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Philips ADS talks about their CD-i history (part 1)

>> Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Legends never die. That was the last sentiment left by the team behind some of the most spectacular games on CD-i. Pac-Panic set the high benchmark that Philips Advanced Development and Support (ADS) continually maintained in every game they released. With Arcade Classics and the DOOM clone Atlantis - The Last Resort joining the trilogy of in-house ADS games. This was no typical games developer, as the name suggests the studio was supposed to be a facility for outside development support. So how did ADS get involved in the business of making games? Devin went in search of answers and found Johnny Wood, an Artist and one of the technical wizards behind this unsung hero of CD-i gaming. In the coming period we dig in the stories left by ADS following on the contacts of the past years.

You've been credited with the pretty pictures from Pac-Panic, the graphics for Ms Pacman from Arcade Classics and also the highly unexpected first person shooter Atlantis - The Last Resort. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to work for Philips on these acclaimed CD-i games.

Johnny: "I am Johnny Wood. International Sex symbol, original bad boy of video games, and err, the ex- Lead CGI specialist for Philips Media Advanced Development and Support. Never done an interview before, apart from the time I ran for government as the leader of the undead, so I'm pretty clueless... I'll just tell you how it happened!

Back in the 80's I used to work for a guy called Lance Mason. I was doing graphics for search for sharla which was pretty ahead of its time really. Way ahead of its time actually. Like 10 years. Unfortunately Thalamus ended up closing and despite them not wanting to let Sharla go, they had to, Lances company ESP shut down. Not being good at selling myself, I ended up living rough in Birmingham. My main source of income was pavement art, so I can't say I was a beggar, but that's how society saw me. After I kept getting into trouble I decided to clean my act up and went on this experimental government training scheme where you put your skills into the community. I ended up on the video group and there I met Pete Dabbs sister. Pete was doing a beat em up for the amiga and needed an artist. Petes mum would pay me with hot meals.

Meanwhile in the World that was emerging of CDi, Philips had decided that they needed an old school games expert to head up the games division at the Dorking Studios. Lance had been appointed. He set about building a team of old school game coders. Of the crew he built, Pete was one of them. So when they needed a pixel pusher artist, (most the artists there were degree educated photoshop guys and hadn't heard of sprites!) Pete told Lance that he knew where I was. Lance gave me the job. Though I think he was scared I would f*ck up. Not because I couldn't do the work, but because my attitude was a bit "different and unusual". He took the risk and I suddenly found myself in the stockbroker belt of surrey in a beautiful house, on a good salary and working in a showcase studio.

That's how I got the job. It was a lucky break I guess, if ever there was one."

Your background seems far from typical for a games developer Johnny! As the name suggests, Advanced Development and Support (ADS) this division of Philips Media wasn't supposed to be a games developer but a "Support Group" for technical assistance to outside studios working on CD-i software. What did this supporting role involve and how did ADS evolve into a developer for some of the most playable and technically outstanding games witnessed on CD-i?

Johnny: "Well although my background is far from todays typical games developer, once it was the norm. The whole industry started off in bedrooms with people like me and Pete. So I think we were typical games developers. Well for the 80's!

But you are right with ADS not supposed to be a games developer. That sort of came by accident. The ADS in its original format was supposed to be a support centre for the existing external development that was still underway after the sad demise of the Dorking Studios. What had happened is that when Philips made the desision to shut down Dorking, there were a lot of titles being developed elsewhere that relied on its resources, such as Digital Video Encoding for the mpeg movie sequences. Back then it was a big thing to encode something to mpeg and needed thousands of quids worth of kit. You couldn't just run it through a windows converter. Software encoding was not an option. And you had to do it by hand to do it well, set up the cut scenes, otherwise you'd get major artifacting (Thats the big oity toity a-level word for those weird squares you get when you're trying to watch porn on your computer!). The number of times I've had problems setting up non-standard Intra Matrixes on non-standard output resolutions. I can tell you Lost Eden with its wide screen aspect ratio was a total bugger!

But I digress. There was never any intention of the ADS being a developer. Of the few of the Old Dorking crew who were offered the chance to join, many declined because of one reason or another. So it basically began life as 3 blokes (Me - CGI and Digital Video, Paul Reid - Inhouse net work guy and Tim Page on the coding side)... sitting in a tiny office in Redhill, packed to the brim with millions of pounds worth of the latest computers, animation tools, and Digital/Analogue Video Equipment. Which was cool because I taught myself a lot by having access to this stuff. I was listening to MP3's, originally the Audio standard for mpeg-1 many years before anybody else had heard of them! We'd answer the phones all day and It just was "The IT Crowd" but for real.

Then to ease Tims support Job. The old 'have you tried turning it off and turning it on again trick didn't work with CDi, we had to replace the programmers that decided not to take the ADS role, so I got him in touch with these gamers I'd met in mosely who were writing shit hot PC games from their bedroom. Andy Morton and Tom Drummond. When they joined Pac-Panic (or pac attack as it was originally called) was going to be published by Philips. Andy Morton wrote a multiplexer that could fill safe areas with animated sprites (A MEAN FEAT on CDi), so the go ahead was given to add the CDi version to the catalogue. That was the ADS entry into games development as a sole entity, though we had a hand in a lot of the other games out there too."

Credits: The Black Moon Project, Devin Shockwell

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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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