Interview: Rebecca Heineman & Jennell Jaquays

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At KansasFest, I had the pleasure of interviewing two game industry veterans – Rebecca Heineman and Jennell Jaquays with John Leake of the RetroMacCast.  The interview is also part of RetroMacCast episode 375.

Rebecca has authored over 200 games and played a key role in many noteworthy companies like Interplay Productions.  Some of her most popular Apple II game credits include The Bard’s Tale III, WastelandTass Times in Tonetown, and Battle Chess.

Jennell Jaquays is a game designer and amazing artist for companies like Coleco, Epyx, Electronic Arts, and id Software.  Her designs like Coleco’s WarGames and the AD&D RPG module Dark Tower have both won awards.

Their game company Olde Sküül has released several titles like Battle Chess: Game of Kings, and will shortly have a Kickstarter campaign available for their new RPG, Dragons Of The Rip.

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John Leake:  This is going to be a fun interview.  We’re doing a joint interview for Call-A.P.P.L.E. and RetroMacCast, and so we are here today with Rebecca “Burger Becky” Heineman.

Rebecca Heineman:  Hello everybody.

Brian Wiser:  And I’m Brian Wiser with Call-APPLE, and we’re also here with Jennell Jaquays.

Jennell Jaquays:  Hi.

JL:  First of all, I have to say as somebody who has been to KansasFest many years ago, is it the same feeling now with the same excitement?

RH:  There is a difference in tone, but there is a lot of the same excitement, the same people.  When I went to KansasFest, or even back when it was called the Apple II Summer Developer Conference, it was more to business because we were all trying to exchange information to do products for the Apple II when there was actually still an Apple II market.  During the later years it became more and more a celebration of all the things we had done on the Apple II.  The thing that really makes me happy, now for me it has been over 10 years since I have been to KansasFest, because the last time I was here was when we were hosting it at Avila College, now I’m being told it has been at Rockhurst University for almost a decade now. This is my first time here.  To me, coming to this university is a whole new experience, because I have all my memories back over at Avila College.  The other thing about KanasFest today is seeing all the new faces.  Unfortunately for me, a lot of the people I used to associate with during the KansasFest of old have all past on, passed away.  And so there is a little sadness because I know that I’m at KanasFest now in 2015, but I’m never going to see these people again ever.  And two individuals who are still around, who I know are KansasFest regulars, for their own reasons are not here this year. So pretty much my entire posse either had passed away or couldn’t make it, so almost everybody here is a new face to me.

JL:  Tony Diaz, of course, being one of them.

RH:  Tony Diaz and Eric Shepherd are two people who I really hung out with a lot during KansasFests of old, and I was really hoping they would be here this year.

JL:  Was KansasFest something that was on your radar back then?

JJ:  Oh no, absolutely not.  My development back in those time periods would have been focused on the Colecovision, the Adam Computer, and we did some of our titles for the Commodore and I think the Atari 800 series.  I never had an Apple. actually back in the earliest days when I was getting my first computer.  So it was like 1980, I looked at the pricing on the Apple II back then, and I looked at some of the competition, and all I really needed was a word processor, so I bought something where I could get both a printer and a computer for the same price that just an Apple II system would have cost.

wargames

BW:  Speaking of some of the early days, one of the first things I learned you had done was WarGames because I’m a huge fan of that, and sadly it didn’t come out for the Apple II, so I had to go to the dark side and buy the Commodore 64 version.  But it’s okay, it’s still a beautiful box although I’ve never put the disk in.

JJ:  You can probably find the game online somewhere and emulate it.

BW:  I know that you are a great fantasy artist Jennell, and you’ve done some of the early TSR modules.

JJArt

JJ:  Correctly, I got started in the industry in 1975 doing art as a fan for a very small magazine down in Texas.  I lived in

dungeoneer2Michigan, but was doing work for a magazine down in Texas, and that lead to doing work for their games, and eventually led to me publishing my own little fan magazine called The Dungeoneer
Even though I didn’t realize it at the time, I was becoming a pioneer because I became either the first the second person to ever publish a fully-worked out role-playing game adventure in a magazine, or in any format for commercial sale.  So I have that record in history, and I think I am accepting second place because somebody beat me out by two weeks.  That’s how I got started was basically in art, and publishing, and writing game adventures for Dungeons & Dragons.  That developed into a career after college, unexpectedly, writing game adventures and illustrating them for a small publisher.  It went from there, I wrote several role-playing game adventures for Dungeons & Dragons that are still in print.

Dark_TowercavernsBW:  Is Dark Tower one of them?

JJ:  Dark Tower is one of them. Caverns of Thracia is the other.  They were both done for Judges Guild.

JL:  At the keynote the other day you gave a wonderful accounting of how you got into the business, and it’s just fascinating.  I won’t go over a lot of that here, because hopefully people will go to the site.  One of the questions I wanted to know, because you were quite the little hacker in the day…

RH:  I was bad.

JL:   …as somebody who was on both sides of the fence.  You did all these amazing games.  When you ran across cracked copies of them were you like “Way to go” or “Hey wait a minute?”  Did your perspective on that whole genre change?

RH:  No, I understood what hacking was, the cracking and so forth.  So if I ever saw games that were cracked that were done by other people and products that I did.  In the majority of cases I never put copy protection on my games.

JL:  I figured you probably didn’t.

RH:  The only times I did is when I was instructed to do so.

JL:  You had to answer to whoever you were writing the games for, right?

DiskbustersRH:  Exactly.  In some cases because I had a manager who was kind of paranoid, but he truly didn’t understand that no matter how much effort I put into the work, it would be cracked in a day.  There was nothing I could do.  It’s like one of those little armor races which even today in 2015 it’s still laughable in the sense that people go around saying, “I want to protect my game from piracy, so I’m going to do things to the files, do things to the disk, do things to whatever it is.”  But they don’t seem to understand that the mentality of the hacker community is “challenge accepted.”   That’s what they do.  Whereas back in the Apple II days, they invented things like Spiradisks.  They invented things like 17-sector disks.  Now of course, most people don’t even understand those terms, but anyone who knew anything about the Apple II would understand those technologies and there were very sophisticated ways to defeat the casual copying.  And in many ways, my opinion has always been, the copy protection that does nothing to actually stop the hard core hackers because when you give them challenge accepted, you’ve got some of the most brilliant minds out there, and they will solve the problem.

JL:  And like you said, you think about how much the industry spends on the copy protection, like with the DVD encryption, to have some 12-year-old kid in Norway crack it.

Latest Copy Protection SafeguardsRH:  Exactly.  And it goes back to the copy protections ended up being so intrusive, that it actually got people who have legitimate hard drives and they bought the games, but they can’t run because either their disk drives were out of alignment, or there was some weird timing about their machines, maybe their crystals were a little bit off so the CPU speed was not quite right.  Some little thing which the computer may have been a little flakey, but it worked.  And you put this game in there and the game refuses to boot, because it thinks its copied.  And in some cases actually comes up with a message saying, “This is a pirated disk, please contact such and such to purchase a real copy.”  And then they look at the box, “Is this a Chinese knock off or something like that?”  When in reality, it was just the copy protection was being too oppressive. The thing that many companies don’t seem to understand is, the people who pirate software are never going to buy it. Because the whole reason for copy protection, at least the stated reason, is to keep people from stealing the game.  A majority of people who play games legitimately go to the stores and they don’t think anything about pirating it.  They go to the local Egghead discount software back in the day, and check the aisles to see what’s cool, and put the game down, or wait for a sale and have fun.  Whereas the hackers, they don’t buy anything.  They don’t buy a single game.  For me, I was among that crowd in which I have disks and disks and disks of software I never paid for, but the majority of cases I never played them either.  I got the game, installed it, cracked the software, removed the copy protection, added my little moniker to it, and then put the disk in a drawer and forgot about it.

JL:  I believe somebody out in the lobby yesterday found that one of the disk images online – it’s one of Becky’s with your splash screen.

BW:  It is a little bit like collecting Baseball cards back in the day, trying to get some of the games just to try them out, and then throw it in a drawer and forget about it.

JL:  Sometimes, some of the most innovative things about the games was the splash screen by the hacker.

RH:  Yeah, and what’s even funnier is there are some notable programmers out there right now.  A good example, the lead programmer for Wasteland, Alan Pavlish, he went by the hacker name “The Jerk.”

JL:  Ahhh….okay…wait, wait, we’re not familiar with that.

BW:  No, wait, wait, there’s no recognition.

RH:  Many programmers out there, especially many of the people I started worked with at Interplay, were people I knew in the hacker community and brought them in and started working with them and started growing.  The funny thing is, there are people out there saying, “Oh no, I’ve always been an outstanding programmer.”  I know who you were.

JL:  I believe you said something about a certain CEO who will remain nameless, that was not always an upright CEO.

RH:  Back to the hacking, your main question, when I saw people playing my game as pirated, my only thing is if you’re never going to pay for the game, fine.  If the only way you’re going to play my game is to pirate it, well then fine, at least enjoy the game.  But if you really really like the game, buy the thing. There are many games I’ve purchased that, in some cases, I never intended to play, but I like the developer, I like the concept, so I just bought it.  Nowadays, modern 2015, you have Steam and then they have the infamous Steam Summer sales, and then Christmas sales.  Even if you never really play the game, you can absolve your guilt by just buying it for five bucks when it’s on sale when the game is old.  But at least you can say, “I bought this game” even though maybe months ago I just downloaded the DRM-free version from Good Old Games, from somebody else, and pirated it and played it, but at least pay for it.

BW:  With some of those purchases of retro games on things like Steam, does any money go back to the original authors?

RH:  That’s very iffy.  It depends on the deals that are done.  A majority of cases, I will say, it only goes to the publisher and that’s where the buck stops.  A good example, is a lot of games I did at Interplay.   Interplay is currently selling them on Good Old Games and Steam, and I’m not seeing a dime.

DescentJL:  Like Descent.

RH:  Correct, Descent, I’m not seeing a dime and even the guys at Parallax Software are, from what I’m hearing, not seeing a dime either which is a little disheartening.

JL:  Talking about the quality of the games, as somebody who did buy Dragon Wars, did buy Crystal Quest for the Apple IIGS and Wasteland, that some awesome, innovative gameplay.  Of course, your programming skills are a mile above what most people were doing for programming.

RH:  It was tied to two things.  One is back then, I found that through programming it helped me build self-esteem.  So I really put so much passion in my programming – I was a perfectionist.  I was always trying to say, “I can do better.”  And every time I wrote a game, got it out there, I said there are some techniques I want to solve.  On my next game I’m going to solve these.  And I found new techniques on how to draw, new techniques on how to do sound, so each time I got better and better.  But at the same time, its one where that I wasn’t being paid very well at Interplay to be honest.  I never got any royalties.  I never got any bonuses.  That’s one of my little bitternesses about Interplay.  I was a shareholder in the sense that when we founded the company I got shares of stock in the company.  So therefore, when we were purchased in 1994 from MCA, I participated, which was basically the only time I ever really got a bonus.  Granted, it was a substantial amount of money, but it still kind of hurt that I had to wait 10 years from Interplay’s founding to getting that bonus.  Where were the bonuses in-between?  Whereas I was doing all this side work, because I needed to eat and raise my family, that I was getting bonuses and royalties and so forth.  I was getting actually more money from doing those side projects like Crystal Quest and so forth, than I was getting from my salary at Interplay.

tassBW:  As someone who was a big Apple fan and moved to the Apple IIGS, my first game of course was Tass Times in Tonetown.  I can think of the music instantly.

JL:  I have never gotten to play that, but I will be fixing that.

BW:  During the keynote you mentioned that there was a very quick turnaround time for the IIGS version.  And I was in curious, in general, what is your development process?  Do you plan out things like some authors do, with a beginning, middle and end, so you know exactly where you’re going?  Or is there some discovery along the way?

JL:  And I’d like to ask that of both of you.

RH:  Ask Jennell first.  And remember, she’s not a programmer, she’s going to talk from a design.

JJ:  From a design standpoint, generally on adventures, it depends on what the assignment is.

BW:  Pick a favorite and talk about that.

JJ:  Okay, I’ll go Dark Tower.  This is the first commercial piece I ever did. I had some ideas that I put down, drew some maps, and then started filling them till I reached a good place to write the ultimate battle for the game, designed that, and then filled in around it.  I would do similar things with other adventures.  Figure where the ultimate end point should be, and then back fill the rest of it with interesting encounters, things that are memorable.

JL:  So instead of starting with a story then figuring out.  With an adventure game you need that end point, that’s fascinating.

JJ:  One of the ideas of the way I like to design in my favorite types of games, and what we’re going to be doing in our future products, an adventure, a product we’re calling Dragons Of The Rip, Shredded Worlds. We’re going to have stories you bump into.  I don’t want to create this, you take this character all the way through a story that I’ve already figured out the appropriate ending for.  No, I want to create stories where you wander through the story, you run across it, encounter things out of sequence, an open world as opposed to on rails.

BW:  So there would potentially be different endings, or no endings.

JJ:  Exactly.

RH:  My case of design is that the first thing I do, even with my writings and my novels, I write the ending first.  I figure out dragon_wars2how do I want this story to end.  What is the resolution of all the characters?  Each character, this is what’s going to happen, this is how it’s going to end, this is their state of mind, these are the hardships that they’re going to go through, I don’t know how they’re going to go through yet.  In a game, same idea, like in Dragon Wars I wanted this combat that doesn’t seem to end. You kill Namtar and no he comes back to life. You kill Namtar again, you’d start getting him close to the canyon, then he’s struggling and panicking and he gets closer and closer and calling for help, until finally your party is sick and tired of this guy, and then you finally chuck him over the edge. And then, the game ends.

JL:  Spoiler alert.

RH:  However, how do you get there?  And how do I set it so that in the story it makes sense that oh, Namtar is going to call minions.  Okay then, I start saying what kind of minions is he going to call?  This, alright.  Where do the minions come from?  Okay, I’m going to make this area in the mountains.  Okay, then I’m going to have a scenario there.  Now I’m going to make a sub-adventure.  If you happen to, in the course of the game, go that castle and kill the monsters there, when Namtar calls for his minions they won’t show up.  But if you didn’t solve that then they come running in and help him.  In that case, there was two different groups of minions that come and two different adventures you can play.  But if you don’t play either one of them, or you don’t even discover them, then the final battle is going to be tougher.  I keep building upon it.  Now if there’s going to be this castle with these minions here, okay, well I need an entire adventure for this.  What to do? Going on this.  Give wild goose chases.  And connect it all together so that then finally, we get back to the very beginning of the game which was you are stripped penniless and naked in this prison.  How do you start the game?  And then, now that I’ve gotten the ending, and I’ve back traced how to get to where you are, I start filling in all the blanks that came in, and other things.  The beginning needs to be as open-ended as possible.  So I sat there for many weeks, and even during the course of programming the game, as I was playing the game, I said, “Hmm, there is this ledge and there is an ocean below based on the text written.  What if my characters had a high enough swim skill that I could jump over the ledge?”  All right then, I then made this level even below.  And then at that point, if the characters were there, and if you had swim skill I think of three for all of your characters, because anyone who had less than three died, but those higher would survive the fall.  But of course, you can’t really start the game with swim skill three unless you pay all your points, or you level-up your character enough and just spend your skill points on that. And then another one is that near that area is the trash bins, where they take the trash and throw it over.  Hide in the bins.  Same spiel, it throws you over.  So you could either just jump, or you can hide in the bins and they chuck you over.  Another one is that, what if you just level up enough, and I put the guards out front, the guards are very high level, but if you get high enough level you just kill them and just walk out the front door.  And then there was the gladiator pits. I said, “Great, if you win the gladiator pits you are granted your freedom.” And now you are given citizenship papers and so forth, whereas if you had gotten out any other way you could buy citizenship papers on the black market.  So all these things that kept building and building and building and building, but was that when someone plays the game they don’t know all this stuff.

JL:  Yes, the sense of wonder when you first start that up, you’re penniless, naked, and again on the Apple IIe, here’s this open world.

BW:  Anything is possible.

RH:  And this is exactly what we’re doing with Dragons Of The Rip, is that you start the game in an adventure’s guild, in a world in which kind of like Pokémon adventuring, is a location and so forth, and its own little medievalish world. I can’t get into any more details without spoiling some of this stuff I’m going to show for the Kickstarter.  Okay, here it is, you’re going to go adventuring, finds some quests and so forth, and as you start finding more and more things you then start realizing, “Things don’t quite add up, not just in the world you’re living in, but just some things don’t seem quite right.”  Through some encounters and stuff you discover portals, these rips, and then that’s where the game really gets fun.

JL:  We mentioned that I’d never played Tass Times in Tonetown, but there’s a lot of people who haven’t necessarily played any of these games, but you have some pretty good news about reviving a lot of these games, or possibly porting them over to the newer systems.

RH:  Only limited numbers of games.  Because the problem is that, like you’ve mentioned before, is copyrights.  Some games are still owned and active copyrights by some people. In fact, the majority of games that I’ve worked on were works for hire, for other people. I do own some IP, but not that many. Things like for example Tass Times in Tonetown is property of Activision, The Bard’s Tale is property of Electronic Arts.

JL:  That’s one that you’re going to be able to do, right?

RH:  Yes, that’s because a deal was struck.  Electronic Arts gave permission to inXile to do games in the Bard’s Tale genre. So hence, inXile recently did a Kickstarter for Bard’s Tale IV based as a sequel to the original trilogy.  Part of that deal is that they were allowed to release for free copies of The Bard’s Tale trilogy.  And then a deal was struck between myself and inXile in which I get to take my original trilogy that I wrote for the IIGS, and I’m going to port them over which I’m still in the process.  In fact, I only started the project three and a half weeks ago.  I have been turning all the code into C, turning all the graphics and porting them over to the PC, and it looks just like the GS version, except of course I’m using some shaders to up-res them and so forth, to make them look really nice.  But its still at the core the IIGS graphics.  I’m not having anything really redrawn.  Shaders are doing that for me.  However, when it is done you will be playing with the music and the sound.  You will be getting the experience that everybody on the IIGS has had exclusively.

JL:  First time going to the temple and being healed….

RH:  No, it actually goes, when you heal it goes, “Do na eh es requiem” and then you’re healed.

JL:  I remembered from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but I had the wrong half of it.

BW:  It’s easy to get those two mixed up.

bt3RH:  There are parts of Bard’s Tale for the GS, all three of them in which I was treading on copyright.  There was one song, we did it in Bard’s Tale III the whole game, Sir Robin’s tune – it made you run away.  “Only brave Sir Robin rode forth from Camelot…”  There were some tricks that were done in the GS version exclusively, such as when you changed instruments for the Bard, the music changed to play that, because people were saying, “I’m my Bard music and it sounds really silly because he’s just playing with a drum.  But then, later on, they use the Flame Horn and now they’re playing songs of the horn. Well that’s because you’re carrying a horn. It’s like, “I didn’t know the GS version did that!”

BW:  I was so impressed when you were talking yesterday about the source code that you’ve saved, and a lot of people in general tend to be very lazy with data backup and not worried about tomorrow.  But you were really thinking ahead back then, preserving all of this.  It is something of well maybe not a miracle, but its so impressive how much source code you still have that’s letting you do these new projects with the classics.

RH:  One of the things that really hit home was that when we first formed Interplay, I knew we were doing something special.  As I was creating these games, these were all labors of love.  After I finished the games, of course I put away these disks, because after working on these games for so long I was really possessive of them.  Now granted, after I finished the game I would makes copies of these master disks and send them off to someone else at Interplay for storage, because they are Interplay property.  And also my property too, but Interplay has the rights to have them.  So, I put my copies away.  Years later, there a project we were going to do called The Interplay 10th Anniversary, and the intent was to take these floppy-based games and put them onto a CD.  And the early games we did, especially on the PC, were literally sector-based just like Apple II.  You open the floppy disk and see one file, there is nothing else, and when the game runs it directly accesses the sectors of the disk to read in the game.  Because back in 1981, 1982, 1983, hard drives were really an expensive luxury.  So, most games were floppy disk based only.  It was until like mid 1980s, late 1980s, when installing on the hard drives became the norm.  Well, some of the games I had already all the source to it, so that was not a problem, but there was a few that I didn’t.   So I then said, “Okay” went over and asked the person at Interplay who was in charge of maintaining the source code, and said, “I need the source code to these two games.”  And he looks at me and says, “Oh yeah, they’re in that box over there.”  And I kid you not, it was a cardboard box sitting in a corner of his office with unlabeled floppies in it.  And I’m like, “You have got to be kidding me!”  And I then went through the disks.  I found some of the files.  I ended up making phone calls to EA. I had a friend of mine, you know, wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more, sent me a wastelandstack of disks with the complete source code to Wasteland on it, which I promptly archived.  But other things went on in which it became very apparent that no one, except myself at Interplay, cared about the past.  It was either, what are we making in the future?  Like when we were trying to do, there were always things about doing new IPs, but no one wanted to revisit Mindshadow.  No one wanted to revisit Borrowed Time, or Tass Times in Tonetown and so forth.  It was always, “Let’s make something new.  Let’s make something new.  Let’s not revisit the past.”  And I’m like, “Well the past is our history.”  And so in that note, as time went on and I became an archivist in addition to doing my own job, I became involved with the Videogame History Museum about four years ago.  And as a result, I took a lot of artifacts I’ve had, both from Interplay and Atari, that I’ve collected over the years and donated it to them. It’s part of their permanent exhibit now.  They are actually opening up the museum in Frisco, Texas, sometime in a few months, and some of those exhibits were my property.

BW:  It’s great that you’ve done that.  Not only is that part of your history and the history of the era that we live in, but there are great stories there, and a lot of those would be wonderful to revisit.  You were mentioning your new Dragon game, and you’re going to be doing a Kickstarter soon.  When does that Kickstarter start?

OldeSkuulJL:  And where will we go to Olde Sküül to find out about any other future projects?

JJ:  We’re going to be starting the Kickstarter, if everything falls into place and the stars align, which we are trying to kick the stars as hard as we can right now, the first of August.

BW:  Excellent.

JJ:  We will make announcements about it on our Olde Sküül Facebook page, our Olde Sküül Web site, and our Twitter feed.  And for those listening in it is spelled Olde Sküül, pronounced Olde Sküül.

 

JL:  I saw you had already posted a picture of you in front of your Apple IIGS.

RH:  That was actually a picture she was taking because the IIGS was the IIGS I used to write all my games.  And it had in there an Inner Drive and so forth, that’s how old that thing was.  But I hadn’t powered that up in like 15 years, and I was half expecting it to explode.  Thankfully, it powered up and worked just fine.  It took a little coaxing, but I got all the files off of it. Now thankfully, there was nothing really on it that I didn’t already have backed up.  But, its one where one of the other attendees here at KansasFest needed parts from an Inner Drive, and I’m like, “If I’m going to upgrade this to an SSD, I might as well just sacrifice this hard drive and power supply because it served me well.”  The drive mechanism itself is 15 years old, which means it is end-of-life.  It’s not something I would trust anymore because of its age.  So, I said, “Here you go.  Send it off to be feasted upon by the new gods.”  But at that point, I got a new power supply for my GS, put in an SSD card, put the backups back onto the SSD card, so all the files are back on there.

JL:  And that’s one of the things I have to say I love about KansasFest, is all the innovation still going into keeping these old systems running, and bringing them into the present day.

RH:  Yeah.  That was the funny thing, is that some of these inventions that they’re doing right now are ones were I would have killed to have some of these things.  A good example is, back then, because one of my contributions to the Apple II world was that in addition to doing software I did hardware.  I did firmware for the GreyMatter hard drive.  I did firmware for the Applied Ingenuity Inner Drive.  I was one of the designers of the Focus Hard Card, in which I designed the actual hardware with another gentleman.  But I did all the software for it, all the drivers for it.  I worked on writing most of their stuff like Harmony with the printer drivers.  And there was the Quickie, which is the hand scanner.  My friend Kevin Johnson designed the interface card, and I did the software.  And then there was a bunch of printer port drivers that I did, which people loved because I did tricks and things that were never thought of.  An example is, if you use one of my Harmony printer port drivers, you could plug your parallel printer card in Slot 5, which is used for your floppy disk.  You could set the IIGS to use it as a floppy disk, so that therefore if you boot up into ProDOS 8, was a floppy disk.  But you boot in GS/OS, it says, “Oh, you have a printer port in Slot 5” and it uses it and it uses your floppy at the same time.

BW:  Brilliant.

out_of_this_worldRH:  Little things like that, people were like, “How are you doing these things?”  And other fun facts for innovations.  When I did Out of This World for the IIGS, I figured out how to put code in the keyboard, so I could read two or more keys at the same time.  Which, of course, drove emulator authors later crazy.  They’re like, “Why doesn’t Out of This World or Wolfenstein 3D work on my IIGS emulator?”  It’s because it won’t read the keys!  And it’s because it’s trying to access a keyboard CPU that doesn’t exist.  All these little things I kept doing for innovations for writing hardware and software for the IIGS.  At that point in time, most of these innovations like the Focus Hard Card was because 2.5″ hard drives came out, which meant that now I can have a hard drive that fits in a slot.  Which, back when the Apple II came out, hard drives were 5.25″ drives and 3.5″ were expensive and they were the laptop drives.  And then came the 2.5″ drives, and then just when I was getting out of the Apple II market that’s when they came out with those little iPod 1.5″ drives.  That was like, “Holy crap, this thing I could just mount it on the board, I don’t even have to have hanging with the thing.”  And now of course today you have got Compact Flash chips, USB flash drives, which is like a totally solid state Apple IIGS.  Hallelujah!

JL:  Exactly!  Yes.

RH:  Now thankfully to some of the attendees here, somebody donated to me an SSD hard drive for my Apple IIGS. Granted, it’s only 256 Meg, but you know what, only 256 Meg!

JL:  When a ProDOS partition can only be 32 MB tops.

RH:  Exactly!  We’re so jaded today.  Back when we were selling Focus hard drives, they came in 10 MB, 20 MB, and if you really want to spend money we can get you the 40 MB model.  And then people wanted us to sell the cards, because they were out buying the 80s and 120s.

JL:  And how much was it a Meg?  It was like what, about $100 a Meg for those drives?

RH:  At those times, I remember we were charging about anywhere between $50 to $100 a Meg for the size of the drives, because that’s how much it cost to buy the mechanisms.  Nowadays, I could buy a 16 Gigabyte flash memory stick for five bucks!

JL:  You can buy a Western Digital 2 Terabyte for $80!  A little USB powered.  I love going through old catalogs and looking at the prices of what it used to cost for 16K of RAM.

BW:  I remember my first big hard drive for my Mac, I got a 100 MB hard drive, and it was only $500!

RH:  I remember when people were buying 4 MB of memory for their Apple, oh no there was an 8 MB memory card that just came out, and someone spent about $8,000 to populate it, because he wanted to be able to have the bragging rights that had he the most memory in his computer.  And I’m like, “You spend 8,000 of 1987 dollars!”

BW:  I wonder if he is still bragging about how much money he spent.

JL:  No, he’s crying about it.

RH:  Whereas now, that memory card, I think the only reason we are charging a lot of money for the 4 MB cards for the IIGS is only because no one makes those chips anymore!

exidyJJ:  I remember my first computer was an Exidy Sorcerer, which was the competing model to the Apple II at the time.  I remember jacking the memory up in that to the full max of 48K.

RH:  48K?  Oh, my God, wow you are styling!

JL:  When you say Exidy, is that the same Exidy that also did arcade games?

JJ:  Yes.  They did a computer console, basically everything in the keyboard.  In the console you put the languages in.  The housing they used was 8-track tape housing.  That’s what housed their circuit boards. And you put in the side as a cartridge.

BW:  I never saw one of those.

JJ:  They’re out there.  They’re not common.

RH:  Google Exidy Sorcerer.

JJ:  That was when jacking up the RAM to the max on the system was 48K.

RH:  I remember when I got my first Apple II, it was 16K.  And I had to find these jumper blocks on the side to set it.  So, I had to buy two more banks of 16K memory, and I had to buy them in 16K blocks only because I couldn’t only afford to buy one pack at a time, because they were expensive.  And then finally, “I have 48K in my Apple II – yay!”  And then later on they came out with the memory expansion card that made it a whole 64K, “Yay! I have a card with 16K of memory on it!”  I can plug it in my Apple II, which had a little cable that plugged into one of the RAM sockets so they could get the RAM refresh signal.

JL:  Brian, is there anything else you want to ask?

BW:  I want to ask a traditional question.  Becky, so with the games you programmed specifically for the GS, is there a personal favorite?  One that really reminds you of a good time, or something that was really innovative for you?  Or is it like children where you love them all?

RH:  I do love them all.  Every one of them had technical challenges and stories.  Like Tass Times in Tonetown was because I was writing an audio driver on a machine that was unheard of at the time, and to be able to say, “I did a music driver using a chip like this to its fullest capacity” was impressive.  And of course, people were selling IIGS’s based on that song.  I loved Out of This World because the whole concept of that project was basically to say, “It can be done.”  Because I was told by people at Interplay, putting Out of This World on a Super Nintendo cartridge was impossible.  I was flatly told it couldn’t be done.  And in my way of telling you, “Screw you. I will find a way.” And a couple weeks later, I ported the code to a IIGS, a prototype of the code, just proof of concept on the IIGS to prove that yes – if a IIGS can run this game I can get it on the Super Nintendo.  And then that is exactly how the project was green-lit.  Because without that demo, there would have been no Super Nintendo version of Out of This World.  And of course, because the Super Nintendo version was green-lit, it meant then I was able to spend all the time I needed to perfect the cartridge.  And once that was done, I had a code base, I said, “Okay, I just have to backport this to the IIGS” which ended up becoming the last commercial IIGS title released.

JL:  Very cool.

BW:  So you wrote the first and the last GS game.Wolfenstein 3D

RH:  I wrote the first and the last commercially-released GS titles.  Since Out of This World and Wolfenstein 3D, there have been other titles released, but they’re not commercial, they’re just freewares. So I can’t claim I was the last game ever. In fact, somebody could be writing a game right now for the IIGS for all I know.

JL:  There’s probably several people out there right now.

RH:  As far as a commercial product that was made for sale, by a commercial company, I wrote the first and the last.

JL:  I have to say, I’m looking very very forward to seeing what comes out of the Olde Sküül name, and look forward to being able to play it on my newer system, and relive Bard’s Tale.  Ah, yes!

BW:  Me too.

RH:  Oh yeah.  I knew that when the announcement went out, that I was going to be, I’m personally doing the remastering of the game.  My email box was flooded, just saying, “Oh my God, you’re working on this game!”  Of course, then they asked me, “Are you working on Bard’s Tale IV?” and I said, “No, I’m not.”  So I had to dash their hopes there.  But as far as Bard’s Tale I, II, and III am making these worthy of my name.

BW:  That is so awesome, and that’s why I backed Bard’s Tale IV – because of your involvement.

RH:  Let inXile know that, just make sure you let inXile know, because that way they will then feel very good knowing the money that they are paying me, no much, but you know what, they are paying me money.  Thank you inXile.  That at least you know that your contributions help and went directly into my pocketbook.  Yay!  Because I’ve got to eat.  I need burgers. I’ve got to stock my desk drawer again!  Come on, they’re empty!

JL:  Alright, so fine, I want to finish on this question.  Favorite burger?

RH:  In-N-Out.

JL:  In-N-Out.  Okay, any particular one there?

RH:  Double Double, Animal Style.  Especially well-aged 24 hours. 48 is basically pushing it, but 24 hours is definitely peak of flavor.

JL:  And what about you?

RH:  Why don’t you describe her face right now to the home audience.

BW:  Oh my goodness!

JL:  Is that a grimace?  Would a grimace cover that?

JJ:  Yeah.  My favorite actually probably tends to lean towards Red Robin.  Black and Blue tends to be one of my favorites at Red Robin, but it has to come with a stack of onion rings.

JL:  I want to say thank you to both of you very much for being on our joint shows.

BW:  Yes, thank you so much.

RH:  Thank you.

JJ:  Thank you for having us.

 

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About the Author

Brian Wiser

Brian is an A.P.P.L.E. Board member and Managing Editor of Call-A.P.P.L.E. magazine. He is a long-time Apple consultant, historian and archivist.

Brian designed, edited, and co-produced several books including: “Cyber Jack: The Adventures of Robert Clardy and Synergistic Software”, “Synergistic Software: The Early Games”, “Nibble Viewpoints: Business Insights From The Computing Revolution”, “What’s Where in the Apple: Enhanced Edition”, and “The WOZPAK: Special Edition” – an important Apple II historical book with Steve Wozniak’s restored original, technical handwritten notes as well as a forward from Steve Wozniak and other Apple legends. Brian also co-produced the retro iOS game “Structris.”

Brian was an extra in Joss Whedon’s movie “Serenity,” leading him to being a producer/director for the documentary film “Done The Impossible: The Fans’ Tale of Firefly & Serenity.” He brought some of the Firefly cast aboard his Browncoat Cruise and recruited several of the Firefly cast to appear in a film for charity. Brian speaks about his adventures at conventions around the country.