>> Friday, March 27, 2009
Devin: To kick things off tell us your name, age, previous work (including "Jack Sprite Vs. The Crimson Ghost" on CD-i), and current occupation.
Luis Torres: My name is Luis Torres, and I was hired as a game QA (Quality Assurance) by PF Magic in 1993. All the work that I had done prior to that were unsuccessfull attempts at creating shareware RPG's for the PC (that's what got me in PF Magic). I'm 27 and have done work programming old platform games, and earlier online games for startups that no longer exist. I am currently working as a unix admin because I love the OS, and hope to get back into the game programming hobby one way or another. I know many things about the game because I worked closely with the lead programmer (he was a friend of mine) to solve many of the technical problems concerning the game engine (and this game had many).
Devin: We always seem to hear the same thing from developers about the difficulty coding on the CD-i platform. Were these the difficulties you experienced with "Jack Sprite Vs. The Crimson Ghost" or simply technical problems you would experience in any game development project.
Luis Torres: Well, in my opinion, game coders had difficulty with the CD-i because the machine was not really designed to be a games machine. The CD-i machine was designed to be an interactive multimedia console. In the early days, multimedia meant animation/sound/point and click interactivity. Now, it goes much farther than that. What Phillips came up with was a machine that could do more than just that, but lacked some of the principles that makes a game console. For example, the amount of RAM was limited to 1MB, which is more than the SNES for example (1024 KB... I think) but the SNES stored it's graphics in cartridges, which were ROM extensions, no graphics loading in RAM required. With the CD-i you had to load graphics in RAM in most cases, this included tiles and sprite graphics. Also, my buddy the lead programmer would comment that the scrolling functions, if any were very limited. Most of these general difficulties in CD-i development were faced during the Jack Sprite project.
Devin: Why did PF Magic decide not to release "Jack Sprite Vs. The Crimson Ghost" after so much effort was put into the project and how complete would you say the game was when further development was abandoned?
Luis Torres: I never learned the direct details on why the Jack Sprite project was canned. It happened at the dawn of the 2nd console war of the decade (Playstation, Sega Saturn and a rumored N64) and most companies were shifting projects from 2d to 3d to be able to compete. PF Magic would have been no exception, but to my knowledge, no 3d games from PF Magic were ever released on PSX or Saturn. Also, the CD-i market was slowly fading away with the introduction of new and more sophisticated games to the booming games market. I can safely say that the project was 91-96% complete. There were a few non-technical related issues that needed ironing, but this was up to the bigwigs.
Devin: How would you describe "Jack Sprite Vs. The Crimson Ghost", from the screenshots taken by OlderGames it seems to be a blend of movie clips and platform style gameplay. Could you elaborate on this.
Luis Torres: The game was designed to be a new age interactive movie, as far as what I heard from one of the lead programmers. I feel that the result came out to be more of a platformer (and a darn good one) with semi-interactive video sequences. The screenshots are good in describing the game's graphical capabilities but don't do justice to the gameplay. There was also a "car game" level which looks suspiciously close to spy hunter, that is because the programmer who wrote that level used spy hunter as the basis for the engine of that particular level.
Devin: Could you tell us about the team that worked on Jack Sprite. How many were involved and their individual roles in the project.
Luis Torres: Darryl Starr, lead programmer in charge of the side-scroller portion of the game's engine. Andrew Stern, in charge of the interactive video sequences (I believe). Charles Art (don't remember his last name), lead artist, he took almost the entire project's art by himself, quality artist like few I've ever seen. J. Friedwal, associate artist in charge of tile and sprite modification. Jim Stiffelmier, production assistance and level design. Paul Wilkerson, senior software engineer, overseer of programming, designer and coder of the car level, sound programming specialist. Rob Fulop, creative director. Luis Torres, game QA, Jr. code QA and the guys who never do anything but still get mentioned.
Devin: What are your thoughts about the RetroGaming scene and OlderGames project to publish the unreleased CD-i prototype software, especially Jack Sprite after remaining untouched for about 9 years.
Luis Torres: I believe OlderGames and the RetroGaming scene are doing justice to the CD-i fanbase, and the RetroGaming scene as a whole is proving that games are not just convoluted programs with BEEFED UP graphics and NO gameplay. The RetroGaming scene is showing new generation gamers that games one time had great quality and I hope that it also shows game companies that games are not all graphics, video, and celebrities or cheap 3D remakes of once (and still) popular classic games. I hope it shows the companies that gamers are always striving and starving for quality in gameplay even when it means reviving the classics. Let's do Jack Sprite and the others justice.