KISS ME - I MIGHT BE A HANDSOME PRINCE by Richard Karsmakers
Lesley came to pick as up and we behold now the office of
Electronic Arts. It is a beautiful office in Langley's Business
Park that appears to be made of brown glass when looking from the
outside. The sun reflects on the glass and the 'Electronic Arts'
name is proudly located above the main entrance.
Lesley is a very pretty Public Relations girl - never tired of
helping us and always there for our assistance. She took us to
her office in the modern (and nicely cool) building, so that we
could dump our bags. We left our rucksacks in the back of her
Ford Escort (including the questions we had lined up for the
Bullfrog team, so we were later to find out). We immediately
stumbled into two guys of this team (the programmers of "Fusion"
It is indeed a very, VERY nice office. It's GREAT. So different
from some of the other places we've been at. I took a picture of
it which I might frame and hang above my bed.
We are now going to a pub called "The Willow Tree", just down
the road from where the EA offices are. Yeah...these guys surely
know where to locate their working environment.
We now sit in the pub. It is rather noisy, and this assures that
it's hard to understand the Bullfrog guys. On top of that, the
pub's meal order numbers get amplified and burst out over the
heads of the innocent bystanders when yet one more order is
successfully completed. We talk to Glenn Corpes and Les Edgar of
Bullfrog, and Joss Ellis from Electronic Arts. Glenn is a
somewhat corpulent bloke, smaller than us, with a pigtail and a
nice bit of accent (although I wouldn't know where it comes
from). Les is a much larger guy wearing beard and moustache, with
a very nice taste of humour (as will be obvious by various
remarks during the interview) - his hair is starting to grow grey
already. Joss is an extremely funny guy who never looks as though
he is serious, but still seems to be most of the time.
So what do you do in the Bullfrog Team?
Glenn: I did the ST and Amiga versions of "Populous" and
"Fusion". I also do some graphics.
Les: I am a sort of project manager. I keep track of what's
going on and drive everybody about.
So you're the one with the whip?
Les: (laughs) Yeah. I use the stick on them all the time.
Then you must be the one that knows what's going on at Bullfrog
in the next half year?
Les: We tend to be fairly democratic. We talk about games. Every
friday, in theory, we have a meeting and discuss what to do
next. then we put together a plan of what it's going to be, and
then we approach someone like Electronic Arts.
Why Electronic Arts?
Les: (Joss pulls some extremely funny faces, as if we just came
up with the ultimately stupidest question imaginable) They have a
pretty high profile for pretty high standards, especially on 16-
bit, Amiga and ST models. Since the beginning they have launched
highly renown products.
You are from Electronic Arts. What do you do there?
Joss: I am in charge of development - so I look after this lot
(winking an eye at the Bullfrog guys).
Does Bullfrog come up with an idea and then go to Electronic
Arts, or does Electronic Arts come up with a game and you tell
the Bullfrog team to do it?
Joss: No, it's their idea.
Glenn: We had a choice when we came up for the idea of
"Populous". The first game we did was "Fusion"; we had a choice:
We could try and publish it ourselves, which we have done before,
but that's not what we're good at. It's writing software that we
want to do.
How did "Populous" start?
Glenn: It started off on the ST, and then it went to the Amiga,
because we actually wrote the sort of demo in between other
projects on the Amiga, in our spare time.
What kind of demo?
Glenn: It was "Populous" without a game in it. There was the map
and the scrolling - the routine that generates the map and the
graphics. That was the original; that's what we've started from.
Then it went on to the Amiga, and the programmer, Peter Molyneux
(who couldn't be here because he's on holiday), he sort of wrote
the routines behind the way people think in the game, and then
sort of went back to it later on, and tied it to the way the
landscape was built. I wasn't working on it for a couple of
months. I was there right at the beginning and the end, and with
converting it to the ST.
But you DID intend to eventually go to a software company and
sell the concept?
Les: We used to do our own publishing, for example "ExCAD" on
the Amiga, a very good professional CAD package which we
published ourselves, but the thing is that we're not in the
business of buying disks and making manuals, which takes a lot of
effort. Necessarily, the company has to be much bigger just to do
the marketing side. You're far better off letting Electronic Arts
After having supplied us (and themselves) with some pints of
beer and the prospect of eating some sandwiches soon, we move to
the garden of the pub. Apart from the birds whistling and the
leaves that occasionally fall down, there is barely any noise. We
feel much more comfortable here, and we can now also understand
the guys much better.
What have you done on the ST except for "Fusion" and "Populous"?
Les: We only started out doing games with "Fusion". Before that,
we were all Amiga professionals. At the moment we're working,
among other things, on "Warmonger". It's another sort of
landscape-oriented game, but this one uses vector graphics with
filled patterns and animated textures and stuff. It's very
tempting to write a flight simulator using vector graphics but we
wanted to do different stuff. We're working on about four
projects in total: e.g. "Populous" on the PC and there's a data
disk to "Populous" (launch date in August, ED.) that adds five
different landscapes each of which has its own particular
attitude, like different graphics. (Adds, joking:) We also did a
Dutch landscape, which is very easy for it is all flat.
Ah..a few dikes and windmills, and lots of women wearing funny
skirts and wooden shoes...
We take sips off our beer, laughing.
OK now. What are your approximate ages?
Joss: I'm Joss, I'm 27.
Glenn: I'm Glenn, and I'm 25.
Les: And I'm Les, and I'm 30.
Who formed the Bullfrog team?
Les: Myself and Peter (the one who's out on holiday).
Glenn: He's 30.
Les: Yeah, and he's very slightly thin on top as well. He just
doesn't want people to know that, so don't mention that (sorry!
What is it like to work as a team instead of a sole programmer?
Glenn: It's much easier. When I was sort of writing games I
wasn't able to do it home in my spare time at all. Just
couldn't organise it. Working with other people is much easier;
when you have a problem you just talk about it. It ends up much
Do you also have backup of graphics artists, for example?
Glenn: Actually, in "Populous" I did most of the graphics
myself. The extra levels are done by the people, mostly. They're
local art students we know, basically.
When did you start programming on the ST?
Glenn: Actually, I am the only one working on the ST. I started
about last May after I finished the graphics for "Fusion" on the
Amiga, and wanted to convert it over to the ST. I couldn't do
four-plane horizontal scrolling, so the ST just scrolled
vertically, whereas the Amiga version scrolls in four ways. Then
I did the demo for "Populous". Before that even, I also did some
programming on CP/M machines.
Les: (again joking) We actually did a version of "Populous" for
a telex machine.
Glenn: I've been playing around with the ST for a longer while,
however. I got it about four years ago, some of the first ones
Which development system(s) do you use?
Glenn: "Devpac 2" and "Laser C". The logic is a lot easier to do
in C. Screen I/O was written in assembler.
Which drawing program do you use?
"DPaint II" on the Amiga. I just port the graphics over to the
ST. The original graphics were done using "Art Studio"
(Telecomsoft's "OCP Art Studio", ED.), which were then ported to
the Amiga. We use "DPaint III" now, since that's been available
As the sandwiches arrived (why do those darned British always
put salad and tomato on them?!), we talked a bit about
"Warmonger". Bullfrog has been developing a vector graphics
routine that draws about 128 polygons at eight frames per second,
plus the rest of the game. It's not as fast as "Starglider II",
but it can be sped up a bit. "Warmonger" will use these routines,
and they would very much like it to be ready before Christmas of
Joss: We test every program. When it comes out of development,
it then goes to QA, which is Quality Assurance. Someone will then
play it for a minimum of 40 hours and find no bugs. When there's
a crash, it goes back to the programmers. That's why it sometimes
takes a longer time for a game to be released, as this is
standard procedure at Electronic Arts.
A piece of plastic just dropped from the air, right in the
garden of the pub where we're now sitting.
Not long after the notable event of product of modern day
chemistry spontaneously erupting from the sky, we left the pub,
climbed over a low fence and went back to the Electronic Arts
office. Our amazement was not yet over, for we were being taken
to the Quality Assurance department, where several games were to
be demonstrated to us by a guy called Kevin - we actually were
the first ones outside EA to see "Ferrari Formula One" and "The
Hound of Shadow"; Bullfrog showed us the new "Populous" data
As we were watching these forthcoming releases, some of the
questions we wanted to ask Glenn and Les wandered back into our
overkilled minds. So we continued the interview a bit as well,
asking Glenn and Les for some personal answers to some personal
What's your favourite band?
Glenn: X-Ray Specs.
Les: Pink Floyd.
What's your favourite food?
Les: I have to say curry, I'm afraid.
And your favourite game?
Glenn: "Dungeon Master" and "Nebulus".
Les: I'd have to say "Boulder Dash" (not on the ST), but my
favourite ST game is "Typhoon Thompson".
Glenn: I don't know. Loadsa things.
Les: Probably "Druid" on the Amiga (which is said one day to be
available on the ST).
What's your ultimate ambition, apart from getting to be stinkin'
rich on "Populous II"?
Les: I think we just want to be successfull, really, and earning
some reasonable living from it - and it's great if someone gives
us a lot of money for it.
Glenn: To get the same kind of reviews and reception as
"Populous" got for our next products.
What do you particularly dislike about the software industry?
Les: Obviously I dislike piracy - I don't mind hackin' but as
soon as they start circulating products it's really causing
people like us a lot of aggravation and a lot loss of income. We
can't survive if pirates keep going on. That's the main thing,
really. Other than that, there are no particular dislikes.
Glenn: Piracy. Or interviews (laughs).
The Bullfrog Team left soon afterwards, as they had to be at the
bank before 3 o'clock. Just before they left, we had them say
something for a Crazy Audio Tape we were also compiling for the
Nutty Norwegians (see ST NEWS Volume 4 Issue 3). Lesley came in
again, so we talked a bit about Electronic Arts with her. Since
she had to attend to some other local journalists downstairs, she
asked Catherine Simon (Marketing Brand Manager at EA) to talk
with us. So we sat down with her and talked further about
Catherine was surely the prettiest and nicest girl we saw during
our whole quest. She had, like English women would say, "a
darling French accent" due to her French nationality - she used
to work for Infogrammes before she started working with
Electronic Arts. She's a quite small, enchanting and very cute
girl that uses her voice with much expression and humour.
Sorry guys, however: She recently got married.
Catherine: We publish games that have a quality that we
think Electronic Arts games should have. We work through
producers, who are managing the artists, telling them the
different changes they want in the game, testing the game,
helping out with the scenario, and see if they have a problem
with an algorithm or something. And then, when a product is sort
of suggested by an artist, it goes through all the departments of
the company before being accepted as an Electronic Arts product.
So it goes first to development, which justifies why it's going
to be a top quality title. Then, it goes to marketing who then
decide whether they can actually market the product in the range;
whether it is enough innovative or original to be an EA product.
They decide what we're gonna do, roughly, marketing-wise. Public
Relations is much more a part of the Marketing Department, which
is more concerned with press relation. Lesley also takes care
of advertising - she's split in two to make sure that it works. I
think she's actually very busy. Then, we publish and distribute
the product, design the packaging, write the documentation, and
do some marketing material like posters, demo disks, etc. And
then it is sold by the sales department, which sells it through
distributors in the UK and in entire Europe. We are selling
through Centresoft, Microdealer, R&R, Leisure Soft, I mean all of
the major UK distributors. Same for France (e.g. through
Ubisoft), and in Germany we're sold through Rushware, which is an
exclusive one. In Spain and Italy we're also sold. In Holland,
it's Homesoft, but that's not exclusive.
What are your ties with Electronic Arts in the United States?
Catherine: Well, the games that are published by Electronic Arts
in the States are either imported directly in here and just
distributed all over Europe in its American packaging or we just
take in the software and adapt the product for the different
market. So we translate the product and the documentation and do
specific marketing material for it - for the European market,
with a European taste. But it's not worth doing extensive
separate translation and marketing for e.g. a basketball
simulation. We're normally into adventures and kinda complicated
games, that normally requires big documentation; flight
simulators, for example. We feel therefore that it is needed to
adapt it to Europe. If the game is unplayable when the
documentation is just in English, we translate the documentation
to French and German, and we're starting with Italian now.
Apart from that we work like any normal company; there's the
finance department, and the production department that takes care
of the manufacturing and duplication process; You have to print
the box and assemble everything, you know.
Catherine showed us the rest of the office. Just like
Mastertronic, Electronic Arts has no in-house programmers. The
office is economically divided in several segments on two floors:
Finance, Marketing, Public Relations, Quality Assurance, a
conference room and even a separate smoking room. Smoking is
prohibited in the office, except for that one small room - the
stench there must be ghastly indeed.
But we were impressed most by the warehouse - no doubt about
that. It is downstairs, about 15 metres high, and at least 30 by
30 metres in size. The packages, disks, and marketing materials
are stacked five sturdy shelves high...it's truly amazing. It was
quite a contrast to see Catherine standing there in between those
enormous loads of goods that were stacked using lift trucks.
When Catherine finished touring us around the office, she went
back to her work. We were left in the Quality Assurance
department where we were given demonstrations of "Ferrari Formula
One" and "The Hound of Shadow".
After we finished there, Lesley arranged a taxi to take us to
the coach terminal at Heathrow Airport, where we were to meet Tim
Moss and Michael Schussler (Manikin and Sammy Joe respectively)
of the Lost Boys of London. We actually left Electronic Arts at
around 4 o'clock, and we were kinda flabbergasted by the
impression it had left on us; not only because of the dimension
of the warehouse and the quality of the future games we saw, but
also because of this awfully nice Marketing Brand Manager by the
name of Catherine Simon.
We sure felt at home in the software world right from the start!
And...we were proud to be able to wear Electronic Arts T-shirt
the day after, since Lesley had given us two!
Populous Data Disk: The Promised Lands
The "Populous" data disk consists of five new worlds, which each
have totally different terrain as well as totally different
inhabitants. There are Révolution Francaise where typical
Frenchmen gather in castles, windmills, cafés or next to the
guillotines, Silly Land with larger than life people whose
expressions change with the action, Block Land (unofficially also
called "Lego Land") where everything from the people and the
trees to the castles and the seas are made from blocks, Wild West
where cowboys and indians fight it out and teepees, forts and
jails dot the landscape and The Bit Plains. This last one is a
computer programmer's world with computer printout paper as the
land, various computers ranging from ZX81's to Crays as the
settlements and cigarette stubs and pencils as various landscape
"Silly Land" has really futuristic graphics, with warped
Martians, green men walking around and water that looks a bit
awkward; the knights look like Snorkels (you know those?) and the
regular inhabitants look like Wuppies (know those? ). The "Block
Land" functions to bring back childhood memories; the trees look
really lego-istic, blocks shapes like radar wheels, green seas,
etc. "Revolution Francaise" includes some real guillotine action
performed by the religious leader; the baddies are red and black
and the goodies are in striped white-blue T-shirts.
The graphics look of equal or better quality, and the variation
between the levels is much bigger than with the original game. A
review can be expected in an upcoming issue of ST NEWS.
Ferrari Formula One
We witnessed a thorough playtesting of this one, done by
'gametester Kevin' (who also was to demonstrate "The Hound of
Shadow" to us).
There are sixteen different tracks, accurate to the actual 1986
race season (including turbo-based cars). All the backgrounds are
also specific with the tracks, and the backgrounds tie in with
the track instead of the usual bit of graphics that just scroll
to and fro in other racing games.
The difference with other racing games is that it is extensive
and detailed. There is a pit, driver-turning-look from the
cockpit, and rear-view mirrors as well. You can actually slide as
well, and lose traction on separate tires. All tired will wear
separately, and e.g. on a track which mostly has right hand turns
you will wear down your left tires faster. You can specify
gearbox, engine, tire types (each wheel independently), and lots
more. Everything is selected by the mouse (the whole game is
mouse-controlled). You can also put your car in the windtunnel
where you will actually see the smoke running along the body,
though much if it can only be done at your home track - which is
Ferrano in Italy. The game also counts the actual time you need
to travel and practise, for a real Grand Prix season emulation.
There is no need to specify everything, though: You can also
select default options - and you can also let the program (your
'adviser') hint at these.
"Ferrari Formula One" does not need to be a 'go ahead and drive
the damn thing' program. There is MUCH more, and I think I have
even left out some of the things we've seen. There's three
levels, and you can also just manage the car and not actually
race at all.
"Ferrari" is due out at the end of August or at the beginning of
September. A review can be expected in an upcoming issue of ST
The Hound of Shadow
Based upon H.P. Lovecraft's mythos of the Kthulu, "The Hound of
Games" is a role-playing game done through text and character
generation. It is set in the twenties, and is bound to redefine
ANY standards previously set by ANY form of artificial
intelligence in other adventures and role-playing games.
It's no computer-role-playing game; you won't find any small
characters walking around the screen and it isn't combat
orientated either. It's about character progression, information,
meeting people and general research about a story in which you
are a character.
Before you start play, you must define your character.
Immediately, it strikes you that the colours choosen are the
brownish monochrome you would find in old photographs or old
films - films and photographs from the twenties, that is.
Defining your character is very important; when somebody meets
you in the game he takes into account which sex you are, or a
lord, or professor, or doctor. Your age comes into it, and when
you would be 25 this would e.g. probably mean that you've played
a role in the 14-18 war and this would automatically assume you
have certain crafts with weapons, etc. If the game is played on
the day that you have defined your birthday on, you might find
that you have received birthday cards, etc. It is really
elaborate and it makes you wonder if there isn't some REAL
intelligence hidden in the game.
Of course, there isn't as it can't. But you KEEP wondering. You
create your character as an entity in the game, and your
character stores a lot more information than you might think. It
remembers places where it has been before (shopkeepers will e.g.
say "Hi, Mr. Roberts, you're back again!"), and takes into
consideration what you have gained to know throughout the game -
for use later. The characters can even be saved onto disk for
future use - even in other role-playing games made by this wholly
Whereas in standard role-playing games you get a rating for e.g.
dexterity (e.g. '6'), "The Hound of Shadow" doesn't. It tells you
that you're 'energetic' or something like that. No numbers. Why
should you? The computer can handle number-crunching quite well
so that's what it does. The parser will be quite basic, and not
object-orientated. It will still be flexible, though.
A feature that I found really great about the game is the
breathtaking attention to detail. When you're American, for
example, when you take a cab the game will say 'Good job you did
that, for you'd never get the hang of driving on the other side
of the road'. There's a lot of tiny subtle things hidden in it.
But there's a male and a female character ready on the disk as
well, in case you want to go and play right away without having
to create a character immediately.
Kevin also showed some of the stills of the game, although he
loaded them on the Amiga. He assured us that they would be
extremely similar on the ST, and I believe him on his word (most
pics were drawn on 320x200 with 16 colors on the Amiga, anyway).
They looked just as breathtaking as the attention to detail,
also drawn in the typical colour palette the whole game is drawn
in ('the sepia look').
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.