Interview of Wayne Holder (February 1988)

The following interview was published by ST-REPORT Issue #24 February 29, 1988. © 1988 SPC/Ron Kovacs

FTL Conference Highlights from GEnie
Edited by Ron Kovacs

NHARRIS Our guest tonight is Wayne Holder, president of FTL Games. FTL's most recent products are Dungeon Master and Oids, their previous ST game was Sundog. Wayne, can you tell us a little about yourself and about FTL?

FTL Hello everyone... I have Andy Jaros the Graphic Designer for Dungeon Master with me and also Dan Hewitt the designer of OIDS. When we get started we'd love to answer any questions you may have. Also, let me thank everyone in advance for the wonderful support you've given OIDS and Dungeon Master.

J.M.MESA I like many other here tonight have finished DM and are experiencing withdrawal symptoms... When can we reasonably expect either a sequel or another game using the same system?

FTL Well, we just recently announced that we will release in March an expansion disk that will work with your Dungeon Master disk, we'd like to keep a few secrets...

MFARRAR I have two questions. First I'd like to know what language you use for development. A brief description of the development process for new systems.

FTL We developed Dungeon Master and OIDS in Megamax C. However, much of the graphic code is done in assembly. Megamax C is nice because the PC relative code is small and the in-line assembly makes inserting special code easy. However, we have also developed an extensive game development system which lets us build new games without programming, but we're keeping details of this secret...

W.SCHOONMAKE Well, I have 2 questions for you this evening...The first is about Sundog, I love this game and think it was done very well for the ST, are there a set number of cryogens in the game? Question number 2, will FTL ever consider doing business software for the ST?

FTL Yes, there are a set number of Cryogens but at the start of the game, they are distributed randomly, except one Cryogen is always on the last system you will be able to reach. Well FTL already does business software under the banner of our Parent company Software Heaven, Inc. We provide OEM programs to other vendors to distribute. However, we reserve the FTL name for games...

NHARRIS How is your company set up? Are you the president of Software Heaven also?

FTL We are incorporated in Calif as Software Heaven, Inc. and do business as FTL games. We used to be incorporated as FTL Games, Inc. but reorganized for reasons that are too tedious to describe. I am president (Wayne Holder) Russ Boelhauf is our marketing director, Doug Bell is our technical director, Andy Jaros is our Art Director, and there others too numerous to mention...

J.JAVIER1 How many copies of DM have you sold and if I could make a suggestion please use the keyboard commands more often in the upcoming games.

FTL Well, we don't release sales figures, but I can tell you that as of two months into sales for DM we have sold twice as many as we sold SunDogs for the comparable intro period. On your second comment, please send us a detailed letter describing how you'd like to see DM improved in the future. We love to get user comments because it helps us to review these suggestions before starting new games...

R.ROSENDALE1 Our ST GRoup ST-JAUG has grown basically do to DM. They meet now weekly with a DM SIG for people with the same levels. How is the newsletter coming?

FTL We will release a DM hint book in March written by Tracy Hickman and the release will coincide with our next newsletter. Is that what you meant?

R.ROSENDALE1 Yes, thanks.

R.MIRSBERGER I must be stupid, what is Oids? And how can i get it? It is not at my local store and I don't see it advertised.

FTL OIDS is what we recommend for DM withdrawal symptoms. It's our first arcade game. It comes complete with a Construction Set that lets you build your own games and trade em with your friends. OIDS is a fast paced game that we feel combines the best features of many other arcade games. We will release a full OIDS demo in the next few days so watch the DLs for this one. If you have trouble locating OIDS, call us at (619)453-5711 and prehaps we can locate a stocking dealer for you...

CAPT.COOK OK, as I understand it, the future will bring us more games from FTL using the same basic system as DM, but, are you going to stick to the fantasy genre? I'd love to see a sort of DM set in space.

FTL The idea behind DM was to create a way of building games that lets us recover the work we've already done when create new games. When we created SunDog, for example, all we had left afterward was a lot of specific code for this one game. In DM we created a system for making games and then created DM.. Thus we have a head start for any new games. They can be any type of game we choose. We are planning many different scenarios from Science Fiction to Horror.. Of course, because of development schedules, I can't say exactly what you'll see next. It depends on what we think people want to see next... Everyone... Send us your requests...

V.BUI One suggestion on your future packaging, I think that you should make more either way I loved both games.

FTL Thank you for your suggestion. We are getting better at planning our packages. Of course, its difficult to boil down a game as big as DM onto the back of a box. What specifically did you not like?

V.BUI its just that the boxes didn't give the feel of the game when I went to purchase DM and Oids the boxes didn't really tell me what I was getting. Also accurate Graphics on the DM box would greatly improve it. The different graphics made me wonder if I was getting two different products...

FTL Thank you. On the DM box we printed the first run of the box before the game was done and then changed the game. The recent versions we have shipped have a new box back...

D.GINBEY Are you marketing your games overseas?

FTL Yes, DM and OIDS are marketed by Mirrorsoft in London and distributed there, in France and Germany. In fact, we are just finishing a French and German version of DM...

W.WAKEFIELD I have two questions, first are the last two levels smaller than the 32 by 32 grid used on the upper levels and after careful study I have not discovered any spells that use the GOR symbol. Why?

FTL Well, I hate to say too much here in open session. Send us elec mail and I'd be glad to comment further. On the spell, GOR is not used currently, but is reserved for future scenarios...

P.KESTELL Earlier you mentioned that Tracy Hickman was doing your hint book, is this the same Tracy responsible for the Dragonlance stuff? If so is there any plan to move in that direction? Also when might we see some of the oids contest winners?

FTL Yes, the very same. Tracy was one of our DM Beta testers and has helped us greatly. I'd also like to give a quick plug for his new series from Bantam books called the "Dark Sword" Trilogy. The hint book is about 60 pages of in-depth DM strategy and hints. Also, We expect to announce the first OIDS contest winners soon. We've had many very good submissions. Remember, $100 given away every month!!!

B.S.OPLINGER Two questions One .. Why is there no support for us monochrome users? Oids or even DM could have been done in mono without a loss of playability. Are you really going to return a disk full of submissions on ever disk submmitted like your flyer says?

FTL We didn't have room for the duplicate graphics and code that mono support would require, sorry! However, I understand that E. Brown Co. now has a cable that will hook a nonRF ST to a composite color monitor. Perhaps you could connect your ST to a TV or color composite monitor?

B.S.OPLINGER AS a person who does just that, let me say it is a poor second to a color monitor.

FTL Also, we expect to have a winner every month and every person who submits an entry will receive the complete set of winners on disk at the close of the contest. Could you repeat that last again?

B.S.OPLINGER Sorry, the suggestion of a composite monitor just don't cut it. Picture is much worse that the ST monitor. I do understand about space on disk etc, but just feel a need to bitch anyway. Done

FTL I sympathize. We spent considerable time trying to suppport mono but had to give up...

FRANK My coworkers have begged me to ask you whether you have any plans to release DM for the PC and compatibles.

FTL We are considering support for many new machines. The older IBMs just don't have the horsepower we need. Perhaps soon...

J.ZUKOWSKI A couple of weeks ago here on the ST Round table someone was complaining about programming bugs in Dungeon Master. Are you aware of any bugs? If so, what are they, and how can they be avoided?

FTL The first release of DM had several bugs which we have corrected. Version 1.1 which is availble as a free update if you return you disk and include return postage. Call (619)453-5711 for details. Also, I believe we have a notice posted in the SLs here about the current bug status. All the bugs we've fixed however, occur only in the last phases of the game and if you get the update from us before you encounter Lord Chaos, you can continue your from your saved game with no problems...

NHARRIS How can you tell which version you have?

FTL The notice gives more details, but when you save or restore your game the program displays a menu box. The upper right corner shows the version number (no number means version the first release.)

J.DESIMONE Thank you and aloha from hawaii. Is ther a sequel planned? We are never happy with what we have.

FTL Yes, and many other new games. If you missed it earlier we will be releasing a mini-sequel soon which is a complete new mini DM adventure that you can load as a saved game but acts like a new game. (a hidden feature of DM) watch this space for details...

NHARRIS I just wanted to send a pat on the back to your graphics person. The graphics in DM are stupendous! Best I've seen on the ST. Are there more than 16 colors on the screen? How were they created?

FTL Andy Jaros (sitting here) thanks you. Yes the screen shows more than 16 colors. We use special interupt code and a few other tricks...

M.HAND Two questions. 1) What are the names of the stranger creatures in DM, the low to the ground things with green tentacles (on the Rat Level, the "Rock Squids" and the "Blue Meanies", as they've been called up here. 2) A vote for a Space (Star Trek-ish) scenario and a Jungle Scenario for you next games.

FTL Well you can call them anything you like, but we get asked this a lot so here are our names (you get to figure out what is what)...There are Giant Scorpions, Swamp Slime creatures, running gigglers, wizard's eyes, Pain Rats, Rusters, Screamers, Rock Piles, Ghosts, Stone Golems, mummies, Black Flames, Skeletons, Couatls, Vexirks, Magenta Worms, Trolins (blue guys), Giant Wasps, Animated Armours, Materializers (balls with tentacles), Water Elementals, Oitus (spiders), Demons, The Red Dragon, and Lord Chaos. Got it?

J.JAVIER1 Can we get the bug free version by sending in $10 for a backup. I'd hate the thought of not having dm to play.

FTL Yes, we always send the very latest version whenever we send out a backup disk. Also, we are fast at issuing backups. The only exception is we sometimes hold backup orders a few days if we know a new release is iminent...

L.GANZ Hi. I just had 2 questions. 1. DM is too hard for me, will there be a toned down version? 2. Will there be a hard disk version?

FTL Well the hint book may be able help you get started. If you can build your characters up a bit the game becomes easier. If you like, you can call us at (619) 453-5711. We're glad to give phone hints. We may do easier version in the future. On the Hard disk, we can't really use a hard disk. On a 1040 or Mega we load everything to memory and on a 520 the lack of memory is what slows the game down, not teh lack of a hard disk...

D.HADLAND This question is for all software developers. Why isn't the version # put outside of the boxes or is that a marketing no no.

FTL Its just to difficult for us to coordinate the disk duplication with the packaging. Also, it is a marketing no no.

J.ZUKOWSKI With 512, 1024, and 4096 colors now possible on the ST. Do you see any new games that will use these extra colors?

FTL Well, it's possible but using these colors sucks up almost all the processor time. But, who knows.

A.MILLS Well Im kind of new at this. But I would like to make a few comments. First i hate to see a game with things like, commodore graphics shown and also is there really an auto_slew in Sundog? If so where??

FTL Well most people have criticized us because our game box graphics are LESS real looking than the real game. The Apple II version of SunDog had a component called an autoslew and certain (unauthorized) hints books mention this device, but it was removed from the Atari ST version of SunDog...

JM.YANG Ok, can you give us a sneak preview of the up coming mini-adventure. Depth of the dungeon, number of monsters, theme, etc...

FTL I could, but I'd rather it be a suprise.


FTL Thank you, Dan Hewitt (creator of OIDS) Thanks you. Thank you

GED Do you have any plans do any real time 3d game systems that will allow two players to comete via modem?

FTL My lips are sealed!

M.HAND There are many items in DM that don't seem to do too much, are the details/uses of things covered in the Hint Book??

FTL Many items have secret and hard to discover uses. Of course, there are also many red herrings too. Did you know the Gem of Ages increases your healing ability. Also, the rabbits foot increases your luck. You have to be very observant to figure out the effects. We didn't want all DMs secrets to be easy to figure out...

W.WAKEFIELD have the same screen layout or does your system allow for flexibility in the way the game is presented.

FTL We can change the screen layout easily, but we're trying to develop a standard type interface so new games will be easier to get into. Sort of the same rationale behind the Desktop design.

J.M.MESA Just a few comments. First, why don't we see DM advertised in magazines such as Computer Gaming? Also I must congratulate Mr. Jaros for his amazing artistry!

FTL We'd like to advertise everywhere, but it takes time to put together an effective ad campaign. Many people don't realize the cost and time it takes to just DESIGN an effective ad. We are trying to get better here. Also, Andy Jaros says thanks!

NHARRIS Well folks, it's almost 9 PM here in warm California and this has been a great conference! Thanks to the FTL folks...for participating as well as for their great products, thanks also to all of you for attending tonight.