Interview:Interactive Dreams March 8th 2007

From Zelda Dungeon Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Want an adless experience? Log in or Create an account.
Interactive Dreams March 8th 2007


March 08, 2007


Jim Belcher


Interactive Dreams


Jim Belcher talks about the development of Zelda's Adventure and Voyeur II for the Philips CD-i.



Californian software house Viridis released its long-awaited Nintendo cdi title in 1995. I find it extraordinary how Philips had no idea what a great franchise they could have capitalized upon! That's not even to mention the chance to make some great Mario Platform games for the system. It's great to hear the thoughts of Jim, who, besides more info on CD-i, also worked on CD-ROM games for Philips. It's probably the least kept secret that we uncovered a Disc 1 prototype of Voyeur II for CD-i, unfortunately we lack the second to make a real game out of it. The encoding is mighty impressive and it's a pity a full release was never realized on CD-i.

We continue our chat with Jim, one of the developers of Zelda's Adventure.

Jim Belcher: Almost all of [the scenery] was shot in the Los Angeles area. We barely had budget for lights, much less [for] travel expenses! Some of the background terrain textures were shot in Hawaii by me from a helicopter in the previous fall before starting the project, but they were vacation type pics and not paid for by the actual production. We were desperate for interesting terrain photos, so everybodies' holiday pics were fair game. We even sent some of the artists out with cameras to shoot macro shots of textures in the neighborhood. All of the video was shot at our offices on Santa Monica Blvd. in West LA.

About Voyeur II

Jim Belcher: As far as I remember (I was the Philips project manager on Voyeur II), there was never more than fairly rudimentary code for the CD-i version. By that time Philips had refocused efforts on the PC and Mac platform. That doesn't mean that more complete code doesn't exist, but I am certain that I would have seen and reviewed it if it did. You never know. Perhaps InterWeave (the developer) had more complete code, but never submitted a test disc to Philips when the CD-i version was cancelled. BTW, one little known piece of trivia is that InterWeave also submitted a short game demo of how they would have handled "The Crow." One funny story about Voyeur II was told to me by Robbie (owner of InterWeave) while we were working on the project....

InterWeave was set up in a large house in Woodland Hills in LA. There was smaller house behind the larger house where Robbie had a recording studio and also space for his engineers and artists. Computers were running all the time as the artists and engineers were on deadline, and they had several computers just chugging away on the video compression alone. In L.A., the city will sometimes scrutinize residences with unusual electricity usage as this is a good indicator of an illicit marijuana growing facility. So one day the police show up at Interweave and wanted a tour of the property. I am sure they thought that when the looked in the rear facility they would find a whole array of metal halide grow bulbs and a complete pot farm. When Robbie took them in, of course they were completely shocked to find a bunch of sweaty, sleep deprived programmers, and cranky graphic artists! The police left, not know what to think!

Back to Zelda CD-i

Jim Belcher: The decision to use DYUV backgrounds killed the gameplay for me. The background scrolls took too long. Given the size of the project, Randy (the engineer) did a great job considering he wrote almost all the code himself. The CD-i platform was so technically limiting (once the decision had been made to use DYUV backgrounds) that doing anything complicated was extremely frustrating. I remember when we discussed sound effects during gameplay were were literally haggling over 1k or 2k of free RAM and how best to use it.

All the music was composed by our talented in-house composer, Mark, who, believe it or not, also played Gaspra in the cut scenes. All of the houses were constructed as scale models by our model-maker, Jason. The same goes for the interior sets in the cut scenes. The interior of Gaspra's observatory was actually about 18 inches across. There were some photoshop enhancements, but the props, characters, models, etc. were definitely "old school" simply because we didn't have time or budget to do it any other way and still get the quality we wanted.

I remember that Nintendo had final approval rights over the product, and they did see and approve all the Zelda games, but I don't think they were ultimately that interested. I think they thought of CD-i as some little niche product that they could safely ignore.ZA was never meant to be a sequel to the other CD-i titles; in fact, what Philips did was farm out the Zelda projects to three different developers and got three different games. We may have seen a little of the other CD-i Zelda games during development, but it didn't influence ZA at all. You have to remember that ZA was released last because the title spent a couple of years in test at Philips! So much so that after we finished production of ZA and turned the first test build into Philips, I went to work on another outside project for a year, then came back to Philips for another year and half, and the damn thing was still in test. It spent something like two years in test, which was longer than the game took to develop. There are many reasons for the long test period, some of which are long and boring, but certainly the game didn't need to spend that long in test. I had my own run-ins with the test department with some of the later projects I managed, so I was not particularly surprised. There was actually a lot more music written than what made it in the game, which is what I'm remembering. [One] of the problems in the game [was that] you could get stuck in areas where the masking on the terrain was not perfect. One of the big problems of spending so long in test is that your chances of fixing certain bugs actually diminishes. This is because your primary programming resources get deployed to other projects, or worse, leave for other jobs. If you lose your lead programmer because you spent too long in test, it might be impossible to fix certain bugs without ripping all the code apart and sending the whole project back for extensive regression testing. This is one reason why I favor short but thorough testing strategies. Sadly, this was not done for ZA. I suspect by the time ZA was finishing up in test, Randy (lead programmer) had long ago left for greener pastures at Novalogic.