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Interview of FTL Team (January 1990)

The following interview was published by CPU NEWSWIRE ONLINE MAGAZINE, "The Original 16/32bit Online Magazine" from STR Publishing Inc. January 26, 1990, Issue No.4.04

© 1989 by Atari Corporation, GEnie, and the Atari Roundtables. May be reprinted only with this notice intact. The Atari Roundtables on GEnie are *official* information services of Atari Corporation.

FTL ONLINE CONFERENCE CPU/STR Feature FTL'S Wayne Holder. January, 24,1990.

[Sysop] JEFF.W On behalf of the Atari ST Roundtable, I welcome all of you to the FTL RealTime Conference on GEnie. Before getting started, I invite all of you to join us next week for an RTC with Lauren Flanegan-Sellers. Lauren is the president of Blue Chip International and will be with us to talk about WORDFLAIR, the new document processor for the Atari ST.
And now, let's commence with the FTL RTC.
For those of you who are new to computing or have been in remote seclusion for the last two years, FTL is the producer of one of the most sophisticated and popular games for the ST and Amiga (and soon, the PC), DUNGEON MASTER. It is very rare for one game to fire the imagination and enthusiasm of players the way that DUNGEON MASTER has. It is almost a cottage industry unto itself with hint books, hint disks, maps, and an unending amount of online chatter between players trying to help each other finish this game. DUNGEON MASTER has done this. And now, it has spawned a sequel. After much anticipation amongst DM fans, FTL has released CHAOS STRIKES BACK for the ST. CHAOS STRIKES BACK is proving that sequels aren't always a pale shadow of their successful predecessors! <grin>
Our guests are Wayne Holder, President of FTL, Doug Bell, and David Simon.
Gentlemen, my thanks to you for being with us this evening. Before we start throwing questions at you, would you like to introduce yourselves and make any opening comments?

FTL Greetings everyone. And, thanks for the great response to Chaos Strikes Back I'm not much at introductions, so I guess that's all.

[Sysop] JEFF.W DUNGEON MASTER has been a tremendously popular game. And it looks like CHAOS STRIKES BACK is no slouch when it comes to popularity also. Did you have any idea when doing DM that this would be the case? And what do you attribute their popularity to?

FTL Well, we had a "hunch" that DM would do OK. I guess because we felt we were trying to do a type of game that had never been done before. That is a game that blends real-time action with a rich environment to play in. I guess the closest analog to what we were trying to do was to create the dungeon equivalent of a "flight simulator".
With CSB we were trying to build upon our game "technology" and develop ways to develop new scenarios without needing changes to a lot of code. In this sense, CSB was a bit of an experiment, and we were a bit nervous about releasing it. Originally we intended to make CSB require the original DM game (hence the comment on the back of the box which we had already printed bookoo thousands of before we changed our minds.) This would have limited CSB to the original graphics But, after testing, we decided that we needed to add new monsters and other graphics. So, we went with two disks.

[Sysop] JEFF.W DM and CSB each came out much later than everyone thought they would. Obviously, you didn't compromise the integrity of these games by trying to meet expected release dates. But why does it take so long to get a new game out, especially with CSB, seeing that the basic game mechanics had already been worked out previously (in DM)?

FTL The basic CSB scenario was done quite a while ago. But, we were also working on moving Dungeon Master to many new computers. During this conversion we kept finding problems with compatibility between CSB (which was being designed on the Atari) and these new computers. Because we didn't want to dig ourselves into a hole with these new computers, we had to do a lot of redesign to plan for everything fitting in the future. In the long run, I think everyone will benefit more, even if it perhaps is a bit frustrating for our users sometimes. (we're sorry!)

[Sysop] JEFF.W Thanks. One last one from me (for now). Which computer systems are DM and CSB available/to be available on?

FTL Currently in the USA Dungeon Master is available for the Atari ST, the Amiga, and the Apple IIgs. In Japan, Dungeon Master is available on CDROM for the Fujitsu "FM Towns" computer (a 386 IBM PC style computer.) the Sharp X68000 computer, and the NEC PC-9801 computer (just shipping next week.) Soon DM will be out for the IBM PC in the USA and also the Apple Macintosh (although perhaps not as soon for the Mac.) For CSB, it is currently only available for the Atari ST (because we like you.) but will soon be out for the Amiga.

[Sysop] JEFF.W And we like -you- too! Thanks.

JRHARRIS Thanks, Jeff, and thanks to FTL for two great games two quickies. Even though I haven't finished CSB, yet, when can I expect the next sequel and can we please have a 'multiple save' feature?

FTL We hope to have at least another game out this year, but I can't say much more because I'm not sure which of the several games we have in development will come out when. Actually, I'd like to get some more feedback on whether people would like another "expansion set" like CSB And, if it should be "harder" or "easier" than CSB?
Sorry, I forgot about your "save" question. We've received many requests for this and we'll look into supporting it for future games. (Wayne looks left toward Doug Bell who will have to code it :)

[Chris] C.MCKINSEY Do you plan on making a ][gs version of CSB and if so when may we expect it's release?

FTL Currently, we're not sure about the IIgs. We lost our IIgs expert last year and we have not yet found a good replacement for him. However, we are very pleased with our IIgs sales and we'd "like" to do a IIgs version.

[Sysop] JEFF.W BTW, JRHARRIS votes for a "three-quel" to DM. <grin>

[JimR] J.RATKOS1 Now that Atari has been shipping ALL their units with D/S drives do you foresee that your products in the future will take advantage of this, if not just to "add" more sounds, graphics for those with 1meg or more and to speed up loading time?

FTL Well, this is a difficult question, because my intelligence indicates there are still quite a few single sided systems out there I don't think we can abandon them. Especially since many are in Europe where we have great sales. But, I understand your desire to take full advantage of your computer. We have considered going to multiple disks and supporting a double-sided or hard disk install, but there are still some unresolved technical problems with this.

J.RATKOS1 I think that the way that it has been done in the past is agreeable to most of us but there are some of us who will always want more <grin>, and yes to another expansion set.

FTL BTW, I am online about once a week. Please post your votes on how you'd like an expansion set to be.

[Jeff] JBEADLES First of all, Yes to another expansion set. Two questions. First, are there plans to allow DM/CSB to be installed on hard disks, and second, are there plans for user-created adventures, ala Oids?

FTL Currently, we can't support installation to a hard drive and still run on a 512K ST. We have to take complete control of the machine at boot to recover enough RAM from the system. So, we have these hard choices again. Usually, we opt for the answer that gets our games into the hands of the most people. Although, we are working on ways to make this work for future games.
Sorry. Again I forgot your second question. We have plans to slowly introduce the elements of a complete user configurable game. However, there are still many technical questions to solve. What we will do is to continue to add new pieces to the puzzle. For example, the Champion Portrait Editor is an example of a module which gives you a little more control for customizing your games. Look for more modules like this in the future.

MIKE-ELLIS First I would like to commend you for producing (in my opinion) two of the best games I have ever seen. However, I was disappointed when I found that the Amiga version was better in that it supported many more sounds, etc. My question is this, "Why didn't the ST version of CSB support these enhancements?

FTL Well the Amiga version requires more RAM than the ST version. (1 meg vs 512K.) Also, the Amiga has special sound hardware which the older STs lack. However, we are planning on supporting the new STe machines which have great sound hardware. The sounds on the ST are currently very difficult to do without slowing down the game. With the new hardware on STe we can add some optional sounds for the new machines to use.

T.KURILLA Hello, I've just about completed CSB, but I want to solve it with the CSB characters. Is there a way to obtain both Kazai and Lor? And if so, could I get a hint?

FTL No, sorry, they don't like each other very much and we had to separate them so that they wouldn't fight all the time.

[Vinny] SALVIUS Thanks, Jeff. You guys had discussed the possibility of taking the DM code and turning it into scenarios other than fantasy. What do you have in the works? A space Station futuristic type thing perhaps?

FTL Yes! Perhaps. We have a futuristic game in development now. Please send me your thoughts on the regular board. Perhaps you can influence what we do?

D.BIXLER1 First let me say. As a programmer, I have much admiration for the people at FTL. It must be absolutely fun working on games such as DM in stead of EXCITING business packages. Now the two questions:
1) As a programmer, I would think that a good way to create a different feel and "quick" game generation would be to create libraries which contain the "frames" necessary for displaying different objects, monsters, WALL TYPES, etc. (As far as I know you may already do this). Do you think that doing so could help create the sequels quicker, and at the same time make a world of difference in the look and feel of the sequels? (All you would have to do is edit the libraries and select the objects/ monsters which will be used in the next software release)

FTL Sigh, I wish that creating a new game was as simple as hacking new code The hard part always turns out to be the "details" which everyone enjoys so much. (Except sometimes the programmers.)

D.BIXLER1 2) As a user, I have heard NOTHING (0) about CSB, can you tell me what the major differences are from DM (What is the Champion Portrait Editor)?

FTL OK. CSB continues the original DM adventure. In CSB you discover that Chaos has foreseen his defeat in the DM scenario, and has planned a revenge upon the world, which, if successful, will restore him to power. CSB is based mostly on the DM code, but adds several new modules on a separate "utility" disk. One is the Champion Portrait Editor which can pluck Champions from one saved game, allowing you to edit their appearance, and then insert them into the new CSB scenario. Also, you can use the CPE to edit the pictures of Champions in any DM or CSB game while the game is in progress. The second new feature is the "Hint Oracle" which is a powerful deity (named "John") who can read your saved games for CSB and offer specific hints on your current situation.

F.KISH1 Anything to speed up booting?????? Perhaps a key disc in drive A for Hard Disc users (even at extra sigh, cost??)

[Sysop] JEFF.W This was really covered earlier. Anything else to add to this issue, Wayne?

FTL No, except that we are sorry it takes so long to load. But, there is a lot of stuff to load.

L.HUNNEFIELD Hi FTL! I just wanted to say thanks for the games you have produced thus far. I was curious if you were ever going to do a Sundog II?

FTL We might. I assume you'd like it?

L.HUNNEFIELD Absolutely. Preferably with a Dungeon-Master-like interface and graphics. That was a GREAT game!!!

FTL One thing I mention from time to time, is to suggest that people write us (use the PO box in the the front of the manual.) We read every letter and so do the programmers and game designers. This helps us get a "feel" for what people want.

[Sysop] JEFF.W For everyone's information, the DM topic is in Category 9, Topic 39...

FTL Yes, I am active in cat 9

[Sysop] JEFF.W ...and the CSB topic is in Category 9, Topic 38. And Wayne's email address is. ..FTL! Gee, that works out great!

[Brian] B.LOSCHIAVO In DM, which is the best combo of characters to complete the game?

FTL Actually, it's mostly up to you regardless of who you choose, your characters will advance far beyond their starting stats before you get even halfway into DM. I normally say that reincarnation is better in the long run, but makes for a tougher start. If you can get past level 4 (the worms) with reincarnated Champions, then you're probably home free.

[love broker] J.DOTSETH1 Hi Wayne, thanks for the great games, two quickies first, is there any talk of supporting MIDI on future games and what do you have to say about the anti-climax rumors going around??

FTL Sorry, do you mean MIDI for music? And clarify "anticlimax".

[love broker] J.DOTSETH1 O.K. MIDI as a sound track in the background and people have said the game is very anti-climatic at the end, I think they want their monitor to melt or something.

FTL With regard to Midi. We may support more music options in the future. But so far it doesn't seem to be requested very often. With regard to the ending. I suppose we suffer from the fault that we put all of our effort into the scenario rather than a fancy ending animation. This is a difficult choice. We understand that after you've put in 70 plus hours you're expecting a really amazing ending. However, to live up to most peoples' expectations would probably require a second disk. (DM and CSB are tough acts to follow.)

[Eric] E.WEEKS Although I would be one of the first to buy an expansion set, there are times when those old dungeon walls seem a bit dreary. Question: what is the status of the character extractor utility? I hope you still bury the character information in the extracted file so no one can find it.

FTL I have assigned the task to one of our programmers. I hope to have it completed in about a week. (see cat 9 top 38 for details.)

[DARK_ELF] K.WELTY I was wondering if you ever considered the option of offering the ability to link multiple computers together (MIDI or RS232) to create a true multi-player version?

FTL Yes, we actually did a multiplayer game a while ago, but we never released it. Watch this space...

[Al] A.HORTON I hope my question is not redundant. Three people in my home play CSB. I would love to back it up, but can't. Is there a way that key disks, doc copy protection, or code wheels could be used as copy protection?

FTL Actually, we think our current protection is less hassle than a code wheel or manual based protection. Also, we do offer a backup disk as a mail-in offer. (see the front of the Manual.)

[Ralph] ST.REPORT Just wanted to say "Thank You" for many hours of first rate entertainment derived from DM/CSB.

FTL Thank you!!

L.HUNNEFIELD Well, I just wanted to know when you will be printing a "hint booklet" for the CSB.

FTL We're considering it. What specially would you like? Send me your thoughts in cat 9.

J.RATKOS1 You mean there is still hope for RVP? (fond memories of CES '87)

FTL No, sorry. But something new is a brewin...

[kiwi] J.CLARKE6 When will you release CSB to the South Pacific, ie New Zealand?

FTL You mean you don't have it?

[kiwi] J.CLARKE6 Not even close.

FTL Well, I'll check into this. If you like you can order direct. call USA FTL (619) 453-5711 and ask for Silvia or Debbi.

[Sysop] JEFF.W Thanks everyone for all your questions. Wayne, any closing comments before we pull the plug?

FTL Thank you all for attending!!! And, talk to me in cat 9 top 38. See you all later!

[Sysop] JEFF.W Thanks again to Wayne Holder, Doug Bell, and David Simon from FTL for being with us.
Please join us next week for the Wordflair RTC with Lauren Flanegan-Sellers.


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