David L. Craddock writes fiction, nonfiction, and grocery lists. He is the author of the Gairden Chronicles series of fantasy novels for young adults, as well as numerous nonfiction books documenting videogame development and culture, including the bestselling Stay Awhile and Listen series, Shovel Knight by Boss Fight Books, and Long Live Mortal Kombat. Follow him online at www.DavidLCraddock.com, and on Twitter @davidlcraddock.

David L. Craddock writes fiction, nonfiction, and grocery lists. He is the author of the Gairden Chronicles series of fantasy novels for young adults, as well as numerous nonfiction books documenting videogame development and culture, including the bestselling Stay Awhile and Listen series, Shovel Knight by Boss Fight Books, and Long Live Mortal Kombat. Follow him online at www.DavidLCraddock.com, and on Twitter @davidlcraddock.

GameDev Stories X by David L. Craddock

The second in a special two-book set, GameDev Stories X takes you back to the early days of id Software, the making of The Lion King's most infamous platforming challenge, one game dev's humble beginnings, and more.

From cubs and brainless ostriches to the origin of id Software and how its founders met, GameDev Stories X continues the educational and entertaining trip through Craddock's archives of stories from game development.


Some GameDev Stories books are unwieldy. They shouldn't be as massive as the tomes that stem from the interviews collected in these books. So, I split nine and ten into two, each with a particular theme. Each celebrates the beginning of something—a company, a career, a passion project. It worked out, and I hope you like it. -David L. Craddock, curator, StoryBundle




David L. Craddock: What led to your interest in game development?

Randy Linden: My first experiences with video games were with the really, really old-school ones, like Space Invaders and Pac-Man. Crazy Climber, Tempest. That was a day titles were very, very unique because video games were just being invented, frankly. We got a couple of Commodore PET computers into our junior high school. I remember seeing a version of Space Invaders on the Commodore PET, and it was written by a guy named Jim Butterfield. And he lived in Toronto, which is where I lived.

There are two funny stories from that. One is I opened up the phonebook, found his name, and called him to ask him technical questions. He knew I was a young kid because I sounded like a young kid asking technical questions, and he was more than happy to answer all of them. The second thing was that when I was first learning about computers and technology on the Commodore PET, I wanted to study Space Invaders, so I learned how to make my version. What I didn't realize was that Space Invaders was written in 6502 machine language and there was no disassembler. When I printed the listing of the program, it just sent all sorts of garbage characters to the line printer, and out came this huge stack of just miscellaneous garbage that I thought, I'm gonna somehow study this and learn how to make Space Invaders.

Craddock: What was your first published game?

Linden: The game was called Bubbles. It was Centipede clone that took place underwater. You were Clarence the Clam, and you opened your mouth and bubbles came out. That was how you shot a school of fish. There was seaweed. It was all an underwater theme. I was in high school and I developed this on the Commodore 64. I met a guy named Randy Lyons, and he had a company called Syntax Software. I told him I've got a game, and would he be interested in publishing it. We met and we hit it off, and it was published that year.

Craddock: I love that your first game had a simple title. One thought that repeatedly crosses my mind is how game titles went from simple, like Basketball, to more complex and novelistic.

Linden: I think the titles are closer to books now, where the title evokes something. The title is both your calling card and a description of what the game is about. Whereas back then, they were very simple titles: Ice Hockey, Bubbles. Pac-Man. I think that the industry has gone through homogenization. There are two or three major engines, Unity and Unreal. An awful lot of games use one of those engines. It produces a certain style, a certain look, a certain feel to the game. I think that there are far fewer unique, original titles these days. Stray, that cat game—who would have thought that's going to be a game? And yet, it looks good; it plays very well.

I think it's a testament to the fact that there are still independent developers who aren't developing Sequel Number Five or whatever. That's sort of the double-edged sword of these game engines: They put tremendous power into the hands of even small developers, but unless a developer will take a chance on something unique [we won't see innovation]. Not so much genre, because I think we really have explored an awful lot of genres in video games throughout history. I would call Stray one of the one of those explore-your-world games. It's unique, and I think it's receiving good critical acclaim. I think this ties back into the title is meant to evoke something. Stray does that: The title is short and sweet, it's to the point, and it gets across exactly what the game is about while being unique.

Craddock: Mobygames.com lists your first published game as Datastorm in 1988, but I've read other interviews where you talked about Dragon's Lair for the Amiga in that context. Could you clear that up?

Linden: Datastorm was actually not my first Amiga program. It wasn't even my first Amiga game. That was Dragon's Lair. After Dragon's Lair, I knew Søren Grønbech. He had written a game called Sword of Sodan. He had written a game that was basically like Stargate; he wrote it on the Amiga and it had a lot of nice special effects like explosions with tons of little pixels all over the place, and really huge boss monsters. There was a giant tentacle monster and all the tentacles you have to shoot off. I told him I was forming a company. Our first program was Dragon's Lair, but I was looking for other programs; would he be interested? He said, Yes, sure, why not? He had written Datastorm In his spare time, and he would be happy to let me publish it.

Craddock: Dragon's Lair for Amiga has to be one of the most ambitious ports for that time period, if not ever, and you did the port with such a small team. You were the only programmer, in fact. What led to your interest in doing that?

Linden: Dragon's Lair is by far my favorite video game ever. It was just so unique. Who would have thought to put an animated movie on a LaserDisc and have the player control a character? The control of the character, while limited, was full color, full-screen animation with stereo sound and the whole nine yards. It was an environment that you were thrust into. Dragon's Lair has always been one of those things that I was very attracted to as far as video games go, not because so much of the technology, but because of the lavishness and diversity of the environments. It's sort of like why I like the Venture game. I like the diversity of the rooms, the diversity of the monsters and the traps. Dragon's Lair provided that same thing.

Craddock: How did you go about making sure your port was as faithful to the arcade game as possible?

Linden: So, my friends and I went downtown and visited all the arcades downtown, found the ones that had Dragon's Lair, and asked for the contact information for Cinematronics so we could buy the disc. Then when I had the disc, I rented a LaserDisc player to do the digitization of the graphics. It was all done on the Amiga computer. There was a company called Sunrize industries, They made a digitizer called Perfect Sound, an audio digitizer. They also made a video digitizer, and I convinced them to give us early access to the beta version of their hardware video digitizer. That was what was used to digitize the images one frame at a time from the Dragon's Lair. Now you'll know Sunrize Industries by its more familiar name these days. They're now called Roku.

Craddock: Were you contracted to do this, or did you just decide to do it?

Linden: I just decided, hey, I'm gonna digitize Dragon's Lair on the Amiga. I'm gonna write the program. I'm gonna write the game. That's the way it usually is with most of my projects. I remember meeting the guy who was the representative for Sullivan Bluth [Interactive Media] in New York; I hopped on a plane and flew out to New York, and we executed contracts. It's very rare to do that today. It was a different time back then.