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Interview with Charles Doty
In a matter of weeks the CD-i scene was truly humbled by Charles Dotys efforts bringing his multi-platform game Frog Feast to our little black box of tricks. We finally pinned him down for a brief interview all about the game, why coding for CD-i kicks ass and hopefully bring a little spark to CD-i Homebrew!





Devin: So then, Frog Feast, on the surface a simple two player game, only complicated by the fact you want to transpose it upon every platform invented around the 16-bit era. Let's start with the why part first and get to the how latter!

Charles: I've been interested in supporting orphaned systems since the end of the Genesis and SNES consoles. I also wanted to support older arcade systems. I thought it was interesting how companies such as Epyx or Akklaim supported many different game systems. The 16 bit 2D gaming consoles were the first consoles I coded for; these were the systems I wanted to get into the gaming industry to program. The Japanese systems such as the FM Towns and X68000 are interesting because I was able to experience them first hand in Japan. The CD-i was one of a group of CD based systems that seemed feasible to release software on; producing CDs is cheaper and easier than cartridges.

Frog Feast was a realistic game design that I could reasonably expect to complete on any system. I wanted a fairly simple game design that would still be fun to play. This was to be my first complete game on any console system. It's grown way beyond my initial plans for the game. The initial Frog Feast started out being written in assembly language. Within a month of starting development I switched to C with assembly language routines. This really helped keep Frog Feast going. I was able to implement some low level routines and Frog Feast would start functioning; a few more routines and the game was playable.

Devin: You've worked in the video game industry before Frog Feast, in Japan no less? Can you elude to your previous experience without sounding like a resume, anecdotes more than welcome!

Charles: No actually, I visited Japan several times in the early to mid 90s. I got to see the FM Towns and X68000 in game shops around Japan. I was going to buy a X68000 game thinking it was a Japanese Amiga game. The shop owner told me it was for a Japanese system. I worked in the game industry deveolping PC games. I worked on Total Mayhem (Total Mania in the Europe and the UK) and Revenant for Domark/Eidos. The company that I worked for was Cinematix Studios. I also did some Gameboy Color contract work. I was contracted to further develop a Defender of the Crown port that I started on my own. I also started another project that was cancelled shortly after. The project was subcontracted out by DC Studios in the UK, from Activision.

Devin: How did you come to work with OlderGames on your various incarnations of Frog Feast?

Charles: I contacted OlderGames a very long time ago and started work on Neo Geo and Sega CD versions of Super Fighter. These didn't progress very far; as I didn't really have the project experience to pull off a game of this size. Once Frog Feast started to progress I contacted R.W. about marketing the game.

The Evolution of Frog Feast: Many developmental demos have been released by RasterSoft in an attempt to tease the CD-i republic of gaming and possibly iron out any kinks the various models of players throw up! Here's a visual representation of that journey from early Balboa Code, through CD-RTOS versions to the final optimised slick lilly pad jumping amphibians we've been playing in the final version.

In the Beginning A Menu Screen Now with Sprites! First Playable Code Frog Feast - The Final Version

Devin: What sort of feedback have you received from your work on Frog Feast and how did the CD-i Republic of Gaming treat you with this release?

Charles: The CD-i community has been really supportive of the game. The coverage on forums, websites and blogs is very impressive. I've received e-mails or private messages from a lot of people supporting the game. It's been a really positive experience and definitely fed the ego!

Devin: You mentioned on the RasterSoft blog after waxing lyrical about the CD-i version that 'I'll be back'. Can we finally expect the legend of PONG on CD-i or maybe something even better?

Charles: I think I'll pass on the PONG game. I want to do a fairly complex game next. The big problem with Frog Feast is that it appeals mainly to die hard fans of 'Frog Bog' ('Frogs and Flies') or die hard fans of the systems. A more complex game should appeal to more people.

Devin: Given your first hand experience coding a game for CD-i consumption, how much further can the machine be pushed for 'Homebrew Development'?

Charles: There's a lot more that can be done with the CD-i; Frog Feast used some highly optimized routines but didn't always use the best techniques. The compiled sprite technique could have sped up blitting and clearing times by a decent factor. Coding more of the game in 68000 assembly should also speed up the code. Additional techniques can also be borrowed from other 16 bit systems.

Devin: From reading the RasterSoft blog it's evident others wish to share in your experience, have any coders shown interest in CD-i besides yourself and do you believe that Frog Feast could be the beginning of a CD-i homebrew scene?

Charles: I haven't heard from any coders yet. Would you mind setting up a coding forum under CDInteractive.co.uk? I would be happy to throw together a simplified version of Frog Feast, including source code. I would also happily answer questions and wouldn't mind adding to the forum. It usually takes a little while for a homebrew scene to really grow. It took many years for the Saturn and Genesis homebrew scenes to take off.

Devin: As you mentioned Frog Feast probably caters more for the committed fan base rather than casual users. Even if a game is more complex just how far would it penetrate an already commercially dead platform? Is it simply a question of the challenge that motivates you?

Charles: Part of it is the challenge but there's also the part of creating a quality game. I would like to create a game that is comparable to games released commercially for the CD-i. I think a decent looking and playing game would have one less issue to overcome. If the game also looked fun it would be easier to justify buying it.

Devin: Hypothetical question. If we gave you an experienced 'Bitmap Pimping' video game artist an 'Audio Maestro' turning out beautiful 16-Bit themes and 2 months paid leave from work, what could you create for CD-i?

Charles: Given a short development time, the three game ideas I would like to tackle would be something like Chip Chan Kick (Reference Link), Poy Poy in 2D (Reference Link) or Parodius (Reference Link). An RTS would also be a lot of fun, but would probably take a lot longer than 2 months! Z, by the Bitmap Brothers would be a lot of fun to do.

Devin: Thanks for your time Charles, now let's see about that CD-i Homebrew Forum!



Charles Doty was interviewed by Devin

To see more of Frog Feast try the demo available from RasterSoft, under the Philips CD-i section. Alternatively you can dive straight in and buy a copy from OlderGames at the following link. As always more information is available from the Black Moon Games Archive on Frog Feasts game page.

UPDATE Since the games release in 2007, OlderGames has since dissolved under the previous creators and management with the domain oldergames.com transferring to the Super Fighter Team. It remains unclear if Frog Feast on CD-i will ever be available through e-tail again.



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