Matt Chat 184: Joel Billings talks Gold Box

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In my third installment with SSI founder Joel Billings, we chat about the Gold Box series, Panzer General, and Dark Sun. If you've ever wondered why TSR chose SSI to represent its interests in the videogaming world, this is the video to see. Also check out my rad 3D effects on two of the classic Gold Box box covers.

You can download the video.

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Bill Loguidice
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Awesome "Ken Burns effect"

Awesome "Ken Burns effect" there with the 3D zoom on the 2D image at ~2:19! Definitely leverage that more if it's not excessive extra work. It might also be cool to put something in the 4:3 border on the interview segments, maybe something visual, something unique to your channel.

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Matt Barton
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Thanks, Bill. I think the one

Thanks, Bill. I think the one at 2:19 came out better than the earlier one (POR cover).

It's a bit of challenge. Basically, you have to go into GIMP, cut out the thing you want to make stand out, then use some cloning to try to cut out some of the white space you leave behind. After that, it's just saving them as transparent PNGs, lining them up, and using slightly different zoom speeds. It would take twice as long of course to do multiple layers or more complex cutouts.

I've done "noise" like some and lava effects for the borders before. People seem to like them, but it does increase the rendering time a lot. I do like the idea of some kind of custom background...Hm. Have to look into that. I wouldn't want anything too distracting.

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Bill Loguidice
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Yep
Matt Barton wrote:

I've done "noise" like some and lava effects for the borders before. People seem to like them, but it does increase the rendering time a lot. I do like the idea of some kind of custom background...Hm. Have to look into that. I wouldn't want anything too distracting.

Yeah, I was thinking something subtle like you, probably non-moving. Just to fill in the black since the rest of the video is generally widescreen. The good thing is is you do it once and the template should always be there. It shouldn't affect rendering time either.

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Oliver (not verified)
Great insights

Hi Matt,

thanks for the episode. Actually I missed the first two ones - need to check that.
I'm a huge fan of SSI Games and got a (nearly) complete collection from every wargame to role-playing games.
Still missing a few box variations though.

Did you ask about the Rapidfire series already? I was wondering why they put that label to life and why they re-labeld a few games under the rapidfire brand.

Secondly comes to my mind, why the needed to change the box cover of THE WARP FACTOR or if they just did it themselves for some reason (same with Fighter Command)?

In a few games - like 50 mission crush - there are a lot differences in gameplay which should not be subject to the computer engine - wondering why they did that...

The biggest question of all would of course if we are able to relaunch the neverwinter nights rpg online. there must be the engine anywhere around.

I got a lot of more questions and thought about contacting Bill or Gary myself.
Did you play any of the newer Wargames?

Nice video however I would suggest not to put screenshots on Bill - while he can still be seen on the background. Also I found it quite distracting when game intro music comes though while still in the interview.
Perhaps a few more cuts...or when displaying screenshots you might be able to use some other effects or a split screen.

Greetings to Bill.

by for now - from Germany.

Matt Barton
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Answers

I contacted Joel and he responded to the questions:

Quote:

Did you ask about the Rapidfire series already? I was wondering why they put that label to life and why they re-labeld a few games under the rapidfire brand.

We started that for faster playing games because SSI had a reputation for slow processing games (thanks in large measure to Computer Ambush before it was redone in assembly language and made playable - but also due to the time it took for the AI to process moves in some wargames). The Rapidfire games were just that, faster strategy games.

Secondly comes to my mind, why the needed to change the box cover of THE WARP FACTOR or if they just did it themselves for some reason (same with Fighter Command)?

We redid it, IIRC, because Paramount or whatever big company owned Star Trek wrote us a letter and told us we needed to get rid of the obvious Star Trek theme. At least I remember they contacted us, although I don't actually remember remaking the box (but if we did, I bet that's why).

In a few games - like 50 mission crush - there are a lot differences in gameplay which should not be subject to the computer engine - wondering why they did that...

Sorry, but I don't understand this question.

The biggest question of all would of course if we are able to relaunch the neverwinter nights rpg online. there must be the engine anywhere around.

Neverwinter nights was done as a license with the online company that made it (can't remember who, but it was a big one, and maybe became part of America On-line?). Funny how I don’t remember the names of those companies that were so important in their day but have long since disappeared or moved to other things. I doubt that anyone has any code left, and I have no idea who to try to contact at this point (it's been 13 years since I left SSI, and about 12 since what was left of it was absorbed by Ubisoft).

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Oliver (not verified)
Thanks

Thanks Matt, I appreciated that - and the fast answer from Australia ;-)

1) Rapidfire: Ok, if I understand correctly the Re-Releases unders the rapidfire label, e.g. Combat Leader are newer edited versions. Need to check that by time.
Whereas the stand-alone games for the label, e.g. Cosmic Balance are just "Faster Strategy Games" :-)
-> got the earlier Ambush edition in it's large thick box and can remember the references in early CGW magazines and Wargamer magazines of its "speed".
2nd edition came in another box - which is the standard big one as being used for all later SSI Wargames.

2) Warp Factor: Yes - that was my assumption. Interesting though that the box with the Enterprise on the over is far more easier to be found than the one being re-edited with a smaller ship (which looks like a spacecraft from Battlestar Galactica somehow *g*). There seems to be also a RapidFire edition of that one available. Both editions can be seen in later product catalogues and advertisements.

3) 50 Mission Crush: I can't remember exactly but the C64 version was different in gameplay than the earlier Apple II. If I recall correctly there where some sequences in the bombing missions missing. And I thought it had been done due to gamers feedback.

4) Neverwinter Nights: Too bad the code is probably missing. Yes, it was for AOL. Today would be the time with all Retro Gamer RPG people out there having access to the internet now...for a huge success to the game :-)
Maybe AD&D Dark Suns Online...would be an option, too?!?

Ah - and concerning the video: I do have a few games being bought from game testers, with all their notes for gameplay, errors in the manual etc.
So yes, they outsourced all the playtesting in those times.

keep up the good work Matt.

Mark Vergeer
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Joined: 01/16/2006
Great effect

Love this vid Matt.

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