>> Friday, September 19, 2014
partspitmike: "I worked on this game from 1992 to 1994. Other than the 2 years I worked on this I was never a video game developer. I work doing TV shows and Commercials. Doing the Phillips CD-i game was great the first year when we were creating assets, but the machine could not handle what we wanted to do. At the time I was told Nintendo lost a lawsuit with Phillips and part of the penalty was for Phillips to be allowed to use Mario in a game. They picked a Toronto Company named Cigam who talked a great pitch and promised them the moon and the stars. I was hired on initially as the storyboard illustrator to develop the concepts and they liked what I did so much I was asked to help write and direct the game and run the Art Department.
At the time the brain trust thought that the best way to get realistic backgrounds was to film them. This was before the Quake 3D engine. The advantage to filming was the realism on one layer and the game art (sprites) were on the layer above, drawn to match shadows and lighting. The look was very much like Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
Unlike Quake it was not a "sandbox environment" and you could not go anywhere. We compensated by filming strictly defined POV areas like the Niagara River, open channels in the Louisiana Bayou and highways in Monument Valley. That was the best part - filming the background assets all over the US in camera cars, speedboats and helicopters.
The idea was for Mario to cross the US. If I recall the sequences were.. New York Skyline from a Helicopter, Niagara Falls upper rapids to Falls, Niagara Gorge to Whirlpool, a Detroit Auto Factory (never completed) , Carlsbad Caverns, Florida Space Shuttle Ride, Fort Knox, Louisiana Bayou from Speedboat,
Vintage Steam Train fight (on top of travelling boxcar),in Texas, Monument Valley Motorcycle Race on Highway, Las Vegas Neon Race (never completed) Los Angeles Car Race on Highway at Night ... all these would end with a final battle at Graumann's Theatre where Mario had to defeat a combination of all the enemies he had met going across the USA. This final sequence was never completed.
When it came time for the programmers to do the game, the background footage took so much memory to run we were left with very little memory to do the game. The very first programmer quit right after he read the specs on the CD-I player... probably within the first 3 weeks.
I remember he said " the whole foundation is built on quicksand"
The Art Department was soon chopping out animation frames left and right the end result looked iffy -- still better than anything else in 1992 but not what I had hoped for. Eventually after two years in development, I guess Phillips got tired of waiting for delivery. The sales of the CDI player were sucking and without Mario - who was supposed to be the "Killer App" -- they were getting even worse.
Mario Takes America stopped real fast.. i didn't get paid for my final 2 weeks, but all in all I evened out as my first year Christmas Bonus basically covered that.
As far as the gameplay went, the style of game was driven by the footage that was shot. The New York Skyline was a 2D side scrolling game shot out the left side of a helicopter. Most of the footage was shot moving towards the action, behind Mario. This was true for the Niagara Falls scenes, The Bayou, the Monument Valley Highway and the LA Freeway scenes. There was a fight on the top of a train with the camera pointed forward on one of the passenger cars where you could see the Koopas climbing up the side of the car in front of you. They would reach your position and fight with Mario. Each enemy had a different fighting style.
The other video I have is of his "Backup" Video Game. Near the end, things were starting to go bad and he had the art department do a version of Mario Takes America where we replaced all the Mario Sprites with another hero of his own creation called "Metal".
Metal was a Rock & Roll Star who looked like Dee Snider from Twisted Sister. He had a big Roadie Assistant named "Heavy" (I kid you not) who would help out from time to time. As I said we simply renamed all the sprites and had the programming dept plug the new sprites into the code. MRIONY04 became HEVYNY04 and so on.
We also did some sequences with Sonic subbing for Mario. At that point I started sending out resumes again as it sure looked as if the company was grasping at straws.
I believe I also saw the CD-I Zelda Game and played it. It had collision detection issues and was very boring as the CD-I player could not handle too many sprites on the screeen at once. Phillips would send beta versions of their in production games to us to show what other programmers were doing. I guess they may have sent ours out to other companies as well. I only remember a Phillips guy coming out to see us once. They really did not seem to attempt to manage the project at all from what I saw.
I am reluctant to post any of these tapes as the producer was highly litigious and even though I understand he has passed away I am fairly certain the family is as well.
I do have some photos of the filming, which may be interesting... though they do not of course show any game play."