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The making of Battle Chess CD-i and the Interplay license

>> Sunday, October 14, 2007

You may remember about this deal announced August 1994 between Philips Media and Interplay to develop three games on CD-i, Battle Chess, The Lost Vikings and a third unnamed project. The Black Moon Project came into posession of a prototype for Battle Chess. Following the discovery that the CD-i conversion for Battle Chess actually existed on CD-i in prototype form we at Black Moon have been feverishly writing up an article over the past month gradually piecing together all the resources we could find. This includes some very nice in game screenshots, picture of the prototype disc itself and also some movie clips. We were fortunate enough to find the lead programmer who worked on this project who was willing to submit to a brief interview. Previously available by Black Moon but screaming for a wide audience; Battle Chess was technically very impressive on CD-i! Interactive Dreams collects our favourite bits:

CDi Magazine UK No. 7 : “Interplay to release three games on CDi” - Leading US video games publisher Interplay Productions is to develop and publish three high quality games for CDi. The deal, between Interplay and Philips Media Games, will bring Lost Vikings, Battle Chess and a third (as yet unnamed title) to the CD-i format. They will be distributed by Philips. “This is a terrific endorsement from one of the industry’s finest producers, “ says David McElhatten, president of Philips Media Games. “Interplay’s commitment to publish in the CDi format is yet another significant step in the continuing growth of this publishing platform.”
Lost Vikings, an award-winning puzzle/strategy game is a brain-twisting adventure where players must lead three vikings off a mysterious spaceship back to their homeland in Scandahoovia. The title contains 43 levels and the CDi version will have never seen before Digital Video animation.
Battle Chess brings players of the classic strategy game into the humerous medieval world where the characters jump to life in dramatic 3D animation. The title has 45 minutes of CD quality sound and animated tutorials that teach the player each piece’s movement, history and strategy.

Jeff: "Accent Media was a spinoff of a company I worked for that did computer graphics for television, film, and games. We had done numerous game show television projects and were approached to work on computer game versions of some of those shows. We did several for CD-i including Jeopardy and the Joker’s Wild. From there we did pc and other console game projects until that company closed in 1997 or so. I have continued doing game and television/film projects on my own since then.

Battle Chess was set up to be a quick port to try and get some more mainstream game titles on to CD-i. Interplay at the time was having problems and were not really behind the project. Getting assets and code was pretty difficult and the project was not really well suited to the CD-i machine with its relatively low cpu power. I don’t remember the exact timeframe but we worked on in for quite a few months and got it just about ready to ship. There were some compliance issues and it needed further optimization when the word came down that PIMA (the Santa Monica portion of Philips) was closing down. The project was pretty quickly cancelled.

If I recall correctly, most of the team was on other projects. I did the first pass at getting the game up and running. We had another programmer who worked on the code and a contractor from PIMA helped with low level optimization. There were several artists who worked on asset conversion. But it was a relatively small team. I don’t recall ever seeing the Interplay people. We would get a disc of data (I think it was the 3DO version or perhaps PC). Most of the art assets were converted using our in-house tools.

The main problem was the Battle Chess code had gone through many ports and alterations and was fundamentally based on a public domain chess engine. The code was a mess and thing like memory management (a big issue on CD-i) was handled poorly. The code was not optimized much at all and really played a pretty poor game of chess particularly when you gave it limited time to think. It really just aborted where it was at if you gave it a time limit. A chess engine could have been done well from scratch on the machine, but that engine on that system was tough.

We sent out test masters to have compliance checking and we had a few problems (ui and some hanging crashes). There were issues with the many different configurations of CD-i (always a big issue on the platform). The game wouldn’t play well on one certain model with one memory config for example. Myself and another engineer were set to fly out to the Netherlands to do a optimization pass and fix some last problems on their big simulator or something. I had my passport and ticket and the day of the trip, if I recall right, the project was cancelled. We probably had about two weeks to go before gold master. Not the first or last time that happened for me. But there is always something new to work on. Similar problems happened on the ill-fated Atari-Jaguar, Sega Saturn, 3DO. But that is just part of the business."

So a decade after the first mention of a conversion to CD-i in CD-i Magazine a working prototype of Battle Chess has been found from a specialist collector of the format. Originally purchased from Philips Eindhoven in the Netherlands as a job lot, this prototype was buried under a pile of already commercially released games. It comes on Kodak Writable media typical of the time with version 1.07 and a date of 4/10/96 scribed on the CD which tallies with the time period this game would have been developed. As with previously discovered prototypes from this time like Plunderball, Battle Chess seems to be a fully formed game. Including the Philips CD-i bumper and Interplay logo before entering the title screen where you can even play a tutorial which literally talks you through the basic rules of chess with fully animated pieces. The game offers both 3D animated and a more traditional 2D view which incidently can be changed on the fly mid game if those lengthy animations ever become tiresome. This is a prototype game and as such has some bugs especially in respect to the Artificial Intelligence, it doesn't play a good game of chess. Besides this a few graphical glitches and hangups are all that sets this apart from a fully formed game. It's a base case title and as such doesn't require the extra memory from the Digital Video Cartridge.

Finally, I'll show you some in-game footage, from start to end. In this video, I don't start a game because my 490 happens to crash everytime I do that. Typically on other models including the 370 portable CD-i player it plays without any error. You can see the bugs in the Accent Media bumper but for the rest the game runs flawlessly.

Thanks to Devin, Calypso, Jeff

1 reacties:

Anonymous,  April 7, 2015 at 6:35 AM  

Could you please make the video public?

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Games 0-F

3rd Degree - PF Magic
7th Guest, The - Philips Freeland Studios
Accelerator - SPC/Vision
Adventure of the Space Ship Beagle, The - Denshi Media Services
Affaire Morlov, L' - Titus
Alfapet - Adatek
Alice in Wonderland - Spinnaker
Alien Gate - SPC Vision
Alien Odyssee - Argonaut
Aliens Interactive CD-i - Dark Vision Interactive
Ange et le Demon, L' - Smart Move
Apprentice, The - SPC Vision
Apprentice 2, The - Marvin's Revenge - SPC Vision
Arcade Classics - Philips ADS / Namco
Asterix - Caesar’s Challenge - Infogrames
Atlantis - The Last Resort - PRL Redhill (Philips ADS)
Axis and Allies - CapDisc
Backgammon - CapDisc
Battle Chess - Accent Media (for Interplay)
Battleship - CapDisc
Big Bang Show - Infogrames
BMP Puzzle - Circle (for ZYX)
Brain Dead 13 - Readysoft
Burn:Cycle - Trip Media
Caesar's World of Boxing - Philips POV
Caesar's World of Gambling - CD-I Systems
Cartoon Academy - Bits Corporation
CD-i mit der Maus - SPC Vision
CD Shoot - Eaglevision Interactive Productions
Change Angels Kick-off - HMO
Chaos Control - Infogrames
Christmas Country - Creative Media
Christmas Country - The Lost Levels - Creative Media
Christmas Crisis - DIMA
Clue - 3T Productions
Clue 2 - The mysteries continue - 3T Productions
Connect Four - CapDisc
Creature Shock - Argonaut (for Virgin)
Crime Patrol - CapDisc
Crow, The - Philips POV
Cyber Soldier Sharaku - Japan Interactive media
Dame was Loaded, The - Beam Software
Dark Castle - Philips POV
Dead End - Cryo
Defender of the Crown - Philips POV
Deja Vu - Icom Simulations
Deja Vu 2: Lost in Las Vegas - Icom Simulations
Demolition Man - Virgin Interactive Entertainment
Demon Driver - Haiku Studios
Discworld - Teeny Weeny Games
Dimo's Quest - SPC Vision
Domino - Wigant Interactive Media
Down in the Dumps - Haiku Studios
Dragon's Lair - Superclub / INTL CDI
Dragon's Lair 2- Time Warp - Superclub / INTL CDI
Drug wars - Crime Patrol II - CapDisc
Dungeons & Dragons - PF Magic
Earth Command - Visionary Media
Effacer - CapDisc
Escape from Cybercity - Fathom Pictures
Evidence - Microids
Falco & Donjon & The Sword of Inoxybur - BMi / Zephyr Studio
Family Games I - DIMA
Family Games II - Junk Food Jive - DIMA
Felix the Cat - Philips Sidewalk Studio
Flashback - Delphine/Tiertex (for US Gold)
Flinstones Wacky Inventions - Philips Funhouse
Fort Boyard: The Challenge - Microids
Frog Feast - Rastersoft

CD-i Games Index G-M

Go - CapDisc
Golden Oldies - SPC Vision
Golden Oldies II - SPC Vision
Golgo 13 - Japan Interactive Media
Great day at the races, A - CD-I Racing, Dove Films, Total Vision
Guignols de l'Info, Les - Canal+ Multimedia / INTL CDI
Heart of Darkness - Amazing Studio (for Virgin)
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, The - Philips Kaleidoscope
Holland Casino CD-i - HMO
Hotel Mario - Philips Fantasy Factory
Inca - Coktel Vision
Inca 2 - Coktel Vision
International Tennis Open - Infogrames
Jack Sprite vs. The Crimson Ghost - PF Magic
Jeopardy - Accent Media
Jigsaw - Novalogic
Joe Guard - DIMA
John Dark: Psychic Eye - CapDisc
Joker's Wild!, The - Accent Media
Joker's Wild Jr., The - Accent Media
Kether - Infogrames
Kingdom - The far reaches - CapDisc
Kingdom 2 - Shadoan - CapDisc
Labyrinth of Crete - Philips Funhouse
Laser Lords - Spinnaker
Last Bounty Hunter, The - CapDisc
Legend of the Fort - Microids
Lemmings - DMA Design / Psygnosis
Lettergreep - Wigant Interactive Media
Lingo - SPC Vision
Link - The faces of evil - Animation Magic
Lion King, The - Virgin Interactive Entertainment
Litil Divil - Gremlin Graphics
Litil Divil 2: Limbo Years - Gremlin Graphics
Lords of the rising sun - Philips POV
Lost Eden - Cryo (for Virgin)
Lost Ride, The - Formula (Lost Boys)
Lucky Luke - The video game - SPC Vision
Mad Dog McCree - CapDisc
Mad Dog McCree II: The lost gold - CapDisc
Magic Eraser - Circle (for ZYX)
Mah-Jong - Japan Interactive Media
Making the Grade - 3T Productions
Man Before Man - Cryo
Marco Polo - Infogrames
Mario Takes America - CIGAM
Master Labyrinth - AVM AG/HQ
Mega Maze - CapDisc
Memory Works, The - Compact Disc Incorporated
Merlin's Apprentice - Philips Funhouse
Microcosm - Philips Freeland Studios
Micro Machines - Codemasters
Monty Python's Invasion from the Planet Skyron - Daedalus CD-i Productions
Mutant Rampage - Body Slam - Animation Magic
Myst - Sunsoft (for Cyan)
Mystic Midway - Rest in pieces - Philips POV
Mystic Midway 2 - Phantom Express - Philips POV

Compact Disc Interactive

Compact Disc Interactive

Games N-Z

Name that tune - Philips Fantasy Factory
New Day - Bits Corporation
NFL Hall of Fame Football - Philips POV
Othello - HMO
Pac Panic - Philips ADS / Namco
Palm Springs Open - ABC Sports / Fathom Pictures
Pool - SPC Vision
Pinball - CapDisc
Plunderball - ISG Productions
Power Hitter - ABC Sports / Fathom Pictures
Power Match - Two's Company
Pursue - BEPL
Pyramid Adventures - Compact Disc Incorporated
RAMRaid - PRL Redhill
Return To Cybercity - Fathom Pictures
Riddle of the Maze, The - Fathom Pictures
Riqa - Bits Corporation
Rise of the Robots - Mirage Technologies
Sargon Chess - Spinnaker
Scotland Yard Interactive - AVM AG/HQ
Secret Mission - Microids
Secret Name of Ra, The
Shaolin's Road - Infogrames
Skate Dude - Viridis
Smurfen, De - De Telesmurf - Infogrames
Solar Crusade - Infogrames
Solitaire - BEPL
Space Ace - Superclub / INTL CDI
Space Ranger - Studio Interactive
Special Operations Squadron - SPC Vision
Sport Freaks - SPC Vision
Star Trek - Philips POV
Star Wars: Rebel Assault - LucasArts
Steel Machine - SPC Vision
Striker Pro - Rage
Strip Poker Live - Greenpig Production
Strip Poker Pro - Interactive Pictures
Super Fighter - The Super Fighter Team / C&E
Super Mario's Wacky Worlds - NovaLogic
Surf City - Philips Sidewalk Studios
Tangram - Eaglevision Interactive Productions
Taco's Toyroom Troopers - Creative Media
Tankdoodle - Creative Media
Tetris - Philips POV
Tetsuo Gaiden - Creative Media
Text Tiles
Thieves' World - Electronic Arts
Tic-tac-toe - BEPL
Tox Runner - ISG Productions
Treasures of Oz - Philips Kaleidoscope
Ultra CD-i Soccer - Krisalis
Uncover featuring Tatjana - SPC Vision
Uninvited - Icom Simulations
Video Speedway - ISG Productions
Vinnie the Pinguin - Pandemonium Labs
Voyeur - Philips POV
Voyeur 2 - Philips POV
Whack-a-Bubble - Creative Media
What's it worth - Marshall Cavendish Multimedia / Spice
Who shot Johnny Rock? - CapDisc
Wordplay - BEPL
World Cup Golf - US Gold
Zaak Sam, De - Toneelschool NL
Zelda - The wand of Gamelon - Animation Magic
Zelda's Adventure - Viridis
Zenith - Radarsoft
Zombie Dinos From The Planet Zeltoid - Philips POV

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