RVG Interviews Jim Bagley.
With over 27 years in the business Jim Bagley is a legend in the games industry! He has worked for companies such as Ocean Software, Special FX, Rage and Ignition Entertainment. You can look at his website HERE for a full bio of his work.
Hudson Hawk was never an obvious movie license. What did you have to go on when creating the game?
Basically when we were given this project, we were supposed to go and watch the movie, but it wasn't ready in a preview state at this time for us to watch, so we were given only an early script, and I might add, they said it may change for the final script, and it did! So basically we had to work out set locations to base the levels on, and what kind of game to put in it, and come up with various baddy types for those locations, based on main characters in the movie, and fictional ones that may be at the location, and some comedy ones, as the movie was a comedy, we pretty much had a free range of creativity on what went in.
And have you actually seen the film and what did you think of it?
Back in the day, we never got to see it, as stated in my previous reply, and then when it did come out, it flopped big time, so I never went to see it! It was only until about 4 years ago that I saw the dvd for sale in HMV for £3.99 so thought to myself it can't harm, and decided to get it, and I knew the movie was going to be a cheesy one from the script, so when I watched it, I was expecting the cheese, and level of humour and corn from the script, so I was surprised at how good it was with taking it as it was meant to be! It was actually quite clever too, with them using the songs for timings etc. don't get me wrong it wasn't a brilliant film, but I just think it was watched in the wrong frame of mind of the viewers, maybe they were expecting it to be a typical Bruce Willis action movie, and not a cheese-fest.
Going off memory from interview you did with Games tm, years ago, you were basically told to just port PlayStation Doom to Saturn (and pass codes work on both versions), had things been different - how would you have approached Saturn Doom? Would you have put in any Saturn exclusives such as custom lighting or exclusive levels?
Yes, and no, we were given the PC and PlayStation data, but initially, I wanted to use the Saturn's hardware to it's max potential, and wrote a render engine to display the PC levels drawing the walls with the GPU, the problem I came across, was apparently John Carmack wasn't happy about this, he wanted it to look exactly the same as the PC version, but it looked a lot nicer, and was running full screen at 60fps, he said it had to be drawn using the CPU, and not the GPU, he even suggested I used the two DSPs on the Saturn to render the screen, but as they only have 4KB, and if I remember correctly, as it's been a very long time since I used one, 2KB code space and 2KB data space, doing it this way to render a complete screen full of game, would have been a huge memory bandwidth bottleneck, so I ignored that, and did it using the two SH2s to render the screen, each of the two CPUs splitting the draw time, doing a line each of the walls or floors, and to save time having to reduce the PC levels to fit into the Saturn's memory, we decided to use the Playstation levels as they had a smaller memory footprint than the PC ones, so it made sense to convert the PlayStation levels, I was quite happy with the end result, as the SH2s ran at 33Mhz and 28Mhz respectively, and I remember playing doom on a 33Mhz PC and it having to play in a stamp sized display to play at a reasonable rate, where as the Saturn was pretty much full screen but this isn't dissing John Carmack, he's a very talented coder and clever bloke all round, it's more me being proud of what speed I got out of two relatively slow cpus.
Do you think given the time and freedom, you could have done a version of Doom as good (or better) than the PlayStation version?
Given the time and freedom, yes, I'd have done a better version of Doom than the PlayStation version, and it would have looked better than the PC version too. I know for a fact, as it did look better.
I loved Super Dropzone on SNES, so much so I bought it again on PlayStation, were there any other 8-bit classics you'd have liked to have brought 'tarted-up' version of to the SNES/PlayStation?
I'm not surprised, Super Dropzone was a great game on the SNES! Hope you liked my “visual port” of it to the PlayStation! There were many 8-bit classics, Manic Miner, 3D Deathchase, Chuckie Egg, Mission Impossible, Knight Lore, Wheelie, Scramble, Zaxxon, Mr Do!, I'd have liked to have done Cabal or Midnight Resistance also.
Also PlayStation version was a little too much of a straight SNES port, any reason it didn’t really go to town? And if you could do it again, what would you ideally like to do with it on PlayStation?
The PlayStation version as well as the GBA version, were from a set of 9 games that I ported in just under two years. The company I was hired by at the time were in trouble, they needed to get all the games finished ASAP, this meant that I didn't have time to create anything new, nor did I have an artist, so I converted all the graphics to PlayStation format myself, and if I had time to do it again, I probably wouldn't have been able to revamp it, as it was Archer's IP, so it had to be a straight conversion.
IK+ again I loved so much on C64/Amiga/ST i ended up buying again on PlayStation, but it was straight port really, no chance of really enhancing it? at the time and what would you have liked to have done?
Again, IK+ was Archer's IP, and this too had to be a straight conversion. As stated in previous reply, I also didn't have access to an artist, and was on a very tight schedule, if I have of had time and access to an artist, and the permission from Archer to revamp it, I would of, but to be honest, it was a great game in the first place!
Were you a fan of Dropzone and IK+ or were they merely jobs that needed doing and you'd have been mad to turn down?
Yes, I was a fan of both Dropzone and IK+, which is why I made it play and look as close to the original as I had time to do.
Rumour had it you were working on a PS3/360 game, if true, what was it and what happened to it?
This is true, I was the only coder working on a PS3 game, called WarDevil, the investors canned the project before it was completed, for reasons of a financial nature. Which was a shame, because at the time, it was the only PS3 game to my knowledge that was rendered at 1080p and looked amazing!
With the Spectrum having no hardware sprites, what was your approach when undertaking an arcade conversion and did you ever find yourself wishing the hardware had anything the C64 or CPC for example had, to make your life a little easier? Or did you just see the limitations as more of a chance to find a creative solution, rather than relying on hardware to take care of everything?
When converting arcade games to the Spectrum, I often wished it had sprites, but I'm glad it didn't have the C64 sprites, as they were too blocky for my liking, with being just 12 pixels wide, they just didn't have the detail, yeah, it was great that they didn't get attribute clash, but I liked the detail of finer pixels, and yes, I didn't like attribute clash either, but it was one of the things that made you have to think outside the box when converting games, and I liked the challenge.
From a technical perspective, what other 8-bit coders work did you admire - i.e was there ever a game you saw that made you think blimey, wonder how they did that/wish I’d wrote something like that?
Joffa Smith, was not only a great coder that I admired, and had the good fortune of working alongside, he was also a great artist, it is a very rare talent to be competent at both skills! Also his multi channel music driver for the Spectrum beeper is still amazing!
Along the same lines, what programmers have produced the kind of games you like to play?
I must add here the great Malcolm Evans! As 3D Monster Maze was and still is an awesome achievement for the ZX81, I spent many an evening playing it, trying to see how many times I could escape the maze before Rex getting me I've even written two versions of 3D Monster Maze for micro controllers the PIC chip and Parallax's Propeller Chip. And I'd have to also add Matthew Smith's Manic Miner, I could never complete it back in the day lol, it was only when I decided to do my PacManicMinerMan that I forced myself to get through all the levels as thankfully I've gained gamer skills over the years, there are many more, probably too many to name here, but they are two of my fave 8-bit computer games.
With Sony currently 'wooing' indie developers for PSN, any chance we could see future work from yourself popping up?
I'm tempted, I'd love to get the chance to do Apple Dash on a console.
And in ideal world what would you love to write and put out there?
I really should read all the questions first lol, I'd love to write Apple Dash for a console, or even PC/Mac, something with a real controller.
As a coder, did you ever pay much attention to press reviews of your work? If so was it frustrating to read say Saturn Doom being slagged, when reviewers had no idea of the 'bigger picture' (you being under strict orders just to port it)?
Back in the day, we never got any feedback from the public about our games, so yes, the magazine reviews and the charts were our only way of knowing if the games we did were liked or not, so yes, it was kind of frustrating about Doom, but I know that when you play a game, you only get to see what's on the screen, you don't get to see the inner workings of the game, or any orders you had to follow to port it, but now thanks to the internet, and things like the retro events that I've been going to each year since my first one in 2009, I'm getting to be able to talk to the players in person, which is great! I mean I didn't even know my Speccy games were being sold outside the UK, it was only when I was working on WarDevil, one of the artists, Gore, was from Greece, he said he was honoured to be working with me, as he grew up playing my games, they had such good memories for him, I was truly gobsmacked I had no idea my games were affecting people in this way, especially on a global scale! He is an awesome artist too!
Being a keen Biker yourself, how have video games 'fared' in delivering anything like the real thing over the years and are there any titles that stand out?
It just doesn't give you the same feeling, it's hard enough for them to get a car to feel right, even with very expensive hydraulics, I just don't think they'll ever get the leaning feel sorted, you need the breeze also, maybe the Oculus with motion tracking will help by removing anything outside the game screen visibility, and a nicely weighted bike frame, that stands you back up straight as you power out of an apex, but as for with a joypad, it's just not the same, don't get me wrong, they can still be great games to play, they just don't compare anything to the real thrill of riding a bike!
Have you ever been tempted to have a crack at doing the definitive bike racing game yourself?
Yes, with an Oculus Rift and an unlimited budget to do some amazing mechanical bike frame, but that's a dream that'll never come true, maybe if I ever release a game that becomes a global hit and I have enough money to fund it haha.
Saturn Doom (again sorry, lol). Word has it that John Carmack wouldn’t let you code it for the Saturn hardware specifically, so it ended up more akin to the DX33 PC version than say the Jaguar version being on par with the DX66 version. Why on earth didn’t John just let you handle the conversion in the way you best saw fit?
I have no idea on his choice, but as it was his IP, we had to take his wishes into account, if he said no to hardware rendering, then we had to not have the hardware render it, that was just the way of the contract.
Word has it you came up with a software routine on GBC that allowed around 2,000 colours to be displayed compared to the normal 54 and still allowed sprites to go on top, how on earth did you manage such an amazing feat and what was Nintendo's reaction?
It was the guys at Software Creations who came up with the original idea, I did however go the extra bit and get it so that I could still have plenty of sprites on top, as I wrote a clay pigeon shooting game to test it out, with exploding clays made from sprites, it was just a case of making sure the timing was as optimised as possible, to allow sprites also, as the GBC actually slow the Z80 down slightly when it's drawing the scanline with sprites on, as for Nintendo's reaction, I have no idea, I never asked them.
As a coder, what was more important to you? Press scores or fan reaction?
Back then, we didn't know the fan's reactions, and it was fan reaction that would have been more beneficial to me, as press scores weren't always true to the game.
You've had the opportunity to develop games for several different systems. Is there a system that you'd consider your most favourite to work on?
Good question, I've enjoyed working on all the systems, each have had reasons to like, I don't have an overall favourite, as I just enjoy making games, as much as I enjoy playing them.
Along the same lines, is there one that you consider most challenging?
I'd say the most challenging have been the early 8-bit ones, when you didn't have all the extra hardware and processing power to help you as you do today, where you had to think outside the box to get the extra performance or even to achieve something like what you wanted to do.
Have you heard of OUYA, the Android-based gaming system? If so, any interest in developing games for it?
I've heard of the OUYA, and many of the recent android-based gaming systems, and to be honest, I'm not overly keen on the system, as last year, I had i3 published for Android, and it was on the warez sites on day one, and I've literally not seen a single penny from sales of it, so it was just a waste of my time, I guess to be fair, it was originally designed as a one purchase, you get the whole game, and no IAPs, and Android is all about IAPs because of the huge piracy issue it has had from day one! I'm not a fan of IAPs, I think they spoil a game, I know the developer is trying to get their costs back, but I'd rather pay once for a game, and that's it you get the full complete game. I know there will probably be a time down the line, and probably soon, that I will have to join the band wagon and use the IAP route in my games, but it doesn't mean I have to like it as a business model.
Over the 22 years you've been working in the video game industry, there have been many changes in the industry itself as well as in the technologies available for developing games. Where do you think the video game industry will go moving forward?
It's 27 going on 28 years I've been in the games industry and yes, over the years things have got bigger and faster, companies have got bigger and popped due to changes in the way things have moved, and it's going back to the small teams again, especially on mobile, which is nice, as it keeps teams dev costs down, but now, as mobiles are getting to the point where they're getting closer and closer to current gen consoles, they also will have to start going to bigger teams to do the big games, as it'll only be the big games that get seen on the flooded marketplaces, due to the heavy advertising strategies that will be needed to get the games seen by the gaming public.
Do you own any retro systems that you collect for or still like to play to this day?
Yes, I have an Atari 2600, a ZX81, a ZXSpectrum 48K and two +3s, a mixture of 8, 16 and 32 bit consoles I recently started collecting again to show my girls the history of games.
I absolutely loved your conversion of Cabal to the Spectrum, you made brilliant use of the Spectrum's limited graphics here. Were you proud of the port yourself?
Yes I was and still am very, very proud of what I call my “Visual Port” of arcade games, as we never had any source to convert the game, all we had was a PCB in a box of the arcade game setup on free play, and we just had to play it all the way through the game to see exactly what was in it, and how things moved about and reacted with what the player was doing, and then write the conversion in such a way, that it did exactly all that, or as close as we could get it, with the limitations of the target machine!
Your conversion of Midnight Resistance featured similar graphics and was also very impressive too, what were the biggest challenges with this port?
The biggest challenges with the port of this, was getting as much if not all (as I made sure I got ALL) the cut scenes in the game too and making the sprites big as the game was full of big sprites, and big baddies, it was a HUGE game to fit into a 48K machine, and especially to get it all into a 128K single load also. Again, I was also very, very proud of this port also.
Not so much the Amstrad versions, as unfortunately, we were on really tight deadlines, as I had to convert the spectrum games to the Amstrad whilst the artist got onto the next game, so any art were just quick extra skin colours etc adding to the sprites for the amstrad version, we didn't use the C64 graphics, as the sprites and code would have to be re-written to accommodate the sprite size differences etc, I hope to one day down the line fix this and do an Amstrad worthy remake of Midnight Resistance.
I noticed you worked on the Sega 32X version of Striker while at Rage, this was never released so how far along was it?
Yes, we got the 32X kit just a bit too near the end of it's shelf life, when I started doing Striker for it, but I did manage to get pitch in real 3D and even had little cut scenes for throw ins and fouls and goals, that would have all the pixels appear to implode into an image of the event, and then explode again when it had finished showing,I was happy with how the game was looking, it took it to a new level, but after a short time with the kit, the 32X died in the shops, so the game was scrapped.
On the same kind of note, do you know anything about the Jaguar version of Striker? It was previewed alongside an almost identical 3DO version.
If I recall correctly, it was done by Rage's Birmingham office, so I never got to see either, only the initial part of the 3DO version before the programmer was moved to the Birmingham office to work with the other guys there on it.
Do you know the reasons why the Sega Saturn port of Revolution X was so poor and why it didn't have any light gun support?
The Saturn wasn't as powerful as the PS1in terms of draw performance, plus the game was a port of the PS1 code, so understandably it was off to a bad start to begin with, as for the light gun support, I can't remember why it wasn't included.
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