Question #1-You have done three games for the Atari, could you tell us which games they are and why you chose to do them?
Tim-The three games thus far are "Mystery Science Theater 2600," "HozerQuest: Thrift Simulation," and "The Blair Witch Project." I did MST2600 as a lark. I was experimenting with hacking 2600 sprite images with Editgfx when I heard MST3K was going off the air. I always had a special place in my heart for licenced games based on TV shows and movies, so I figured my first experiment would be a game based on MST3K - as a tribute, I guess. I took a BIN of Megamania and altered the ship so it resembled the Satellite of Love and the enemies to resemble characters from some of the hideous movies the cast riffed on. I also designed the label and instructions.
I next did HozerQuest (HQ) as a hack of Venture. I thought Star Trek: SOS was an interesting concept as an arcade "trainer" for Starfleet. So, HQ became a "trainer" for those days when we can't go out thrifting. Turns out a few people had similar ideas, I just happened to be the first to act.
And as for Blair Witch, well, Haunted House is one of my favs, so I wanted to make a game using that gameplay. The end of the movie sort of paralleled the plot of HH, so it was a natural.
Question #2-Did it get easier to do after you got the first one under your belt?
Tim-Hugely. I then knew what I was looking for sprite-wise and how to program the images upside-down and backwards. However, hacking images is harder than you may think because you're trying to build AROUND what's already been created. One wrong line here or there and the game'll crash completely.
Also, if the sprites are animated, it becomes even harder to match the original's sprite movements.
Question #3-You have taken existing games and remake them with new graphics and themes, why did you choose this over making new games?
Tim-I majored in computer programming back in the 80s when PASCAL, FORTRAN, and COBOL were useful. However, when I switched majors (journalism), all of that programming experience - including any knowledge of 6502 programming - I may have had disappeared. I'm trying to re-learn machine language programming again, but it's an arduous task. So, just to keep my foot in the door, I began twiddling around with existing programs. I've heard that other Atari homebrewers started the same way.
Question #4-Of the three games, which one was the most satisfying for you to make?
Tim-Definitely MST2600. Several people have commented on it as having good animation and gameplay. Though I had little to do with the gameplay, I take it as a compliment that the animation works so well for folks. I had a MST3K fan contact me once and say, "I think it's great that you did an Atari cart based on the series. The show was always made on the cheap, so it's only natural that a game based on it would also be available only for a discontinued, antiquated system." I got a huge laugh out of that.
Question #5-Which game has been the most popular with gamers?
Tim-Once again MST2600, but HQ had a lot of positive word of mouth when it was released.
Question #6-When you saw the Mystery Science cart sell for over $200.00, what was your first reaction?
Tim-I thought it originally was some kind of joke bid or that the bidder was trying to teach the auctioneer a lesson. After all, it's available brand-new for $16 from Hozer. However, after the auction ended, the two traded positive feedback, so I assume the deal went through. Amazing. I have to have the profit margin booted up before that happens again or at least get some sort of kickback.
Question #7-What new games do you have planned?
Tim-Well, I've sworn off hacking other games for a while. It's fun and folks seem to like the effort, but I feel a little odd messing around with another person's works. As a writer (I manage a medical magazine in Cleveland), I understand fully the concept of "ripping off." But since I make no claims to have designed these myself and that they are indeed hacks, I think most folks understand that I'm just trying to put new spins on old classics. (But MST2600 still has a royalty because, darn it, I worked HARD on that sucker!)
I'm now designing an Atari game from the ground up. There used to be a game called "Zombies" for the C64 that had a great Dawn of the Dead gameplay - long before the Resident Evils and survival horror games became popular. I thought a you-vs.-legions of undead game would be cool and I'm working on that.
Other game ideas I have include a sequel to Adventure, a game based on TV programming and scheduling wars (don't ask), and a racer based on the arcade game "Death Race 2000." I just noticed that my two prime ideas have death as a theme. Perhaps I should be worried.
Question #8-Any possibilities for games for other systems?
Tim-I recently picked up a Lynx and see that folks are programming for that as well. Let's see if I can once again grasp the basics of 6502 again, and we'll talk about other systems!
"Your Friendly Neighborhood Snider-man!"
We would like to take this time to thank Tim for taking the time for the interview. We also want to wish him the best of luck with his games!
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