Interview:Interactive Dreams March 8th 2007
March 08, 2007
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.
About Voyeur II
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
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.