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Epic's Sweeney On the PC Shareware Revolution

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the who-didn't-love-a-good-8-bit-nag-screen dept.

PC Games (Games) 111

simoniker writes "Over at Gamasutra, there's a massive new interview with Epic (Mega)Games founder Tim Sweeney, the guy who's still a key technical figure at the Unreal Engine/Gears Of War developer. He discusses his early programming days, the story behind classic shareware game/tool ZZT, the origins of Epic, the '90s shareware business, and even a bit about the future as well. Particularly neat is his revelation that you can still order ZZT via mail, with orders fulfilled by his dad: 'My father still lives at the address where Potomac Computer Systems started up, so he still gets an order every few weeks... he's retired now, so he doesn't have much to do. Every week, he'll just take a stack of a few orders, put disks in them, and mail them out.'"

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111 comments

Poor dad (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28090041)

He's going to get thousands now it's on /.

Re:Poor dad (1, Interesting)

Vu1turEMaN (1270774) | more than 5 years ago | (#28090291)

Honestly, I'll buy it from dad. Never heard of it, and it sounds like something interesting to throw on the W95 image.

Re:Poor dad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28091659)

W95 image? How about the DOS 5 image?

http://www.mobygames.com/game/dos/zzt

not really a "Poor dad" (1)

irtza (893217) | more than 5 years ago | (#28091159)

I am assuming people pay for their orders ;)

sorry, couldn't resist.

Re:Poor dad (1)

sorak (246725) | more than 5 years ago | (#28097731)

If a snail mail address gets slashdotted, how can you tell?

Epic first! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28090043)

Epic First!

Re:Epic first! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28090049)

Epic First!

Epic Fail!

Re:Epic first! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28090059)

Mr Bucket!

Epic Rocks (1)

olddotter (638430) | more than 5 years ago | (#28090073)

Epic is just assume I will have to read the rest of the interview. Just the first page brought back memories of things I had forgotten like "Epic Pinball."

Re:Epic Rocks (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28090335)

Haha, yes! Epic Pinball was awesome. It was the first video pinball game that I remember having good physics. The soundtrack was pretty badass too.

If you're still into pinball, check out Future Pinball [futurepinball.com] . It's a fully 3D representation of pinball that you can use to create your own tables or download a number of ones that other people have done.

Re:Epic Rocks (4, Interesting)

MachDelta (704883) | more than 5 years ago | (#28090639)

Lets see, I remember... Epic Pinball, Jazz Jackrabbit, Jill of the Jungle, Dare to Dream, Solar Winds, Castle of the Winds, Highway Hunter, One Must Fall 2097, and Seek and Destroy... yup. Lots of time wasted on Epic Megagames stuff back in the day. And that's completely ignoring the fact that I was an Unreal Tournament (1/2/2.5/3) junkie for six or so years. Epic has definitely published and produced some memories for me.

Re:Epic Rocks (1)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 5 years ago | (#28091107)

I gotta agree here, Jazz Jackrabbit and Jill of the Jungle were great on my years. Even my gf still plays jazz jackrabbit, as its quite fun and controls are great. Along with Civ 2, Settlers 2, MegaRace 2 and SimCity 2000 I have to give kudos for Jazz Jackrabbit. Great game.

Re:Epic Rocks (1)

bronney (638318) | more than 5 years ago | (#28091233)

Pinball and OMF were must haves. You still remember what S11=55 means? hehehe.

Re:Epic Rocks (1)

Nimey (114278) | more than 5 years ago | (#28093307)

Hayes-compatible modem init command to make it dial faster, wasn't it? I usually set mine to 50, though.

Re:Epic Rocks (1)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | more than 5 years ago | (#28092805)

OMF was my first venture into being a gaming curmudgeon.

SF2 had been out for a few years at this point. Super SF2 Turbo had *just* came out and it was deep. OMF shareware made me want to puke with how cheesy it was compared to it, King of Fighters, and even Mortal Kombat.

Re:Epic Rocks (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 5 years ago | (#28095023)

That's a large chunk of the who's who list of awesome games from the early/mid 90s. Untold days of my life have been wisely spent on each.

Re:Epic Rocks (1)

Veretax (872660) | more than 5 years ago | (#28095635)

OMF Rocked. Later when they released the old version to build up the later version they released (with better graphics and everything), I enjoyed playing through it repeatedly. (that to me is what makes a game good, is it still fun to replay over and over again.) Funny though that my favorite bot/WAR was in the Demo. (The Thorn :D)

Great Shareware (1)

kandela (835710) | more than 5 years ago | (#28092939)

Speaking of great shareware games, can anyone tell me where to get a copy of Carl Ericson's 'Race'?

I loved that game but now can't find it and the 3.5" floppy I had it on died before I got around to buying a USB floppy drive.

Interesting story (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28093787)

Wow, I know its been just about a decade now, but I thought a few might be interested in this story:

I used to frequent the Washington, D.C. DWANGO network to play Doom2 multiplayer. It was an old dial-up, correctly titled Doom Wide Area Network Gaming Organization. Guess who else used to game on there during the day too (as I had ample time still in grade school)? Yup, it was the Epic team. I think a few from Bethesda Softworks would play some too, but I got to chat with one of the Epic team guys after a game one day. Epic is an amazing company, and I wish I could remember the name of the guy who I was talking to... Because a week later I ended up having all their pinball games mailed me (yes, with the box and manual and everything). Just for asking. I mean, I was a kid and didn't think I they would ever send their game for free... 10 years later and I can't get over it. Anyways, that was the story -- hope you liked it.

ZZT! (2, Interesting)

atroc (945553) | more than 5 years ago | (#28090099)

Man, I used to love ZZT. It honestly had a decent OOP programming language built-in. Too bad it didn't allow you to extend it... WiL ftw!

shareware (4, Interesting)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#28090149)

The reasons why shareware exploded into growth in the 90s were because of a number of reasons. Hardware was expensive, today if a game doesn't work because you have too little RAM all you need to do is spend less than $20 and get a gig of DDR2 RAM, likewise if you don't have enough storage, you can move some pictures or movies onto a few GB flash drive for less than $20, if you don't have a fast enough graphics card all you need to do is spend $100 and you can get one that will handle most games (well, perhaps not Chrysis but other than that....), if your CPU is the bottleneck you can get a decent enough box for less than $500, back in the 90s an upgrade like that could be a thousand dollars or more. Shareware gave you a chance to make sure the game ran decently before you spent $50 on it. It also curbed piracy, by giving away part of the game for free pirates had something to distribute other than the full game. On the other hand shareware was as annoying as heck and still is especially on non-PC platforms such as Windows Mobile, iPhone (though due to the app store its a lot better than on Windows Mobile), or the generic cell phone.

Re:shareware (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28090203)

I'm sorry, your second sentence ran on so far it hit the ocean and drowned under its own weight, hopelessly tangled up in its sheer mess of clauses and commas.

Without it, your Great Wall of Text falls apart, though.

Re:shareware (5, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#28090219)

Heh.. that certainly sounds like a good theory. But personally I think it was because it was significantly more effort to move around large amounts of data (a whole game) vs a small amount of data (the demo). The reasons being:

1. Modems were slow (even slower than they are now).
2. We all still used floppy disks.

Demos were often exactly 1 floppy disk. The whole game was often many more.

That, and the fact that the guys who made these games were totally awesome people and you didn't want them to go broke and stop making games. There was an actual cult of personality in shareware.. whereas retail games (as much back then as now) are made by big business who can go spin. That's the way the small-tribe-logic of the brain works.

Re:shareware (2, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#28092491)

1. Modems were slow (even slower than they are now).

When they even existed. It wasn't until 97-98 over here that Internet access of some kind became common (though far from ubiquitous) and only a few people used a BBS. You're definitely right about the speed though. My first MODEM was 2400 Kb/s. Discounting protocol overhead, it would have taken over 1.5 hours to download a floppy disk's worth of content (there's a reason old web browsers had a 'disable images' button in the toolbar). Over here, dial-up was charged at the rate of a local call, typically around 1-2p/minute. This meant that it was not much cheaper to download a demo than it was to get it shipped. Typically, a good shareware game would have copies passed around on floppy. I don't remember anyone registering a shareware program - I remember my father's company trying to register pkzip, but not getting any responses to their letters - but for games most people I knew just played the shareware version and then moved on to the next one.

Re:shareware (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#28093885)

I downloaded a whole bunch of Amiga disk images at 2400 bps... over the course of years. Eventually I got a 9600 bps modem (!) but that wasn't until later. Most people I knew might or might not play the shareware game, and then went to one of Santa Cruz's ten or twenty (!) "Elite" Boards.

Re:shareware (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28095071)

My first modem was 300 Baud with an acoustic coupler, and you had to dial the number manually.

Re:shareware (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28093355)

I wish demos were smaller than the actual game these days. You can pirate a 700mb file or you can spend the same amount of time downloading a 700mb demo.

Re:shareware (1)

averner (1341263) | more than 5 years ago | (#28095103)

Are you sure downloading a 10 mb game on 56 kbps modem was any slower than downloading a 10 gb game on a bad DSL or cable connection is now? The cable service over here hasn't gotten any better in the past 10 years or so, so we might be seeing a resurge in shareware unless the ISPs shape up their act.

Re:shareware (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28090749)

aankh dikhata hai maadarjaat!!!

Re:shareware (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28092237)

Um, no.

Shareware was popular then for the same reason file-sharing is popular now. It lets people know that when they hand over $20, or $50, for a piece of software, that it isn't a piece of crap.

Or, that they can decide not to pay for it at all, if they are satisfied with what they got for free.

The difference is that the people who ran shareware publishers understood that sharing is marketing, while the people who run publishers today think that litigation is a business model.

Re:shareware (1)

Nimey (114278) | more than 5 years ago | (#28093325)

Yeah. In '93 my computer had 4 megabytes of RAM in a single 72-pin SIMM. To upgrade to 8MB with another such SIMM would have cost $200, and I think that price was pretty steady until about '95.

Switching in a DX2-50 Overdrive CPU upgrade was IIRC about $150 to $180, and upgrading to a 420MB (from 106MB with Stacker 4) hard drive was about $200 or maybe more -- at that time the most expensive hard drives available were 2GB and they went for almost $2000.

Re:shareware (1)

mdwh2 (535323) | more than 5 years ago | (#28093793)

Given the number of PC games that are riddled with bugs (I'm looking at you, Medieval Total War), try-before-you-buy would still be nice...

Actually one thing that annoys me about shareware on Windows is that applications are often so deceitful about what they are released as. Releasing a free demo that you pay to upgrade is fine, but more often, applications will claim to be "free" when it turns out to be crippleware, or it'll be trialware that silently expires after 30 days. It was much better on the Amiga, where such software was clearly labelled as shareware. These days I find myself searching for open source software - not because I particular care about getting the source code, but because if I see a licence such as GPL, I know what I'm getting, and that it won't be crippleware in disguise.

Slashdotted? (4, Funny)

dcollins (135727) | more than 5 years ago | (#28090199)

"My father still lives at the address where Potomac Computer Systems started up, so he still gets an order every few weeks... he's retired now, so he doesn't have much to do. Every week, he'll just take a stack of a few orders, put disks in them, and mail them out."

Odds that his dad just got slashdotted?

Re:Slashdotted? (5, Funny)

DavidTC (10147) | more than 5 years ago | (#28090247)

Slashdotted with money.

Re:Slashdotted? (1)

Tiro (19535) | more than 5 years ago | (#28090381)

I hope they're up-to-date with their taxes.

Re:Slashdotted? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28090645)

Sounds like one of those "1) xxx 2) ?????? 3) Profit!" yokes.

But seriously, all those Slashvertisements of old require that a slashdotting that will result in higher bandwith fees, even if you do sell.

So imagine skipping the bandwidth fees, altogether, like in this case. A mailing address WAS the standard shareware transaction fulfilment model because email and epayments through websites and e-payments weren't common.

Now, If only I could build a time machine to just get my address out there... ;)

The problem is that one steady $30 sale per month won't justify shutting down websites. Now that I think about it, poor dad... his keeping a "dead" customer base for a shareware singlehandedly shows a lot about good character. Think of all those old websites you have seen die, and all the software companies that you saw blink out into obscurity ... you bought the game too late and now can't get support for X older version of windows to run the game.

Re:Slashdotted? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28091823)

Oh noes!

The Real Epic Fanboys... (1)

Grog6 (85859) | more than 5 years ago | (#28090395)

"Dude's Dad cashed my check, Asshat, so I'm cooler than you!"

"Will this run on XP?"

rofl...

Re:Slashdotted? (1)

OrangeTide (124937) | more than 5 years ago | (#28092155)

I'd be very happy to have people flood my mailbox with money orders.

Page 1: Find the programming language in Windows (2, Funny)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#28090213)

From page 1 of the article: "Try to find a programming language in Windows. Your computer's a million times faster, but you can't do a damn thing with it." But Windows has JScript and VBScript.

Re:Page 1: Find the programming language in Window (3, Interesting)

blazer1024 (72405) | more than 5 years ago | (#28090359)

It's not like it's that hard to *get* a programming language for Windows, though.

Just download a copy of Visual [C++|C#|VB] [microsoft.com] and you can do all kinds of fun stuff.

Windows doesn't have a programming language at boot because it's an OS for the masses, and the masses would get confused by a "READY." prompt.

Re:Page 1: Find the programming language in Window (1)

N3Roaster (888781) | more than 5 years ago | (#28090897)

When someone wanted a Windows version of one of my programs recently, I tried the latest Visual C++ Express edition. After changing the one line of GNU specific (and it was even already documented as such) code, I could get it to compile but I never did figure out how to get it to run on a computer that didn't have Express installed. Googling provided lots of answers for older versions that apparently don't work with the current version and eventually I gave up and tried MinGW which just plain worked. You wouldn't happen to have a link to instructions for taking a pre-existing cross platform code base and getting the current version of Visual C++ Express to produce a binary that actually works, would you?

Re:Page 1: Find the programming language in Window (2, Informative)

johannesg (664142) | more than 5 years ago | (#28091401)

You wouldn't happen to have a link to instructions for taking a pre-existing cross platform code base and getting the current version of Visual C++ Express to produce a binary that actually works, would you?

Find your c++ settings and change the runtime library option to be something without DLL's. That way the C++ runtime gets linked into the application.

Re:Page 1: Find the programming language in Window (2, Informative)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 5 years ago | (#28091097)

Just download a copy of Visual [C++|C#|VB] and you can do all kinds of fun stuff.

Or, if you're doing games on Windows, you might want Microsoft's XNA [microsoft.com] instead, a game development environment, with the advantage that if you pay a little bit of money, you can play them on your Xbox360. It's effectively a sanctioned way to do homebrew on the 360.

Re:Page 1: Find the programming language in Window (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#28093957)

It's effectively a sanctioned way to do homebrew on the 360.

Yeah, in the sense of "trade sanctions" or something, maybe. Pay to play? Fuck you, I still have an original Xbox and the XDK is everywhere.

Re:Page 1: Find the programming language in Window (1)

Nimey (114278) | more than 5 years ago | (#28093341)

Windows /does/ have a built-in programming language. It's based on Visual Basic and the file extension is .vbs. I think at one time (and it may still) it supported Jscript, which was Microsoft's version of Javascript.

Re:Page 1: Find the programming language in Window (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28094601)

Jscript has extension .js. But don't forget the venerable batch language. If you're comfortable with self-modifying code you can write arbitrarily complex programs. Here's a prime number calculator (save as primes.bat):

@echo off
if NOT [%1]==[] goto :start
echo primes n
echo Calculate primes up to n
goto :eof

:start
set /A limit=%1*%1
set value=2
set remainder=1

:repeat
set /A square=%value%*%value%
if NOT %remainder%==0 (echo %value%) & (if %square% LEQ %1 (echo set /A remainder=%%1-%%1/%value%*%value% >>primes.bat) & (echo if %%remainder%%==0 GOTO :EOF >>primes.bat))
set /A value=value+1
call :checkprime %value%
if %value% LEQ %1 GOTO :repeat
goto :eof

:checkprime

Re:Page 1: Find the programming language in Window (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 5 years ago | (#28095399)

download a copy of Visual [C++|C#|VB] [microsoft.com] and you can do all kinds of fun stuff.

I prefer the Qt SDK [qtsoftware.com] - yeah, it works on Windows (as well as Visual C++ does), and after you've invested 3000 hours learning the tool, you're not locked in.

Re:Page 1: Find the programming language in Window (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28095515)

To be fair - even that is fairly recent (maybe past 5 years). For the longest time, you had to actually go looking for a free Windows C++ compiler.

Re:Page 1: Find the programming language in Window (1)

retchdog (1319261) | more than 5 years ago | (#28090415)

As opposed to the one in DOS?

Re:Page 1: Find the programming language in Window (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28090537)

qbasic?

Re:Page 1: Find the programming language in Window (1)

retchdog (1319261) | more than 5 years ago | (#28090759)

First, that wasn't until DOS 5.0.

Also, if Qbasic counts then, taking internet access for granted, there are literally hundreds of superior alternatives (at least for learning) available for free... why bother with the crud microsoft may or may not provide?

Re:Page 1: Find the programming language in Window (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28093117)

1) GW-BASIC came with versions of MS-DOS prior to 5.0.

2) Not back then there wasn't.

Re:Page 1: Find the programming language in Window (1)

Kz (4332) | more than 5 years ago | (#28095445)

there was a qbasic in most CP/M system disks. yes, it came from Microsoft

Re:Page 1: Find the programming language in Window (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28091883)

debug ;)

It's not that I can't, it's that I don't... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28090443)

I do recall some of the computer stuff from the 80s and 90s having some emphasis on programming, compared to today where it's never mentioned outside of a specific class for it.

But then, it's like cars. They don't teach auto-repair and other mechanical stuff. Most people will never even think about that kind of thing.

Re:It's not that I can't, it's that I don't... (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 5 years ago | (#28092969)

It's more like if they didn't teach *steering* in cars. You don't program to fix a problem with a computer. the computer exists to do repetitive tasks for you, and programming is how you explain YOUR repetitive task to it.

Re:It's not that I can't, it's that I don't... (1)

TheCycoONE (913189) | more than 5 years ago | (#28093449)

You're confusing the intended purpose of an invention made for and by engineers and scientists, with what general consumers buy their computers for. Computers are marketed as word processors, reference libraries, and entertainment devices; not as fancy programmable calculators with a variety of input and outputs. Of course if you bought your computer to be a fancy programmable calculator, Windows is probably not your first choice of OS since it obscures those capabilities in favor of those consumers generally use.

Re:Page 1: Find the programming language in Window (2, Informative)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 5 years ago | (#28090697)

if you have .net, you have the c# and javascript.net command-line compilers.

Re:Page 1: Find the programming language in Window (1)

Gadget_Guy (627405) | more than 5 years ago | (#28091157)

As well as Visual Basic.NET and MSIL assembly (for the hard core). That's 6 different programming languages that come with Windows - 7 if you want to include PowerShell.

DOS had QBasic and debug.exe to do some assembly stuff (which was even more hard core).

Re:Page 1: Find the programming language in Window (1)

Elrond, Duke of URL (2657) | more than 5 years ago | (#28093713)

DOS had QBasic and debug.exe to do some assembly stuff (which was even more hard core).

Ah, I remember using "debug" to actually debug some old DOS programs of mine. Specifically, I was debugging a simple TSR (terminate and stay resident, essentially a daemon in DOS). It had a very unfriendly interface, but once you learned to use it, it was quite helpful.

The best part about debug was that it ran in DOS 16bit real mode. That meant that you had access to anything on the machine you wanted. You could give debug any address you wanted. Addresses in segment:offset format, of course, since you can't access it all with a single 16bit pointer. This let you look at DOS code in memory, BIOS data, other TSRs, or anything else lurking in memory.

Palm OS pre-version 5.x also had a free 3rd party debug program you could download. Since the m68k chips were also 16bit, you could use it to poke around anywhere in memory. It also has a decent interface that would let you jump right to offsets in memory where programs were stored. And, since Palm's used RAM for everything on the m68k devices, there was usually always more interesting stuff in RAM than on a machine with DOS. :)

ZZT (1)

KermodeBear (738243) | more than 5 years ago | (#28090233)

I remember playing ZZT on an old DOS 3.0 box. It was my first programming experience - being a kid, being able to do some programming inside of a game was very, very cool. I had no idea that ZZT was still alive. I think I'm going to go order myself a copy. (o:

Re:ZZT (1)

RiotingPacifist (1228016) | more than 5 years ago | (#28091995)

I can only find DOS box 0.72 :( I suppose i can't play zzt yet!

Re:ZZT (1)

ReptilianSamurai (1042564) | more than 5 years ago | (#28099261)

Epic actually released ZZT as freeware some time back. Although I don't think they have it on their site anymore. Am I the only one really sad to go to epicgames.com and click Previous Releases [epicgames.com] only to find a list of Unreal games? I really wish the website could celebrate their rich history. It would be even more awesome if they provided the old shareware demos - or even made more of those games freeware since they aren't available anymore. Ah well. :-(

I'm confused (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28090411)

does he get orders every week or does he have a huge backlog to hold him over:

"...he still gets an order every few weeks... Every week, he'll just take a stack of a few orders..."

Re:I'm confused (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#28090469)

Can't it be both?

Re:I'm confused (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28090679)

does he get orders every week or does he have a huge backlog to hold him over:

"...he still gets an order every few weeks... Every week, he'll just take a stack of a few orders..."

Easy. He sends out the orders he gets, and in weeks that he doesn't get an order, he sends out orders that he doesn't get.

Re:I'm really confused (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28091589)

I didn't order the week before last week, and I still haven't received my copy. Should I call and complain, and if so, what should I complain about?

Re:I'm really confused (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28095061)

I think the elder Mr. Sweeney is having some unshipping issues. If you do receive your copy within 6-8 weeks of not ordering, you should probably send him a letter of non-complaint.

It may also be a good plan to include a photo of yourself with a goatee* drawn on.

* Please do not include photo with drawn goatse, as he is retired and less forgiving of trollish frivolity.

Re:I'm confused (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28093157)

I still get occasional order to my apartment for a previous resident. I googled my address and his website (which hasn't been updated in years) still has it posted as the place to send checks. There's been at least two residents since then, one is on mailing list for Crohn's Disease newsletters and the other gets me the car warranty extension scam letters addressed to him.

I would feel bad for all the frustrated purchasers (all three of them), but it turns out what he's selling is some Christian Astrological software. So maybe they'll get frustrated when it never arrives and realize it's a scam. Also there seems to be some kind of correlation between belief is astrology and lack of spelling ability. If you're going to make Christian software, perhaps the name for your company shouldn't be fake Chinese. Posting anonymously because opening others mail is a crime (but in a guilty fun sort of way). No I've never opened any personal letters, and I've never taken money sent to this guy.

ZZT (and other games!) (2, Interesting)

Epsilon Moonshade (108853) | more than 5 years ago | (#28090607)

ZZT had (and still has) some absolutely awesome stuff in it. I remember, it was the first game I actually got for my computer. It was also my introduction to programming and dicking around with "how do you make a playable game?" as well. There were some absolutely awesome fan-made worlds which really pushed the in-game programming to its limits - "Operation: Gamma Velorum" comes immediately to mind. It did some stuff which the in-game engine allowed, but I don't think it was expected to be used in -quite- that way...

You can still find a bunch of fan-worlds at http://zzt.belsambar.net/ [belsambar.net] (among other places), but it actually looks like they're trying to close down the page. If you're getting into the classic stuff, get it while the getting is good. _

As far as other games, it's funny, I was discussing this on IRC the other day - Epic Pinball, Jill of the Jungle, Jazz Jackrabbit 1 -and- 2, Traffic Department 2192, Solar Winds, One Must Fall 2097, Kiloblaster, Overkill, and Zone 66, all games I (think I) got under that label when I was just starting out, and picked up again for my collection of classic games. :D

Of course, I'm not 100% sure they were -all- by Epic, and I'm not opening them all just to check, but I'm pretty certain that most of 'em were.

Re:ZZT (and other games!) (3, Interesting)

FreonTrip (694097) | more than 5 years ago | (#28090869)

I remember playing Jill of the Jungle on a friend's 8 MHz Tandy 286, and being in awe that it scaled down so gracefully - my home PC ran with VGA graphics and 16-bit stereo audio, and his ran with CGA and PC speaker sound. The framerate was still perfectly reasonable too, except when one invoked the wrath of the bees. Out they'd swarm, devouring CPU time and chopping the framerate in half. Even now when we find some new computer-eating FPS we bitch about "a serious case of the lag bees" and laugh...

Re:ZZT (and other games!) (1)

lannocc (568669) | more than 5 years ago | (#28091749)

I remember playing Jill of the Jungle on a friend's 8 MHz Tandy 286

Got you beat... I remember playing the game on my IBM-compatible (not sure the brand) with 8088 CPU at 4MHz (8MHz turbo) and orange monochrome display. It was also the first machine I went online with when I got a Prodigy starter kit, 2400 baud modem included. This was in the era when 386's were common, so I was a little behind the times, hehe.

Re:ZZT (and other games!) (2, Informative)

retchdog (1319261) | more than 5 years ago | (#28090907)

ZZT was a great intro not only to game design and programming, but also hex editing! You could find the byte which disabled level editing, by comparing your levels to the ones that came with the game. (And of course, being teenagers, we then made obscene parodies of every edit-protected level we could find. Ah, memories.)

Re:ZZT (and other games!) (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28090913)

Do you remember ZZT STK? It was a world with nothing but boards of new things (walls, blinkers, objects, etc) in it. Most of the boards were just new coloured things (introducing background colours and some blended colours!), but there were some cool custom objects on the end there. It's a shame SuperZZT flopped, because I think that included a lot of that stuff out-of-the-box. I also remember coding super-ammo/super-health, either by making a custom object (which wasn't good, because they didn't dissapear as they should have) or by using torches and an object to count your torches (but you lost out the ability to use torches). Good times.

Re:ZZT (and other games!) (1)

atroc (945553) | more than 5 years ago | (#28092813)

Yes, but if I remember correctly, he didn't make the ZZT STK. Chronos or someone else did, and yes, it did make it MUCH better for making games...until external editors came out.

Re:ZZT (and other games!) (2, Informative)

ChrisMounce (1096567) | more than 5 years ago | (#28096467)

They are *not* closing down the page (I know this for a fact, as I am the current site owner). This is just part of a running joke that ZZT is dying.

That's old school... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28091133)

...though someone should tell his dad that we don't use 5.25" floppies anymore.

Re:That's old school... (1)

mdwh2 (535323) | more than 5 years ago | (#28093909)

...though someone should tell his dad that we don't use floppies anymore.

Fixed that for you.

Interesting Opinions on Programming Languages... (1)

Bamafan77 (565893) | more than 5 years ago | (#28091787)

"When I moved from Pascal to C++ to create Jill of the Jungle, it was a real shock that people would actually be using a programming language that was so bad for large-scale development. To think that operating systems are built in that sort of language was really terrifying. "

Very interesting point. I wish they'd gone into more detail around programming languages...

Re:Interesting Opinions on Programming Languages.. (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#28092531)

Not really; it's the same opinion you'll get from anyone who has used C++ and any other language (with the occasional exception of C). The vast majority of people who advocate C++ do so because they don't know any other languages, or only know them to a superficial level.

Re:Interesting Opinions on Programming Languages.. (1)

mdwh2 (535323) | more than 5 years ago | (#28093943)

The vast majority of people who advocate C++ do so because they don't know any other languages, or only know them to a superficial level.

Citation? I suspect that this is just as much true of any language, given that most people only mainly know one language, and the one they use and hence are most likely to advocate is going to be the one they know best.

Personally I like C++, and I know other languages such as Java.

And I suspect that most C++ programmers know C...

Re:Interesting Opinions on Programming Languages.. (1)

Alzheimers (467217) | more than 5 years ago | (#28095177)

What I remember hating most about transitioning from C to C++ was the change from printf to COUT. For the longest time, streaming output just did not *click*, probably because it didn't give the same level of control over string formatting.

Re:Interesting Opinions on Programming Languages.. (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#28096243)

The fact that you regard Java and C as sufficiently different from C++ to give you a relevant perspective only reinforces my point. Even though Java is closer to Smalltalk and C++ to Simula, most C++ programmers I've encountered write Simula-style Java and so manage to miss much of the point of the language.

most people only mainly know one language,

Good programmers know a dozen or more languages, and know at least three or four from different language families well enough to solve any given problem.

Re:Interesting Opinions on Programming Languages.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28096193)

It's fine if you just avoid using the operator overloading, inheritence, polymorphism, virtual functions etc. The // for comments feature is really worth the change.

Re:Interesting Opinions on Programming Languages.. (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#28096923)

// for comments comes from BCPL. C, as a cut-down version of BCPL, omitted them originally, but reintroduced them with C99. They have been valid C for a decade; maybe you need to update your C compiler...

Megazeus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28091975)

ZZT sucks, Megazeus FTW

ut3 linux (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28092375)

Hey Sweeney, where is the fucking UT3 for linux?

Perfectly Realistic Game Graphics 10-15 Years Away (1)

majorme (515104) | more than 5 years ago | (#28092569)

Perfectly Realistic Game Graphics 10-15 Years Away

That part of his interview was most interesting to me.

http://gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_index.php?story=23742

Some pretty funny quotes:

Gamasutra: Does it scare you when you see Crysis... or, I don't know. What's the biggest competitor in the game engine market? Is it id's stuff, or is it another company?

Sweeney: Today, it's Crysis. Because Crysis is doing some things on high-end PCs that we're not doing ourselves. That's a tricky case though, because we could do vastly more than we're currently doing if we focused on supporting dual high-end video cards, which have about 10 times the graphics horsepower of a console today. ...

Gamasutra: So you'd have to create a perfectly realistic virtual human first to have perfectly realistic graphics.

Sweeney: Yeah, you'd have to simulate the brain and nervous system in the computer.

I remember Tim answer snail mail... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28092751)

I remember Tim answering snail mail personally and to great lenght even tough I didn't have much of a product: just a few unfinished levels. Yet his long answer explained me what I should do to make it more attractive, what he was doing to make his games funnier to play, etc.

And he subscribed me to the (snail mail) Epic MegaGames newsletter containing disks/previews without me asking anything.

A very very nice person.

And, yup, I also programmed in second generation languages (directly entering hex opcodes) :)

Thanks again Tim!

ZZT was great, but remember MegaZeux? (1)

DJohnsonCA (1551241) | more than 5 years ago | (#28093301)

MegaZeux beat ZZT in every way. Programming language and everything was much better. I was just looking into this half a year ago, MegaZeux is still in development.

i owe him a lot (1)

psyklopz (412711) | more than 5 years ago | (#28094323)

I feel that I owe Mr Sweeney quite a lot. I was one of the people who ordered the full version of ZZT and Super ZZT back in the golden days, and I have to say that those two 'games' had a direct impact on me.

I always thought it would be nice to have a game editor that was similar in concept to ZZT, but with graphical capabilities. So, that's what I did (http://rpgtoolkit.com).

And I wonder who else owes him the same thanks for the inspiration he sent out on those 3.5 inch disks

Bout time (1)

lenwood (930461) | more than 5 years ago | (#28094411)

Its so good to hear someone getting this message out. I've been saying this for a long time. Cellulosic ethanol is in this category, too!

It's all fun and games till the IRS shows up (1)

StikyPad (445176) | more than 5 years ago | (#28097661)

Every week, he'll just take a stack of a few orders, put disks in them, and mail them out.

Hope he's remitting sales taxes accordingly!

Re:It's all fun and games till the IRS shows up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28099263)

FYI: Sales taxes are a state issue and don't involve the IRS.
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