Interview: Sid Meier
Interviewed by Peter Ellison
Interviewed by Peter Ellison
MicroProse software has only been going for just over a year and has to its credit five excellent games for the ATARI computer. They are Hellcat Ace, Spitfire Ace, Floyd of the Jungle, Wingman, and Nato Commander. Soon these games will also be available for the Commodore 64 and IBM personal computers.
Q.Sid, when did you first become interested in computer programming?
A.It was in college, the University of Michigan. I took a few courses and it seemed like a lot of fun so I pursued it, It was on an IBM 360 multi-terminal.
Q.What was the first computer that you ever owned?
A.It was an ATARI 800.
Q.What was the first program that you wrote for the commercial market?
A.The first program which I sold commercially was called 'Formula-One Racing', a race car game. This I sold to ACORN software about a year and a half ago.
Q.Where did you get the idea for 'Floyd of the Jungle'?
A.I had just finished 'Hellcat Ace' and I was looking around for ideas for a new game and there was this movie on T.V., the lastest Tarzan movie with Bo Derek, and I was also working at the time with some animation tools that I'd been developing, animation effects with multiple characters and multiple player/missile images, and the two just merged together.
Q.What new things have you added to 'Floyd of the Jungle II'?
A.We've added some computer competition, in otherwards, all of the players are active and if only two people are playing the computer will control the other two 'Floyds' against you. There is also a demonstration mode to give the first-time player an idea of how the game goes. We've also cleaned up a few of the screens to make it easier to hit the pygmies. The major change was to make the game a 100% assembly-language game and the computer controlled 'Floyds'.
Q.How difficult was it to incorporate the three-dimensional feeling in 'Hellcat Ace'?
A.3D games is something that I've been interested in for a long time. I've put together quite a few tools for developing games and the language that I use includes all sorts of trigometric functions, and some fairly complex functions that you don't find in assembly-language type games. All of these were incorporated into 'Hellcat Ace'. One of the goals of that game was to get the real 3D fighter-pilot feeling. I spent a fair amount of time on that and was pretty pleased on how it turned out.
Q.Who was the company MicroProse formed by?
A.The company started as a partnership between myself and Bill Staling and has been incorporated, but the two of us are the founders of the primary principals of the company.
Q.How large is the organization of MicroProse at this time?
A.We have a programming staff of eight people that are working on original games and we have a administration staff of four.
Q.Is MicroProse seeking outside programmers?
A.We're interested in original games for a number of machines. We take outside games but we also have our own internal programming staff.
Q.What Assembler do you use?
A.On the ATARI I use the ATARI Macro Assembler however we do very little progrmming directly in assembly-language. We drew up our own language for game development.
Q.Is your lanuage, which you use for your own programming, available for the private user?
A.No it isn't. One of the nice things about it is we can change it whenever we want to. That kind of makes it difficult to keep the documentation and everything up to date. We essentially use that tool along with BASIC drivers to do our program development and we compile everything when we're done. And this is the final game.
Q.Do you ever see yourself writing computer software other then arcade-type games?
A.I would really like to do that. I think the ATARI, by its hardware orientation, is a very good computer for arcade-type games. There is lots of hardware support for those types of games. One of the games we just put out called 'Nato Commander' is a little different game, a little more strategic then an arcade game, although it is quite fast and it is not as slow as alot of wargames. What I would like to do, is some things with music and some more involved games. We also like to keep up with the rest of the market and arcade games seems to be what people are most interested in. I would like to see the market move to more complexed games and things like that.
Q.Can you give our readers a hint on what program or programs your are working on at this time?
A.We have a new game coming out, that I'm just finishing up called 'Solo Flight', which we think is the first real-quality flight simulator for the ATARI. It uses some pretty elaberate three-dimensional graphics in the top half of the screen to show the runways and all the terrain objects as you are flying around and passing through. In the bottom of the screen is the complete instrumentation showing the altimeter, fuel gauge, radio direction finder, and alot of different pieces of information. It is a real-time flight simulator and we think from what we've seen form the ATARI market is the best yet.
Q.What direction do you yourself see arcade games going?
A.I'm not an avid arcader, but I've seen the new video-disk driven game which I liked slot and was also very impressed with the new ATARI's 'STAR-WARS' vector graphics. I would see the arcade market slow down a bit as more people purchase home computers and start to play some of the games they can spend more time with and spend more time at home then in the arcades.
Q.What do you see for MicroProse in the future?
A.Our plans are to continue with some of the mainstream games, but also to get into some educational software, possibly some business oriented software with a home flavour to it. Maybe a small database package that someone in the home can use. A simple type of integrated word processing, file management type of thing. These things are still in the brain-storming stage and not definite plans at this point in time. We're looking to branch out but we're also still interested in games in the home computer market.