CompuServe and GAMERS Forum Chat With Chris Roberts

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CompuServe
 and the 
GAMERS Forum

Present a live, on-line conference with Chris Roberts, game designer/director
for Origin.  Chris will join us tonight (Monday, November 26, 1990) to discuss
his big hit game Wing Commander.

Hosted by: Jeff Horrocks 72247,1462, Flight Simulators Section Leader.
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[EDITOR: The scene: Several members are in the CONference room and awaiting the arrival of tonights guest. Some friendly bantering going on.]

Jeff Horrocks/HOST: Don, Have you been using Wing Commander?

Don R.: Seen it a little, yes. Actually I sell it, that's why I'm here.

Jeff Horrocks/HOST: Oh Really? Is it selling?

Don R.: Yes, very well. It's one of my top selling progs. I expect the Secret Mission disk in 2 weeks, right?

Jeff Horrocks/HOST: Riiiiiiight.

The Sierra Pest!: Is this the room for the Chris Roberts CON?

Jeff Horrocks/HOST: Yes, Chris Roberts will join us tonight at 10 PM.

Jeff Horrocks/HOST: Don, How many copies do you sell a week (or a day?)? Just curious.

Don R.: Maybe 2 to 4 copies a day, that's pretty good, althouh Kings Quest 5 is selling at about 6 a day, and some of my Genesis titles sell as many as 50 a day.

Jeff Horrocks/HOST: Don, Yes it is good. Where is your store?

Don R.: NY Electronics Boutique

Jeff Horrocks/HOST: Welcome everyone that's just tuned in! We're expecting Chris Roberts any time now.

The Sierra Pest!: Hope he didn't get hit by a Kilrathi on the way :)

Don R.: haha

RoboCop/Sierra Pro!: WELCOME Mr. ROBERTS!!!!!

Don R.: Welcome Chris.

The Sierra Pest!: Hi Chris!

Tsunami: Hi Chris!

Jon Oakes: I think Drakhheth mu.. CHRIS IS HERE??!

RoboCop/Sierra Pro!: Just testing you all <g> Cruel huh? [EDITOR: RoboCop is always good for a little controversy. This time he's played a little hoax on us.]

Jon Oakes: Hi Chri...uh, Robocop, Shame, Shame, Shame!

Tsunami: Robo, That was terrible! <g>

Mike "Maj. Relayer": Full Guns on him!

RoboCop/Sierra Pro!: I'm bullet-proof Mike!

Jeff Horrocks/HOST: Hehe. Robo is an evil one. He had me looking over _my_ shoulder!

RoboCop/Sierra Pro!: Anxious bunch here tonite Jeff!

Jon Oakes: Your mother looks like Drakkheth!!!!

Jeff Horrocks/HOST: Welcome everyone that just got in! We're expecting Chris Roberts any minute now. Here he is now.

Origin Systems: Yes indeed!

Tsunami: Hi Chris!

Jeff Horrocks/HOST: Welcome!

The Sierra Pest!: Hi Chris!

Don R.: 'lo chris

RoboCop/Sierra Pro!: I see him!! Welcome Chris!

Jon Oakes: YO! Mega Game designer stud!

Origin Systems: Hi folks!

The Sierra Pest!: <Standing on seat to see over crowd>

Jeff Horrocks/HOST: Are you ready Chris?

Origin Systems: Not really, but think we can "wing" it.

Tsunami/Ass't SysOp: <groan>

Don R.: boooooo!!!

Jeff Horrocks/HOST: Okay, Here we go. Tonights CONference will be run under PROCEDURES AND ETIQUETTE FOR FORMAL CONFERENCES. Sometimes our meetings are strictly informal, there are no special rules, and participants generally talk when they please. However, for more formal meetings, some rules must be established to keep the CON running smoothly and give all a chance to participate. Please wait for your turn to speak. This CON will be held in three parts: To start off, our guest speaker will make some opening remarks or comments. During this time, all CON attendees must remain quiet. When the guest is finished, I will ask for a show of hands of people who wish to ask a question. The HOST will then invite you, in order, to ask one question and one follow up question. After one pass thru the question queue, I will ask for another round of questions. After a couple of rounds of questions we'll throw the CONnference open for a free-for-all to finish up. Thanks for your attention to that awful but necessary stuff.

Jeff Horrocks/HOST: Tonights guest is Chris Roberts the Designer, Director, Co-Producer, and Co-Engineer for the megahit 3-D Space Combat Simulator, Wing Commander. Chris, first of all, thank you very much for taking the time to be with us tonight here in GAMERS! Also congratulations! We've all been having a great time with WC, and it's been our *HOT* Topic for the past month. Do you want to make some opening remarks? <OVER>

Origin Systems: Sure give me a moment to compose... While I'm doing that let me introduce you all to Greg Malone who is handling the keyboard tonight.

Jeff Horrocks/HOST: Hello and Welcome to Greg Malone AND Chris Roberts!

Origin Systems: So, anyway. To answer your question, I was out to achieve the goal of creating the feel of a movie in a computer game. In attempting to do so, I also wanted the player to associate closely with the lead character so the player would feel like he was the star of the movie (game). Seems we accomplished that to some degree. One more thing With Wing Commander 2, I want to put even further emphasis on the story and characters now that we know what works and now that we've got the basic system down. Of course, I know we'll talk more about WC2 here in a few.

Jeff Horrocks/HOST: Thanks very much. Boy you really started some mouths watering already!

Jeff Horrocks/HOST: We'll start tonight off with a question from Jon Oakes. Jon, you have the floor for one question and a follow up.

Jon Oakes: First off. Thanks Chris for a FANTASTIC GAME! But I'm dying of anticipation. When will The Secret Missions Disk be sent out?

Origin Systems: Glad you asked! We actually signed off on the Secret Missions today (yeah!) which means that they will be shipping by the end of the week. That means all those who have ordered it direct from Origin will get theirs quickly and retail stores will get theirs a week or so later, though retail will be selling the Secret Missions for $29.95 as opposed to the $19.95 for direct.

Jon Oakes: Can you give me any teasers as to what the plot will be like for the Secret Missions?? I've heard about THE KITTIES SECRET WEAPON and such. Any tidbits?

Origin Systems: You've actually got the gist of it. Yes, there has been a distress call from the Goddard Colony in the Deneb sector, and there is indeed evidence of a new Kilrathi weapon! The Tiger's Claw is dispatched on a daring secret mission to penetrate behind Kilrathi lines and destroy the new weapon.

Mike "Maj. Relayer": Chris, Is it true that some missions get easier after you try them a few times?

Origin Systems: No, it may *seem* that way, but you're just getting better.

Mike "Maj. Relayer": Can all of the new WC2's features be accessed on a 286 machine?

Origin Systems: Yes, but if you don't have expanded memory you won't get the camera replay or the digitized voices (referring to WC2, *not* Secret Missions, of course).

RoboCop/Sierra Pro!: I have a couple of questions. First, will there be tail-gunners in WC2?

Origin Systems: Yes, one of the ships you will fly is a Broadsword bomber, and it will have two gunnery positions. This will prove helpful on some of the specially designed bombing runs that will be integral to killing capital ships.

RoboCop/Sierra Pro!: NEAT!!! You've been at Origin for about 1 1/2 years. Now that games are jumping into a VGA standard, have you considered working for other companies with more VGA related programming tech. like Accolade, Access, Sierra, Etc.? (I appologize, I hope that didn't sound like I was saying Origin didn't do well with VGA.)

Origin Systems: I've actually been with Origin for 3 years. And I'd rather push the VGA standard with Origin because we TOO are trying to set new standards in graphics technology. You're witnessing the first fruits of this and we are actually working on stuff that even blows Wing Commander away! (g)

Jeff Horrocks/HOST: Thanks Robocop. Now the next question goes to The Sierra Pest! Take it away PEST!

The Sierra Pest!: Will there be a CD-ROM Version of WC2?

Origin Systems: We're certainly are looking into it. WC2 *may* make it onto CD ROM, but by late 91 and into 92, we'll definitely be there.

Jeff Horrocks/HOST: Thanks Sierra Pest. Next question is from Brian Esch. Go ahead Brian!

BRIAN ESCH: Thank you for many *hours* of entertainment. We were disappointed in the memory problems. When is wc2 to be relesaed. thank you for an excellent game!

Origin Systems: I'm glad you've had a good time. Sorry about any memory inconveniences or problems, but when you write a game that pushes the PC to and beyond its limits you run the risk of problems such as these. There are so many hardware variations out there.

Jeff Horrocks/HOST: Next we go to Eric Anderson. Go ahead Eric.

eric H. anderson: Chris, Just a couple questions. First, does WC have Disk Caching built in?

Origin Systems: Yes. If you have the expanded memory, WC uses that to cache graphics.

eric H. anderson: Thats what I figured. Do some of the messages that the other pilots give you get out of sequence or is it my imagination?

Origin Systems: Not that I know of. The wingmen will act on their own initiative sometimes which might give you the impression they've spoken out of turn.

eric H. anderson: Not what I meant. What I mean is the gossip they give you in the bar. It seems out of sequence at times.

Origin Systems: Still, no, it shouldn't be out of sequence.

Jeff Horrocks/HOST: Next up is Fabian Gonell, you're on Fabian!

Fabian Gonell: Good evening. Have you considered a sequel to WC or WC2. With the player on the side of the Kilrathi?

Origin Systems: We've considered such a scenario, although for WC2 you will still be fighting for the Confederation. But, you may be interested to know that in WC2 the situation does occur where one Kilrathi colony rebels against the Kilrathi Empire and it requests human assistance and the rebels send their fighters to fight *alongside* you against the Empire.

Fabian Gonell: Any chance of multi-player WC thruogh modem connections?

Origin Systems: Yes, we are considering it as an add-on disk to possibly WC2.

Jeff Horrocks/HOST: Outstanding answer! Okay the floor goes to Quinne Bass, Go ahead and ask Quinne!

QUINNE BASS: First of all, congratulations on the GOOD GAME. When will all these goodies for WC2 be available?

Origin Systems: Fall 91 is the plan. Correction, WC2 will be available in late Spring. Any add-on disks will probably follow in the Fall.

QUINNE BASS: Will ther be a scenario in which someone from the federation turns... dare I use the word "traitor"???

Origin Systems: Okay, who have you been talking to????

QUINNE BASS: Just a <wicked> guess. That's what u get when u play 23 hrs with no sleep.

Origin Systems: Actually, that IS one of the pivotal plot elements in WC2.

Jeff Horrocks/HOST: Too close to the bone there Quinne. I guess we better move along to Eric Schiffli, You're on Eric S.

Eric Schiffli: Has the reported problem with the joysticks been resolved?

Origin Systems: Sorry for any joystick problems out there. In WC, I wanted the program to be able to auto-detect and center all joysticks. Unfortunately, due to the million hardware configurations we missed a couple, but have made fixes for them.

Eric Schiffli: Also, I hope you haven't finished the setup for WC2 because I think being able to pick your own ships after a certain time would be a nice perk before you retire. Even Captain Kirk can fly what he pleases. Perhaps this could be on a follow-up disk? Maybe also armament options,too.

Origin Systems: Good questions. Since you are supposed to be in the military you fly what you are assigned to, but in WC2 you will be given different weapons payloads for specific missions. I'll give your suggestion some more thought, thanks. Perhaps we can do that on a follow up disk, such as the Secret Missions disk gives you the added ability to select any of the original 40 missions to fly at will.

Jeff Horrocks/HOST: Thanks for the great questions AND answers! That finishes the first round of questions. Before we go ahead with the next round, I wanna take a minute to say Congratulations to Tsunami a fellow GAMERS Staffer who's moved UP the ladder to Assistant SysOp. This is the first CONference I've seen Tsunami in since his 'promotion' so Tsunami, Congratulations, and you have the floor to ask a question!

eric H. anderson: Congrats, Tsunami

BRIAN ESCH: good jog T!

Tsunami/Ass't SysOp: Thanks. First, I want to thank Chris and Greg for my recent visit with Origin and the Spookhouse! Chris, could you talk about some of the game ideas you have for using the WING COMMANDER technology *other* than in WING COMMANDER sequels?

Origin Systems: The main project I'm working on for Fall 91 will have a combination of WC graphics technology and 3D polygon (using shading and texture mapping) to depict *terrain*. This will give another dimension of realism to the experience.

Tsunami/Ass't SysOp: What kind of game will that be? A ground vehicle simulator? Or something completely different?

Origin Systems: Hmmmm, could be. But can't discuss details yet since we're still working on the technology aspects and I believe the technology has to fit the game. (ie. If it works well for a ground vehicle simulator, that's what we'll do.)

Tsunami/Ass't SysOp: Thanks! Sorry I'm so nosey.

Jeff Horrocks/HOST: Next question is from Jon Oakes. You're on Jon.

Jon Oakes: Thanks. Chris, What does one have to do to "BE" a Chris Roberts?

Besides have Mr. & Mrs. Roberts for parents.: I mean, what school and experience do you have. In essence, how did you LEARN to do a game like WING COMMANDER?

Origin Systems: I've been in the computer game industry since 1982 (in the U.K.). I taught myself how to program and have always had a love for films and computer games. Besides all this you need a clear vision of the game you're trying to create. And you've gotta stick with that vision and not compromise it.

Jon Oakes: You said you plan to emphasize the characters and plot in WC2. Does that mean that you'll get in trouble for blowing up your Wingman? I thought that was the most inconsistent thing in an otherwise great game!

Origin Systems: Yes, definitely. Unless its Maniac, of course (grin).

Jon Oakes: Ya! Nuke Maniac!

Jeff Horrocks/HOST: Next comes Eric Schiffli, Take it away Eric.

Eric Schiffli: I think I've found a strange bug. I went out on the run where you have to make a recon of a cat ship. My winggman was killed, and when I was debriefed he reappeared just long enough to help then went back to his coffin. What's up?

Origin Systems: Are you sure he died, and didn't just break off and go home?

Eric Schiffli: He died. I may have killed him myself! (I get out of hand sometimes). I remember the funeral after the mission.

Origin Systems: I don't know of any such situation.

Eric Schiffli: Speaking of getting out of hand, is there any way to destroy the Tiger Claw yourself?

Origin Systems: Yes, point your guns at it and shoot for a long time.

Jeff Horrocks/HOST: Whew! Okay Brian Esch, Let loose with another blast!

BRIAN ESCH: Can you use the combined victories of WC1 in WC2?

Origin Systems: In WC2, you will transfer over your WC character (including his Secret Missions data) but, due to circumstances beyond your control you will be disgraced, cashiered, and demoted to the equivalent of Coast Guard at the start of the game <the plot thickens> <g>.

BRIAN ESCH: Chris, thanks again for an inspired game. How are the joystick fixes available?

Origin Systems: If you think you have a joystick problem call Origin Customer Service at 512-328-0282. There is a software fix available for some. (Also you can communicate via CompuServe).

Jeff Horrocks/HOST: Next up is Mike Barrs, Take it Mike!

Mike Barrs: Do you research a game like WC, read sci-fi, watch movies or just think it up from scratch?

Origin Systems: Good question Mike. I watch a lot of movies, read a lot of books, and play a lot of games. And I put a lot of serious research into flight dynamics to make sure the flight sim seemed right.

Mike Barrs: You did great, thanks!

Jeff Horrocks/HOST: Next up is Thomas Rice. Go on Thomas.

Thomas Rice: I have a 286 AST Premium and I cannot load WC at all ;( .?!?

Origin Systems: Sorry about the problem with the 286 AST. I don't wanna brush you off, but call Customer Service for a fix.

Jeff Horrocks/HOST: Chris can't do much about that here and now Thomas. You should call their customer support. But at the same time I would mention that I haven't gotten an answer to my customer support question over on GAMPUB Forum for at least five days.

Thomas Rice: Ok, Thanks.

eric H. anderson: Chris, great game. In your opinion which is the better sound board, AdLib or Sound Blaster?

Origin Systems: Sound Blaster is better since it also offers digitized voices which we are going to be using in the future.

Jeff Horrocks/HOST: I'll jump in line to take a turn with a question. Are you considering making the choice of picture for a pilot user selectable, maybe even offer a woman pilot? over

Origin Systems: Yes, but the problem with that is that your character will appear in many scenes and will need multiple graphics files to accomodate the variation of characters.

Jeff Horrocks/HOST: One more, what's been your best selling game?

Origin Systems: THIS ONE! <G>

Jeff Horrocks/HOST: One or two more questions, then we wrap this up. Thanks for staying so long guys!

BRIAN ESCH: Is there a problem with sound degradationas as the game progresses? I have a Sound Blaster and 2 meg.

Origin Systems: I don't think so, are you experiencing it regularly?

BRIAN ESCH: Yes.

Jeff Horrocks/HOST: Brian, take it up with customer service. They can help the most. Jon, A last question from you?

Origin Systems: Good answer. Thanks Brian.

Jon Oakes: Any chance of a mission construction set? And also how do I apply to be a beta tester for WC2?

Origin Systems: Another possible add-on disk for WC2. Secondly, if you live in Austin Texas you might be able to get a job as a beta tester.

Jon Oakes: Heh, maybe I'll commute from California!

Jeff Horrocks/HOST: So you don't use any outside testers?

Origin Systems: No, not usually. We have a large QA staff for testing (15 people).

Jeff Horrocks/HOST: It seems like it. We haven't had any widespread problems other than joystick stuff. Hmmm, lets see... Who's idea is the orchestra at the startup? And can you say something about Origin FX which you worked on?

Origin Systems: I guess I'm responsible for the Origin FX and orchestra stuff. Origin FX is our new core graphics and sound system that will be driving our new releases in the future.

Jeff Horrocks/HOST: Very neat touch. I like the orchestra bit. I have a Sound Blaster, will the people really talk if I have enough expanded memory, like 500k? I see their lips move very realistically.

Origin Systems: Yes, in WC2 the speech will be used during flight simulation only due to lack of disk space, but on the CD ROM version the characters will speak everywhere in the game.

Jeff Horrocks/HOST: How do you 'research flight dynamics'?

Origin Systems: Well 4 years of physics in the UK and a high interest in WW 1 and 2 air combat, plus flying radio controlled aircraft.

Jeff Horrocks/HOST: Is message speed 1 the fastest and 5 the slowest?

Origin Systems: Yes.

Jeff Horrocks/HOST: Thanks very much! I hereby declare the formal CONference over! Thanks VERY VERY much Greg Malone and Chris Roberts for making this a fabulously successful CONference! I invite everyone to stick around for a minute or two of informal chatter. <LIGHTS COMING UP> <CURTAIN COMING DOWN>

Origin Systems: Thanks for having us. Enjoyed it! Scorch the furballs! OVER AND OUT!

Jeff Horrocks/HOST: What a hoppin' CON! I haven't been in one like that in a long time! I still have four or five good questions!

Tsunami/Ass't SysOp: I gotta run too! Great job Jeff! Good questions all!

Jon Oakes: That was definitely a classic.

Jeff Horrocks/HOST: Great member participation. See you all around. [EDITOR: As the CON winds down, most of the attendees have left the room now.]

BRIAN ESCH: Origin has not been forthcoming in its forum support, has it?

Jeff Horrocks/HOST: Yes, I think that's their reputation. I'm sorry we couldn't hit them on that point either.

BRIAN ESCH: Really.

Jeff Horrocks/HOST: But it's not Chris' fault that the product isn't supported. I have had a question in to them for days and no answer. But they did just switch CIS reps only a few weeks ago.

BRIAN ESCH: Did you succeed in WC?

Jeff Horrocks/HOST: Not yet.

BRIAN ESCH: How far did you get?

Jeff Horrocks/HOST: I'm hung up on a mission where I have to save a Ralari from being blown up.

BRIAN ESCH: You can't win that one. Just move on.

Jeff Horrocks/HOST: I just might, but the next one's no peach either. I'm not enjoying it as much now as I was earlier because of the difficult missions. Also I have worked a long time trying to get the dang expanded memory thing to work with my hardware.

BRIAN ESCH: I know, move on anyway. Jeff, you should have held Origin accountable for the hardware stuff, pal.

Jeff Horrocks/HOST: Lets blast them later. I'll join in. But, realize Chris is just a designer, and customer support is a different ballpark.

BRIAN ESCH: Gothcha. Then why did he sign on as Origin?

Jeff Horrocks/HOST: Because it's Origins CIS account he was using, and he does work for them. But he's a designer/director, not customer support liason. I am with you, I want answers for my problems too. But reaming Chris wasn't gonna get us anywhere. We got a telephone number from him. Maybe we should hit that.

BRIAN ESCH: I have certain answers.

Jeff Horrocks/HOST: Go ahead.

BRIAN ESCH: I called their support line. It helped. Like your memory for instance what are files and buffers set at?

Jeff Horrocks/HOST: I have tried both defaults (none specified) and 25.

BRIAN ESCH: That won't work. Try setting files=5 and buffers=5 makes a *big* diff.

Jeff Horrocks/HOST: Will do. Will try it right now. I should dash off. Great chatting with you. Thanks for coming!

<END OF TRANSCRIPT>

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