Interview with Retro Shoot Creator, Dave Munsie

Interview with Retro Shoot Creator, Dave Munsie


RetroShoot

Dave was nice enough to take time from his busy schedule to answer a few questions concerning his latest Flash masterpiece, RetroShoot, and to wax nostalgic on his Atari ST roots.

8Bitrocket:

You were pretty prolific as an Atari ST Magazine disk game developer, what was your favorite game that you developed?

Dave Munsie:
I coded several pd games and a few utilities before ST Review asked to me to write some games for their cover disk. As far as my favorite game for ST Review, it’s hard to say. They were all coded very quickly using a game engine/shell I had developed. I don’t think I spent longer than a couple of weeks on any of those games. I liked my version of Deluxe Invaders (not ST Invaders) and Bugs. Berzerk was a lot of fun to code, as well as my Donkey Kong clone.


Dave Munsie’s Kid Kong (image from www.atari.st)

8Bitrocket:
I played both Deluxe Invaders and the Donkey Kong Clone A LOT! Do you still play any of them via emulation or on a 1040ST (etc)?

Dave Munsie:
I still have my Mega ST but I haven’t really played with it that much since I left the ST scene. A few years back I was hoping to have time to work on my ChopLifter Clone for the ST but, alas…things didn’t pan out. I never played with ST emulation until about 2 years ago when I received an email from a fan who fell in love with my Square Off game, and I booted it up on an emulator and agreed, that’s a fun game!

8Bitrocket:
I would love to try the Choplifter clone. Did you make any commercial, packaged ST software?

Dave Munsie:
The closest I came was a series of enhanced pd/shareware games I did. Asteroidia, Frantick, Squareoff. I decided to spend a little more time on these, try to polish them up a little bit and put them out there as shareware. I think I ended up selling around 12 total licenses. During that time I was also going through some *cough* bullshit *cough* issues with an unnamed company which affected my ability to market those games. Needless to say there’s a few pissed off customers who never got their registration codes. Not too long after that, I declared all of my ST efforts public domain and placed full versions on the internet.


Dave Munsie’s Evader (image from www.atari.st)

8Bitrocket:
Did you play other people’s games on the ST? What was your favorite game?

Dave Munsie:
You know..this is horrible to say. But I didn’t play a lot of ST games! But when I did it was always something from the Bitmap Brothers or Psygnosis. Xenon 1&2 were (and still are) brilliant. 😉

8Bitrocket:
Well, you are American, (like Steve and I) and there just we’re not many good ST games stateside. We had to go to import shops to find good games (other than Phantasie I,II,II and Dungeon Master that is). Did you develop for any other systems other than the ST in the 80’s / 90’s?

Dave Munsie:
I did some early stuff on the Atari 8bits. I coded a drum machine on the Atari 8bit that has digitized images of myself hitting the drums. It was marketed by a small (1 employee) company called “ReeveSoft”. Hiliarious if you ever get a chance to see it. 🙂

8Bitrocket:
Steve and I were Atari 800 fans as well. I would love to see that Drum Machine program! Back to the 16 bitters, when the ST scene died in about 1992/93 did you move on to make games for any other platform?

Dave Munsie:
Nothing really worth mentioning. A friend of mine introduced me to the concept of making money with computer software on some weird platform called “PC”. We started up a software company, created a bunch of utilities, screen savers, etc, and made a shite load of money before the internet burst. Actually it was amazing, I coded a zip utility in 3 hours time and over the course of it’s lifetime I’d say it made close to 300k. It was an amazing time to say the least. Oh how I long for those days. 🙂 lol..

I didn’t do any game coding again until around 2005 when I started using VB6 to write a high level game engine called the “DXGame Engine”. I wrote a couple of small projects which I released as shareware, released 1 decent game called “RetroBlast” then took a break from game coding when the VB market kind of fell apart when the .NET thing appeared.


RetroBlast

I started game coding again in mid 2007 when I fell in love with BlitzMax. I ported all of my engine code to that language. Coded a complete high level game engine that included sprites, particles, emitters, tile map, explosions, gui, etc, etc, called it “MGE” for Munsie Game Engine. 🙂 I’ve only coded 1 game with that engine, but it comes out this Holiday Season (2009). The game is called Christmas Clix. It’s also going to be ported as a WiiWare game and hopefully onto the XBox, Mac, Iphone as well. 😉 I’ll be doing a Flash version as well. 



Christmas Clix

8Bitrocket:
I created a few free-ware DOS games in that era, but I never did try to sell them…maybe I should have! Speaking retro games, When did you get into Flash game development?

Dave Munsie:
February of this year. (2009) One of my resolutions for 2009 was to learn a new programming language. I also wanted to eventually write games that ran in the browser. At some point in the near future the line between os/browser is going to blur, but until that happens I realized the most sensible thing to do was take a look at flash. I first downloaded the free trial of CS3, and I wasn’t too excited about the whole timeline thing, working with the Flash IDE, etc, etc. Actually I was going to forget it and put it off till later until I came upon FlashDevelop and AS3. Now THERE was something that made sense to me! Give me a text editor, a way to embed resources and I’m good to go. 🙂

8Bitrocket:
Ahh, Flash Develop, you couldn’t have chosen a nicer way to go! It is my favorite too! You got going pretty quickly if you just started in February, is Retro Shoot your first completed Flash game?

Dave Munsie:
My first flash game was “Fun2Pop” followed by “HeartsABreakin”. Two very, very simple games that were nothing more than experiments to see how I could move things around the screen. RetroShoot started off as a very basic “Mouse Avoider” game. Not once did I write a game design document or plan anything. I literally just coded that game on the fly. Obviously that shows in the game, but I tend to think that’s what also gives it it’s charm. 😉

8Bitrocket:
How is AS3 development different than ST game development?

Dave Munsie:
Well…if you throw out the Flash fluff then they’re actually fairly similar. You have your main loop, you draw your background, you draw your sprites on top of the background, etc. Of course there’s a lot more to Flash which I hope to exploit as I learn more about it.

8Bitrocket:
Retro Shoot is simply awesome. It is probably the best Flash Retro game that I have ever played. Did you need to use a lot of optimized techniques and tricks to keep the frame rate up?

Dave Munsie:
First off thank you for that amazing comment! I appreciate that very much. 🙂 I came across this neat tutorial about coding an asteroids clone in AS3 on a site called “8BitRocket.com”. 🙂 lol. At first I was using standard display sprites for everything and I was disappointed to find out they were very slow on less capable hardware.

After checking out that tutorial I started playing around with copypixels and realized the best way to get any performance out of flash is to go old school. I spent a couple of weeks writing a custom sprite engine that allows me to have the best of both worlds, pre-rendered sprites using copypixels or dynamic scaling, alpha, etc, sprites using draw. I totally bypass using display object sprites for anything in game. For title screens, or GUI elements sure, but in game it’s strictly bitmapdata, copypixels and draw. 😉 I also use a custom delta timing system which allows me to process logic/render once per loop.

I tried using a timer / update after event system (fixed logic) but it only worked well on modern hardware. On older systems the frame rate was so unstable I almost lost hope in Flash until I ported over my delta timing from my earlier engines.

My dev/test system is an older 2.9ghz Celeron with on board Intel graphics. Just last week I finally (after 4 years) upgraded the memory from 512mb to 2gig. My development environment was really chugging on just 512mb, but now everything flies again so it’s like having a brand new box! lol. I tend to stay old school with my programming so I don’t get spoiled and start whizzing around 1000’s of sprites and have it only work on my son’s suped up game rig. 😉

8Bitrocket:
Wow, I’m happy that my tutorial was helpful in your early studies. I like doing things the ‘old-skool’ way when I can too. Speaking of Old Skool, the music in Retro Shoot is very Wally Beben like (he was a prolific ST?Amiga/C64 game music creator). Did you do it yourself?

Dave Munsie:
No I did not. But it is the kind of music I would have composed if I had time to do it. The talented Matt McFarland did that. His website is: http://www.mattmcfarland.com/.

8Bitrocket:
On the note of “doing it yourself”, did you create all of the graphics and effects for Retro Shoot by your self, or did you employ an artist?

Dave Munsie:
A few years back when I coded Retroblast in VB6 I did most of the graphics but also had a few images designed for me. I ended up not using some of those images and decided to plug them into RetroShoot. 😉 Otherwise some of the backgrounds are licensed media as well.

8Bitrocket:
What’s next for Dave Munsie? Are you going to move on to Physics Based Tower Defense Match 3 games, or do you plan to make more retro titles?

Dave Munsie:
Actually, I think I’ve been waiting for Flash all of my life. 🙂 lol. Since I don’t have much time to spend on a game, I finally have a platform where I can get ideas out the door quickly and not be too concerned that it doesn’t have the latest and greatest fx, media, etc. However, I do realize the flash market is in a transition stage. The games are getting better, the media is getting better, etc, etc. I have several projects in development, a few of them retro, a few more mainstream, etc. However, they will all be simple and hopefully fun. I do hope to work on longer more content driven games in the future. One of the flash games I’m working on is called “GemClix” and I hope to have that done in about 2-3 weeks.

GemClix

8Bitrocket:
Richard Davey is a hero and friend of mine. When I needed a kick in the ass to change my career in the late 90’s, his Little Green Desktop site was the medicine I needed. How did you hook up with him and did you know about his site before he started to help you with API implementation?

Dave Munsie:
I made contact with the awesome Mr. Davey through FlashGameLicense.com. This is embarrassing, but I didn’t realize who I was communicating with until at some point the Atari ST was mentioned and we exchanged accomplishments. Needless to say I was honored to have him helping me. 😉 What a talent and such a nice guy!

8Bitrocket:
Do you have a Twitter account or Blog/site that people can subscribe to / visit to get updates on your latest games / happenings?

Dave Munsie:
Yes: http://twitter.com/JGOware. As usual, my programming habits are very sporadic. I might code 18 hours a day for a month, then take a few weeks off, do some fishing, jam on my drums for a bit, etc, etc. lol. My main site is http://jgoware.com where I promote some of the products I’ve coded the past couple of years. 😉

8Bitrocket:
Thanks, Dave. I hope to have you and your games be a real fixture on 8bitrocket as we build into an empire =). -Jeff Fulton

Dave Munsie:
No problem Jeff! Thank you for taking an interest in this smallest of smallies. (Small indie developer.) 😉

0saves
If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the RSS feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader.