- What was/is the motivation for developing games for the ColecoVision? What’s your story with the console? Also, have you had contact with or heard about the japanese MSX platform, which has many similarities with ColecoVision?
GB: I played arcade games originally on an overnight ferry (at the time 6-8 hours) traveling on the atlantic ocean from mainland canada to the Island of newfoundland where I’m from. I remember playing space invaders, asteroids, seawolf and others. I always associate them with the rolling sea while trying to balance and control the game.
So first my cousin got a sears atari 2600 and then a year or so later a neighbor got the colecovision. You had to be very nice and put up with a lot in order to get an invite over to play coleco. It was a very special system that was out of reach from me for years. So when I finally got one I treated it well, I shared it with everyone and still use the same one today. I upgraded the power switch & installed an f18a in it to keep it going.
In recent years i’ve heard about the MSX platform as well as sg-1000 but none of these were sold in canada. The Sega Master System was sold here though so I’m familiar with that one which is a cousin to them.
2. What games have you developed besides Tank Mission? Were all the titles solely released for the ColecoVision?
GB: For colecovision I released 4 games to date. “WAR”, “MR. TURTLE”,”TANK MISSION” & now “BOOT HILL”. I make them all in my basement office.
I have developed many programs and some games for some 80’s pc’s. One system was the Sanyo mbc 550 which is an MS DOS compatible. Also some for the Tandy 1000. I am also working on a conversion of “BOOT HILL” to intellivision. I may convert to other systems in the future such as Sega Master System or the Tandy 1000.
3. What software tools were used to develop Tank Mission? Concerning the storyline, did you make a storyboard beforehand? Can you show us some game development support material that was produced during the process? How much time was spent (estimation) in the stages of plot development, planning, programming, debugging, and testing?
GB: I develop using SDCC in c++ and I use a variety of tools from the colecovision community including a devkit.
I sketch drawings of what I want to see and how the playfield might look. Do so technical figuring out on paper of how to implement it using the system I’m designing for. Then sometimes some of these sketches actually end up in the game. At least 2 of them are in “Tank Mission” when you rescue the spy and when you find the map you get a splash screen. Well those drawings were right from my sketch book. I’ll track down the sketches in the original rough form for you.
Development stage was in my spare time usually over a month or so at family events or while waiting in the car for my wife to stop shopping. Just a few hours here and there.
Planning ? What’s that? Seriously a lot of developers are very technical minded, very organized and very methodical. Where as I have skills in all of these areas I’m an artist primarily who likes drawing pictures and I just start sometimes and see where I end up. The final project is 3 times more complicated than I had in mind when I started. I’m not sure that is a good thing so I have decided to plan more in the future the scope of my projects.
4. Are you satisfied with the repercussion of the game within the retrogamer community? Were there any losses due to the recall of the faulty cartridges (ROM replacement)?
GB: As I didn’t distribute it I am not sure about this. I did inform the distributor that there was a problem when I received my copy and was able to get that corrected. There was a much older version of the rom that was still on the development stage used by a mistake rather than the final version. It only affected approx the first 40 copies so probably less than half. Collectorvision were right on it and offered exchanges to the affected cartridges.
I am more than satisfied with that solution. The exchanged cartridges would be black plastic. The affected cartridges were green plastic. So if you got a green plastic cartridge you could choose to get it exchanged but you would have to return the nice green cartridge so I actually kept mine as it will be more rare.
I did have to do a similar exchange with some (8) of my early “WAR” copies and it wasn’t too expensive. Just the shipping back to me then return shipping to the owner for the cartridge only and I was able to reuse the returned cartridges for another project. You have to make it right and it’s the cost of doing business so you have to keep your reputation good.
I haven’t heard anything so I would love to know if anyone liked the game or not. Perhaps drop by atariage and leave some feedback in the “Tank Mission” thread. or at collectorvision
5. Tell us, please, about your new game for the Coleco, Boot Hill. It looks like a lot of fun!
GB: I’m just recreating my childhood 1 byte at a time. Again while traveling in the USA from Canada we would stay in camping grounds. And most of them would have a small arcade of about 6-8 games. I played Biplane, Red baron, shooting gallery games and Boot Hill. I really liked the game. It’s simple concept and after the previous “TANK MISSION” I was looking for something in a smaller scope.
My goal was 1 month start to finish with the programming. and maybe 1 month to get all the printed materials done. I was pretty close to succeeding and was selling copies in march after having started it in january.
The game is legitimately fun. I actually when testing the carts before mailing them out often times end up playing much longer than necessary to test each one.
6. How about your next projects? Any plans?
GB: I never start anything that I will not finish and I really prefer to make original games. You can already play existing games on emulators and people will only notice what you got wrong about the conversion and not about how much you got right.
With that in mind i’m going to make a pixel perfect “COMMANDO” conversion to Colecovision. Ha. Ha.
I got a few ideas even sketched up. I have a concept called “Run Piggy Run” and it’s about a piggy running form the Big bad wolf, over obstacles and with the Big Bad Wolf always just right behind him unless you trip up or until you make it to you home and shut the door. I expect it’ll have 3 levels as you need to upgrade your house each day.
7. What do you think of hardware add-ons such as Opcode’s Super Game Module and the F18A?
GB: I design all my games so they will run on a standard colecovision. I think it’s then fine to offer additional options if you have the specialized hardware to see more colours, hear additional sound channels or other enhancements.
I have added support for the larger megacart which is beyond the original 32kb but will still run on a stock colecovision. I have designed 2 games to take advantage of the f18a enhancements as well and again they also work on a standard colecovision. I’ve considered using SGM to support a more complex game but I haven’t needed to use it yet because again I require that it works on a standard colecovision first.
There is a background to this reasoning. We got a family PC in the 80’s called a Sanyo MBC 550. I still have it and I learned to do basic programming on this system. I pretty much had to because it had no games almost. I eventually was able to get 3 or so descent games (CASHMAN, DEMON SEED and TIME BANDIT) for it but it wasn’t compatible with IBM PC CGA graphics so virtually nothing worked despite being a dos compatible. Zork 1,2 & 3 worked though so there was that. I used to hook up my colecovision to the green scale Sanyo montior just so I could pretend I had more games on the Sanyo. So compatibility with the original platform is very important to me.
8. What advice would you give to anyone planning to develop games for classic platforms like the ColecoVision?
GB: Well don’t do it for the money because there is very little and the money barely covers the cost of production especially if you have any returns or problems. However if you can develop for one platform then port it to many similar platforms so you don’t have to keep recreating everything that might be a good strategy.
Don’t try to make a modern game. Make something that should have or could have come out at the time the system was relevant. So a lot of coleco projects are conversions of games from the same time period that never came out on the colecovision.
Or make something very original and try to keep the project small so you can complete what you start. Don’t start anything you cannot finish. The colecovision, and others, have a vast wasteland of half finished projects. I finish everything I start .