UC: Any good (or bad) memories to share about these times ?
BA: When I arrived, the company was in the middle of producing Ultima VII and Wing Commander II, and the place was a hive of activity. There was even a “bedroom” with bunk beds for those who had worked all night and weren’t safe to drive home! I came to work one day and found the cables of my computer were missing — recruited for a Wing Commander emergency!
UC: How did you end up directing Serpent Isle in the end?
BA: In what I like to think of as The Night the Directors Left, three of the directors (project leads) at Origin quit all at once. One of them was Jeff George, who had been instrumental in the early Wing Commanders, and then had worked on Ultima sequels. Since I was lead designer on the project, this left me as the de facto project lead.
Origin never gave me the ‘director’ title. The team thought this was rather silly, and so gave me their own title: The Cantaloupe. So we all knew there was no director on Serpent Isle, only a cantaloupe. :-)
UC: Can you believe it’s been two decades since Serpent Isle came out?
BA: When I go on Facebook and see the faces of those I worked with on Serpent Isle — boy, they’ve gotten older! :-) But no, it doesn’t feel like 20 years to me at all.
UC: Claw Isle…the big, cat-themed island in the middle of Serpent Isle’s world. We’ve gained some idea of its intended purpose(s) over the years, but can you shed any further light on its purpose? Or, for that matter, why cats were chosen as the predominant feature?
BA: It was an in-joke involving Wing Commander. (There had been something similar, but smaller in scope, in Ultima VII.) Claw was also cut in the effort to rein in the schedule.