If you're a fan of classic arcade games, and shoot-'em-ups in particular, it's unlikely that you'll have failed to come into contact with at least one of David Wareing's offerings in the genre. His original Galaxian variant, Swoop, was one of the earliest arcade-style classics to be published by Ambrosia Software, and helped the company to establish its early reputation for producing exceptionally high quality shareware games. More recently, David was responsible for the very popular scrolling shooter, Mars Rising, and is about to follow it up with a more advanced sequel, Deimos Rising, which has just been released. We thought that the release of Deimos Rising would present a good opportunity to ask him a few questions about his productions, and his views on the Mac gaming scene.
IMG: How did you originally become interested in computers?
DW: I wanted to know how video games were made. After the Atari 2600, Intellivision and Colecovision, I progressed to Atari computers, then the Amgia, and then the Mac.
IMG: Is the shoot-'em-up genre a particular favourite of yours? What inspired you to create Swoop, Mars Rising and now Deimos Rising?
DW: My favourite arcade games were Space Invaders, Galaxian, Galaga and Xevious. At the time, such games were very rare on the Mac, with Solarian II being king of the vertical-shooter hill. I wanted to make something with easier controls, and with bigger and brighter graphics; something closer to Galaxian.
IMG: You've had a long involvement with Ambrosia; how did your association come about?
DW: It's been a while, but I think Andrew Welch heard I was working on Swoop, perhaps from a game developer mailing list, and contacted me. I showed him the game and we eventually worked out a contract.
IMG: Swoop is a very polished effort, but it's interesting how similar in style its graphics and overall presentation are to those of Maelstrom. Did Ambrosia games in the mid-90s have to follow a particular 'house-style'?
DW: The only visual requirement was showing the Ambrosia logo at the start. All our games have been stylistically independent and there's no overall publishing theme that runs through them like, say, games from Freeverse. However, the games of the time, such as Maelstrom and Solarian II or even Lunatic Fringe, do share a similar style, being waved-based and having bonus multipliers and score countdowns and the like. Maelstrom was definitely an influence on Swoop insofar as it raised the bar for sprite-based games, especially in terms of visual presentation. With Swoop, I wanted large sprite-based bonuses and text, as the use of small standard fonts had annoyed me in earlier games.
Deimos Rising does have a bit of Maelstrom memorabilia in it, but you will have to find it yourself (and hope that you don't)!
IMG: You live in Australia, Ambrosia is based in the US, and you have co-written at least one game (Bubble Trouble) with a programmer in the UK. Does the fact that Ambrosia uses contributors from all over the world make it difficult to co-ordinate the development work?
DW: Most of the time, no, the distance isn't so tyrannical. It can even be a help in that it allows each party some breathing space; different time zones allow people to give more thought to their communications, and to reflect on them without feeling a need to react instantly. There are problems that crop up, but the benefits vastly outweigh the cons.
With Bubble Trouble, teaming up with Alex Metcalf in Wales was a wonderful experience. We had a very good relationship and still do to this day. He's a great guy, and that was part of it; if you can work with such people you can usually solve all the little difficulties.
IMG: Typically, what input will Ambrosia have on a project such as Deimos Rising?
DW: Ambrosia is responsible for the marketing and distribution of the game, providing net-based infrastructure such as servers and Web pages as well as arranging and managing testing. They also provide some tools that have been useful and time-saving, registration facilities that we have to add to our projects, and they help out with technical and gameplay advice. Their role would change from developer to developer, depending on the needs of the developer and the type of project. With Deimos, Andrew Welch showed a special interest in getting an OS X version out ASAP, and he and Matt Slot have been working on OS X issues, freeing me up to work on the final gameplay.