Questions about Deadlock

General discussion, queries, etc. about Deadlock and Deadlock II.
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Questions about Deadlock

Post by Ubergeneral Grunt » Fri Jan 07, 2011 6:53 am

There are certain questions about Deadlock, that I have. So, if anyone is able to answer some of these questions, I would be highly appreciative:

1. How are the graphics in Spritelg.dat (Deadlock's Sprite Data File) stored?
2. Did companies that localised Deadlock (i.e. Warner Interactive for the German and French versions), have access to Deadlock's source code?
3. Deadlock's data files make reference to a Skirineen Raid in several places. What exactly happened to this event?
4. The data files also make reference to several random events, that are missing from the game. Why were they cut?
5. How likely is it that Deadlock, will be re-released for any platform? We are holding a poll for which platform(s) Deadlock should be re-released on here: viewtopic.php?f=3&t=11
6. Accolade was primarily known for console games, was Deadlock ever considered for the Playstation or Sega Saturn?
7. Does the Source Code, 3d model files for buildings, etc. used for the game still exist?
8. Is it possible that a Mac OS X (with Intel-Support or just Carbonised) patch for the Mac version of Deadlock, could be released with no input from Atari?
9. How many units of Deadlock and Deadlock II were sold?
10. Was anything from Deadlock cut, because they could not be completed in time for Deadlock's release?

If you have any questions about Deadlock that you would like answered, then feel free to add to this.
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Re: Questions about Deadlock

Post by FarmerGary » Wed Jan 12, 2011 7:30 pm

Since I worked on the game, I thought for sure I'd be able to answer all these questions. Nope, I can't answer any of them, at least not with certainty. I can't even remember what year the original project was. 1995? 96? 95 I think. That would make it 16 years old this summer. That's about right because I remember a photographer visiting us near the end of the project. I had my daughter with me and she could barely crawl. She's 16 now.

1) The spritelg.dat file. I only vagely remember that beast. I think it's safe to say that there's only one man in the world that knows its file format and even he probably doesn't remember.

2) Localised versions. All I really remember about the localisation is that it sucked. I was the junior programmer on that project so one of my jobs, near the end of the project, was going through the entire code base and pulling out all the text strings. That way we could simply give this giant file of text to a translator. The problem was that the translated text we got back didn't fit. For example, dialog boxes have "Ok" and "Cancel" buttons. In German, the word for Ok might be twenty characters long so it wouldn't fit on the original button and the translators demanded that abbreviations didn't work. So I don't think anybody had the source code except us. At least not at the time because we were still writing the code. Future versions may have operated differently.

3) Skirineen Raid. Ask Mark or Dan, they were the designers. Nowadays, many games will have an entire team of designers, maybe a dozen or more. 16 years ago, many games didn't have a designer at all, certainly not a full time designer. Deadlock had two. I think they were both a major contribution to the game's success. That and the magnificent art from Ken and the other artists. We were also lucky to have Matt, a full time producer. And three extremely talented, incredibly genius programmers. Of course the junior programmer was the best.

4) Random events. Sorry, it's been far too long. If I had a dime for every great idea that was cut from a computer game I worked on... hopefully another team member will remember something about the random events we had planned.

5) How likely is a re-release? It's sad to say but I seriously doubt there will ever be a re-release. Never say never. 16 years ago, I didn't think I'd be growing Kona coffee for a living. Nobody can predict the future.

6) Console version. That's a question for Matt. I'm sure there was some pressure for other versions of the game, there always is. At the time though, console platforms weren't nearly powerful enough and the code would have required a full rewrite. Deadlock was too reliant on things like the hard drive, mouse and keyboard. For strategy games, PC was King at the time. It was years before anybody made a good strategy game for a console.

For context, the big release the corresponded with Deadlock was Warcraft. Now World of Warcraft, the original Warcraft. It came out shortly after Deadlock and was a real-time strategy game. There was some discussion of making Deadlock real-time but is shipped as a turn-based game instead. I've always wondered what things would have been like if Deadlock had been the first RTS instead of Warcraft.

7) Original assets. There may be a person or two that has a copy. I do not. I seriously doubt anybody at Atari even knows what Deadlock is, much less have any of the original assets.

8) Mac version. Get out your compiler and start writing. Until you start making piles of cash, I suspect Atari wouldn't care. Just don't ask permission because the answer will be no.

9) How many units sold? I don't remember. It wasn't a huge hit but it wasn't bad either. Just getting a completed project out the door is a big accomplishment. Prior to Deadlock, it was common for developers to receive royalty payments. By the time we shipped Deadlock, management had switched royalties to a completion bonus. I remember calculating how much I could potentially receive from royalties instead of my completion bonus but I don't remember any of the numbers.

10) Was anything cut? Most definitely. Ideas are cheap compared to the time to actually implement them. I don't remember being particularly heart broken about any of the cuts but I'm sure there were some. I was just glad the game didn't ship with the name "Elite Avenger!"

I hope some of the other team members respond to these questions. I'm sure they'll have better insights than I do.

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Re: Questions about Deadlock

Post by SonOfDon » Thu Jan 13, 2011 7:49 am

FarmerGary wrote:
...Just don't ask permission because the answer will be no.
Lol, if they respond at all :)
Where are we on the curve, we'll know once it goes asymptotic (hopefully).

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Post by Ubergeneral Grunt » Thu Jan 13, 2011 8:23 am

Thanks for your answers, Gary.
FarmerGary wrote:I've always wondered what things would have been like if Deadlock had been the first RTS instead of Warcraft.
I am pretty sure Warcraft wasn't the first RTS, I think Dune 2 was or is considered to be, it did come out in 1992, after all. But still, Warcraft did make RTS famous. I honesty can't imagine Deadlock as an RTS, something like StarCraft, Outpost 2 or Total Annihilation? A Deadlock mod for StarCraft 2 could work, if SC2 supports mods.
FarmerGary wrote:Localised versions. All I really remember about the localisation is that it sucked. I was the junior programmer on that project so one of my jobs, near the end of the project, was going through the entire code base and pulling out all the text strings. That way we could simply give this giant file of text to a translator. The problem was that the translated text we got back didn't fit. For example, dialog boxes have "Ok" and "Cancel" buttons. In German, the word for Ok might be twenty characters long so it wouldn't fit on the original button and the translators demanded that abbreviations didn't work. So I don't think anybody had the source code except us. At least not at the time because we were still writing the code. Future versions may have operated differently.
I do remember certain dialog boxes being bigger, but you don't really need the source code for that. The true sign that the German and French versions had the source code modified was the way they did the spoken dialog. There is simply no other way that those changes could of been made, without the source.

One question I forgot to ask above was this:

11. What languages was Deadlock translated into? I only know of these:

German - Deadlock: Planetarische Eroberung (Have)
French - Deadlock: Conquête Planetaire (Have)
Italian? - Deadlock: La Conquista Del Pianeta (Seen Box, no in game screens to prove a full translation was made)
Brazilian Portuguese - Deadlock: Conquista Planetária (Have)
Japanese - デッドロック (Seen Screenshot)

Strangely enough, I have never seen proof of a Spanish translation.
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Re: Questions about Deadlock

Post by goblin » Sat Jan 22, 2011 4:08 am

Hello. Deadlock Art Lead Ken Capelli here. Gary filled out quite a bit, here's what I know I can respond to:

3. Deadlock's data files make reference to a Skirineen Raid in several places. What exactly happened to this event?
4. The data files also make reference to several random events, that are missing from the game. Why were they cut?

I recall the Skirineen raid being cut some time before we spent any effort toward designing or modeling Skirineen attack vehicles... which would have looked somewhat reptilian in shape and patched together. I forget why it was cut... could have been a design issue (it being an interruption, or too random, or redundant (resulted in a goal that was ultimately addressed elsewhere)) or cut out of pure schedule pragmatism. In any case, it resulted in a more streamlined game. Anyone see the long version of Dune? Some stuff really does need the cutting room floor.

5. How likely is it that Deadlock, will be re-released for any platform? We are holding a poll for which platform(s) Deadlock should be re-released on here: viewtopic.php?f=3&t=11
8. Is it possible that a Mac OS X (with Intel-Support or just Carbonised) patch for the Mac version of Deadlock, could be released with no input from Atari?

Zero chance. As Gary mentioned, I doubt the people who actually own the old Accolade IP library even know what it is, and it wasn't a big enough hit (or in a presently popular enough genre) for anyone to resurrect. Business-wise it's a bottom-line calculation... for the same effort they could just do something new with zero creative restraints. As an aside, I happen to know that no one at Atari has any of the source code, original art, 3d models, design docs... anything.

However, I'll contradict what I just said about genre when it comes to the facebook platform... there are some very profitable facebook games that are right in the 3-4x strategy genre, some of the most visible and profitable (Kingdoms of Camelot, Dragons of Atlantis, Glory of Rome) from the company where I now work (http://kabam.com). What's funny is that a game I'm directing now has a LOT in common with how Deadlock was made, down to how the graphics are being created (3d models, rendered isometrically, vehicle sprites in 16 directions, etc). When it goes live in April/ May I'll be sure to ping you all here to check it out the Beta.

6. Accolade was primarily known for console games, was Deadlock ever considered for the Playstation or Sega Saturn?

No. The Saturn had just come out and the PSX was brand new, too. All the games on those platforms were action and were, at least on the Playstation, "limited" to being fully 3d. Sony didn't want to see SNES-era games and graphics on their 3d-capable machine, so they didn't approve anything that didn't bring graphics forward in three dimensions. Rendered flat sprites don't count :-) Additionally, the control scheme wasn't there. Deadlock was designed specifically for Windows, and specifically for mouse control. I don't know if any of you played the PSX or PS2 port of X-COM: UFO DEFENSE but cursor control via gamepad is painfully clunky.

Accolade was known for action games, with a large part of its library on PC. Deadlock was one of its rare forays into deeper genres before it decided to solely focus on sports and action titles... those are what the studio leadership knew how to make and market successfully.

7. Does the Source Code, 3d model files for buildings, etc. used for the game still exist?

Mmmmmmmno....

9. How many units of Deadlock and Deadlock II were sold?

I don't recall. I think it could have been as high as 200k... which was a hit back then. To put it into context, when I first joined Russell, Paul, Dan and Mark I was told that Deadlock was the first game that Accolade was going to spend A MILLION dollars on (I'm having a Dr. Evil moment). In 1995 that was a LOT of money to put into a game. These days, $1m gets you, maybe, a budget Wii game or DS title. We did quite a bit with that million+... SGI-rendered models with lip sync, 3d characters digitized from clay sculptures, a "voxel" generated landscape, modem and online multiplayer...

10. Was anything from Deadlock cut, because they could not be completed in time for Deadlock's release?

There was that first-person shooter mode... ;) I kid.

A lot is cut from every game ever made before it makes it out. Most of what is cut no one ever misses because it wasn't there in the first place!

We did have a number of cinematics planned that never made it to production... there was something kinda cinematic called the Tribunal where you'd be brought before shadowy figures (the overlords who were watching over the Gallius IV contest) for some sort of judgment if you were caught using the Skirineen. Early on it was going to be realtime 3d with some sort of conversation tree and (what we now call) minigames. We even had test renders, done with motion capture on an untextured, early Maug model. THAT mode went away fairly quickly when Russell did data throughput calculations on how much data needs to come off the CD or HD (audio, motion data, 3d data, textures) to pull it off to a quality level and found that computers at that time just were not capable. It was very ambitious and was cut early. For context, part-way through development the first Tomb Raider came out... THAT was the state of the art for unaccelerated 3d graphics. Go take a look at how that looks. What we wanted for the Tribunal was, like, Starcraft fidelity at least. For further context, what the PC was capable of just in terms of video was pretty lean, too. That's why the talking heads were that small... what, 150x150 pixels? And even at that size, Dan and Mark had to spend a LOT of time compressing and recompressing each video to play back smoothly, not look too compressed, yet still fit through the data straw. *golf claps to them

And for other things you guys never saw... you should have seen what we had going for the preproduction of Deadlock 3. SPACE. I'll just tease with that as I sign off. ;-)

PS. I find it rad that you guys are such big fans after so long, and I get a kick out of seeing the race portraits and my little sprites on your profile badges. Super big blast from the past. DL was my first original game, my first game as a Lead Artist, and the first time I got to work with a real honest-to-satan TEAM. And I'll let you guys know that one neat result of your enthusiasm as fans has been, for the first time in 15 years, the entire original DL team on an email thread talking together.

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Re: Questions about Deadlock

Post by SonOfDon » Sat Jan 22, 2011 4:46 am

goblin wrote:Hello. Deadlock Art Lead Ken Capelli here. Gary filled out quite a bit, here's what I know I can respond to:

...And for other things you guys never saw... you should have seen what we had going for the preproduction of Deadlock 3. SPACE. I'll just tease with that as I sign off. ;-)

PS. I find it rad that you guys are such big fans after so long, and I get a kick out of seeing the race portraits and my little sprites on your profile badges. Super big blast from the past. DL was my first original game, my first game as a Lead Artist, and the first time I got to work with a real honest-to-satan TEAM. And I'll let you guys know that one neat result of your enthusiasm as fans has been, for the first time in 15 years, the entire original DL team on an email thread talking together.
Dear Goblin

Fantastic post! Thanks so much for this history lesson (coming from a history aficionado)! Your reply suggests that an ambitious agenda was set for the game and in my opinion, was met so wonderfully and successfully. Congratulations on achieving such lofty goals!

Further, it is wonderful that the 'team' is back in touch, I am absoutely certain that each of us on the outside is pleased with this outcome.

The question foremost in my mind is, were the source code ever to turn up, just what it would take to get Deadlock up under OS X. I'm sure that some functions and capability would be easily brought over. However, I am particularly interested in your AI. Was this a purely in-house implementation of team created algorithms, or brought in from outside? Imagine Deadlock open-sourced!

Finally, the art is simply beautiful, breathtaking! Congratulations on such a gorgeous outcome.
Where are we on the curve, we'll know once it goes asymptotic (hopefully).

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Re: Questions about Deadlock

Post by Ubergeneral Grunt » Sat Jan 22, 2011 7:52 am

Thank you, Ken for your wonderful post, your artwork is wonderful, it is of a truly unique style. One thing that stood out for me is that Deadlock only runs in 256 colours and yet, it looks like there is so much more. I don't know how you did it (just a lot of clever dithering and palette shifting, I guess), but I can see the team spent a lot of time making sure the colours were as accurate as possible and not like some Amiga game with 32 colours, with inaccurate shades. I can't think of any examples off the top of my head, but there are tons of poor-dithering jobs, that I have seen.

You were brought back for Deadlock II, right? The artwork in Deadlock II looked just as good as Deadlock I, even if the game overall, was disappointing.

Still, someone who worked on the Mac port of the game might have the source. Either Phil Sulak (the Mac version's lead programmer) or someone else at MacSoft. Even if that fails, an Open-Source version could be an idea. I am an amateur programmer, so that could be a start. Once this community gets bigger (and i'm sure it will), then we might have enough support for it to become possibility!

The reason I asked about Deadlock on consoles is because, I have played Civilization II on the Playstation, which sort-of worked, just not very well. But maybe MicroProse thought Civilization was so popular that a PSX version would be a great way to make some extra cash.

Anyway, it's been almost a month since Gallius IV opened (December 24) and it's already gone beyond what I had imagined in many respects. Thanks Gary, Ken and Matt, for taking the time to come here or speak to me via email! :mrgreen:
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Re: Questions about Deadlock

Post by Ubergeneral Grunt » Sat Jan 22, 2011 8:27 am

I think gaming on iOS devices are where the money is right now, Facebook too. Games on the App Store are generally less than $10 dollars, so people don't really care if their not state-of-the-art. How do Facebook games work? I don't have a Facebook account, as it's not my sort of thing. But i'd still be very interested in hearing about your Facebook game, Ken.

The Skirineen Raid event must have been cut quite late in development, since the dialog to go with it was left in. "Overseer, Skirineen commandos have dropped from Orbit, stop them!", the dialog lines are still present in the French and German versions, too!
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Re: Questions about Deadlock

Post by Commander » Sat Jan 22, 2011 6:15 pm

Russell Shiffer here. Here's some random Deadlock trivia.

The original working name for the game was 'Xenosphere'. Some of us argued against the name Deadlock because it was a network game, and a Deadlock in networking is a bad thing. But Marketing told us we were overthinking.

The networking code uses netbios. This was before TCP/IP was the defacto standard.

Wasn't the skirineen raid the 3/4 view action game that Paul prototyped up before we realized that a) we didn't have the budget to produce all of the necessary assets, and b) doing full-screen scrolling in windows just wasn't going to work. He had something playable before it was cut though.

In the original design session one idea was to make a game based on warring Greek city-states. The general units in the final game had originally been heroes like Ajax and Perseus.

The game is sometimes described as a hybrid between Civilization and Sim City - and indeed I think that is what we were going for in the end. But at the beginning one of my inspirations was an turn based game I loved from the Commodore 64 days (I can't remember the name.. the units were swords and horses, and you could only have 1 in each territory, there were resources on the map that you used to build units - if anyone remembers the name, please remind me). Anyway, that is why the map is divided into territories.

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Re: Questions about Deadlock

Post by Ubergeneral Grunt » Sat Jan 22, 2011 6:23 pm

Hi Russell,

I did notice that some European versions of Deadlock had screenshots on the box with the name Xenosphere in the title bar. There was a lot more buttons on the toolbar, too.
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