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Alive 4



   One of the latest releases that has hit us is of course the "genial" ChuChu
Rocket conversion brought to us by almighty Reservoir  Gods ! Formely known as
Falcon only coders, theu have granted us an awesome STe friendly game ! Enough
crap, let's get into it !

   Please note that another RG, aka MSG, also accepted to answer the same
questions. His comments are displayed in another color.

Hi Mr Pink (as you are the first one to be interviewed). Would you mind 
introducing yourself to our readers ? (name, occupation and stuff :)  

   Mr Pink :
   I sometimes go under the non-scene name of leon o'reilly, I'm in my late 20s
and I work for Electronic Arts making games for PS2 and GameCube.

Hey, I'm MSG... I do the music in the games and casual betatesting.

So, tell us, when did that crazy ChuChu idea come up to you ? Tell us about 
crusty circumstances please ! 

   Mr Pink :
   It started at work, there are a lot of dreamcast fans on our team (even
though we write PS2 games!). during lunchtimes, our physics coder wrote a "chu
chu rocket" style game on the PC, and we had a lot of fun playing it although
it was very basic (just a couple of levels and triangles for sprites). It made
me realise that such a thing was possible on the atari.

I think Leon decided to do it and I thought it was a nice idea, I knew that
the GBA version was coming out and so, it was completely unfeasible to do it 
for the ST 

Now that background is set, tell us about the first steps : starting such a 
big task is no piece of cake, so how did it actually start ? I'm sure you met 
many problems, tell us about them.      

   Mr Pink :
   One of the biggest steps was actually trying to make an ST game. all our
previous productions have been falcon only, and the libraries that I have coded
are all falcon specific. i coded a complete new set of libraries for the ST,
and started messing around with sprite routines.

   The early versions of "chu chu" ran on the STFM - I wrote a code generating
sprite rout that was pretty fast, unfortunately it took loads of memory and
once we started to get all the frames of animation for all the different sprite
types we realised that it would be a struggle to fit the game into 1MB. at this
point we switched to using the blitter and made the game STE only.

   One of the most time consuming tasks was converting all the levels from the
original dreamcast version to the atari. i had to play through the entire DC
version, completing every level. I then drew out every level in ascii using a
notation I devised, then ran this ascii text through a convertor I made to
generate level data for the game.

   Typing out all these levels was not so much fun, and of course there were
any typos caused many bugs and were hard to spot!

MSG :   
I started it on the 1st of January 2001, I thought that it didn't have much
music since I had only played the puzzle mode, that was a big shock when I 
realized that I have completely underestimated that one!

The biggest problem for me was the replay, the music just sounded wrong...
later after a phonecall and Leon debugging remotely via me, it turned out that
the sound was getting set to 12Khz when it should have been 50khz... then all 
the other comedy of my doing the music at 60Hz and leon replaying it at 50Hz... 

How long did it actually take ? What was the atmosphere like at the RG HQ ?  
Surely you have some nice stories for us here !

   Mr Pink :
   The first build of the game was made on the first day of 2001 - 1/1/1 which
is a nice date i think! and the final build was made in december 2001 - so its
almost exactly a year in development. however, virtually no work was done on
the game over the summer as we were all very busy with other things (I was
finishing a ps2 game at work and had just about no free time).

I think most of us would be glad when it's finished...: ) well like I said, I 
started it in Jan'01...and finished some music quickly, a month off, then some 
more music, summer was quite unproductive then more music later...I think it's 
12 pieces of music or something... some of them ar little because they are just 
for a quick menu and others go on for 3:30 or so...

Final words about ChuChu Rocket : I know that when the release date is coming 
closer, pressure becomes even more intense. What got into your mind at that 
very last minute before you announced official release ?   

   Mr Pink :
   "I hope there aren't any more bugs left!"
   The last few months were mainly bugtesting - and there was a lot to test !
Chuchu is quite a diverse game compared to some of other productions. You have
the multiplayer modes, the puzzle modes and the stage challenge modes, all have
different logic controlling them.

   In the stage challenge mode there are different tasks to complete, in the
multiplayer mode there are many different effects from the spinner and in
puzzle mode there are 100 levels spread over two different worlds. thats a lot
to test.

   Neo did an absolutely superb job - the number of times he played through the
entire 100 levels of puzzle mode and 25 stage challenge levels noting down
small inaccuracies with positions of walls, rockets, chus or kapus is
incredible. he produced many very detailed bug reports that were very useful.

   The other problem was compatibility. when we did falcon only stuff this
wasn't so much of a problem, but doing stuff that runs on multiple atari
machines is more difficult, and even the falcon scene has diversified a lot
with people running a variety of different operating systems, and having widely
varying memory and accelerator configurations.

   But it was other machines that bit us - the first release of the game didn't
work on Mega STE, there were some problems with the sid sound replay
interfering with the IKBD and mouse on some machines, some blitter drawing bugs
on some falcons. thankfully, all these bugs are now fixed, but it makes you
realise how important testing is and the need to have as much atari hardware as
possible. i got a 1MB STE at christmas, and will be trying to get hold of other
atari machines this year for config testing of our future productions.

Now that your game is released, what do you think of it ? Are you pleased 
with the final result ? And by the way, why ChuChu Rocket ? Are you Dreamcast  
addicts ? :)    

   Mr Pink :
   Yes, I am very proud of chu chu rocket. it is a game that we have poured our
heart into, and I think this shows. whether you like the game or not, you have
to admire the attention to detail. the game is an almost perfect conversion of
the dreamcast version,  and look how many coders, artists and musicians were
involved with the original console version! a lot more than we had ! They
probably had a budget of hundreds of thousands of dollars to make that game! I
think to show that atari crews can do something comparable to next gen
consoles, and do it for free just purely for other peoples pleasure is a great

   Personally, i am a big sega fan. i think they are the most innovative games
company in the world - but not only is their stuff original, it is technically
very good and a joy to play. a real perfect combination.

   The dreamcast was an amazing little machine with some awesome games, its a
real shame it wasn't more popular. but bad marketing and lack of resources
contributed to its downfall, something atari fans know all to much about !

MSG : 
Well it's a great game...
We've had a great reception, most people I have spoke to have played it and 
that's cool...I hope people realize how much work went into it. 

I was going to buy a Dreamcast, since they rule... but I've managed not to
buy it...I wouldn't buy that rubbish playstation 2 but I have just bought a 
US/JAP gamecube which rulez. 

Next is a memento to people who didn't switch on their Atari for years : give 
us a short view about your previous releases (commercial break :)

   Mr Pink :
   Ok, reservoir gods were formed in 1994 to produce software for the Atari
Falcon, mainly games but also demos and utils, our softography:

   1994 : Tautology [falcon game]
   1994 : GodPaint [falcon art package]
   1995 : Tautology 2 [falcon game]
   1995 : Double Bobble 2000 [falcon game]
   1996 : SkyFall [falcon game]
   1996 : Sworm [24hr falcon game]
   1997 : GodBoy [gameboy emulator]
   1998 : Static [falcon game]
   1998 : GodleNES [NES emulator]
   1998 : Bugger! [falcon game]
   1998 : Bunion Canyon [24hr falcon game]
   1999 : SnowStorm [falcon demo]
   2001 : Chu Chu Rocket! [ste/falcon game]

   We have also worked extensively on the diskmag "Maggie", taking control of
this at issue #18 and making a falcon specific shell. there have also been some
other smaller intros and 128byte demos, and many (boring!) tools.

I'm sure Leon covered this! : )

Does the release of Chu Chu Rocket announce a return from Reservoir Gods ?   
Even though I'm not an RG specialist, I can tell that you had been inactive for 
a while. Have you found new interest in ATARI machines ?    

   Mr Pink :
   "There are many imitators. but we are the true creators. we are back." In
1998 we were certainly the most active atari crew on the scene, but then we
stopped being students and started working.

   The games industry is a cool place to work, but it really is like slavery
sometimes - working late nights until 3am and all weekends (with no overtime
pay) is quite common practice. I worked liked this for first two years in the
industry, and had little time or motivation for atari.

MSG : 
The main problem was that both Leon and I got computer industry jobs which 
take up a lot of our time, now we have got used to those, we have started being 
active again and have been for the last year.

You've also been quite discreet party wise. You attended both editions of 
the great Error In Line. What's your opinion about these parties ? Do you have  
any impressions about the current Scene you want to deliver ?   

   Mr Pink :
   Well we've been to quite a lot of atari parties, the first one out of the UK
was fried bits 3 in 1995 (awesome party), but we've also attended symposium 96,
siliconvention, both error in line parties and two alternative parties.

   I think my favourite parties were the error in line events, small parties
with many friendly people and a surprisingly high number of good quality
productions released.

   My impressions of the current scene? it continues to amaze me how many
people are still doing stuff with their beloved ataris. of course the scene has
shrunk, but new atari coders are appearing and doing stuff which is cool.

   If someone had told me back in 1988 that i would still be writing ST games
in 2002, I don't think I'd have believed them :-)

EIL'99 and EIL 2oo1 we both great parties. The first was important for me,
since I've never been to a party before and we had a great time. This was, for 
me, the last of the productive RG. After a large break , the second EIL, was 
great since shthree came with us and we were even more productive. EIL is cool 
since you see people from various countries, France, Germany, Sweden, 

ALT party was a completely different scene, although Baggio was there from 
sweden, there was little show from atari. This was probably our most productive 
for a LONG time together.. a great time in Helsinki.

Next is of course questionning your future plans : your following games is 
God Pey if I'm right. What's your current state of mind ? Did the release of 
ChuChu Rocket motivate you or did it act as a trigger to new found laziness ?   

   Mr Pink :
   There were times near the end of "chu chu rocket" where it became a real
struggle to finish it off and keep everyone motivated - its like this with any
project. but the reaction we have had from it has been tremendous.

   One of the really interesting things is the reaction to the game from
outside the atari scene - we've had many PC and Amiga people getting in touch
with us after playing it on emus and saying how much they liked it. one of the
big PC magazines in the UK wrote a full page review of our game with
screenshots and everything - i think this is the first time it has ever
mentioned any atari production.

   Having this sort of reaction really is a vindication of all our hard work
and gives us a lot of motivation to carry on making atari stuff.

   Having been away from the atari scene for almost 2 years, you appreciate it
so much more when you come back.

   I think the state of mind of RG is that we are enjoying doing atari stuff as
much now as at any time before. we've managed to fit in the atari work around
our new lifestyles, and we have a new methods of organisation of the group and
distributing code, graphics and music on the internet which helps enormously
with development.

   2001 was the rebirth of RG, expect much more from us over the coming years!

   And I must take this opportunity to thank the alive team for doing so much
hard work producing this great atari magazine. keep it up!

MSG : 
Well I've sorted out some music for it. I hope we continue to be productive 

Thanks for unveiling such mysteries about what will surely be considered a 
major ST game for a long time ! Report to the GODPEY preview to know more about 
the next Reservoir Gods release ! 

Alive 4