Ponx and Carl Forhan, the
1. First off, for the readers who are not familiar with your company,
Carl-Songbird Productions was formed early in 1999 as the culmination of several years of part-time development and negotiations with many developers formally associated with the Atari Lynx and Jaguar systems.
To date, Songbird Productions has published three new titles for the Lynx -- SFX, Ponx, and Lexis. More titles are being worked on, such as Crystal Mines II:Buried Treasure. Four new Jaguar games are currently slated for release in the 1999-2000 timeframe, including Skyhammer, Protector, Soccer Kid, and Hyper Force.
2. What made you decide to support the Jaguar and Lynx? Do you have any plans to support any other systems?
Carl-I've been an Atari fan ever since the VCS of my childhood. When I learned Atari was still making game systems in the mid-90s, I began to investigate what it would take to develop games in my spare time. It soon became apparent that Atari was dropping support for first the Lynx, then the Jaguar, and no one beyond Telegames was making a serious attempt to fill the gap left by Atari.
While I still have several unannounced Atari projects in the works, I am currently evaluating other platforms for future development. I'd really like to work on a Gameboy Color or NeoGeo Pocket Color title someday soon.
3. Everyone dreams of doing their own game, but doesn't realize the amount of work that goes into the development of a game. Can you give us a basic idea of the amount of work it takes to bring a game from an idea to an actual product for sale?
Carl-Whew... it's definitely a lot of work. I spent several years (yes, years) working on and off on SFX and Ponx. Of course, a major portion of that time was spent just learning the Lynx hardware. The actual logic to a game like Ponx is relatively simple. If I started something like Ponx today, I could code it in just a few months (of part-time effort).
Beyond the actual design and test... it was a real bear getting the carts made. Where do you go nowadays to get Lynx or Jaguar carts fabricated? Companies aren't exactly lining up to do this. My first supplier bailed out on me, and I was fortunate to find another individual who wanted to do some card design and fabrication for a game system such as the Lynx. That was probably a six-month process in itself.
Finally, there was the packaging issue. SFX was released only in a ziplock baggie, but both Ponx and Lexis were published in a CD jewel case with a full-color cover. All my carts also feature full-color 'Atari-style' labels. I'm hopeful that my Jaguar releases will appear completely professional, from the box all the way to the cart casing.
4. How many people are involved in the production of your games?
Carl-I do basically all the design and testing myself, although occasionally I do recruit other testers. Usually one other person or small company handles all the hardware side of things for me -- manufacturing PCBs, programming chips, assembly, etc.
5. Is the decision to make a particular title, a individual decision or is there a group of people that decide?
Carl-Pretty much just me. =)
6. Will these games be available for a limited time or will you constantly keep them in stock?
Carl-When the current supply is exhausted, that's it. It's too costly to produce small orders "on demand".
7. Are there any hidden stuff in the games?
Carl-Yes. Ponx has a couple of cheats, one of which has already been made public. Lexis has several cheat words which have interesting effects on the game. And Protector (for the Jaguar) has quite a few cheat modes in it...
8. Which one of your games is your personal favorite?
Carl-Ponx. You have to play it to know how much fun it really is. It's too easy to brush it off as some cheap Pong knock-off. Wait until you see how fast and frantic the game gets, either against a human or computer opponent. Multi-ball only adds to this, and the 'evil' cheat mode I will soon reveal on the internet makes the game wildly unpredictable. Ponx is still fun for me to play, after almost two years of tinkering with it. I'm quite proud of how nice the entire game is, from the music, to the audio effects to the AI to the game play.
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