Frispel

sedan 2001

Ej avslutad intervju med Keith Johnson

Borttagen

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Kom på här att jag hade en oavslutad intervju med Keith Johnson liggandes i min mail. Snackade en del med Keith på PAPA 2005 och han gillade verkligen att prata om sina spel, därför blev det en intervju, och han ... gillade verkligen att prata om sina spel (etc.) där med.

Den har blivit väldigt gammal nu (senaste/sista mailet var från Nov 05), men eftersom den aldrig lär avslutas kan jag ju lika gärna publicera det här. Det finns väl ett och annant som kan vara intressant trots att svaren är väldigt gamla.

Det är jag och LDK som ställt frågorna.

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For how long have you been playing pinball, and do you remember what (which game that?) first got you into pinball?
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Well, I'd played quite a bit when I was a kid, but in the 80s when video games were king, I was playing those along with all my friends.  I started becoming disillusioned with them in the late 80s when the video game model turned to the "quarter-sucking" boss-monster fight fest and away from lasting longer just as a virtue of your own skill (the best examples I can think of are the Konami 4-player games like TMNT and The Simpsons).  When I got to college in fall of 1990, I started playing pinball in earnest.  The game that really got me interested and hooked "for good" was Whirlwind.  When I was first starting, there was also a Taxi, Bad Cats, Vegas, and probably a couple other games around.  But Whirlwind eventually became the game that we played all the time.

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When did you start to work in the industry, and how did you get the job?
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I started at the end of March, 1998.  I had actually casually inquired about a possible opening with Larry DeMar, and met the folks at Williams during Expo of 1997.  At the time, it was for a job in spinning reel slot machine development. I frankly didn't expect a whole lot at the time (I'd done very little gambling at that point, particularly on slot machines), but wound up being surprised at how interesting the games and their development were. I didn't really want to make a decision to leave my old job until my scheduled performance review the following January.  When it came up short of what I wanted, I called back and said I was interested. A couple months later, and I'm packing up everything I own and moving to Chicagoland.

I worked on slot machines for a few months.  Nothing I worked on wound up going public for a number of reasons, but that summer I was offered the opportunity to sink or swim with pinball and work on Revenge From Mars.  I jumped at the chance, and my pinball career was started.  After RFM, I then got paired with Dwight Sullivan and the design team of Pete Piotrowsky and Scott Slomiany to work on a Haunted House game.  This was changed near the beginning of the project to a Playboy game, and then Williams shut down a few weeks later.

I took a couple weeks off and didn't do a whole lot.  Eventually I started interviewing at Midway (as pretty much everyone else did).  I didn't have strong desire to work there mostly because it would've meant working for the same management that just shut down pinball.  I wasn't through with pinball yet, however, and decided to ask Lonnie Ropp about a possible job at Stern.  The interviews went quite well, I officially turned down Midway, and started working at Stern in early December of 1999.

I can't speak for those that gave me my opportunities, but I have to think that my participation in rgp since around late 1992 was certainly of some benefit.  I'd like to think of myself as fairly well-reasoned and knowledgeable of the game of pinball, and that people knew a fair amount of what they were getting with me as a result of my usenet postings.  Also, going to shows and meeting lots of people in person (and knowing/meeting several before they even got into the industry) certainly helped as well.

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What is your take on the "Pinball 2000"-platform, and did you like RFM and SW:EP1?
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The pinball 2000 platform was great.  It only would've gotten better as time went on and we came up with better and more novel interactions between playfield devices and the display.  It is unfortunate that we didn't get the opportunity to flesh it out more.

I wound up liking RFM quite a bit.  We did some interesting stuff, and I really really liked the pop-up ramp into the saucer trough (that was easily the best thing that had been done on either game).  We struggled for the first couple months just trying stuff out, trying to figure out what was fun and what wasn't, and what the structure of the game was going to be.  Once the general structure of the game was decided, everyone was in full-blown "get stuff done" mode as fast as we could. Given everything we had to go through and the schedule we had, I'm fairly happy with how it turned out in the end.

SWE1 disappointed me greatly.  The very first time I saw the full game, I was blown away by the graphics and the flashy package as a whole. After we started playing it, it started sinking in how vapid the playfield was.  The multiball saucers sucked, nothing was done with the captive ball at all.  Shooting icons most of the time didn't feel as good as taking out martians or saucers or other interactive things.  It was an awesome-looking package, but ultimately just didn't provide the same level of interaction that RFM did

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Haunted House was a Gottlieb game, was the idea to make a sequel of this game?
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No, the game was going to be called something else, but I don't know that we ever decided on what the final name was going to be.  Mostly we just wanted a house with rooms that you went through so we could provide lots of different venues, kind of like each room was a mode or something.

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How far from a complete prototype was the Playboy-game?
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The whitewood was fully shootable, and all the devices that were on there did fairly logical stuff.  But there are hardly any rules in the game at all, and pretty much no graphics.

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If you compare Stern Pinball and Williams Pinball as employers, what can you say about them? What differences or similarities are there?
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Stern is a small privately-owned company, Williams was a big Wall Street corporate entity.  Stern gets by with the bare minimums to keep everything going, Williams had a bloated unefficient management and support structure.  Because of all the extra bloat, Williams required many more games to keep the company afloat, and when pinball started to downturn, times got tough.  Stern is small enough and tight enough that we can weather same-percentage drops easier.  That's how it is when you have shareholders to account to and a company that you're forced to grow or lose your cushy executive job.

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How will the Stern games develop during the next couple of years? There have been many rumours about the new Stern Platform  under development, is there something you can tell us about it?
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I will have to decline answering anything about future product, I'm sorry.

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What do you think about the future of pinball?
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I'm not entirely sure what I think about the future of pinball right now.  Things need to be done to make games better, more fun, more appealing.  Hopefully working on the new system will enable us to concentrate more on developing the game portion than struggling with things that shouldn't need struggling with.  That's all I can really say at the moment, if I think of something more Earth-shattering, I'll let you know.  :)

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How would you describe yourself as a pinball designer?
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I would like to think of myself as a players' designer.  I've played a LOT of pinball on location in the 10 or so years before I got into the industry.  I'd like to think that gave me a great edge in terms of knowing what people like to play since I can see it from a player's perspective.  You need the front-end understandable stuff for non-players, but the real legs, earnings, and even home sales come from a more involved ruleset.  That, and attention to detail.  A lot of times you might not necessarily pick up on why you like certain things a game does, but you subtly think back and say "hey, that was pretty cool."  If a game just presents you with the obvious, you will tire of it very quickly.  The more that you can add that people can learn as they play a game more and more, the better it will do.

I have, at a minimum, a working knowledge of pretty much every game from 1989 on, and in most cases I've played and seen everything in those games as well.  The only exceptions would be very late-era Gottlieb games (Big Hurt, Mario Andretti, Waterworld, and Barb Wire) and Last Action Hero.  Just never really ever ran across a LAH, not sure why.  Of course I've played lots of pre-1989 games too, just the number of games that I know well starts to peter out quickly prior to 1989.  Having such a wealth of material to draw from in terms of what worked, what didn't work, what was fun or not, etc. is immeasureably helpful in either avoiding certain kinds of rules from the start, or drawing off of previous ideas and expanding upon them.  One quick, but great, example of this is when we had a Laser War in the office for a bit while I was working on Simpsons.  The whole goal of that game was to light lock, lock a ball, play 2 ball multiball, then lock those 2 balls to get 3 ball multiball.  After playing it for awhile I went into Lonnie Ropp's office (he wrote the software for Laser War) and told him I had a great idea.  I was going to take the whole point of Laser War and turn it into a mode.  Thus was born Alien Invasion, which is just Laser War's multiball on mega-steroids.

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Which game's software are you most satisfied with?
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Simpsons, by far.  At least so far.  ;)  I had the longest time to work on it, and the theme was flexible enough that I was able to do all kinds of cool stuff in it.  I just wish I had more sound and dot resources available to communicate everything to the player better.  That game really pushed the Stern system to its utmost limits.


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Which game that you've been working on are you most satisfied with, regarding all aspects (sound, gfx, playfield, software, etc.)?
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I'd probably have to give this edge to LOTR.  The software on it is not too bad, the art on the game is just astounding for the most part, and the sound is almost unparalleled.  I think the sound is certainly better than any other game in the history of DE/Sega/Stern, and rivals the best of Williams games.  I was frankly disappointed with the playfield, but
it did have a couple things going for it.  The primary thing is that the ball could do multiple things on almost every shot.  When that is the case, it gives you a lot more flexibility than when every shot is the same every time.  Despite the short time I had to get the game done, I do not think there is much more that I could've possibly gotten into the game.

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What's it like to play a game that you've designed/worked on yourself?
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It depends.  I make games that I personally want to play, because you can't please everyone, but hopefully you please a lot of (hopefully most) people in addition to yourself.  In that respect, I tend to enjoy playing my games.  I'm sure I notice silly bugs or quirks that come up that other people wouldn't possibly notice, and that is a bit distracting.  But for the most part it is an enjoyable, positive experience.  The only time it's been moderately frustrating was playing LOTR at PAPA 7.  I could only manage one decent game of 95M, and that was quite annoying.
« Senast ändrad: september 27, 2007, 21:59:24 av FEZ »


MCR

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Tack Stefan!

Edit: Artikelansvarige, vem nu det är, kanske kan lägga in denna föevisso ofullbordade men ändå klart läsvärda intervju bland de övriga artiklarna?
« Senast ändrad: september 28, 2007, 16:31:33 av MCR »


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