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Interview With 4Play - The Atari Times

Interview With 4Play

by Taz

April 4, 1997
(Note: I took my past e-mail correspondences with 4Play and complied them into this short "4Play interview" article. Please excuse me then if there's any inconsistencies. - Taz)

In case you haven't heard of 4Play's first Jaguar game, BattleSphere, this game combines the best elements of games like Descent, X-Wing, Tie Fighter, and Star Raiders into a spectacular result. BattleSphere also allows up to *eight* Jaguars to be linked for networked gameplay and up to *sixteen* people can play at the same time (8 teams of 2 people each. One player is a pilot, while the other is a gunner)!4Play consists of Scott Le Grand -Head coder and BattleSphere creator; Stephanie Wukovitz - Music and computer voice; Doug Engel (T-Bird) - Network programmer, artist; and Tom Harker - Business, Catbox designer. The play tester for BattleSphere is Mark "Stingray" Santora.)

TAZ: Steph, Scott, your academic background seems to be in biological fields. How did you ever get involved in game development?

Stephanie: Uh, the funny part is that my background is in math, I started to want to do applied things 2 years into a pure math PhD, moved from one coast to the other into a Biomath PhD program, and now do a lot of coding, thinking about protein structure and crystals, and just generally feel a lot happier. Scott works in the next lab doing a lot of the same sort of things (his background is biology), but he's been writing games since he could talk basically, mostly just for fun... he had a cult following in HS. We started going out over 6 years ago, and when he decided to do Battle Sphere, since I also compose, I was a natural choice for music I guess. And I can code (on future projects).

Scott: I played my first computer game (Colony) in 1971. I started writing computer games in 1976. By the time I got to college, I knew more Comp Aci than the typical graduate so I majored in Biology because I figured that's where all the interesting problems would lie for computers in the future. In the meantime, I wrote a bunch of networked computer games. Then, after grad school, I decided to get back into video game development.

TAZ:Mark "Stingray" Santora seems to really hate the Atari Jaguar and its games. What do you think of the Jag?

Stephanie: Nah, he's bitter about Atari, with good reason. As we are. (TAZ: So am I). I don't program in assembly language, only C, so I can't comment personally on the machine, but I hear lots of screams of frustration coming out of Scott's study.:-)He seems to like programming the Jag, but not the large number of hardware bugs. Of course, any console has these.

Scott: I really enjoy programming the Atari Jaguar.

The Jag has so much untapped potential. Atari never properly exploited the potential. They really should have hired some crack programmers to make decent libraries for the thing before it was released. The same things which make it hard to program make it powerful.

TAZ: How does BattleSphere compare to other games like Descent 1&2 or Sony PlayStation games?

Stephanie: Rather favorably. Most PSX games are not very much fun, or they're too short, or something like that. We don't have buttloads of T-mapping (not possible at our frame rate) but we *are* fun, and as you know we *do* look good. Descent is a wonderful game... in my opinion we are as fun as Descent. Haven't seen Descent 2 so can't comment on that one.

TAZ: Why isn't 4Play releasing BattleSphere for the Saturn or PSX? I mean Rayman was released for the Jag, Saturn, PSX, and PC.

Stephanie: Well, maybe Ubisoft had some money. We got our Jag development kit for free. If someone offers us money for a port, we will do it. We have to like eat and stuff.:-)

TAZ: T-Bird, you mentioned on the internet that this game will feature another "first" for the Jag. Do you mean something that only the Atari Jaguar can do, or something that has never been done before on the Jag?

T-Bird: Something that has never been done before on the Jag.

TAZ: T-Bird also mentioned something about a "BattleSphere modem." Is he joking?

Scott: We have the technology and know how to do a "BattleSphere modem" so we can make one if we want to, but it's costly to develop. T-Bird and Tom are handling this.

TAZ: What will 4Play do about marketing BattleSphere? Any TV commercials or US Tour showcasing the game planned? Do you think BattleSphere will improve Jag sales?

Stephanie: I don't know exactly, probably not, and slightly.:-) Better info from Tom Harker.

TAZ: Mark, since you're testing BattleSphere, do you think this game will be a contender for Game of the Year?

Mark: Yes.

T-Bird: I've played it... it RULEZ!

TAZ: Could you please give me your best guess when BattleSphere will be released?

Stephanie: We don't want to give anything firm ('cause if we're wrong, people poke fun).

TAZ: Must be going now. Good luck on the completion of BattleSphere.

Stephanie: Thankee... we just want to finish the damned thing.:-)

(BTW, I saw the QuickTime movie clips of BattleSphere from Next Generation Online's preview article on this game. The game looks really good and I can't wait for this title!)

For more info on 4Play and screenshots, previews, and NGO's QuickTime movie clips of BattleSphere check out 4-Play's BattleSphere web site at: http://www.battlephere.com

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