>> Saturday, November 2, 2013
Dana Hanna remembers... ''My lead artist, Rantz, was a comic book artist, and he knew The Crow well. I was also a big fan - my comic book collection was nothing to sneeze at''.
Dana Hanna reflects on her time at Philips.. ''I had recently returned from the UK where I had been helping out on 7th Guest and Burn:Cycle. The Philips studio in Surrey had been closed after 7th Guest shipped. I gathered a small internal production team in the LA offices, unofficially named Black Mariah, mainly to do localizations and ports of those two games. We were also trying to finish up work on Microcosm, which had been produced in the Surrey studio - but that's another story. We wanted an original game to work on together.
The group decided to throw our collective hat in the ring for The Crow project. We worked our butts off putting together a pitch book. I think it got done in about a month. Senior Management at Philips saw that we had a lot of passion for the project and gave us a shot.
I had some good talent lined up. The game, true to the style of the time, was going to have a lot of live action footage and CG environments. We got an amazing team lined up and agreeing to work on a tiny budget. Gustavo Garzon was going to direct - he's gone on to win Grammy awards for his music videos. We had Dave Ehlers, Daniele Colajacomo and his team creating the 3D environments. We met with Edward Pressman (Pressman Films) and he liked the pitch. It was pretty exciting for our young team.
Anyway, a few days after we signed a contract with Daniele, new management at Philips killed the game. I'm not sure if the guy who killed it even saw the pitch - he never met with the team. A few games I've worked on since have been cancelled, but this one hurt the most. We had a tremendous love for the project and for the license. It was more than just business for us.
Philips was happy to let us try to shop the idea to other publishers, but nothing came together. I moved on to Virgin Interactive a few months after the project ended.
I have such fond memories of my time at Philips... many of us still keep in touch. We used to call it 'Philips University', since it was a first games job for many of us who went on to have good careers in the industry. 'The Crow' team is still one of my favorites in all my years in the business.
''When we were shopping the game to other publishers, we did up one-of-a-kind binders with original art for the documentation. I kept one.''. I'm SO glad you did, Dana :-)
The 'Skull Cowboy' character - looks quite menacing!
Tin Tin character.
Sarah character - looks quite cool doesn't she?
Very interesting to see how the interactive content and non-interactive would have played. From this, I would say that the game may have been similar in gameplay terms to Cyber Soldier Sharaku.
The artwork looks fantastic.
Action shots - looks like the showdown!
Thanks to Alan from Philips CD-i Zone for this!
>> Friday, October 4, 2013
Gary is pictured here on holiday with his wife Rebecca Newman, who was the manager of Sidewalk Studios. Both an MBA and a fine artist, she added greatly to the smooth running of the large team there. Gary reminisces about his time working on philips cd-i ''During the course of our eight years at Philips Media, over time those of us at Sidewalk Studio improved our software, our production techniques, and our understanding as to what we were doing creatively. Due to my narrative background as a Hollywood screenwriter and movie aficionado, and the characteristics of CD-i as a television peripheral device with the benefit of a standard format as opposed to the continually changing technology of computers, this led to a certain approach in our group. This was to explore potential interactive genres for children.''
"Surf City" was of a labor of love where we were trying to expand what the category for children could mean. "Surf City" was designed for kids who were a bit older and who might enjoy the mixture of Beach Boys music, the geography of a beach town circa 1966, animated music videos, amusing games that referenced the 1960's, and a narrative that was woven in and among all of these to tell a typical story of teenage love. With regards to the Beach Boys soundtrack, we were trying to get the rights to their music for a while when, finally, someone named Ted Cohen, who had background in the music business and who was married to a Philips Media executive, Laura Cohen, became essential to working out the deal and the rights issues. Of course, as was the case at the time, rights holders had no idea as to what we were doing, so we had to endlessly describe the project as best we could and we were able to make deals that no traditional entertainment format could possibly have made. If "Surf City" had been a movie, the rights would have had to be perpetual and they would have cost a great deal more.
So many of the holes in Wacky Golf were crazy--and funny. The game was made with a number of devoted people who had a bit of sadistic fun in them and kept adjusting the holes to make them more and more difficult. I speak specifically of Dug Ward who had a lot of creative input on the holes and Todd Williams who kept turning the screws tighter as we developed the title. Also, "Wacky Golf" had the same art director, Alex Stevens, as many of our other titles, so he contributed greatly to the look of this comic and playful miniature golf course. And Brian Truitt was the editor on these sequences (as he was on all of our Sidewalk Studio titles) who helped perfect the timing. In fact, Brian was the longest lasting person on our team, besides Rebecca and me. As with all the titles, Rebecca and I were also involved in the planning and execution of "Wacky Golf." But I think on this one there were more hands involved in the design than usual, in particular Dug Ward, and it turned out well for their involvement.
A lot has been talked about regarding the difficulty of producing games on the cd-i platform. For you, what were the major obstacles?
Wow! Are you kidding?! The obstacles were innumerable. Unfortunately, every producer or production group was left to solve these on his or her own. We were fortunate in that our early titles, such as "Cartoon Jukebox" and "Sandy's Circus Adventure," which we made under Frank Huttinger, who had hired us and was our old friend, were very well liked. For those titles, for example, we had to figure out everything. While off-the-shelf software was utilized, we used it almost as soon as it was released and we had to combine anything like that with tools we ourselves created that would work together. We also had to develop software that would run video and audio in synchronization, something that was not native to the CD-i machine. So as to keep everything in order, Rebecca, whose MBA was in Marketing and Information Systems, worked with the software engineers assigned to us to develop an eight-digit file management system, wherein each digit represented a different file state. This allowed us to always know which file was a later file and should be used in the disc build. Seems obvious, right? But other groups were not so lucky to have Rebecca working with them. They didn't remember which files were which and everything was a disorganized mess. And so, while we began working on these two titles well after others started their own, "Cartoon Jukebox," as I recall, was the first CD-i title ever finished. They even had a little party for it. Furthermore, we eventually finished six of the first 32 titles available for the initial release of the CD-i platform. This was because we had conquered so many technical problems and also because we were smart enough to be unusually well organized.
Did you have any games in the pipeline for cd-i, which were unreleased? Is there a game that you would have liked to produce for the system? We had planned a title called "Junior Detective" that was a teenage adventure game set in a science fantasy future. We wrote the story concept, created the production designs, but it never moved forward, unfortunately, due to various issues. Too bad. Fortunately, at Sidewalk we didn't have too many titles like that and this was a big difference from my life in Hollywood where I would write scripts that would never see the light of day or where they did get produced were so changed by subsequent writers or the director that I never knew whether I had done something wrong or whether it was done wrong by others. The great thing about Sidewalk Studio for me was that I had rather complete creative control. So while there were many contributors to our titles without whom they would not have been as good, if something was wrong with one of them, it was most likely my fault and if something was right then it was because I thought it was worthy enough to release to the public. Our last two titles were CD-ROMs: "Babysitter's Club Friendship Kit" (based on a well-known girl teen series of books) and a wonderful original title "Story About Me." Unfortunately, neither was released by Philips because it closed down first. "Babysitter's" was sold off to another distribution company whereas "Story About Me" just never got released although we finished it. It would be instructional to see the difference between these two titles and our last two CD-i titles because they are clearly different, designed to utilize the more tool-like nature of the computer as opposed to the entertainment nature of the television.
What do you think is the main reason that the cd-i did not take off? I think it was a mixture of issues. At the basic level, no one in marketing had figured out where in the store the player would be sold. Was it an audio device, a television device, a game device? Also, it seemed to us that it wasn't sold well for what it was. It was sold as a hodgepodge. Then, there were the external issues, the fact that computer games which involved more recombination of elements than audiovisual display were worked on by so many different developers. Of course, the irony is that nowadays those games developed for Windows 95 or whatever can't be played while, if one has a CD-i player, all the discs are still playable.
Do you think that cd-i was ahead of it's time? Actually, it was out of sync of its time and I think this was because the marketing folk and hardware engineers at Philips Electronics never thought hard enough about what they were creating. Therefore, the CD-i machine was in a marketplace competing with the computer world, on the one hand, and the proprietary television peripheral systems (Nintendo, PSX, etc.) on the other hand. This is because of the nature of creating a fixed standard is something the Consumer Electronics industry always does, and the benefit of this is that all CD's play on all CD players and all CD-i discs play on all CD-i players. But CD-i was competing against both the computer industry and proprietary standards that allowed for for continuous hardware and software development. And the way things were and are is that games players prefer their machines to continually expand the edges of technology rather than have something that can be played on any player anywhere always. I think, also, there were some execs at Philips who didn't quite understand what the overall market was like.
Do you look back fondly on your time working on philips cd-i titles? Absolutely. For those of us who worked at Sidewalk, it was a highly enjoyable experience. The people were so great, both individually and in mixture. Combining game designers, software engineers, production managers, animators, writers led to a stimulating environment. Many of them said it was the best place they ever worked and Rebecca and I would absolutely agree. Of course, Sidewalk wasn't the only successful group, but we were one of the few which were most successful.
>> Wednesday, September 4, 2013
A small collection of cd-i controllers.
Alan: I bought this from the former head of Philips Media games. It doesn't work with any of my cd-i players, but how cool it is. The only way I know it was released is because it appears on the packaging of the cd-i game 'The rules of golf'. The joystick controller is very 'sticky' though so I wouldn't want to play games with it. More designed for audio CD's I'd say.
Loren Nerell replied: "That controller was for a development CDi player. No developers had machines before the retail machine was released so that they could make the software, all the development machines were this color. I worked at Philips Media LA from 90-96, so I remember them well."
This was only available direct from my old mate Gamgator2000 on ebay. It allows an external gamepad to be connected to the cd-i via a convertor (left of picture). One recently sold for a high price. Using a Sega gamepad just adds a little extra, as you can use 'turbo' mode.
How about this? I found it a few years ago in Germany. Allows you to use a Sony playstation gamepad in conjunction with a cd-i joystick. You can use either - I've never tried to use both at the same time. But I will! The analog sticks do not work though, which is a shame.
Wow! This was available for a short time on ebay this week. A fully working prototype wireless controller, with mini trackball. Allows both left and right handed players to play. Was going to be released just before the end of cd-i. Did anyone snap this up? Would love to know..
>> Monday, August 19, 2013
Magazines, flyers, catalogues and some interesting stuff... All collected by Alan from Philips CD-i Zone:
Showcasing the power and spec of the 220 model.
This features dozens of unknown professional cd-i releases/point of sale discs. The XDRA discs all feature, along with the 'Getting Ahead' series. Also there is 'The Memory Works'. I'm going to make some enquries to see if I can track down some of these discs...
Very interesting find! A U.S.A. cd-i magazine from 1993, possibly the only issue ever released. Featuring reviews of Alice in Wonderland and an interview with the Cheers actor pictured. Fantastic!
Interesting brochure encouraging you to buy cd-i and pick up airmiles at the same time!
The games list features 2 interesting entries... Microcosm and Return to Cybercity (both unreleased)
From William Wallace's collection. This was distributed by the UK store Dixons, on the launch day of Chaos Control for cd-i in 1994. Very rare today, this is the first one I've ever seen. A true collector's item. MANY THANKS William for sharing this picture.
Check these out!! Never seen them before, didn't know they were released along with the game. Can anyone confirm this? They definitely were not part of the peacekeeper revolver boxset. Very cool stuff..
>> Friday, August 2, 2013
To our knowledge, the only cd-i's released in 1998, and showing this year on the cd-i and/or inlay.
The Lost Ride is a cutting edge game graphically, and pushes the cd-i to it's absolute limits. It shows what the machine is capable of, but contains bugs. P.A.W.S. is extremely rare and contains 2 games in one. Firstly, you take a dog's eye view and search around the garden looking for bones. No two games are the same, which is fantastic. Secondly, and my favourite of the two, is where the dog puts on a jet pack and has to deliver and collect bones to dogs in windows. The better you do, the faster you can go! Rollerball basic skills was designed to be played online, and is a children's title which contains simple mini games. Journeys through Victorian London is one of my favourite information cd-i discs. You can either select chapters to watch or let the disc play through. SO MUCH info on here, with great accompanying visuals.
1998 seems like yesterday to me! i remember when I heard the Lost Ride was coming out, and couldn't wait to play it. 1997 was a good year for cd-i releases, and I hoped 1998 would be the same. But things were winding down....
>> Friday, July 19, 2013
A collection of cd-i's which were released in different packaging from the jewel case or the early release boxes.
I only got this last week, having been searching for it. I think this is so cool - The Wines of France in authentic wooden wine type packaging. This actually features a game if you search for it - when the butler appears, click on the plate and then on the dice. The object of the game is to guess which wines would go with a particular type of meal, from multiple choice options. I'm no wine buff - in fact I don't drink it - but against my mate I ended up guessing 8/10 - how did that happen?
Another great release from our friends in France. This comes in a book type packaging. The game features superb graphics and you must report on news events, by recording events and clues. A bit like Voyeur, but the only problem is that it tests my French language skills to their limits, and therefore I struggle to understand much of it. Great fun though.
Rear of the 'book' type packaging on Les Guignols de L'Info. For those that remember 'Spitting Image', this is the French equivalent of that.
This is a rarity. I didn't know it existed until last year, when I bought several Dutch cd-i magazines. There are 4 discs included, in folding packaging. They are designed for younger Dutch children learning English.
The 4 discs, in nice colourful packaging. Noah's Ark, Mother Goose, All the fun of the fair and Emperor's New Clothes.
The only cd-i game to be released in DVD style packaging - Frog Feast - in 2007. Made by Charles Doty and published by Oldergames.com. This is a simple but very entertaining game, and my friends always request this when they come round for a cd-i session! Also can be played 1 player but not nearly as fun as competing against your friends to catch the flies!
Rear cover to Frog Feast. An old friend of mine known as Omegalfa did a great review of this game for his website 'le monde du cdi' now sadly defunct. He is mentioned in the credits, along with Devin (from the Blackmoon project) and Bas (interactive dreams website). Can't believe it will be 6 years ago as I write that this game was released. More were promised from Charles, but unfortunately never saw a release (and that is very much the story of cd-i).
[Thanks, Philips CD-i Zone]