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Why is CD-i support in MESS Emulator limited?

>> Thursday, December 29, 2011

It seems we don't have to expect big updates on the MESS CD-i driver, because the author struggles to understand the system. It's a very complex system and if CD-i Fan wasn't around to help there would probably no CD-i MESS driver at all. A few paragraphs to display the current situation. Why is CD-i support in MESS Emulator limited?

"Because to work on the current CD-i driver any further [is very difficult]. I'll be happy to look into it if anyone ever procures dumps of the internal ROMs for the various peripheral MCUs that correspond to the specific CD-i board revision that MESS currently emulates, but beyond that I'd just be piling even more hacks on top of what is already a hack." ... "From what I can see the games for the system are designed in a fairly abstract manner, near enough an old style sandbox, designed to survive hardware changes because Philips designed it as the ultimate 'future-proof' multimedia system (however foolish that ended up being). There are probably a few key bugs in the implementation causing the vast majority of the problems. It's an impressive driver, don't get me wrong, but from my own study of it I don't feel it actually *needs* the internal ROMs to improve compatibility, afaik the standalone CDi emu does fine without them."

"To be quite honest, it is a very simple system, at least the Mono-II. The real problem comes from the abstraction that you mentioned above. By virtue of all of these different games going through the same core I/O functions that are supplied by the BIOS, there is an enormous lack of test cases. I have a bunch of CD-i games that all hit the hardware in more or less the same way."

CD-i Fan: "I have no more chip documentation then you do, in fact I originally had less since I worked on a different board (MiniMMC, it uses the (at the time) undocumented 2xVSC+VSD chips instead of the documented VDSC). My only "plus" is some years of headstart and a very good familiarity with the system as a developer. It does make me wonder where MESS CD-i would be without me; I think both emulators ended up better as a result of it. All of that aside, I sincerely believe that most current emulation bugs (in either emulator) would not be easily solved even with the contents of the internal ROMs; these bugs are probably only peripherally related to the contents of those ROMs."

"By contrast, I see the CD-i as a crap console that has only gone unemulated in an open manner for so long because people care so little about it. It's not a coincidence, in my opinion, that both more-popular and less-popular consoles and computers have been emulated in MESS. That both more-complex and less-complex systems have been emulated in both MESS and MAME. I was interested in emulating the CD-i because despite not knowing the ins and outs of all of the different CD-i platforms that you have emulated, I sincerely doubt that any of them are more complex than the Nintendo 64, so it seemed like a pretty simple target to hit until I found out that nobody ever bothered to leak any significant amount of register-level programming documentation."

CD-i Fan: "On the technical front, it's inherent in emulating CD-i. It's hard to get accurate low-level emulation with the amount of undocumented hardware in the system; reverse engineering and HLE is the only way that functional emulation can be achieved for a reasonable cost (time or money). I know that HLE is not the MESS way, but in this case it can't be helped. CD-i as a system is certainly way below the complexity of modern or even many older consoles, which makes it all the more challenging to get it properly emulated. That little register-level documentation was ever leaked is a consequence of the basic design of CD-i as a software API; to me as a software engineer it seems a better way then just fixing the hardware as so many contemporary consoles did. At the quality level, I think that the current CDIC emulation in MESS is essentially identical to that in CD-i Emu; there are still some problems in both emulators but I currently have no more ideas about fixing that then you do. I do not think that the CPU, VDSC and SLAVE emulations in either emulator have other then minor problems."

[Thanks, CD-i Fan, Just Desserts, Haze]


How Philips had a small hand in influencing every game... ever

>> Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Interesting trivia news posted by GamesTM about 'the company behind the CD-i'... They talked about Syd Mead, a "visual futurist" and concept artist. He is best known for his designs for science-fiction films such as Blade Runner, Aliens and Tron. He actually did a lot of designs and concepts for games and movies for big studios including Hollywood, it's impressive to see his work when you type his name in Google. The link to Philips is because he actually worked for Philips for a long time. In 1970, he launched Syd Mead, Inc. in Detroit, Michigan to accommodate the offers he received, most notably from Philips Electronics. As the principal of his newly formed corporation in the 1970s, Syd Mead spent about a third of his time in Europe, primarily to provide designs and illustrations for Philips of Holland. His work for international clients continues to this day. Syd Mead was actually legendary and a big inspiration source to various game and movie studios. But with the link to Philips Design, the influence of the company in his work and thinking is interesting, as well is his influence on the designs of Philips of that time, which takes up including the CD-i start in the 1980's.


Happy Christmas!

>> Tuesday, December 20, 2011

This is it, the end of 2011 marks the end of the sixth year of Interactive Dreams and all I can say is: We did it again, together with you, having our small active community with a small dedicated CD-i scene, 20 years after Philips introduced the system to the market. Our archives are still very valuable when I look at our daily statistics. It's been a quiet year again, perhaps it will never be different anymore. The years of Black Moon and Le Monde are way past us, unfortunately. You'll never know what will happen in 2012 on the CD-i front but I can assure you Interactive Dreams will do its best to continue our seventh year reporting all the CD-i news and stuff we dig up.

We at Interactive Dreams wish you a very happy Christmas and thank you all for your support.

Read more... back online!

>> Wednesday, November 30, 2011 owner Mathias has renewed the domain which means we can access all the great resources again, thanks to Mathias who found time in his busy life to get it back online: "How about putting that site back up? Yeah, why not. Two kids, a wife, a house, a few companies and a hell of a lot of guitars later, I think I'm ready to get back into the best system that has ever been made! It's actually the version of "The 7th Guest" that came out on iPad and the version of "Myst" for iPhone that made me want to get back into the CD-i Scene. And well, it feels good to be back!!"

Welcome back Mathias!


The Lost Ride CD-i @ 10 years of Blender Art

>> Saturday, October 29, 2011

NeoGeo made under the name of Enji the 3d Graphics for the hit CDi "The LostRide". Unique video footage of 10 years of Blender Art; the software tools that the game was made with.

Also watch the end world in this video:


What's New at the CD-i Emulator Home?

>> Monday, September 19, 2011

CDifan added a CDI180/37 picture to the Hardware section of the CD-i Emulator homepage and he added CD-i 180 emulation screenshots here

[Thanks, Cdifan]


Alien Gate plays best with the CD-i mouse, because it was developed on one

>> Sunday, September 18, 2011

The fact that Alien Gate plays so good with the mouse is because it was developed on one, I think the touchpad / gamepad didn't exist yet and SPC certainly didn't have one. They did have a roller ball controller though, which is reportedly the best pointing device for playing Steel Machine.

[Thanks, Cdifan]


One reason why touchpad/gamepad control is often so flakey

These devices don't send simple "left/right/up/down" information but they encode it as relative cursor movements (3 pixels to the left, etc) which the ROMs translate to absolute cursor positions and the game then has to translate back into directions, occasionally having to reposition the cursor to take account of screen boundaries.

These information packets are sent serially at 1200 baud, which gives a polling rate of at most 1200 / 30 = 40 Hz as each packet is three bytes long. That is already slower than the usual frame rate of 50 or 60 Hz and as real-time processing of this information is expensive cpu-wise it is often polled at the frame rate or a whole divisor thereof which adds to the complexity and unresponsiveness. There are ways around this but they are complicated and probably used seldomly (it requires driver call interception at the system level).

[Thanks, Cdifan]


CD-i 180 emulation now possible

>> Saturday, September 17, 2011

For the first time in CD-i Emulator; No pointing device or disc accesses yet, though. Cdifan: "It's running, yeah, but I can't do much with the physical thing. I haven't got a working pointing device (yet) and without that I cannot click "CD-I" to get a disc playing. There's also no serial port. I've thought of ways to remedy both, though. "
Cdifan has posted his 'adventures' with his CD-i 180 set on his blog, here. "Over the last week I have been playing with the CD-i 180 player set. There’s lots to tell about, so this will be a series of blog posts, this being the first installment. The CD-i 180 is the original CD-i player, manufactured jointly by Philips and Sony/Matsushita, and for a score of years it was the development and “reference” player. The newer CD-i 605 player provided a more modern development option but it did not become the “reference” player for quite some years after its introduction."
[Thanks, Cdifan]


A unique gaming experience with the CD-i Mouse

>> Friday, September 16, 2011

Austin made a very interesting about the CD-i Mouse and how you can control CD-i games with it. With CD-i, all controllers, including the peacekeeper gun and the trackball, are compatible with all CD-i titles. I'm impressed to see how accurate controlling CD-i is while playing games like Alien Gate or Tetris. You can't do that on other consoles! Austin: "[After posting the video,] I was expecting it to be trolled pretty well, as a lot of videos are there. Interestingly, it has been getting some positive feedback in relation to the CD-i itself:
"Wow a CD-i related video that didn't talk about how much it failed. Nice."
"Nicely done review. Never knew how good that mouse was."
"that mouse isn't half-bad looking, and i'm impressed by philips's mandate to require all software to be compatible with all peripherals, thanks for this educational review"

[Thanks, Austin]


Whack A Bubble and Thunder in Paradise reviewed by Video Game Critic

>> Sunday, September 11, 2011

Almost a year ago Video Game Critic posted a new CD-i review and yesterday they published another two: Whack A Bubble and Thunder in Paradise are reviewed this time. They say about Whack A Bubble:
"There's enough variety but the controls leave much to be desired. Your paddle moves slowly and the collision detection is unforgiving. The graphics are cheesy but it also has a few interesting elements like a two-player mode, a high score screen and a handy continue bottom."

About Thunder in Paradise they say: "The video quality is excellent, the gun is pretty accurate, the shooting is shallow, replay value is questionable but it is a surprisingly entertaining trip back in time."

[Thanks, Trev (for the tip), Videogamecritic]


CD-i Emulator progress: MPEG decoding, save/restore points, ROM-less emulation

>> Thursday, September 8, 2011

A lot of work has been done on CD-i Emulator in the last month. Cdifan recently posted a very detailed report of his progress, which you can find on his cdibits blog. I've filtered the interesting parts for the blog. Be sure to read the Cdibits blog for the details: It's a tough job to shrink the text into a small size!
Cdifan: "Last January an annoying date-checking bug was found which forced me to release beta2 somewhat earlier than anticipated. After that I did no further work on CD-i Emulator. I resumed CD-i related work in early August. First I spent a few days on Walter Hunt's OS-9 port of gcc, what could be useful for homebrew activities: it's a much more usable C compiler and I intend to use this for ROM-less emulation validation some day.
After that I had another go at the Digital Video cartridge emulation. At the point where I left off last year the major stumbling block was the presumed picture / frame buffering logic of the MPEG video driver. I decided to once again attempt to get "CD-i Full Motion Video Technical Aspects" working. I had previously tried to run this disc on CD-i Emulator, but it always crashed for an unknown reason that I attributed to MPEG device emulation problems. Now that it's fixed some other titles have probably started working but I haven't tested that.
You might think that all of the difficulties are with the MPEG video decoding and that is indeed mostly true. There is currently just one known problem with the MPEG audio decoding: the audio isn't properly attenuated as specified by the driver. This causes little audio distortions at some stream transitions and when buffers run out. During testing, I often have to do the same exact sequence of mouse actions to get a CD-i application to a problem point and this is starting to be annoying. The obvious solution is a full emulation state save/restore feature, which I've given some thought and started implementing. It's nowhere near finished, though. During the MESS collaboration I spent some time investigating the MESS save/restore mechanism. If at all possible I would love to be compatible for CD-i emulation states, but it turns out to be quite hard to do.
I also made some progress on the ROM-less emulation front. First I spent some time reading up on the internals of OS-9 file managers. I need to implement cross-module calling first. It's not really hard in principle, the design has been done but there are a lot of little details to get right. When cross-module calling is working, I have to find some way of integrating it in the user experience. You could always start over without any NVRAM files, but I'd like to have some way of migrating files between the two possible locations without having to run CD-i Emulator with weird options.
I did some work on saving CD-i IFF image files for each emulated video frame. The motivation for this was to bring full-resolution real-time frame saving into the realm of the possible. The data is written out fine, but it's still too slow. That being so, I am not really very motivated to extend the CD-i IFF decoding. So there is still a lot of work to be done, but it's all quite interesting and will provide for some entertaining evenings and weekends in the coming weeks or possibly months."

[Thanks, cdifan, CDIBITS]


Zelda's Adventure - A complete game or a failed project?

>> Saturday, September 3, 2011

Seb has a great story about Zelda's Adventure. He started to rip the music of the game. Now there is barely any music, but Seb decided to take a look anyway. "I haven't ripped the files yet, but I did take a look at the voices too. This proved to be very interesting. There are A LOT (like 30%) of audio clips that I'm sure are not present in the game itself. Now I'm sure some that I have never heard are found in the game by talking to some NPC's again for example, but there are a couple that suggest that there were more features planned for the game and were taken out.

For instance, there are some sound clips of NPC's that get angry at Zelda for striking at them with her wand. You can also hear references to items that I've never found in the game. For instance, Irene gives you the flute in the game, in different audio clips she also offers you a different instrument and says you can only take one and later trade for the other if you want. Speaking of instruments, there is also talk about a trumpet and one NPC asks 20 rupees for it and it's supposed to make something happen somewhere in the world.

There are also references to training sessions with Sir Bazel where Zelda has to strike him as he raises his sword. There is also a training session with the bow with some female NPC. Another training session seems to be held by Shumac in the art of magic. She explains about attack magic, which is stored in a book, and also about defense items, which defend again certain magical attacks. Finally, it seems bosses also had more dialog and dungeons were supposed to be more involved. For instance, you can hear Lort, the boss of the first dungeon, talk more about jewels. In the game he says you took his jewels, but you never do. I believe that initially you had to take them or something. There is a soundclip where he goes counting them.

Overall I thought this was really interesting and it opens up the question, was this really a finished game? Or was this just a failed project due to hardware limitations and quickly fixed into something that is playable? I've always found that the game is really poorly paced. Items seem to be placed at random, dungeons are pretty much always a straight path to the end and there is barely any consistency in the story line and what NPC's say. It gave me the impression of a very sloppy rush job. Hearing the soundclips now, I'm starting to believe that they did have some great ideas on what to do with the game, but that hardware limitations they ran into, destroyed the initial design ideas.

I'll be sure to rip all the soundclips soon, so everyone can listen to them themselves. For now though, I'm curious about what you guys think and believe. What is your opinion of the game in general and do you think it's a complete game? Or do you also think that it's a weak result of destroyed design dreams?"

I think Viridis was set up by a couple of young inexperienced guys, made a plan about about a Zelda game, sent it to Philips. Philips granted them money, and they started to code. I believe in their mind the game got bigger and bigger, and they had to cut it somewhere.

Interesting that at the same day today Briana Dawson posted on Interactive Dreams: "Chris and Lee were total mess-ups. They ran Viridis into the ground. I was there. I remember Randy very well, so damn hard headed. I remember Janet the office manager, Leticia, wow everyone. I remember the nights we spent in the rooms playing Doom beta on the network. But Chris and Lee, lol they spent so much time eating lunches at nice places and blind as to what they really could have been doing with Viridis, instead of thinking employees were embezzling because of a silly budget printout for a game for a Major studio Producer, non CDi, viridis related. Ya..and i never was thanked for being the first to the office at 3am after a Major Quake to secure the place. Those guys were awful and too concerned about their hair and polo sweaters. "

[Thanks, Seb, Briana Dawson. Pictures thanks to Quebec Gamers]


Joe Guard CD-i video review and then try it yourself (!)

>> Sunday, August 21, 2011

It's been a while since Seb (Halfblindgamer) made a CD-i video but today he finished his video review of Joe Guard. You can learn more about Joe Guard here. Watch the video review here and find out how you can download and try the game yourself too!


Myst CD-i Beta version offers the ability to warp to all locations

>> Tuesday, August 16, 2011

It's one of the first times I hear some benefits of a beta CD-i disc. We've seen a lot of 'Testing Phase' and 'Beta' CD-i discs but most of the time it's about 99,9% the complete retail version. In Zelda's Adventure we were able to spot some unseen arrows to guide the road a little more, but it seems that a testing disc of Myst offer you to warp to all locations. A great way to quickly explore the world of Myst. It's ofcourse a logic addition so the developers were able to test the game rather quickly. Seb knows more: "I've got a beta/test disc of Myst. It's a great way to just experience the game atmosphere a bit, as it lets you warp to all locations. It's been a good while since I booted it up, but I believe it has an options menu which offer the ability to warp around. The disc also allows you to see all the scenes and there is an alternative transition option when going to different screens in the game I believe."

[Thanks, Seb]


The Secret Name of Ra: Rare or unreleased?

According to an issue of cd-i magazine (issue 2 I think) back in 1993, this game was only released in Germany. However, I've never seen a copy for sale on e-bay or anywhere else. Suddenly a "Testing Phase" version popped up and we even have some screenshots of the game in the future available here on Interactive Dreams. So what is The Secret Name of Ra? It's an adventure game (base case title) which was talked about a lot in the past years, but nobody owned the game, nothing was available on the internet and nobody knew if it was actually released or not. The Secret name of Ra: "An interactive adventure through an ancient pyramid tomb. The year is 3000 BC and the player must enter the mysterious pyramid, full of secret tunnels and chambers. Here there are many strange and fascinating characters who will test the player's courage, skills and intelligence. The ultimate quest is to discover the Secret Name of Ra, the great sun god of Ancient Egypt, within a single night of exploration. Definately not a game for the claustrophobic!"

BeaglePuss and mrmark0673 shared some info on the game: "Another CD-i collector informed me that they too had heard the game had been released in Germany, but that there's no real record beyond some hearsay. I can tell you that my copy plays in English, and I don't think there's any sort of language selection in the game (from what I could tell that is).

This is what I can tell you from the little I've played:
- The game begins with Ra informing you of the secrets of his tomb.
- The basic concept behind the game (the first level at least) has the player examining ancient pillars within the tomb. Each pillar has a question about ancient Egypt. If the player correctly answers a question, they receive a key. There are four keys, but only one of the four is the correct key for exiting the temple.

I'm sure the game is complete or darn close to it. I thought I had beat the game, but was informed by King Tut that I "Had not achieved enough points" and was sent back to the beginning of the game to get more points. No, I'm not joking. Napoleon also makes an appears in the game, and it's far more than a cameo.

The game requires you to constantly answer questions regarding the history of Egypt. So much so that I'm sure there would be some sort of Atlas packed in with it had it been released.

We will have more info on this game including screenshots in the near future, so stay tuned!

[Thanks, BeaglePuss, mrmark0673, Alan]


For 'true gamers', CD-i is terrible. For some, CD-i is interesting

Cut to the chase: I appreciate CD-I for its technology, the history behind it, for being ahead of its time. It marked the beginning of CD based gaming, it was the start of the Playstation. It deserves a place in gaming history. The story below marks a general feeling of gamers. In gaming perspective, the CD-I was bad. Let’s hear Protoman85:

"I consider Philips CD-i to be one of the worst consoles of all-time. I don't agree with the bashers, I do like the CD-i, but I don't think it can measure to almost any other console, really. Amiga CD32 or Apple Bandai Pippin could maybe be considered worse, but they, especially the Pippin didn't have any time to even try to be good. CD-i had several years. CD-i isn't worthless and some games are decent but overall the enjoyment I get from it is to laugh at it, not with it. I like the FMV shooter games, because of the 90s estethic and laughable acting. But the games themselves can't hold a candle to Time Crisis or Virtua Cop. The best platformers on CD-i (imo) are Christmas Country and The Apprentice, but if those were on Super Nintendo they would pale immediately to the competition, I mean they are nowhere near as good as Super Mario World for instance. Secret Mission is a good point and click adventure on CD-i, but PC adventures like Monkey Island, Police Quest, King's Quest etc are definately better. I find a bunch of games are good or very good on "The CD-i scale" but when compared to real competition, they fail. Mutant Rampage Bodyslam is a good beat-em up, but Turtles In Time or Streets of Rage are way better. Then the CD-i of course has droves of edutainment titles and stuff, which only drag it down. Nintendo DS did that too actually, but CD-i still suffer more from it. "

Seb (Halfblindgamer) posted a very good perspective on this: “I see no need to 'defending' anything. There is a difference between defending and appreciating. The CD-i is a terrible games console. It lacked developers, and it was also technical incapable compared to true gaming machines. The system was however initially never intended to compete on the games market. For a new type of VCR like apparatus, I think it did fairly well when it came to games. They have DVD and Blu-Ray games now too, and they are nowhere near as sophisticated as CD-i was.

Apart from that, I appreciate the technology in general. It was the start of CD gaming and it stood on the forefront of many exiting technologies that came after it... like the PlayStation. I think it does deserve a notable spot in gaming history. Not for being a great gaming platform, but for advancing technology in the field and open doors for more capable parties to improve upon.

I also totally disagree with you on edutainment dragging it down. Yes, it's not for us 'true' gamers, but put a child in front of a CD-i and let them have an interactive 'clicky' adventure, and they'll have a great time! CD-i is one of the best systems for kids to get into contact with gaming in my opinion. Apart from that, some of the adult edutainment titles are also more fun than reading a book or even view a docu DVD. Having you actively interact with objects enhances learning and I still like that idea and find that unique in the CD-i format.

As it stands, everything is subjective though. Is CD-i the worst console out there? For many it probably is and as far as games goes, it's pretty low on my list as well. But I still do appreciate and enjoy the technology behind it."

[Thanks, Protoman85, Seb]


Pictures of Gobliiins CD-i

Attached here are pictures from ADI CM2, featuring the 1st unlocked level of Gobliiins after study, and the other 7 levels available. Also, some screenshots of the game in general.

[Thanks, Alan]


How original is Hotel Mario on CD-i?

I never knew about this, but there's a game called Looney Tunes Hotel developed in 1983 for the Atari 5200. According to this source it is in prototype status only, but it's very interesting to see the same concept of this game ten years before the release of Hotel Mario on CD-i. We always called Hotel Mario's concept very original...

[Thanks, Trev, Calavera]


Some rare CD-i titles from Shrooman's collection

Including a Thunder in Paradise prototype version, several professional CD-i titles, foreign encyclopedias and reference titles.


Paul Clarke about Atlantis: The Last Resort on CD-i

>> Sunday, July 31, 2011

It's a sad fact, but almost inevitable that the last wave of games on any console are technically superior and criminally overlooked as the next generation of hardware swings into view. Released in 1997 well after many considered CD-i commercially dead, 'Atlantis' proved the black box still had some life left in her. As a first person shooter it surprised many with fast paced action and a nifty 'CD Swap' feature allowing you to play any Music CD through the CD-i whilst hammering away at the game! Requiring little persuasion from Black Moon the chief programmer Paul Clarke describes his time raising Atlantis...

If you work in and around Philips and CD-i then you will uncover a lot of really fantastic people. Philips as a company, and an endeavour like CD-i in particular, attracts and gets the most out of great, talented, people. Johnny is a good example of that, though there are many, many others. Although I left Philips in '99 I still keep in touch with lots of Philips guys, though I had lost touch with the ADS boys. I meet up with the rest of the research group I worked in from Philips Research Labs, Redhill each year. There are lots of great CD-i tech-heads there, though they are working on other things now of course.

Soon after joining Philips Research I developed a Non-Intrusive Real-time Debugger (affectionately known as the NIRD, pronounced "Nerd"). This was a really cool piece of kit and software that allowed us to debug CD-i titles (mostly games) in real-time by snooping the expansion bus of the player and understanding what was going on. So for a while I worked researching the feasibility of doing this, then developing the hardware, on-board software, and PC host software to make the system fly. Then I got into refining it and using it at CD-i title developers in UK, Europe and US - helping high-profile titles get to the market on time. The NIRD became a product from Philips Media that they sold to development houses and used themselves. Through doing this work I got right into the detail of how CD-i worked and it's most intricate levels; for example knowing which memory areas operated fastest, how to make every bus cycle count, etc.

In our spare time, usually friday lunchtimes, we played games. This was considered okay as we were in the Interactive Systems Group of the labs, and understanding what people do in their homes and with what kit was really important. It also fitted with our research work around set-top boxes, digital video recorders, virtual reality user interfaces, artificial intelligence, etc. One of the games we played was of course Doom on the PC, though Philips also bought us each new console as it came out to play with.

I got into creating a few Doom levels with the public domain level editors, and the public specs of these allowed me write a utility to extract Doom graphics out of the WAD files. As a coder interested in putting together and refining game engines, the most frustrating thing is often the rubbish graphics that we can produce. By borrowing the Doom graphics I could make the demo 3D engine look cool too, and this ensured I got some attention from Philips Media. I also wrote a utility to allow me to use the public domain Doom level editors to lay out level designs for my engine, rather than have to write a level design tool. Simple hacked utilities like this meant that I could focus on the tricks I would need to do to get reasonable playable performance (15 - 25 fps) out of the engine, rather than work on graphics, sound or level designers like most game developers have to.

When Philips Media agreed to publish a game, I started working with the ADS boys. I could write a lot about this but Johnny has already said a lot. They were a good bunch of guys, really committed to the art of getting the best game play, graphics and performance possible out of CD-i. It was gut wrenching to see the team pulled apart as we learned that Atlantis would be the last game they produced.

Regarding the DOOM demos I put together, I need to be clear. I wrote my own 3D engine that had a number of tricks / compromises to allow it to run at over 15 fps to get playability right. I'll cover some of these below, but it meant that actually, in terms of game comparison, the Atlantis 3D engine was weaker than ID's Doom predecessor Wolfenstein (ie there is no height element, no stairs, no lifts, etc, just a flat world). At that time the Doom code wasn't public domain, and we would never have been able to get it running fast enough if it had been, so to be clear Doom never ran on CD-i. What we did have was a custom 3D engine allowing you to run around a world filled with Doom graphics, wall textures, yes the baddies, and status bar. That's what Johnny meant. It allowed me to concentrate on the code and produce demo's which looked cool. Years later, when the Doom code was made publically available by Id, we did port it to some experimental Set Top Boxes, and that was really cool. Doom on a big TV with descent speakers was just great.

When we were deciding what to do with my 3D engine, I did discuss with Dave Mac (mentioned by Johnny) about talking to Id about a Wolf3D port. However, we put gameplay first and this meant a number of tricks (yes I'm coming to them) that meant it wouldn't have worked. I did produce a demo of my engine with Wolf3D graphics to illustrate the point but we didn't take it further.

3D Engine: The 3D engine itself is a fairly standard "ray caster" that effectively uses a map data structure as a data source together with the players position and orientation, and produces a data structure across the width of the screen showing for each "column" of the screen the distance to the wall (which drives the height of the wall to render), the texture ID (which directs you to the correct texture bitmap tile to render) and the texture column (which is the vertical slice of the texture tile to render). Yes, it was written in C, optimised to hell, and had assembler inserts in a couple of places. The NIRD was used to validate that every cycle was optimised - but fortunately the C compiler for CD-i used together with the right types of variables (to drive 16-bit or 32-bit data access) produced tight code.

Attack of the N.I.R.D: The ADS team paid tribute to the power of N.I.R.D in this touching credit screen from Arcade Classics. The definition of N.I.R.D is Non-Intrusive Real-time Debugger! Rendering and tricks: This is the area which makes or breaks a game, and where the vast majority of CPU time is spent. The key reason why you can't just port Wolf3D or Doom to CD-i is that the 68070 processor on the CD-i player just can't write full screens made of textures and sprites to the screen fast enough due to simple math around the processor and the amount of video memory required to be accessed, read (textures) and written (video).

Version 1 of the rendering engine worked at about 1 fps, which is clearly unusable. Through experimentation and optimisation I ended up with a solution that gave playable game play above 15fps. To do this we used the two video planes of CD-i. The background plane is used to display the wall textures, plus ceiling, plus floor. We used the power of the CD-i hardware to mirror the ceiling with the floor around the mid-point of the screen. So, you only write the top half of the screen, and the CD-i hardware mirrors it down onto the bottom half of the screen. That means that you are now only rendering half the amount of video memory which takes half the time. We also ran that video plane at half resolution (again assisted by CD-i hardware). So actually, we were rendering just quarter the height of a full video screen, and half the width. The pixel doubling took it back to half height and full width, and the mirroring made it full height and full width.

On levels where we had horizon detail (such as the first level with the monuments in the background), and on others where we graduated the floor or ceiling to give the illusion of light, we changed the palette on a line by line basis, which is something that the CD-i system does in hardware for free from a CPU perspective. The foreground video plane was used for sprites, status bar, etc and ran at full resolution to ensure the baddies, bullets, etc, were as high quality as possible. Optimised renderers were written in assembly code for both background and foreground to get the speed up.

I believe it is these tricks using the video hardware such as pixel doubling, mirroring, palette changing, and transparency between planes that Dave Mac was alluding to in the magazine. They cost no CPU power at all once set up at the start of the level, and reduce the amount of time the CPU needs to spend rendering per frame. However, as the walls are mirrored top to bottom, we could not do games like Wolf3D. The demo we did produced predictably odd swastika's and Hitler wall tiles. Fun, but wasn't going to go anywhere.

Memory: Different memory banks work at different speeds, and in particular the expansion memory on the DV cartridge ran faster than the rest of the memory. We used this carefully for certain things, such as rendering code (run often) and textures (read often during rendering). Monster AI: I wrote a language (Sprite Behaviour Language, or SBL) to express monster AI in, and a compiler to convert it to optimal machine code. This allowed us to express actions as keywords that were easy to read such as look, shoot, move, etc and get a richness of AI.

Sound: A great guy called Chris Thorne wrote all the music and did all the sound FX. I was part of his interview process that brought him and other designers into Philips as we sought to break ground in design around all sorts of home-based technology. You should track him down as he is an interesting guy. We had good video and audio studios at Philips Research and Chris augmented this with additional kit and software that gave him what he needed. There was talk of an audio CD to accompany Atlantis (as with Burn:Cycle [which was debugged with the NIRD]), but it was decided not to follow through with this. Chris did produce a demo, and it was fantastic, but it never got released. I have a copy, but don’t see how I can share due to copyright reasons. Shame, it is really really cool.

Cyber-chute bonus levels: While on holiday in Cyprus, in the middle of game production, I was lying in the sun wondering how to improve the game. All of the levels have orthogonal walls, but the rendering engine itself could render curved walls as all it needed to blit the screen was a data structure of wall texture IDs, distance (to scale the wall), and column number of the texture. Whilst CD-I couldn’t work out these details for a curved world in real-time it struck me that there might be a way of doing this offline for bonus levels. I might have been a bit of a spod then, but even I didn’t take a calculator on holiday. So, in long-hand and a touristy notebook I worked out in long-hand a way to do the bonus chute drops between level themes. Basically I found a way of cramming the “view” of a drop chute at so many positions across it (can’t remember how many) in a real-time stream of data from the CD at so many fps. So, the CD-I can stream 75 2k sectors per second from the CD. Effectively it streamed off all the data the renderer needed to know for so many positions across a drop chute in real-time. You then know the user’s position across the width of the cute, and constrain how this position can move per frame, and you have the means to have an interesting segway level. With my notes in hand I hacked some data and wrote the renderer the day after my leave. I had a clever student working with me (Jain Shah) and got him to write a PC tool to do all the offline tool work to build the real levels and associated data structures, and the scheme worked really well. It works a bit like the really old chute drop games. You’re moving inexorably downwards through a complex shape and have to miss bumping into the walls to gain max points.

The experience: Working on RamRaid (the online version) and the Atlantis were some of the most enjoyable work days of my life. With little design brief the creativity in the team ran free. The ADS guys were crazy guys committed to the art of game design and game play. Paul Reid, mentioned in Johnny’s interview, was a great guy absolutely committed to the team. Andy Morton and Tom Drummond were very odd but amazing game guru’s who were kind enough to accept me into their world. Johnny was amazing, and brought my 3D world on CD-i to life. Fire up your CD-i player, and just look at the graphics that he produced, and enjoy the DV clips that we did with Rak. In particular, look at Johnny’s sprites, and savour their animation frames, especially their death sequences. Every frame is a joy.

In another parallel universe the investment in CD-i and its successors continues and ADS is thriving, with the lads and myself happily hacking things to blow peoples minds, give them a thrill, and make the more technical wonder how we do that.

Many thanks to Paul Clarke for his statement & With KUDOS to Johnny Wood for the fantastic artwork submissions. This is part of The Black Moon Project


Interview with Marty Foulger - Lead Designer on Super Mario's Wacky Worlds

Merijn: Hello Marty, could you tell us about yourself and your career as well as your work for Novalogic.

Marty Foulger: I have a BS degree from Oregon State University in Technical Journalism, with a Minor in Computer Science.

I started my game design career as a writer for Advanced Microcomputer Systems in 1981, but soon developed a talent for game design. I designed games for a variety of platforms, including handheld vacuum-fluorescent games (Reactor & The Ewok Adventure), raster graphics arcade games (Zzyzzyxx & Sprockets), and a proprietary system developed by AMS called the Fantasy Machine. FM eventually morphed into a home laserdisc game playing system (much later to become the Halcyon System by RDI), and it was in 1982-93 that we developed Dragon's Lair, the first laserdisc arcade game. I was one of three game designers.

DL was quite successful, and in 1983 I left AMS to work for Sega Enterprises, the American division of Sega Japan that was developing all of the next generation of arcade laserdisc games. We completed the pre-production phase of a Star Trek laserdisc game, when the arcade laserdisc bubble burst in 1984, and the project was cancelled (an annoying theme in my career). I continued as a game design consultant to Sega until 1985, when the division was sold to Bally-Midway, then finally folded.

In 1987, when the initial CD-i specification was released by Philips, I helped start a company called Tiger Media Inc., that was founded to develop interactive titles for the new CD-i standard. As supervising producer at Tiger, I designed and produced the first CD-i disc manufactured in the US in 1988, a demo disc called "Parties of the Posh and Pampered" (I'll bet you never heard of that one!), but delays in the final CD-i specification pushed pressing of POTPAP into 1989. In 1988 I began production on a title called "The Case of the Cautious Condor", an interactive detective mystery intended for CD-i, but ultimately only published for the Fujitsu FM Towns (an early CD-ROM computer), Commodore CDTV and IBM-PC.

I left Tiger Media in 1990, and became a design consultant to American Interactive Media, the US division of Philips created to produce titles for CD-i. I worked on Hanna-Barbera's Cartoon Carnival, and a prototype of a children's detective title. The VP at Philips I was working for was in charge of all the children's titles, and I found I had little talent and even less interest in the genre, so I left Philips.

In 1991, I joined Novalogic as a game designer, and worked on a cart for the Sega Genesis called "Captain Planet & the Planeteers" a worthless license of a politically correct cartoon series that eschewed violence and practiced earth-friendly crime fighting. Just perfect for video games. In early 1992, I began development on SMWW, which ran until June of 1993. I also contributed to Ultrabots and Comanche: Maximum Overkill and a CD-i adaptation of Novalogic's Wolfpack, a submarine game that was never published.

I left Novalogic in 1993 and became a producer with Paramount Interactive. I was developing games based on Star Trek: Deep Space 9, a driving game based on the TV show Viper, and a basketball game based on the Coach Pat Riley and the New York Knicks (Paramount owned Madison Square Garden). When Viacom bought Paramount in 1994, they consolidated four game development units into one, and Paramount Interactive was no more. Once again, my projects were cancelled. At that point, I retired from game design, and now live in a house overlooking the Kenai River in Alaska, where I can pursue my interests such as fishing and skijoring.

Merijn: What did your role as designer on Super Mario's Wacky World's (SMWW) involve.

Marty Foulger: I produced a complete game specification document based on the outline that had been proposed to Philips. This entailed creating all the worlds, and lands for each one, as well as the mechanism for travel between them. Then I began laying out individual levels on computer drawing package that was marked off in a grid matching the background tiles. The creation of enemies and environments was up to me, and some of the levels went very quickly, while others I slaved over to create game mechanisms that were within the capabilities of CD-i, yet fun, challenging and visually appealing. These designs were output on paper, and handed off to the artists for rendering on a graphics workstation.

I worked closely with Nina Stanley (and I think another artist, Rod Parong, also worked on SMWW) to implement characters and backgrounds that would work with my designs, and I was never disappointed. She is so talented, and always exceeded my expectations. We had a lot of fun creating the various worlds.

After the art was complete, I used a graphics editor John created to set the surface characteristics of all the surfaces in the level, and then John integrated it into his program. I would test each level on a CD-i emulator with a 2 gig hard drive (enormous in those days!). Sometimes we had to massage the background or make some changes to the game mechanisms to fit the physics of John's program, but for the most part, everything worked pretty well together.

Merijn: How were you influenced by Shigeru Miyamoto's Super Mario World (SMW) and in what ways were you going to improve upon the original.

Marty Foulger: Our goal was to clone Nintendo's Super Mario World with new characters and locations, but use the interactivity familiar to SMW gamers. The CD-i hardware imposed some severe limitations, but we identified the core game mechanisms that we thought we could implement, and designed a game around them. We used one of the SMW cheat books that diagrammed all of the levels and mechanisms in the original. Some of them we adapted, and others we created new mechanisms altogether. The improvements over SMW would be more depth and variation in the backgrounds and characters due to the large capacity of the CD, and more flexibility in game music and sound effects that were stored on the disc, rather than synthesized.

Merijn: SMW was a massive game with various sub levels that you could spend countless hours playing and still never fully explore the game. Considering the short supply of staff dedicated to SMWW including one lead programmer, one designer and one artist working on the actual game it must have been a fairly limited production. Were there any plans to hire more staff and expand the depth of the game?

Marty Foulger: I was not involved in management decisions regarding resource allocation, but from my perspective, it appeared that the intent was to produce the title with the smallest expenditure of resources as possible. Philips was spending an enormous amount of money on CD-i titles at that time, and Novalogic used SMWW as a cash cow to fund Comanche and other internal titles that they intended to publish themselves at a greater profit than development-for-hire titles like SMWW. In fairness, they were no different than dozens of other developers that stuck their hat under the Philip's spigot to make some easy cash.

Merijn: The design of SMWW was quite diverse from the Ancient stages of "Greek", "Egypt" and "Aztec" to the outlandish Wacky levels including "Neon City", "Geometropolis" and "Land o' Plaid". How did these designs come to be and where did you get your inspiration for these designs?

Marty Foulger: The concept was for six worlds with different themes. Each world had three lands with a related theme, and each land had several variations with increasing difficulty level. I have forgotten how many total levels were planned, but it was around 60-70. When I came on to the project, there had been some graphic development done on Ancient/Greek, and the proposal to Philips had outlined some other planets, but I expanded it to six broader themes that allowed for more variations. I also designed a puzzle mechanism for transporting between the levels and from one planet to another.

A lot of the ideas came out of thin air, just contemplating the six themes of the planets. For example, Ancient World; I wanted to have three different variations on the ancient ruins theme, but they had to be stylistically unique, and have some individuality from a standpoint of game play and features. I chose Greek, Egyptian and Aztec because each had mechanical elements that could be incorporated into game play, as well as graphic elements that are easily recognized by the gamer. As for Wacky World, I fused my experiences with recreational pharmaceuticals with my devotion to Warner Brother cartoons, and let my imagination run wild. Land o' Plaid is proof of that, right? I also had a lot of input from my fellow team members, who were equally twisted and I welcomed their off-beat and creative input to the design.

Merijn: The prototype was shown at a Classic Gaming Expo last year held in Las Vegas to a select few. The reaction was always shock and excitement as it was never believed such a high quality game could be recreated on the CD-i let alone exist. Do you have any insight into the story lines planned for the game and any plot twists. Were favorite boss encounters like Bowser ever scripted for use in SMWW and maybe a return of Yoshi?

Marty Foulger: Yoshi was discarded early on because of technical limitations. John Brooks worked miracles just getting CD-i to make Mario move like the original, and adding the complications of a running, jumping dino to every level was pushing it too far. We also created our own bosses for each level, but once again, we were limited by the hardware. Usually, instead of an animated character like Bowser, I would use a big mechanical feature, like the giant rolling stone head in Ancient/Aztec (yeah, I know, stone heads were actually an Olmec artifact, but if I didn't mix a few metaphors, what would the game groupies have to chat about decades later?)

As far as the story lines or plot twists, y'know what? I don't even remember what the over-arching goal of the game was, Mario was collecting something, or saving somebody. I have to plead Alzheimer's on that one, one of the details that are lost to history.

Merijn: The early alpha stage prototype of SMWW does stay faithful to SMW and takes care not to destroy the simple addictive nature of the gameplay. An example of a series translated to CD that springs to mind is Sonic in Sonic CD for the Mega/Sega CD, which crammed as much detail in just because they could with the wonders of CD and it really destroyed the basis of the game. Do you believe SMWW could have been a product that lived up to SMW and persuaded fans of Mario to CD-i as presumably Philips desired.

Marty Foulger: We knew that the value of the Mario license lay in the devotion of the fans to the games they knew and loved. Our intent was to use familiar themes and mechanisms combined with creative new environments and characters to create a new game that would appeal to the same fan base. It was not the best use of CD-i, in that the hardware was never intended to produce a sprite-based game; however, we had been charged with the difficult mission of making a Nintendo-style Mario game, and through the incredible technical work of John Brooks (and I think Jerry Bennett did some programming on SMWW, but I may be wrong), it was well on the way to achieving that goal.

Merijn: In the SMWW prototype it is noticeable that a scrolling backdrop is absent. Were any features dropped due to limitations of the CD-i hardware? Examples include using the turtles shell as a weapon and mushroom power ups to give Mario new strengths both lacking from the CD-i prototype.

Marty Foulger: The scrolling background was certainly included in the game spec, and John was working to achieve it. I saw several demos of it in action, but it still had some bugs that had to be addressed, so that's probably why it wasn't on the demo disc. And what Mario title would be acceptable without bouncing turtle shells and mushroom power-ups? They were on the list of things to do, although it was a delicate dance to get everything moving onscreen without over taxing the hardware and causing the graphics to fall apart. We had to carefully script how many moving objects were on screen at one time to avoid problems. Also, we couldn't do the large Mode 7 animations used in the Boss sequences on SMW, so we had to find some CD-i friendly alternatives. We created some multi-segmented Bosses that moved like snakes that worked pretty well.

Merijn: John Brooks the lead programmer on SMWW commented that you had some interesting puzzles and worlds for Mario to explore, could you shed some light on what you were planning.

Marty Foulger: He did? Well then, they must have been really good! Honestly, without my documentation, I don't recall many specific puzzles. There was one in Ancient/Egypt that involved sliding stone blocks inside a pyramid that required the player to time running and jumping to avoid being crushed. Another one in Ancient/Greek was set in the Trojan Horse, which was beautifully rendered by Nina Stanley. We also had some dynamite underwater levels that use CD-i features to create an effective underwater effect. Haunted World had a cool ghost ship, a la the Flying Dutchman, and Jungle World had a huge tree house like in Swiss Family Robinson.

Merijn: Do you know of any specific involvement of Nintendo in the game? Were there any guidelines for gameplay mechanics, use of characters etc? Would you describe Nintendo's role as active or passive in the development of SMW.

Marty Foulger: I have no knowledge of Nintendo's involvement in the game, that would have been between Nintendo and Philips, though I would have thought they would be very interested in maintaining the integrity of the Mario license. We had the Philips producer onsite several times, but I don't recall any Nintendo representatives, nor was I ever advised about changing any characters or game levels.

Merijn: How would you describe the role Philips (the party owning the licence) played in the production of this game. Were Novalogic and Philips in regular contact and if so on what level and what was their involvement?

Marty Foulger: The Philips producer on SMWW was Steve Radosh, and he came to Novalogic several times for milestone reports and to monitor development. Steve was a friend of mine from my Sega days, when we were both game designers there. Novalogic president John Garcia was not pleased that I had such a close relationship with the Philips producer, and it showed every time Steve came to visit. An interesting side note, Steve Radosh is now the Supervising Producer for the TV gameshow, Hollywood Squares, and can be heard whenever host Tom Bergeron appeals to the judge named "Skippy Trebek".

Merijn: Do you know of the circumstances that led to the start of the project and ultimately why it was cancelled?

Marty Foulger: I was not included at the management level at Novalogic, so I can't speak authoritatively to the genesis of SMWW. I know SMWW had already been proposed to Philips when I started at Novalogic. The final proposal was apparently accepted in early 1992, as I began work on it at about that time.

The circumstances around the cancellation of SMWW are less murky. The staff on the project was becoming more and more disillusioned with the low priority the project was receiving. I recall that technical resources (emulators, monitors, systems etc) that were being used on SMWW would be commandeered when ever the producer from another publisher came to check on his project. They would be set up as though they were being used on his project, so that he could see a dog and pony show. It was a shell game to keep the cash flowing in, with the least amount of resources being expended on any one project for an outside publisher.

John Brooks and Nina Stanley both accepted offers from Electronic Arts in spring of 1992, and Jerry Bennett also left for greener pastures (Interplay? Virgin? Brooks would know). I was the only member of the team left, and in June, John Garcia cancelled the project and laid me off. He had little choice; with Nina & John gone, the outlay to bring another team up to speed would have eaten up too much money. I called Steve Radosh at Philips, and he was unaware his project had even been cancelled.

Merijn: There are rumors abound of a link between Super Mario's Wacky Worlds and the CD add-on Philips and Sony were supposed to produce for Nintendo's SNES console. (Which was ultimately cancelled leaving Philips with the Nintendo characters license). Do you have any insight in these rumors whatsoever?

Marty Foulger: Can't help you there, I am unaware of any targeted platform besides the Philips CD-i player.

Merijn: What interesting behind-the-scenes stories or anecdotes can you share with us?

Marty Foulger: What? You want more? In addition to his programming skills, John Brooks was a flipper god on the "Adams Family" pinball game, which we played almost every lunch hour at the fabulous Corbin Bowling Alley on Ventura Boulevard. Nina Stanley's dad is Augustus Owsley Stanley III, Merry Prankster and chemist to the Grateful Dead. I am related to Wendell on Petticoat Junction.

Marty Foulger was interviewed by Merijn

Interview research conducted by Merijn
Interview material scripted by Devin and Merijn


Interview with John Brooks - Lead Programmer on Super Mario's Wacky Worlds

Merijn: Could you describe to us what your job as lead programmer on SMWW entailed?

John Brooks: I primarily programmed the graphics engine, game code and tools. I also worked with the artists and designers to make sure generated data would work in the game engine.

Merijn: The game engine you developed for SMWW was described as pioneering work from a source close to the project. Could you describe why this engine was crucial to the projects development and did you encounter any problems coding for the CD-i?

John Brooks: This project was extremely demanding technically, with problems that I don't believe were solved by others either before or after SMWW. There were 7 critical problem areas in doing a high-quality Mario platform game on CD-i.

1) No tiled graphics or scrolling hardware, which made platform games extremely difficult.
2) No sprite overlay hardware.
3) No audio mixing hardware (combining sounds effects with music).
4) OS-9 made hardware access difficult and caused performance spikes, which interfered with 60hz performance.
5) Sound effect lag due to audio decompression (ADPCM) buffering.
6) Input response lag from the wireless remote.
7) Matching the extremely high quality feel of Super Mario World.

Problems 1, 2 and 3 were overcome with innovative programming solutions, some of which were extensions of work that I had previously done on Rastan Saga (Apple //GS). Problem 4 was minimised by writing low-level OS-9 drivers. Problem 5 was minimised by using 'A stereo' ADPCM mode which had the least latency through the audio chip. Problem 6 was a hardware issue with no known solution. Problem 7 was an on going problem for me. I painstakingly explored, tested and refined the game feel to match that of Super Mario World. Although I only partially implemented them, I was thoroughly impressed by the subtlety and intuitiveness of the Super Mario control, animation and movement models.

Merijn: There was even talk of negotiations with Nintendo to wangle a conversion contract, presumably from the CD-i version of SMWW to the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). The main negotiating point being your game engine, would you care to elaborate?

John Brooks: I have no information on this.

Merijn: At the time SMWW was being developed, Nintendo were creating an ill fated CD add on unit for the SNES, apparently planned to be cross compatible with the Philips CD-i. Do you have any further insight into the Philips/Nintendo agreement and did SMWW have a role to play in this?

John Brooks: I don't have any definitive information on this. A rumour that was circulating was that in addition to working with Nintendo on the SNES audio chip, SONY was making a SNES CD add-on called the Play Station. At some point, SONY decided to make there own game machine (Play Station X?) instead of a SNES CD add-on. Nintendo then went to Philips for CD techology and in return they licensed their characters for use in CD-i games.

Merijn: How did the project start and what was the nature of the contract between Philips, Nintendo and Novalogic for the development of SMWW?

John Brooks: I do not know. In part it may have been because I had done technically demanding games on other platforms in addition to a previous CD-i game (Jigsaw). Few studios had done CD-i games at that time.

Merijn: Throughout the project did Nintendo have much influence over its development?

John Brooks: Not that I was aware of.

Merijn: What was Philips involvement in the project (if any?).

John Brooks: My primary interaction with Philips was with their technical support group. I don't know the extent of their involvement.

Merijn: Which of the 3 parties involved (Philips, Nintendo and Novalogic) decided to cancel the project in the end, and do you know of the reasons why?

John Brooks: I do not.

Merijn: From experience playing an early prototype of SMWW the similarities to Super Mario World on the SNES is unquestionable even using the same music. Do you have any commnets on this and what was the direction for the project as a whole in the Mario series?

John Brooks: The development team had great admiration for the Super Mario games and wanted to create something that would feel natural to players of Miyamoto's masterpieces. Our design goals were to bring high quality graphics and sound into the Mario world, along with diverse themes and creative gameplay experiences. The huge CD was hundreds of times larger than rom cartridges of that era. The nearly unlimited art and audio content allowed great variety within each level (256 colour bitmapped graphics and high quality audio streamed off of CD), as well as great diversity between levels (6 distinct worlds with 6 levels per world). Marty Foulger, of Dragon's Lair fame, was a prolific designer who created unusual puzzles and worlds for Mario to explore.

Merijn: The prototype version we know is version 0.11. Do you know of any other (later) versions than this particular version?

John Brooks: I do not.

Merijn: Thank-You for your time.

John Brooks: My pleasure.

John Brooks was interviewed by Merijn

Interview research conducted by Merijn
Interview material scripted by Devin and Merijn


Original CD-i cabinets still exist

Philips marketed CD-i heavily, mainly in local video stores and libraries, as movies and reference/educational titles were a big part of the starting CD-i business. Philips gave away lots of these CD-i kiosk systems; a cabinet with built-in TV and CD-i player while the catalogue is presented on shelves underneath it. With a big Philips CD-i print on top of it, these cabinets I saw literally everywhere. They were used in supermarkets so the kids could play Sesame Street while the parents were shopping. They were used in libraries to show of the Compton Encyclopedia. They were used in warehouses to show people the latest entertainment. I loved these cabinets. The top always was above anything else in a store/place, so you could see from far away that a CD-i kiosk was there. After CD-i had gone away, our local video store still kept the cabinet to present other kind of games and videos. He did that for a long time. Apparently, now it is time to move on. This is your last look at this cabinet. Shot on camera to never forget.


Chaos Control: Vivid visuals,passable shooting but easy to finish

Chaos Control is one of the prettiest CD-i titles to look at -- and unlike other beauty-contest CD-i discs, it's also fun to play. The game puts players in the cockpit of a space-fighter, desperately trying to punch through an invasion fleet and... of course... Save The Earth. As flying games goes, Chaos Control is of the ''railroad tracks'' ilk, meaning you fly through the same terrain the same way every time. The ship flies itself, you just have to shoot. Fortunately, that assignment will keep players plenty busy.

As you fly furiously through cityscapes, through space stations, etc., you'll come across alien ships, ''mobile-suits'', tanks, etc., some stationary, some flying. Moving your cursor on to them and pressing the button fires your guns. But to keep things interesting, you can only fire so often before overheating your guns -- as a practical upshot, success depends on making quality shots.

As the alien mecha returns fire, a shield guage on the bottom of the screen diminishes. When it runs out, the game ends. There's no way to replenish it -- no ''1ups'' or recharges to pick up -- short of finishing the entire level. One other thing to watch for: the cursor turns yellow when it's pointed at a friendly object, such as one of your squadron members. Try not to shoot them!

In Chaos, the same alien ships show up in the same places at the same time in every game. That's because of how the game actually works -- the terrain and the alien ships are pre-recorded digital video being unspooled from the disc. The CD-i superimposes a target and the various shots (yours and theirs) on top of this video. When you hit a ship, an explosion and smoke is drawn on top of the ship until it disappears off the screen.

In its execution, Chaos most closely resembles the Namco arcade shooter Starblade, which also offered exactly the same game every time. Starblade gets a point for actually removing exploded ships from the screen, but Chaos gets many more points for being faster, better looking, and generally more fun. (Note to Infogrames, though: if you can animate the explosions, vary their size, and have them track the moving objects, couldn't you have just put computer-animated ships in random locations and opened up the game more? Or is that too Rebel Assault?)

Chaos is also distinguished by a faux-anime storyline that is played out in animated sequences between the action sequences. The heroine who you're playing is ace pilot Jessica Darkhill, whose wingman and One True Love has been killed in an earlier battle with the Kesh Rahn, an alien fleet that's come to conquer the Earth. Jessica must first punch through the front lines to get to a base in Manhattan, destroy a computer virus in a virtual-reality world, then take a prototype ship into space and destroy the alien mothership.

It's nice to give the game a narrative angle like this, and making the hero a woman is an interesting idea. Anime fans will also notice a variety of borrowings from franco-japanese animation. Still, every now and then, the voice acting isn't up to the task, and some of the scenes border on camp. (to some, of course, that makes it even more authentic anime!)

The look of the game elements actually show the title's strongest design skils. The larger Kesh Rahn ships are appropriately creepy, bulbous behemoths with pointed spikes. They're backed up by robot-like mobile-suits, serpentine ''boss'' mecha, etc. The flying is at times claustrophobic, dizzying, and desperate. All of this has been rendered by supercomputer and when replayed in full-motion video, it's a sumptious shoot-em-up.

The game comes from France's Infogrames, who designed last year's feeble Kether. That game's sole highlight was its sweeping flying sequences, an idea developed further here. Having said all that, Chaos Control has two significant game-play flaws that prevent it from achieving true greatness. The first is simply that the level designs don't live up to the potential of the game-engine. The first level, in which you fly past the Statue of Liberty and into the wrecked urban corridors of Manhattan, is easily the best, and even it seems to go on aimlessly near the end.

After that, you fly a ''virtual'' fighter through a computer landscape, to destroy a virus that threatens the attack mission. The real rush of the first level, the sense of flying through a real-world landscape, is obviously lost here. Flying around a circuitboard is too obviously artificial to provide the same rush. The third and fourth levels, in which you fight off aliens around a space station and take on the mother ship, are better. But...

They're just too easy. The first time I finished the second level, I proceeded to destroy the flagship and win the game. This after maybe five or six games, tops. A feeling of victory is great and all, and replaying the first level is still nominally interesting, but a $50 disc shouldn't be beaten so quickly. Ultimately, the best thing about Chaos Control may be that it could open designers' eyes to new kinds of games using the digital video cartridge. Instead of tacking video interruptions onto an otherwise boring game (e.g., Mutant Rampage), Chaos uses the fast-moving video to overcome the difficulty the CD-i would otherwise have animating so many objects and backgrounds. Aside from the obvious use in shooting and flying games, you have to wonder if there are camera crews shooting first-person perspectives for CD-i racing games, adventures, and other kinds of titles. Chaos is a good enough game in its own right, but it could be the start of something even better. (7/10)

[Thanks to Chris Adamson, Devin, Black Moon]


The CD-i page @ Videogameconsolelibrary is ready

>> Sunday, July 24, 2011

Terry posted that he finished his CD-i review/page. In 2008 we let you know the start of the CD-i section at VideogameConsoleLibrary and he has upload a lot of info/stuff about CD-i, including reviews, pictures and a lot of specifications. Visit it here:


Philips discontinued CD-i officially 15 years ago

>> Tuesday, July 5, 2011

15 Years ago Philips announced the plan to close Philips Media and to discontinue CD-i as a platform. Philips mainly was about to stop any content related business. In 1986 Philips Media began its life as American Interactive Media (a combination of the formerly known Delaware and Polymedia). In 1992 the name was changed to Philips Interactive Media Corporation (PIMC), in 1995 it was changed to Philips Media. Every title being produced after may 1995, was showing the new introduction movie of Philips Media (the zooming blue philips logo), replacing the old one (the philips logo changing into a silver disc). In November 1998, the whole Philips Media business was handed over to Infogrames (known nowadays as Atari). Philips owned about 40% of it in 1995.

The process of closing down Philips Media took more than a year. Philips announced it to the press as following: "Philips Media, an operating division of Philips Electronics N.V. based in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, today announced that it has signed a letter of intent to transfer its multimedia software publishing and distribution activities to Infogrames Entertainment. Infogrames Entertainment, based in Villeurbanne, France, was already the European leader of interactive publishing and becomes with this transfer of Philips Media's activities, the strongest European entertainment company in interactive publishing an software distribution. The combination of Infogrames Entertainment talents in publishing and development of interactive software titles and Philips Media's strength in European distribution will create a major company in the interactive entertainment industry. Philips Media and Infogrames Entertainment have been partners for many years. They have jointly developed and produced many successful international interactive software titles, such as International Tennis Open, Chaos Control, Asterix, Marco Polo, Shaolin's Road. Philips Media became a major shareholder of Infogrames Entertainment in 1993 and has a seat on the board of Infogrames Entertainment. At the end of 1996, Philips Media has a 13.2% stake in Infogrames Entertainment. After completion of the current agreement, Philips will increase this minority stake in Infogrames Entertainment. Richard de Lange, President & CEO of Philips Media stated: "We are now in a position to align ourselves with another strong European company. We have successfully restructured our US and European publishing organization last year and we have built up our distribution strengths by acquiring Bomico (Germany), Ecudis (France) and Leisuresoft (United Kingdom). This transfer of our assets is a natural extension of a very successful relationship with Infogrames Entertainment, which has matured over the past decade. Philips is pleased to contribute to the creation of a company that will be a major player in the fields of interactive multimedia worldwide." According to Bruno Bonnell, Chairman and CEO of Infogrames Entertainment, "With this transfer Infogrames Entertainment strengthens its unique position in creation and publishing of interactive titles and is able to develop a pan-European distribution strategy. The long and rich relationship with Philips Media taught all of us to work together which is a guarantee of success."


CD-i Reader Rating: Burn:Cycle is worth a 8,7

>> Friday, June 24, 2011

In the following months (years?) we let you decide what each CD-i game is worth. We like to know how you would rate every single CD-i game. Keep an eye on the polls in the right column to see if a new game is up. We'll come up with lists once we have some input. Thanks for your vote!

Burn:Cycle was rated with a 8,7 in total (10 being the highest/best). That means we have a new number #1#! Search the site to find more info on the game. From today, we start with Creature Shock; the 3D first person shooter featuring full motion video, but how do you think that worked out on CD-i? Check out the label 'Poll' to read all previous entries in the CD-i Reader Rating. The top 5 until now is as following:

1. Burn: Cycle (8,7)
2. The 7th Guest (8,3)
3. Atlantis: The Last Resort (7,7)
4. Brain Dead 13 (7,1)
5. Accelerator (3,9)


"We want more CD-i video reviews!"

Just when I thought why my favourite Youtube channel (HalfBlindGamer) didn't put up any more CD-i video reviews anymore, I saw this:

Read more... offline

>> Tuesday, June 21, 2011

It's been around five years ago Matias started with extensive information about all CD-i software, hardware and peripherals but it seems like the domain has expired. Matias hasn't updated the site for years anymore but it was also a great reference site. Hopefully Matias pops up soon enough to save the content or allow us at Black Moon to host it. The list of dutch CD-i magazines is safe though: The magazines are already hosted at Black Moon (we just have to sort out a list of the shortcuts!). More news when it develops.


Tox Runner CD-i: a 'quickie game' and a schedule of 6 months

>> Monday, June 20, 2011

I was asked by Regis Bridon (head of studio) and David Mullich to come up with a "quickie game" project which would have a budget of $90,000.00 (I think) and a schedule of 6 months. So, working with my best friend and writer, Terry Ray, we conceived of the idea that would be called "Tox Runner". We both were big fans of "Mad Max" and those types of movies and decided to create an apocalyptic motorcycle race game. The story was about a lone rider that would go to the aid of a small outpost town in the middle of the wastelands. This place had a well/spring of clean water that got tainted by the baddies. The player would need to brave the dangerous roads of roving baddies on bikes who would attack, much like "Road Rash" and dodge debris in the road as well. The goal was to get to the town and save it with the antidote you're carrying throughout the game.

Well, I can say that all the artwork got done on time. The storytelling/cinematic artwork was all hand painted using acrylic paints and then scanned in. I hired freelance artist, Micheal Coy, a fellow Art Center grad friend of mine to help me paint these. Once scanned in, the parts were cut up and a moving slideshow was created with the parts. All the in-game artwork was created as sprites and various animation states and scaling was created similarly using Photoshop 2.0 and EA's sprite software, Studio 16.

The problem came when we had to engineer this. With "Video Speedway", the roads lay flat and didn't have to roll up and down. In "Tox Runner", the roads rolled up and down and simulated little dips and hills in the road. Yeah, that proved far more difficult than what either the engineer or the system could handle. My memory is a bit hazy here, but I'm not sure if the inability to pull this off or the ultimate demise of PiMA and the system killed this title, because it never got released and I got laid off around this time.

[Thanks, Devin]


Dutch CD-i article at Gaming Only and Bonami

>> Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Dutch website Gaming Only went for a visit to the Dutch Bonami game console museum, and they wrote an article about the CD-i. With nice pics and detailed (sometimes erroneous) info, a nice link to follow. And no, that Apple PowerCD is NOT a CD-i player, but a re-batched Philips Photo CD / audio CD player. But it seems like this is the place if you want to play with the Bang & Olufsen CD-i Television Set. Looks like I'm going to visit them anytime soon!

[Thanks, Gaming Only, Bonami]


Unlock Gobliiins levels by studying French on CD-i

>> Sunday, May 29, 2011

Alan posted a while ago (actually, 1,5 years already) about the classic game 'Gobliiins' appearing on the French cd-i discs 'ADI CM1' and ADI CE1'. 7 levels are available on each disc. The first level is available straight away, but you need to unlock later levels by studying! Alan confirms that to unlock later levels, you need to gain 20 points, which doesn't take too long at all. As long as you know your French!!
[Thanks, Alan]


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

  © Interactive Dreams Version 5 by The Black Moon Project 2013

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