September 11, 1999

AWESOME DEVELOPMENTS INTERVIEW

Archer Maclean Talks Jimmy White's 2


When it comes to gaming, and important people in the industry, few are ahead of Archer Maclean. With style rarely seen in the industry his games stand above the rest, most notable is the legendary International Karate +. In recent years he has been guiding his talanted company Awesome Developments and produced the very successful Jimmy White's 1 & 2 on the PC. With the phenomenal success of the PC game, Archer moved development onto the Sega Dreamcast where work has just completed on Jimmy White's 2:Cue Ball for the Dreamcast. About time for a chat then...

Jimmy White's 2:Cue Ball is (obviously) a wonderful pool game. What made you decide on a sport which is more commonly found in a bar then on a computer or video game screen?
Well, Cueball is a monster sequel to the first Jimmy Whites Whirlwind game from 1991-1994 on numerous platforms. It was a huge number one over here, not so much because of its content, but because of the way I had been the first to do something like it in 3D and with a inspired control system, as well as all my trademark attention-to-detail type touches.

The first game was the result of an extraordinary 3D color dream I had as a student back in 1981, when I was a huge evangelist for the atari 800 home computers. It wasn't until 1988/9 that the processing speed and maths abilities became good enough to put it into action.

Click To Enlarge Image So Cueball now was an obvious extension to the original game, except its a hell of lot more than just snooker and pool. Its now 3 stunningly detailed themed rooms (see picture on left - David) in which virtually everything you see is very fully interactive.

Also, very few people can afford the size of room needed to put a proper snooker table in, and besides its bloody difficult in real life, so this enables you to practice in the embarrassment of your own home before venturing down to the snooker/pool hall!

Jimmy White isn't very well know in Australia as snooker isn't covered on TV much at all. Can you tell us a little bit about him.
Well Jimmy White is probably the most famous snooker champ there is, more for being a household name and media celebrity over here and so on. His exploits are always in the sporting press. He has been in the Top 5 world snooker players league for nearly 20+ years, he was the youngest ever world snooker champ and so on. He has also been the world snoooker champ runner up about 6 or 7 times in a row, each time being unable to beat the robotic Stephen Hendry. He is also pretty well known for playing pool.

There are numerous fan clubs, and snooker sites devoted to him. Some are mentioned on our web site. (Note links can be found at the bottom of this article - David)

Can you explain a little about some of the features in the game.
Well, everything you see in the PC versions can be clicked on to examine, then used or played with. The DC is a little more restricted because it doesn't have enough memory to put the full PC version in (needs about 40mb per room).

Essentially you have the main pool and snooker games implemented in amazing depth, complete with the motion captured white gloved hands that play around in the background. During a game these become the referee and the hands of your opponent. Around each room are numerous other games, all of which are playable in the same depth as the main ones.

Click To Enlarge Image There's Darts (surprisingly addictive), draughts, a one armed bandit fruit machine, a lottery number machine which is disguised as a bubble gum machine, my original 1984 Dropzone shoot em up running on a texture which forms the surface screen of an arcade cabinet in the corner of the pool room, and many incidentally details like the fully controllable juke box and radios to select CD tracks, and the scrap book's full of pictures of what goes on here during development. Then there are other things like the fine art pictures on the walls, and the grand father clock in the snooker room which tells the correct time, and tick-tocks away in the background. It even chimes on the hour. Both the snooker and pool rooms have hidden switches and so on, such as a mouse hole in the snooker room which you can actually go into and wander around.

Why did you decide to include extra's such as darts and a juke box in the game?
Why not?!

I not only wanted a snooker table in the middle of an OTT snooker room, but I wanted to be able to play more than snooker and I thought that just snooker on its own would be far too little to offer for a full priced PC game. Besides the competition hadn't done it, and I wanted to push the genre to new heights.

One interesting thing about JW2:CB is the floating hands in the game. Why not use full bodies for the players?
Easy one - because they would not have added anything to the game at the time.

Click To Enlarge Image IE - The human eye is extremely good at telling a real persons face and actions apart from anything remotely fake. And unless I could do polygonal characters so well that they were virtually breathing and genuinely lifelike, then I didn't want to do it. Besides, the hands are actually white cartoon gloves and can easily get away with being such. They can also take a impossible shots like doing a full lean across the length of a 12ft snooker table to pot a ball into a corner pocket. Now supposing we had a somewhat overweight polygonal snooker player trying to realistically do that - what would it look like ?! I mean I would have to detect bellies hitting balls in the way, stretching limbs and clothes etc. And the polygon count would have been huge to the point where the entire game would have a frame rate grinding to a halt all in the name of realism, rather than game play!

But that was 1997, we might be doing 2000/2001 Cue Ball 3, and polygon power is now something else. Watch this space.

What made you decide to port the game from the PC to the Dreamcast?
Money.

Besides its nice powerful machine, and deserves to do well. Pity Microsoft's operating system takes up 2/3rds of the available free ram... and slows everything to a halt (sound familiar ?)

Has there been any enhancements to the PC game for the Dreamcast or is it a direct port?
Click To Enlarge Image It was pretty much a direct port. We have had to chop out the 3 lighting levels per room on the PC, and the important modem / internet connectivity has gone because good ol Microsoft still haven't put it in the SDK and the machine will be out by the time you read this.

The interface was designed for a mouse and really should have been totally redesigned for the DC, but we have done the conversion in record time and a redesign would have doubled it.

We also had to make other tough choices, like the DC doesn't allow you to open the CD door and put in your own music CD's like the PC. So we had a somewhat limited selection of tracks done in the time available.

What Dreamcast peripherals does the game use? (VMS/Rumble/Keyboard)
It supports the VMS, and the standard controller. We haven't had time to support all the other great devices available.

What has developing on Sega's new system been like?
Click To Enlarge Image Well, we aren't using Sega's own software development libraries because they would imply a complete re-write of the PC Direct X / D3D code, and we didn't have the time, so we have had to suffer and make it all work through the Mircosoft Windows CE libraries. Quite a lot of this has required us to come up with work arounds for all the early code that's in there and doesn't work.

What do you see as the Dreamcast's strengths?
Rendering Power to price ratio is very good! It's actually a very powerful console, at least as good as a Pentium MMX 200/233+ with a Voodoo 3dfx+ card in it, yet its very reasonably priced. I also think that, when the modem side of it works, it has the potential to be an excellent email / internet machine.

And weaknesses?
The CE operating system. More RAM would be nice too. Like 32mb+.

When will the game be released in Europe?
We have just finished it over here, so it should be available on launch day - October 14th. (The game will be a launch title in Australia on the 25th October -David)

Any plans for release in America or Japan?
USA one completed. Japan needs serious Unicode modifications, but is possible. Also the Japanese like games with stories and characters in them, so this would be a bit of major re-write too !

Do you currently have any other games in development for the Dreamcast?
Not at present. We are moving into a new games engine for a couple of games in development going forward 2 years. We might develop this for it, as the new games architecture is scaleable.

How about a sequel to IK+ on the Dreamcast, with online gameplay perhaps?
I personally would love to do just that. But for ridiculously petty and stupid legal reasons by a particularly ridiculous person this is unlikely. Pity. Everybody wants it, and keeps on asking for it.

You may be surprised to learn that this was one of my best games of which I am very proud, yet I have consistently been ripped off and paid very little for it. I am now far more litigious because of it. Its always surprised me how certain publishers in the past consistently try and rip off the creative people who feed them with their very life blood.

How do you think the Dreamcast will fare against the PSX2 and Dolphin?
Well, it is available NOW, and they aren't. So it has a healthy head start. It deserves to do well, but Sega need to really push it AND support it properly, otherwise it will have a life of a year or less. The PSX2 is stupidly powerful, but is someway off, and Dolphin (who ever thought that one up?) is also likely to be seriously powerful, and I can't wait to find out more.

Which Dreamcast games are you most impressed with so far, and which games do you think show the most promise in the future for the system?
I have been hooked on playing the Dreamcast version of House of the Dead 2! We have an import one here and two light guns, and it's brilliant fun in two player mode.

I personally think that multiplayer / network games are a big chunk of the future, and the Dreamcast could be in there with an excellent chance if supported properly.

Also, I saw a fighting game called Soul Caliber at a trade show recently, and was really impressed with the fluidity of the animation, the consistently high frame rate, and the graphic richness of all the characters.

One thing I have to ask is what does the "147 AM" stand for on the front of your Ferrari? (Note : That's Jimmy on the left, and Archer on the right - David)
Click To Enlarge Image "147 AM". Do you guys not play darts either???!!! (Sorry darts isn't really big in Australia - David) Haven't you ever heard a darts commentator go 'ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY' blah blah!!! Well, 147 is the maximum possible normal snooker break score, and is bleeding difficult to achieve unless you are unaturally gifted and capable of world champ status, and very few people have ever acheieved it. Quite often at televised events the prize money for winning the Championship will be say 250,000 or similar. BUT, if any of the competitiors manage to do a live telvised 147 they get a special extra prize of typically 147,000 or 200,000 etc. When this happens (about once every 2 or 3 years) it makes major headline news, and the country becomes strangley gripped with watching the reruns of it etc etc. All very odd. And guess what, Jimmy was the last chap to managed it!

He and I have become good friends becuase of the on going sponsorship deals and just good mates. We have been working jointly on all this snooker stuff since 1990 now. Although you might be amazed to know that I am fairly crap at the real thing, despite having a snooker table at home now.

By the sounds of it snooker is huge in England?
In 1985 the UK was gripped by a death match play off between two previous champions - Steve Davis and Dennis Taylor. That match went on until something like 2am on a Sunday night (Monday morning) and it was estimated that 1/3 of the UK population was watching the final few tense shots/misses, and the country had its highest ever absentee rate from work the next day!

Any final comments?
Yeah - I wish the politically correct types would stop trying pass laws requiring splattered zombies in games like House Of The Dead appearing to have green guts. I want to see eyeballs and rib cages done with blood-red squidgy bits, just like the first batch of arcade versions. Not green! At the very least, as a compromise, I would like to see these Politically Correct types featured in the game as zombies so I could vent my spleen somewhat.

Thank you very much for you time....
David Warner ~ Dreamcast Australia


Awesome Developments can be found at : http://www.awesome.uk.com
Info about Jimmy White can be found at : http://www.acorn.educ.nottingham.ac.uk/SchEd/pages/jwss
Info about Cueball can be found at : http://www.hardie100.freeserve.co.uk/cueball/

Note : The images around this interview are from the PC version of the game. The Dreamcast version, as I have been assured, is almost identical in quality.

I hope you enjoyed reading this interview as much as I did in conducting it. If you have any comments or questions E-mail me at : phantom@winshop.com.au