Eagan Rackley, the author of the PC port of Keith Courage from the TurboGrafx-16 system, talks to us about coding, working on the project, and how he thinks Nintendo should be the "underdog" for once in the console race. Check out our lengthy interview below!
Pcenginefx: Hello Eagan, thanks for taking the time to talk about your project.
Eagan: It's really my pleasure to take time out to do this :)
Pcenginefx: So tell me, how long have you been working with programing?
Eagan: Not long at all really. I think anyone who's been programming for a substantial amount of time would probably want to kill me if they saw my code :).
I guess in detail I started programming when I learned BASIC way back when BASIC was cool :) On a Pc Jr no less! However, I really started to study C/C++ 1 1/2 years ago.
Pcenginefx: I see that you use a few different programs to create Keith PC, such as DJGPP, WinAllegro and Level-Editor. Can you tell us a little about each program?
Eagan: Sure, I'd be happy too. Here's the brief rundown. DJGPP is a freeware 32 bit compiler written by DJDelorie. It's powerful, portable, and just generally all around awesome. It's released under the GNU public license. ALLEGRO is a freeware library that was originally written for DJGPP but has branched out into many other area's (such as Direct X, Linux, Watcom etc.). Allegro is also very powerful and portable. (As for) Level Editor, (it) is a great library written for Allegro by Henrik Stoketh. It's one of the best tile map editors I've ever used. The way its tools are set up makes it THE tile map editor for creating a parallax scrolling games. I wouldn't use anything else.
Pcenginefx: You first worked on a DOS port of Keith PC, then you moved over to developing a Win9x version. What challenges have you faced so far in development?
Eagan: Haha! I'd say the most frustrating one was trying to get the Win9x version of Keith to
compile in C++. It never happened. Something about RSXNTDJ (used with DJGPP to write Windows programs) and DJGPP 2.8.1 wouldn't compile anything made with C++. I nearly lost my marbles. I've had plenty of small problems here and there with the code, however most of those were my own fault. I decided to choose Win9x for my main platform because Windows 98 and the newer sound cards like (the) Sound Blaster Live really didn't agree with the DOS version of Allegro. I will still be releasing DOS ports on major updates however for those die-hard DOS user's like myself :)
I think another very frustrating thing about switching over to Direct X was losing my C++ code and have to switch over to C. I was really proud of that old code ;), and the C code just doesn't look as good.
Pcenginefx: Are you planning on porting over the entire game of Keith Courage?
Eagan: If you mean to different platform's yes :) I might even be able to port over to BeOS
because of the portability of Allegro and DJGPP. My definites for the final product will be: DOS, Win9x, and Linux/Unix systems.
Pcenginefx: Well, what I meant was, will you be porting over every level from the TG-16 game in your final release of Keith PC?
Eagan: Ahhh, sorry I'm a dork :) Yes, if I can I definitely will :). I'm also planning on adding
a few extra level's, and maybe some nice plot addition's.
Pcenginefx: Really? Can we maybe see some new characters?
Eagan: That will hopefully be included in the new plot twists and levels. I also wanted to
(and this is a long ways away) create an alternate version will all new music and all new sprites. I also had dream's of redoing the sprites using polygon characters, sort of the way Oddworld did their sprites. It's all very tentative though.
Pcenginefx: Wow...that sounds like fun! Well, how long do you expect it to take to do the entire (original) game?
Eagan: That's hard to say. The most time consuming part for me is building the tile-maps. I'm hoping to have all of the overworld finished in a few months. Those map's are however basically simple. The Underworld map's might take me a little bit longer because they go up-down-left-right, so they're generally much larger. All in all I hope to have the complete game finished by next spring.
Pcenginefx: Doing a project like this takes a lot of work. Who has helped you in the continuing creation of Keith PC?
Eagan: Well, that's a large list. Basically I've done all the code/tilemaps (with the help of
the tool's mentioned earlier of course). Nathan Hall and Jeremy Gilbert have help me a BUNCH so far. Nathan's done all the sprites for me and done an excellent job. If you just listen to the music you'll know what Jeremy's Done, it's awesome!
I've been offered help from other people, but mostly I have to say I don't have anything for them to do right now. Sumide has offered to help with the sprites, but Nathan's built them all so far. Of course, the tester's group has been invaluable in pointing out the bugs so I can get them fixed:) The member's of the group are:
(in order that they offered to be tester's)
Aaron Nanto (hey, that's you!)
and Quoth 09
Pcenginefx: <laugh> I'm glad to be a tester :) So, what inspired you to do a PC port of Keith Courage in the first place?
Eagan: Well, it was a string of messages on the Turbo List a while back. I think it all started
by someone knocking Keith Courage. Then a number of lister's including myself replied with letter's singing the great praises of Keith ('cause we think it's one darn good game (and it is:)) Then there was talk of how the pack-in's compared on each system, and how Sega's pack-in had parallax scrolling, and was generally better than Keith. So, I thought it'd be nice if Keith could be remade to kick Altered Beast's #$## all over the place! So, since I don't know enough about Assembly to write a PCE game yet, I thought it would be a great project to re-create Keith on the PC. I've really enjoyed doing it so far, and so I guess the people who've helped and that have really kept me going on it too.
Pcenginefx: Do you or have you thought about porting over any other TurboGrafx game in the near future?
Eagan: Haha...I had actually been working on an Ys clone named Wall for a month or two before I started on the Keith project. I actually still have a working demo of it, I was making it to work in high color. However, I think that most of the Turbo games are really great already. If I ever get a SuperGrafx and Grandzort I might consider doing that since I hear that's supposed to be the sequel to Keith.
Pcenginefx: Being a fan of the PC Engine/TurboGrafx systems, can you tell me about your
first experience with the system?
Eagan: I sure can...I remember it vividly. It was a long long time ago, and my brother and I had
been saving up money for it. We had just about $100 when it went on sale at Babbages in NC for $99.99. Not only did it have Keith Courage, but the new on-sale one also included Bonk. We got our mom to take us out to buy it.
I remember putting Keith in the machine and playing it for the first time. It blew me away. I thought the music and sound effects were top notch (and still do). It was a very creative game. Even after I traded in my TG-CD for a Duo way back when, Keith was still one of the games I played most:) (except for DE2, now that was one good game:).
Another one of my fav's was Neutopia which was the first game I got. I remember seeing the clouds in the opening scene and thinking, "WOW, those look real!" They don't look as real now, but I still love that game.
Pcenginefx: I still remember my first experience with the system too. A long, long time ago :) So what next-generation systems (if any) are you interested in (either current or coming?)
Eagan: Definitely the Dreamcast. However the only reason I'm really interested is because NEC did a lot of the hardware. I'm not as big on other system's as I've been on the Turbo, I'm really not sure why. I guess it's a sure sign that I'm getting older and set in my ways, and that the Turbo is still my favorite after all these years. I'd rather spend my money on it than anything else.
Pcenginefx: What is your prediction on the video game market during the next 3 years as the 128-Bit+ wars heat up? Do things like this even concern you?
Eagan: Well they do, but only because I want the underdog's to really take off and beat Sony and Nintendo into the dust. I don't know if that's even remotely realistic, but I'd sure love to see it happen to Nintendo especially, I don't want them to go under, I just want to see one of the smaller companies (like any of them are small :) start to really kick butt. The same way I want Linux to get more of the market against Microsoft.
Pcenginefx: It seems that most Turbo fans have the same feeling about "supporting the underdog." I'm the same way.
Eagan: Maybe we're all bitter about TTi? (maybe bitter isn't the right word)
Pcenginefx: Well, TTi did do fairly well in the beginning, but it fell apart after the launch of the TurboDuo. It's sad to think back in that respect. So, I think Turbo fans have full right to be bitter about TTi.
Eagan: I think so too :) I really wish that the Turbo could've lasted longer, and then we could've seen great games like Ys4, and Dracula X here in the US. Then, maybe (the) PC-FX could've come over?
Pcenginefx: Well, I think that if the Turbo lasted longer, NEC of Japan would have changed their software development scheme to have more action games on the PC-FX...and then maybe an American release, however with the software that the PC-FX has now, it would be VERY hard to market the PC-FX in America because of the type of games the PC-FX has.
Eagan: I remember hearing about those (from a certain PCFX fanatic I know). Yup, I definitely think you're right. I find it interesting that NEC choose those title's for their system, while the PC-Engine had been so successful in Japan.
Pcenginefx: Well, I thank you for your time in answering these questions, I wish you good luck on Keith PC and any other ventures you pursue in the future!
Eagan: Thank you.
For more information on Keith PC, check out the official homepage.