|DAVE SHARPLESS INTERVIEW|
30 September 2004
Dave Sharpless was a student in the late 80s when he wrote Joust VGA and Mario VGA, two good-quality remakes of classic games from his youth. Although they were both written as hobby projects, Dave offered both games for sale via mail order to make a little spare money. The games were distributed via bulletin boards and can now be found relatively easily on the internet.
Jumpman Lounge: How did you come to write Jumpman Lives and get it published by Apogee?
Dave Sharpless: 1990 - Joust VGA & Mario VGA had been in circulation for a year or two. Scott Miller of Apogee wrote a paper letter to me using the address listed in the Joust/Mario register.txt file. During a subsequent phone conversation he explained what Apogee was all about and mentioned that he wanted to sell & market my next title. I told him that I wanted to write a PC Jumpman game, he said great, and I got to work.
How was Jumpman Lives and your deal with Apogee received by your fellow students?
I don't think my fellow classmates were aware of my shareware games because nobody ever said anything. Besides, the games I made seemed so simple in comparison to what my class was learning, it was nothing to brag about.
I turned to Apogee for Jumpman Lives because the response from Joust & Mario was so dismal, having received about 10 checks in the first 5 months of Joust. Apogee offered toll free phone ordering via credit card, etc. I also wanted nothing to do with preparing, packaging and mailing the disks to registered individuals as this was a huge hassle.
How long did Jumpman Lives take to write?
It took about 10 months to write Jumpman Lives. I spent about the same amount of time writing all three games (Joust, Mario & Jumpman). Each game was more complex than the last. I finished my first formal programming class shortly after starting Mario VGA so game code became easier to look at and maintain after that.
Every Jumpman Lives level was made using the level editor.
Were Apogee involved in the development of the game or did you just hand it over when it was complete?
Apogee got involved near the end. They made a strong request for EGA and CGA compatibility, provided the text ordering screens, a bitmap of Saturn (yeah, I'm blaming them for not giving a bitmap of Jupiter - what were they thinking?), and a few of the bonus levels.
A friend, George Harizal, churned out some MIDI files in one evening. I made the sounds that come out of the speaker.
Was the choice of Saturn instead of Jupiter (from the original Jumpman) deliberate?
The text screens and intro bitmaps were tossed in the last couple weeks. I suppose it was such frenzy that this level of attention to detail was missing. In hindsight it's always best to read the original title's documentation before writing your own.
Which levels were provided by Apogee?
The three guys from Apogee that helped were Scott Miller, Shawn Wilson & Jim Norwood.
Scott helped choreograph the nag screen, the ordering of levels, and his only level contribution: In Big Trouble.
Shawn & I made up the generic levels 14,21,22,32,35, & 40. I know Shawn created 22(Pyramid) & 40(Tarzan), the rest I'm unsure of.
Jim Norwood made the Saturn bitmaps.
How did you decide which of the original Jumpman and Jumpman Jr levels made the final game?
It's been a long time but I'll say that I didn't implement the following levels because of a combination of factors: Difficulty of implementation, Difficulty of exact reproduction, how much I enjoyed the levels...
Robots 2: I liked this level a lot but couldn't match the behavior of the robots so out of respect of the original's game play, it was left out.
Robots 3: Again, robots difficulties... Not a big fan of this level to begin with.
Blackout: It would have been hard to implement this one because of how the game engine operated.
Mystery Maze & Spellbound: Probably implementation difficulties combined with laziness on my part.
Did you create any extra levels for Jumpman Lives that did not make it into the final version?
I don't think there were any levels made by me that didn't make it into the game. Our goal was 45 levels and it wasn't like there were 55 to choose from.
The Jumpman Lives levels from Jumpman and Jumpman Jr are pixel-perfect. Did you extract each screen from the original game or was it done manually? (Post-interview note: this is not strictly true. Those of you with eagle-eyes may have noticed a bomb one pixel out of place on Figurit's Revenge.)
Is it really that close? Wow. I suppose the levels are pixel perfect because the placement of the pieces is snapped to the size of the pieces. This made it fairly easy to reproduce the static portion of the levels. I had a difficult time getting the sprites correct so I pulled some of the right out the C=64's memory. It wasn't that I couldn't draw these things myself, rather I wanted to reproduce the exact look of the C=64 version.
You say that Scott Miller contributed In Big Trouble to the game - was this an Apogee decision or yours to include this level in the game?
Scott was the president and my main contact at Apogee. Like me, he was a big fan of Jumpman so I probably tossed it in without even really playing it. I was taking generic levels from wherever I could get them to make Apogee's goal of 45 levels. I wish I had more time back then to create more intricate levels instead of the generic type.
Were Apogee and/or yourself aware of the shortcomings of In Big Trouble - ie that it cannot be completed without (a) losing a life or (b) a lot of luck - when the game was released?
I'm sure I played it enough to realize that it was hard level but never came to the conclusion that you had to lose a life to finish it. I'm not sure if Scott was aware of this shortcoming, maybe you should ask him about it. :)
There is a detailed solution for In Big Trouble on the Jumpman Lounge, available here.