If you think about shareware or freeware games on the Atari ST, there is definetely one name that will pop up ... Dave Munsie. Dave wrote a lot of classic arcade games for the ST, and best of all, they were almost always free. His games were featured on numerous coverdisks for big magazines back in the days. Read here why Dave never bothered to do commercial games in the first place.
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2) How it started
3) The 8-bit era
4) 16-bit power
5) Gaming mayhem
6) The cream of the crop
7) Mastering the art
8) ... all about the money
9) The magazines
11) The 16-bit wars
12) All time favorite
13) Final thoughts
1) Hello Dave, let's start with the intro questions. Introduce yourself to the people who haven't heard of you before?
Not much to say here really, except I'm a jack of all trades and master of nothing, kind of guy. Too many hands in too many pies if you know what I mean. I always imagine the look on someone's face when they do an internet search on my name and all of these
different genres of interest are reported. "Can this really be the same guy!?!"
2) What were your first steps into the world of computers? How old were you?
I've always been interested in computers and video games since I was about 13 years old. I've had just about every game console and home computer ever created. The Atari 8-bits and TI994a computers really provided a spark of interest. I remember designing a
Pacman-like maze using "Memo Pad" mode on the Atari 400 and thinking "cool, this is programming!", and then I realized I had no way of saving anything I was doing. LOL :)
3) Did you ever do anything on the Atari 8-bits?
I was part of a Chicago-based Atari user group where I was coding on the Atari 8-bit computers at the time. There are a few 8-bit gems that I coded floating around - hopefully. Munsiepede 1&2, AT1 Rythmizer, I also coded a drum machine on the 8-bit that was WAY ahead of its time. LOL! It featured digitized images of myself striking each drum as it was played. I remember the crowd going nuts/laughing/clapping when it was shown, and then everyone looked at me and started pointing "hey, it's you!!". ReeveSoft published that title and to this day I forget if I made a penny or not :) One little bit of 8-bit trivia is both ReeveSoft and myself were working on a desktop GEM-like interface for the Atari 8-bits.
ReeveSoft took a more operating system approach with their design and I decided to make mine more of a code library that could easily be added to any existing project. I designed a desktop publishing program with this interface called "Personal Publisher" complete with WYSIWYG editing on the 8-bit, high-res graphics, fonts, etc. Showed it to Antic Magazine, they loved it and were going to release it through their magazine but they went belly up within about 2 weeks after the verbal contracts were in motion :) To this day I think only about 6 people have seen this application.
4)When did you first buy an Atari ST? Why?
When I moved to Texas I was still very much an 8-bit die hard. But the local scene here was more technically focused on newer computers. I found a small local group of Atari users and they showed me some cool things on the ST. I pretty much stopped all 8-bit coding instantly and purchased an ST setup and started dabbling around. Looking back it is amazing how "Atari Only!" I became. It didn't matter what was under the hood as long as it said "Atari" somewhere on the outside of the case :)
5)You have created quite a lot of games, do you still know what games you created for the ST?
Because I was married and with 3 small children, I never had the time to pursue long term projects, so everything I coded became a mental exercise to see how quickly I could get the project done. Most of the games I coded were done in a matter of hours. Too many projects to mention. :) The early monochrome-only projects are fun(ny) to play though. :)
Note: Earlier in 2004 I released a 2D PC version of Asteroidia. It recieved 5 cows from Tucows.
6)What is your personal favorite from your library?
My personal favorite is "Frantick" which to this day I can boot up and get a rush from playing it. I think I'm the only one who has ever finished the game and seen my ugly mug at the end! Frantick is the only game I spent longer than 2 weeks working on it. Berzerk, Kid Kong, Deluxe Invaders, and all the other clone games I did were only mental exercises to teach myself how to code.
7)Where did you learn to program like that? What language did you use?
As mentioned earlier, time was never on my side. I quickly learned to develop re-useable code I could plug into any project and get a head start. This eventually lead to a game kernal that all I had to do was get some graphics, code some logic and stir, and wala, instant game! I was amazed how easy the learning curve from 6502 to 68000 assembly language was. But again, I had limited time available so I looked for a higher level to code in. GFA Basic arrived at the perfect time. I started coding using a hybrid of GFA/Assembly langauge and this provided the ideal environment. I could use GFA for pretty much everything except for the low level drawing, collision routines. If I utililized the blitter chip, pretty much everything could have been coded in GFA.
8)Why did you only create shareware games? Why did you never enter the world of full priced games?
I get asked this all the time :) Actually I think I only released about 3 shareware games. (Asteroidia, Squareoff, Frantick, ???) The rest were either free or donationware efforts. LOL. Looking back I know I had the talent to write commercial quality games but
because of time, personal obligations, etc. It just wasn't something I could pursue. To this day you can count the number of shareware registrations I receIved on 2 hands and 2 feet. Making money was never a priority for me on the Atari ST ;) There was a short
lived venture where a (nameless) company attempted to market a version of my game tools but that never really materialized.
9)I remember playing some of your games which came on an ST Review disc (Frantick was one of them). How did that go precisely? How did you meet with the magazines?
ST Review was one of the last Atari ST providers at the time that was still aggressively supporting the ST line and I contacted them and submitted a game. One thing lead to another, they wanted me to write a monthly article and send them quick little games for
their cover disk. It was short lived, fun and provided my first "real" income made from coding on the Atari ST. They were a great group of guys. It was fun working with them.
10)I read you recently joined the ST scene again. You're working on a new game for the ST ... A Choplifter clone. Can you give us a little appetizer? What can we expect? Enhancements? When will it be released?
Right after Frantick was done, I started coding a Choplifter clone. This was going to be my final ST effort. I was going to go all out on this one. I was throwing every trick I learned into this one at the time. It looked better than any version of Choplifter ever released up to this point, including the Sega arcade game. I was using an enhanced version of my game engine which provided increase frame rate, better effects, parrallax scrolling, etc,etc. I was REALLY excited about this one. I was at about 80% done when a friend of mine who knew I was "die hard Atari" showed me his income from a really simple little image viewer he released as shareware on the PC, and I was shocked to say the least.
Long story short, I moved to the PC and didn't really touch the ST for close to 10 years. One day I booted up the ST and started playing my Choplifter clone and my kids were like, "wow, that looks like a cool Gameboy game!". I took the ST out and thought about finishing the game. Released some screenshots, re-learned the code and sat down to finish it. But as usual one thing lead to another and I didn't have time to finish it. I am hoping to finish it one day. Afterall, old school 2D is back in a big way! :)
11)What do/did you think of the Atari ST in general, compared to other machines?
It was/is an amazing computer. So simple in design. I think that's why it appealed to so many at the start from both programmer and end user. Sure there were computers available with more features, but those features came with a price, usually of confusion. I never really met an ST user who didn't know "how" to use it effectively. Sometimes less is more, and the ST line proved that.
12) What is your all time favorite computer game?
I love shoot-em-ups and driving games. I don't have a favorite, but if I had to pick one it would probably be Millipede. Games that take more than 5 minutes to get into don't appeal to me :)
13)Would you like to share something else with us? Some final thoughts?
Sure, I would like to thank everyone over the years for emailing me about my ST efforts. I still get humbled when someone emails me and tells me they get a kick out of my ST projects. Thank you!
Thank you Maarten for taking the time to email me and asking me to do this interview.
Oh, and the next time you do a search on "Dave Munsie" and it comes up with all these links about programming, fishing for Carp or Gar, music, etc, just remember it's the same guy. ;)
Thanks for the interview, Dave!
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