By Al Giovetti
Dave Taylor of Crack dot Com's Golgotha Interview
Alfred C. Giovetti (AG): We would like to welcome Dave Taylor, the leader at the helm of Crack dot Com and the Producer of their new game Golgotha. Thanks coming to share with us this great information on a brand new game.
Dave Taylor (DT): Thanks for having us here to share our game, Al.
AG: What kind of game is Golgotha?
DT: Golgotha is a new real-time combination strategy game and three dimensional shooter in which you pilot a monster tank.
AG: Where did the name Golgotha come from?
DT: Golgotha is seen in the writings of Shakespeare in King Lear, it is described as a large plain where a very large war in the future will be fought.
AG: Can you tell us about the system requirements for this game?
DT: The estimated requirements are a Pentium 133 Megahurtz with 16Mb RAM and 16bit sound card or slower Pentium with 3D accelerator. The game supports 3DFX, Direct3D, and OpenGL. Linux and Irix versions will be made available down the road.
AG: Can you tell us something about the history of Crack dot Com, Abuse, and >the people working for the company?
DT: I was still working at id Software as a programmer when I started Crack dot Com. My partner Jonathan was a student at the University of Texas at Austin. Back in 1992, we had collaborated on a 48-player Unix networked game with team play and the works. The game was for a national programming contest where the contestants would show up and write AI to play the game on their behalf. Kind of on a dare, Jonathan and I figured we could sell 50k units of a two-bit side-scroller, simply because we thought we could do it better. So we made Abuse. It was a side-scroller with more technology thrown at it than anything before it. It was a fun project, written in about 6 months by three people at a cost of about $150k. Abuse made enough money that we could self-fund our next title, Golgotha.
AG: Can you give us your bent on the game play?
DT: For the old-timers out there, Golgotha closely mirrors Rescue Raiders, a game which appeared on the Apple II in 1983. But in more modern terms, you could say it resembles a cross between Doom with tanks meets a lightweight Command and Conquer.
AG: How much does Golgotha resemble Rescue Raiders?
DT: A lot! The helicopter is now a super-tank. You have similar statistics, health (armor), machine gun rounds, main gun rounds (instead of bombs), and guided missiles. When your tank gets damaged, you come back to your base for repairs, rearming, etc. If you want to take over a special building on the level, you need to send out an engineering vehicle (as opposed to engineers). There are a lot of parallels. We drifted in a few regards. One is that the game is now 3D action and 2D strategy which has the potential to be a lot more complex than 2D action and 1D strategy, so we made a lot of optimizations in the user controls. Another is that we really dig technology, so you get to summon up all kinds of military vehicles throughout the game. Yet another is that we're actually telling a story in this game, illustrating it with engine movies between each level.
AG: How many views will the game have?
DT: There are two main views. You have the 1st-person view of the super tank, similar to the under-the-barrel view in Tokyo Wars (a new coin-op game). You also have an overhead view like Command and Conquer, but rendered with the 3D engine.
AG: What will the interface look and work like?
DT: You control the super tank as you would play a game like Doom. It's very responsive and designed for intense dogfights. We changed your stats to colored bars so that you can see them in your peripheral vision more easily. The machine gun is auto-aiming, and you can fire all three weapons at once if you like. While in this mode, you can also hit keys which will control your formations, such as bring units to your location or tell them to regroup. You can also summon units to formations using hot keys.
The other mode is a bird's eye perspective. From this mode, you can control the movement of your formations or your supertank. You click on a formation and send it somewhere and can survey the landscape more handily in this mode.
AG: What about the graphic resolution and effects?
DT: The game runs at 640x480x16bit color. We have support for terrain and buildings as well as shadows from the vehicles. There is gouraud shaded lighting and colored lighting with hardware-accelerated versions. The hardware accelerated version also supports Z-buffering for perfect polygon clipping and sorting.
AG: How fast, in frames per second, is the animation and how was it done?
DT: Most of the units do not have hand-animated frames. They use programatic animations. For instance, the tank treads turn by moving the registration on a repeating texture-map, and the turret turns smoothly according to the vehicle's AI. This was all done with code in AI modules which are loaded as DLL's. This is neat for hackers because you can change the AI of a unit without even restarting the game.
AG: Are there any cut scenes?
DT: Yes. We actually started by trying to do traditional cut scenes, but we found out they take a really long time unless you have ridiculous amounts of expensive hardware. So we opted for engine movies which show the cut scenes using the game engine. We made a really nifty movie editor so that you can lay down camera movement splines, target splines, and can lay down the movement of units using splines. The units behave just like they would in a script, so if you put a bunch of bad guys and good guys together, they'll start going at it. If you tell someone to drive through a wall, he'll figure out how to drive around it. And with precise control over the camera and lights, the effect is really killer.
AG: Did you use voice actors, who, and how did you use them?
DT: Yes. We spent a lot of time searching for local talent willing to work for pennies. We found some incredible people that were just excited about the project. We use them during gameplay but also use them during the engine movies to advance the plot.
AG: How did you do the Sound Effects, what makes them special?
DT: We did them like most people do, by using the libraries they use in most films and games. However, we did store the effects at higher resolutions, usually 44kHz 16-bit stereo so that if you have a killer machine, you can hear it at a gorgeous quality level.
AG: Will there be any cheats for Golgotha?
DT: Hit F6, and you're inside the editor used to create the game. So you can plop down whatever you like on the level. :)
AG: Who is doing the hint book? We're talking to a few people but haven't settled on someone for the hint book yet.
AG: Tell us more about the music composition, who did it, and how interactive is it?
DT: Gene Rozenberg (firstname.lastname@example.org) did the music, and it changes every level and for every engine movie. We don't change music with "mood," but it does change with setting.
AG: What more can you tell us about the gameplay? What makes it exciting?
DT: You do a lot of switching between 3D action (a la Doom) and 2D strategy (a la Command and Conquer, depending on your tastes as a game player. Are you better at strategy or action? While in 3D mode, you can control your supertank precisely and perform much better in dogfights. As this is your most powerful vehicle, if you can kick butt in supertank dogfights, you might be able to dominate the game. On the other hand, you can't win the game without strategy, because your supertank isn't allowed anywhere near the goal, namely the other player's base. You have to send a defenseless engineering vehicle over there to destroy it which means you need to assemble formations of nasties to support it. In addition, if you're a Command and Conquer stud and feel you can command several formations at once, you can clean up sticking with strategy mode. AG: Tell us about the multiplayer aspects of the game (nullmodem, phone modem, cooperative play, competitive play, network players, internet sites and number of players, hot seat play?) DT: Woo. You ask big questions. (smile) We're supporting TCP/IP net play and are shooting for 8-player games because that's how many employees we have at Crack. The games aren't as lightweight as Quake games, where you just enter somewhere and die somewhere. In Golgotha, when you join, you have a bank account, a home base whose location matters, and a production pad. It's a big deal and really changes the game balance. We plan to have support for team play as well as all-out war. For instance, you'll be able to send troops over to your buddy's production pad, thereby transferring ownership, and you'll be able to hand him money, too. More on the Golgotha Interview later in the month.
ReferencesSee Al Giovetti's article on Golgotha
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