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Interview with Dan "Ebola" Wentz - 08/19/97

 

Here is a little "interview" I made with Dan "Ebola" Wentz from Parallax Software (now Volition Inc.), the maker of great levels like the Stadium Series, Abyss, DarkSide and of course the genious "VamPyro" (made in cooperation with Ron Dunlop). In the commercial products of Descent he made some of the levels and the (MIDI) musics. The subjects of this little interview includes FreeSpace, the upcoming game by Volition Inc., a VamPyro sequel and MIDI music making.

 

HH:
Do you plan do make further levels (with Rob Dunlop or without)?

Ebola:
Actually we're already talking with producers from Fox about doing "Vampyro", the made for T.V. mini series. :) Seriously though, I think it's best to let this puppy breathe for a while before even thinking about doing another one.

I do have a few new areas made, but I'm in no hurry to get as involved as we did this past summer. Time is getting tight now for both of us. I will not do one with out Rob, it just wouldn't be the same.

 

HH:
By the way, how do you made this fantastic music? Completely with mouse? Or with keyboard MIDI input? It is always really the best music I ever heard (D1 Level 18 in mind!)!! Which program do you use?

Ebola:
The sequencing software I use the most is Cakewalk Pro Audio 6 for Win95. On the Mac I use Pro Tools 4.01 and Performer 5.5, although this is more for scoring cutscenes.

I play sections of all parts live thru a (very responsive) Roland PC-200mkII midi board, then manipulate the raw takes. My hardware is never ending, I sort of have a collection going :)

Between 3 computer's I actively use the following sound cards/hardware:
SB AWE 64
SB 16/Yamaha DB50XG
Diamond Monster Sound
(2) Roland Rap 10
Roland SCC-1
Roland PMA-5
Roland JV-2080
General Music S2 Turbo Music Processor
Kurzweil K2500

Yeah, you could say I love my job :)

BTW, I just read the spec's on that Terratec card, very nice.

 

HH:
Will/do you write the music/levels for Volition Inc.'s forthcoming FreeSpace?

Ebola:
Yes, I am currently responsible for all of Freespace's in-game music and sound. "Levels" are actually missions now, but I have been making a couple. We're getting very close to beta, and it's really starting to look like something special.

 

HH:
When will be the planned release date of the final version of FreeSpace? Will it support multiplayer, if yes, how many players max, and can people join later (as in Descent)? What kind of music will there be (MIDI/CD music/both)? Will there be Voodoo support?

Ebola:
March of '98 is the target month for Freespace's release.

Now it wouldn't really be a Parallax game (ok Volition Inc. :) ) if we didn't support multiplayer would it. 16 players, with various game modes all with the option to allow players to join / quit on-the-fly. Some of the game modes will be much more involved Descent, although we will still want to have classic "bar brawl" modes, like Descent's Anarchy. Bottom line, anyway you chose to play it, Freespace will have a lot more depth, with a very involved story unfolding.

Music will all be compressed digital audio, No direct midi support is the plan, as everyone will benefit the same fidelity with digital audio.

D3D support is already being checked in.

 

HH:
Sounds cool! Only a bit a pity that no MIDI musax is provided (I have a very expensive sound card (Terratec EWS64XL) which sounds excellent with MIDIs...)... by the way, I hope FS still has the possibility to load custom levels!?!? Will there perhaps even be an editor on the FS CD?

Ebola:
The Midi files are still in the code, and it is likely they could still be utilized. It's just that with the wide range of "quality" midi cards out their, we felt the digital audio route was the best way assure equal fidelity while also avoiding the fm issues all together.

There will be a editor included with Freespace, currently titled, "Fred" (Freespace Editor) With it you'll be able to build your own missions. It's not exactly straight forward, but extremely powerful so many samples will be provided as well as extensive online help.

 

HH:
Well, this is another mystery to me: Is Volition Inc. (and Outrage) a new company or just a sub-company of Parallax? Will - for example - FreeSpace be announced and updated on the www.pxsoftware.com page? And do both subcompanies let still distribute their games by Interplay?

Ebola:
Ok this isn't as straight forward as it sounds but here goes...

Parallax has had two different offices for more than 3 years now. After Descent2 was finished, Both owners agreed to work on separate games, each assuming a new company name.

Volition Inc. (Pres. Mike Kulas) is the former Parallax of Champaign, and will be releasing Freespace early next year. We've also started work on a new multiplayer racing game, and have the option to follow up our tradition with Descent 4.

Outrage Entertainment (Pres. Matt Toschlog) is the former Parallax of Ann Arbor, and is currently doing Descent 3. I have no idea what else they have planned.

In both cases Interplay is still our Game Publisher. And all px employees are still with us.

 

HH:
Ah, and you made the Vertigo levels, right? One question to level 13 in cooperative mode: Player 2 starts within the red door, meaning he is locked from the other players and the exit until a) he destroys the reactor (and dies because he cannot reach the exit) or b) the others have made the long way to the red key... Is that a bug?

Ebola:
Correct, but I made only 2 of them, level 2 and level 4. What your describing is a misplaced coop ship. All coop ships SHOULD be placed right beside the default player ship, at the starting point of the mine. And it's not too unheard of that Coop wasn't extensively tested. Well for what's it's worth, congratulations, you found a bonifide mistake :)

 

HH:
Dan, thanks for your time!

Interviewed by Heiko Herrmann
HHSoft@descent2.com

taken from several emails between Dan Wentz and HH

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