility, but as of today does it seem likely?

Chris Hager: I’ve learned to always be cautious when giving a date, especially when it’s the date for a major update or in game event.  The last thing we want to be is inconsistent, and to push dates back, but in the example of our server merge, we felt that it was in the player’s best interests that we make sure a service is 100% before we go forward with it.  That being said, I am extremely confident that the 9/7 live date is accurate, and just to be clear, that is the date Assault on Balaurea will be on the LIVE servers (hint:  PTS will be BEFORE that).

Obsolete Gamer: Will there be a version sold in Oceania(Australia) that matches all the items and codes that will come with the US/EU version?

Chris Hager: We will be having a retail box for Australia that will contain their own item, unique to NA/EU.

 

Aion screenshot
Aion screenshot

Obsolete Gamer: There are rumblings that the release is an “ace card” move because of troubles with Aion, can you address this?

Chris Hager: If you go back and look at our normal schedules, this release is actually right on pace with our normal release schedule and commitment to getting new updates to the players as efficiently as possible while maintaining the high standards we set with the initial launch.  It also falls into place nicely with our upcoming 1 year anniversary.  There were a lot of factors that went into the Assault on Balaurea exact release date, but none of those factors had to do with perceived troubles with Aion.  It was all about getting the latest and greatest to the players and giving them more of what they want as quickly as we can.

 

Obsolete Gamer: How do you feel about the current balance issues with Aion and are there any changes or fixes in the works?

Chris Hager: Every MMO that I’ve ever played or worked on has always pursed balance, and I don’t think any of them ever achieved it.  You tweak one thing here, and another thing breaks as a result.  It’s a constant battle, but I think it’s one that we do well.  When we see areas that need more balancing or bugs that need fixing, we respond to it as quickly as we can, and if needed report it directly to the development team if it’s something we can’t fix in house.  The 1.9 build was a good example of identifying balance and game issues our players feel are important, and fixing them.  We’ve continued listening to our players, and identified areas which need further refinement, and that feedback was also incorporated into Assault on Balaurea.  As issues come up, we try to determine how big the issue is, how best to fix it and not affect other areas, and how quickly we can get it fixed.

Aion screenshot
Aion screenshot

Obsolete Gamer: With merged servers do you feel overcrowding may occur?

Chris Hager: When the idea of merging the servers came together that was the first thing we looked at, and was one of many deciding factors on what servers to actually merge together.  When you look at Aion’s core as a game, it thrives on players being in the game to drive the economy and PvP.  For both of those things to happen successfully, you need a lot of players.  Post merge, our servers have a ton of action on them, plenty of groups to find, a thriving economy (lower broker prices, woot!) and a very active Abyss and PvP element.  It is a much more complete game with more players on each server, and I think the community is extremely pleased with the overall effects.

 

Obsolete Gamer: Everyone will ask “what is next” can you give us any hints as to what is next for Aion as far as content and editions?

Chris Hager: I’d love to tell everyone what I’ve seen is on the schedule for the near and long term for Aion, but I’ve been sworn to secrecy.  All I can say is that there will be some great new additions, some of which players have asked for and some that are completely new but equally great.

Obsolete Gamer would like to thank Chris Hager and the team over at Aion for answering our questions. For more information about Aion and Aion: Assault on Balaurea please visit their official website at http://www.aiononline.com

Interview – CoLD SToRAGE (Tim Wright)

CoLD SToRAGE (Tim Wright)
Cold Storage logo

We recently interviewed one of our favorite musicians CoLD SToRAGE (Tim Wright). The following is the interviewRead More