>> Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Be sure to check out part one first here. Philips ADS remained, until recently one of the unsung heros of CD-i games development including Pac-Panic, Arcade Classics and Atlantis - The Last Resort. Now Atlantis and Arcade Classics is sure to be an interesting story all by themselves! For now i'd like to focus on the first game developed by ADS in Pac-Panic. This particular game simply oozed quality from Johnny Wood in the Flesh! the retail package complete with closed slipcase which was very unusual for a European release including seperate manual and the standard CD-i jewel case. In comparison with rival systems where the game went by the name Pac-Attack the CD-i version was glorious with spectacular use of colour, animation and sound this quality lacking from any of its counterparts. What made this version so special to ADS in what turned out to be an award winning title for the studio?
Johnny: Well for all of us I think Pac-Panic represented a major chance and a perfectly timed one for us all to prove our skills. Pac-Panic might never have made it to CDi. The machine used a 68020 chipset, which was a 68000 series (like on the amiga) but with all the stuff you really needed to make Amiga quality games in assembly took out. As Pete Dabbs would testify, basically all the tricks you could do to save processing time like shifting data to act as a quick multiply rather than adding up stacks - saving loads of clock cycles and stuff wasn't an option. I wont talk about that now cause it makes me sound geeky, and there might be chicks reading this. But you really had to push the machine to get anything like that.
Our job at the ADS was to help the worlds developers cross over to the machine. We had a few tricks that we sort of developed ourselves. Mostly down to Andy Morton and Tom Drummond, a couple of genius old school programmers. When people looked at Pac-Attack on the other versions, the amount of animated sprites at any one time was considered undoable on CDi. Bear in mind all our contempories had dedicated graphics hardware. CDi never did, but we took a look at it and Andy developed a multiplexer that allowed you to fill the whole screen with animated sprites. This was bloody amazing on CDi and once that was out of the way we knew we could not only match the other versions but we could make it better.
Where the other machines like the Genesis had 2 layers of 8 bit colour, CDi had DYUV mode which was similar to HAM mode on the amiga, so the backdrops could be 24 bit colour. On top of this, we weren't limited to 8 colours or anything for our foreground sprites, we could use 256 colours. Namco sent us the original assets from the genesis. But ours were better. I was a big Pac-Man fan. Its what got me into video games and just to have my name on the re-emergence of the new generation was pretty damn cool. So I put my heart and soul into it. Andy and Tom deserved a bit of glory too, Where as its a much harder job, its never as much glory being in a research role as it is making your own game! So we set out to kick ass and show the guys at the top how we did things 'down town' so to speak.
Must of worked, cause we got the pretty box and won the award 'n stuff. We still to this day aren't sure if this is down to our 'post production' antics.... Which involved us travelling around London every weekend and going into all the Games shops and switching all the copies of Pac-Panic with whatever was listed at number one on the display racks.
Devin: Arcade Classics soon followed suit with another quality classic conversion. What challenges did this represent and can you share your memories developing this outstanding compilation.
Johnny: Yeah man! We just took the same approach but this time we had 3 games to do. The same sort of issues emerged. The number of animated sprites that Jason had to pump around for Galaxian, which him being the 'new' guy and fresh from his degree, Andy thought he'd never cut it. Of course he turned out to be the most amazing genius we could have ever wished for and the other coders were impressed. We could have done with him back in the early days. Games may have come out differently.
We had Rak in full swing now on art, so with me freed up more we had another chance to make the games better than the contempories. We didn't want to get labelled a conversion house, so making them better than the rival machines versions. When to be honest for this sort of game; Multi-sprited Arcade games, CDi was possibly the worst equipped on the market. Thats not to say it was bad, I mean look at Dragons Lair, 7th Guest, Burn Cycle. Try coughing up those puppies for a genesis... No chance! This time we worked from the arcade machines. Namco sent us all the original stuff, apart from Ms Pacman where they sent us a whole mother board from the first generation machine! The original chipset! So we took the graphics pixel for pixel.... And er... then I added more colours.
I played pacman a lot and also miss pacman. There's a real skill to playing it, Jason and I started messing about with the mazes and found just by putting up stumps so the player could stop would bring in a whole new strategy. Long tunnels added a turbo panic to the play so in my spare time I made some extra mazes. Namco thought they were cool too, so they stayed in. I was sorta proud of that. Man I sure hope chicks are reading this bit. It makes me look dead cool dunnit. I designed mazes for Ms pacman girls!
It was during the development of Arcade Classics that Paul Reid got drunk and puked on Flavias carpet. Paul did an amazing job of entertaining us like this. I think he somehow held the crew together. We were poles apart really, but somehow there was a real team spirit. That shows through in the game. Even to the credits. Of course when it came to do the credits I'd been a bit miffed after Pac-Panic had had loads of people coming in the credits when really it was 5 guys in an office so I made up a few of my own names; Yvette Miepies... Thats how you say "You've ate my pies" in brummy, added the office cleaner who I fancied (Beth) and put in my local pub. Because the ADS where always shrouded with mystery we got away with it.