3D Kit User Group Issue 6 1992
CHATTING WITH THE WIZARDS
(AN INTERVIEW WITH THE PROGRAMMERS!)
Many of you have been asking me if I could tell you a little more about the programmers of the 3D Construction Kit and what has been happening at Incentive recently. I decided that I would put together all your questions and put them to the team. Here is what they had to say:
A visit to Incentive Software is a delightful experience. The place where all the action takes place is a spacious, air conditioned suite on two floors in a new building in Aldermaston. Anita and Ursula are usually the first friendly smiling faces to greet you when you arrive. Upstairs the programmers are hard at work together with lan Andrew, the head of operations, who also has his spacious office on the upper floor. The atmosphere is extremely friendly, informal and peaceful. In fact after spending a day with the team I cannot in all honestly think of a nicer place to work! As one would expeot, coffee abounds and hospitality takes first place.
My first question was put to lan Andrew the friendly and extremely nice boss of Incentive:
MANDY: Ian, could you tell us how Freescape first come about and who was responsible for the original concept?
IAN: Actually I thought of the concept for Freescape back in 1986 when I was assessing where Incentive's future lay. I wanted to develop software that was unique at the time. I knew it would be difficult to develop but reckoned that the effort would be rewarded. My brother, Chris, joined the company to begin programming Freescape in September of 1986.
MANDY: What made Incentive decide to market such a great concept as Freescape for the general public when one would assume that you would like to keep it exclusively to yourselves and market more Freescape games?
IAN: Well, we were asked on many occasions by individuals throughout the industry when we were going to make a product to build Freescape games and so, after four years of producing games, we bowed to pressure and created the 3D Construction Kit.
At that point I decided to ask a few questions of the programmers and directed my first question at Paul Gregory who programmed the Atari ST and the Amiga version.
MANDY: Paul, how did you come to be involved with the programming of Freescape initially and with the 3D Kit in particular?
PAUL: I started work at Incentive just as Freescape began. Eventually I took over the programming of the Freescape system when the 16 bit versions of DRILLER and DARKSIDE had been released. I coded Total Eclipse, Castle Master and then the 3D Construction Kit.
MANDY: What was the very first computer that you owned?
PAUL: My first computer was a Sinclair ZX Spectrum.
Turning to Eugene Messina, who is the designer of the Kitgame on all versions, I put the same questions to him.
MANDY: Eugene, how did you come to be involved with the programming of the Freescape system and the 3D Kit initially? Also what was the first computer that you owned?
EUGENE: Well, I answered an advert for a 3D graphics designer in a computer magazine, after spending a year or so building up a portfolio of 3D graphics and bit mapped graphics on the Amiga. I used to do some work in programming games software and graphics for Rainbird and Mirrorsoft. I have always been interested in 3D graphics and like a good editing and design interface. I too started on the good old ZX Spectrum.
Kevin Parker, the programmer of the PC, Spectrum and Amstrad versions was the next to tell me hew he came te be involved with the programming of the Freescape system.
KEVIN: My first computer was a ZX 81. I used to work for Interceptor Ltd who did some tape and disc duplication for Incentive. The 3D Kit PC and 8 bit versions were my first Freescape projects.
MANDY: Everyone appreciates the way Incentive has always supported the 8 bit computers as well as the 16 bit's when other software houses have decided to ignore them in many instances, Ian. What do you feel about the 8 bit computers and their future?
IAN: I believe that 8 bit computers will be around for a long time to come. The question of a software company supporting any computer is answered by assessing the commercial reward likely to come from a certain amount of effort and investment. The other issue is of course, that the computer must be capable of operating the software at a satisfactory speed and have enough memory.
I turned my attention te the clever fellows responsible for the 8 bit versions of the Kit to follow up on this point.
MANDY: Can I ask you Eugene and Kevin to tell us a little more about this. It must have been quite a task to write the 3D Kit for the 8 bit computers considering the memory limitations. Where there any particular difficuities that you came across that you would like to tell us about?
KEVIN: Mernory limitations; fitting all of the code, data and icon graphics in mernory at once.
EUGENE: Yes, when designing a game on the 8 bit kit you must always consider how best to compact the Freescape Command Language logic by using procedures, and how to make the best use of global objects so as to squeeze as much as possible into the 8 bit machines.
MANDY: Ian, All the mernbers of the User Group have expressed a keen interest in the new "Professional" version of the Kit and are eagerly awaiting its release. Could you tell us when we can expect its release and, as the "Professional version" is only the temporary title during the programming period, what lt will be called?
IAN: It is expected to be released in the August/September period. The name of the product has yet to be announced.
MANDY: Will members of the User Group be able to upgrade their existing versions at a small charge? How much will this cost?
IAN: Yes. The cost is still to be confirmed but will be considerably less than buying it at full price.
MANDY: Which computers will the new version be available for?
IAN: Well, for now it will be available for Atari ST, Amiga (1 meg), PC - EGA, Tandy and VGA.
MANDY: Have you any plans to produce the new version for other computers in the future?
IAN: It is possible.
MANDY: Paul, I know you are hard at work on the new version at the moment. Can you tell us a little more about it and any new features that the new version will have?
PAUL: No, I'm afraid I can't! The new program is still under wraps at the moment, but it will have many new features!
Although the broad smiles on everyone's faces at the mention of the new version indicated that the final product would be extremely well worth waiting for, it seemed that I wasn't going to get much information about the new version until it is nearer to the release date. Having had first hand experience of the need to keep "mum" about new developments while everything is still under wraps, I decided to turn my attention to a slightly different subject.
MANDY: Ian, I know that you are all deeply involved in the new Superscape System. Can you tell us a little more about it?
IAN: Superscape is our latest development - a complete development system which currently costs £15,OOO for the software. Its use at the moment is to provide interactive visualisation at a very high level. We will gladly send our latest information pack to any User Group members who request this.
I could see that by this time the team were itching to get back to their keyboards and, being one of the many people who can hardly wait for the release of the new version of the Kit, I decided that I could best help in that department by leaving them in peace to get on with it! So I thanked them heartily and took my leave!
I too am not at liberty to tell you much about the new version of the Kit until given the go ahead by Ian Andrew and the people at Domark. I do assure you that it will be well worth waiting for and I am grateful to Ian for arranging to let members of the User Group upgrade their existing versions for the new ones when the time comes. I will let everyone know immediately when this can be expected. Meanwhile, why not take a look at the competition in this issue?! You will see that taking part to win one of the new versions just couldn't be simpler!
Once again, my thanks to Ian and the lads from Incentive for taking the time off to give us a little insight into the workings behind the scenes!