Here is an exclusive interview with the creator of Meteor Blaster DX - Bt Garner!
PCENGINEFX: I want to thank you for taking time out of your schedule to share some of your insight into Meteor Blaster DX.
BT: You are very much welcome.
PCENGINEFX: So the most exciting aspect about this release is the fact that the game utilizes the storage and power of the SuperCD format. Can you tell us what enhancements Meteor Blaster has over the ROM version?
BT: The SCD version is almost a different game. When the ROM version was released late last year, it was more of a 'concept' piece to see if there was any interest in a full release. There was, so a lot of nice features were added to the SCD version. Aside from better gameplay, the graphics have all been updated. You now have 4 distinct ships to choose from, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. In-game cinemas have been added, improved sound effects, CD audio, and a lot of nice backgrounds for the stages. Additionally, I have added a couple of bonus games on the CD: Loop, a never before seen puzzle game; and the Caravan Version of Implode. This is a special timed version of Implode that was written for MAGFest 2002. Only 3 copies were made, so this is a chance to give it a little more exposure. I have also added some hidden features.
PCENGINEFX: Any hints as to how to find the hidden features?
BT: All the hidden stuff is from either repeated actions, or from key strokes at certain points in the game (and by game, I mean on the CD). Look for patterns, if a certain key combination does something at one point, it may do something somewhere else. Or maybe the mirror of it does something too.
PCENGINEFX: Being the 2nd SuperCD release from MindRec (the first being IMPLODE), I'm sure there were things that were learned from the making of IMPLODE that were brought over to the making of Meteor Blaster DX. Was it easier this time to develop the game, or harder because of all of the extras that IMPLODE didn't have?
BT: In some ways it was easier, but harder in others. The more you develop for an environment, the better you become at it and the more quickly you can develop. However, in order to produce a title that is professional, you also need to test the limits of what can be done. Implode had no scrolling, and very little on-screen action. Meteor Blaster DX is on the other side of the map. I have included parallax effects in the game opening, and scrolling backgrounds wherever they were appropriate. 6 months ago, I had not done too much with the scrolling, so I have to throw myself into the code to get everything figured out to create the effects that I wanted to see.
PCENGINEFX: What changes in testing did you implement this time around verses the test period of IMPLODE? Was the test period longer?
BT: Implode had a very limited "beta test" (1 week), for MB I used a group of half a dozen beta testers over the a period of 5 weeks. This worked out great. It is always hard to have someone criticize your work, but you just need to tell yourself that it is ultimately for a better game. I was reluctant to add a few things that some of the beta testers had requested, but after thinking about it, decided that certain things should be added or changed.
PCENGINEFX: When did you have the idea to make Meteor Blaster, and why choose a shooter? Did you look at any other games for inspiration?
BT: In the summer of 2003 I was toying around with a shooter for the PCE (tentatively) called Tixe. One of the stages of Tixe is an avoid the meteors stage, this eventually evolved into Meteor Blaster. I chose to pursue the MB game since Tixe has a few technical issues that need to be resolved before any work can continue on it.
PCENGINEFX: What was your favorite part of the design process for Meteor Blaster DX?
BT: Taking a "known" style of game and adding extras to it. Meteor Blaster is clearly based on "Asteroids" -- but there are so many new features in MB, that I am pleased that it can stand alone.
PCENGINEFX: I'm sure you had a few hurdles (technical & non technical) to overcome during the development of Meteor Blaster DX. Can you share any of them?
BT: The 2 biggest issues that I had to overcome were: scrolling backgrounds and sound effects. As you will see in the game, the backgrounds are no longer an issue. Sound effects are still not up to the level where I would like them. They are getting there, and they are certainly acceptable in their current form, but there is still room for improvement.
PCENGINEFX: I am probably correct in saying that Meteor Blaster DX is the most technical game MindRec has created to date. What other technical goodies do you wish to implement in your next SuperCD title (if you plan on one)?
BT: It will really all depend upon what genre I decide to pursue next. I did a small demo of a moving parallax stage for a "Dracula X" style game, so that is possible. Tixe is still on the back burner as well, and I would love to do an RPG for the PCE (my personal favorite genre). Each of these has its own set of challenges.
PCENGINEFX: Have you ever thought about doing a multiplayer game? (to utilize the Tap?)
BT: Yes, and I have a few things that are in the "thinking about" stage,
and one of those is a multiplayer game. In it's current process it
is a small game, so nothing that would be a stand alone title, but perhaps
something that would be a bonus game on the next release. But it is
really too early to say.
PCENGINEFX: There are still just a handful of people out there who can program for the Turbo and even less releasing anything for it. What is the largest roadblock in your view to overcome the lack of homebrew development for the Turbo?
BT: Letting people know that there is are homebrew tools out there. There is also a small but devoted community that is willing to help any aspiring coders.
PCENGINEFX: I'm sure there are people out there who are wondering why you are releasing games for an non-supported system. Why do you create games? What drives you to create?
BT: I create because I can. I would love to be able to make new games for the PS2 or Xbox. But let's be honest -- Dev Kits for those systems are very expensive, plus you need to have a lot of graphical artists who can help get all those polygons looking just right. The PCE is a great platform since the homebrew tools do exist, and there are enough people out there who can and are willing to help with the graphics. Aside from that, it is neat to be able to take a gaming concept and 9 months later have a polished SCD in front of you, and to be able to sit back and know that this is your work.
PCENGINEFX: Can you share any of your plans now that Meteor Blaster DX has been released? Do you plan to release another SuperCD in the near future?
BT: As I mentioned above, I have several things that I am considering, but nothing has been decided yet. I relaxed during the month that it took to get the CD pressed and am now in the process of looking at the various options I am considering, and weighing the options to see what is feasible.
PCENGINEFX: So how do people go about purchasing Meteor Blaster DX?
BT: TZD (TZD.com) will carry it, and of course you can purchase directly
through the MindRec.com website. Other retails have spoken to me about carrying the game, but nothing has been confirmed yet.
PCENGINEFX: So getting a little more personal, how do you relax when not working on MindRec projects?
BT: I have not had much time for relaxing over the last year... between my day job, the Meteor Blaster projects, and my family roles. I spent the month of down time learning a few new software skills (which will probably not help for anything I do in the PCE arena), and worked a bit more on my music making skills.
PCENGINEFX: What's one of your favorite games on the Turbo/PCE?
BT: Startling Odyssey II -- an all around great RPG. Great story, great gameplay, and pretty easy to complete with little or no knowledge of Japanese.
PCENGINEFX: Thank you very much for your time Bt and we look forward to seeing more games from MindRec in the future.
BT: It has been a pleasure, as always.