Interview with Kevin Pickell - Lead Programmer of Stunts
Well, we wrote together 25 questions, and posted to Kevin Pickell, the Lead Programmer of Stunts back in 1990. He was very kind, and answered fast.
You can read his answers here, we plan to make such interviews with some of the artists and/or musiciand / testers of the game, it's really great to know such things like 6th gear is a bug :)
Whose idea was the game concept?
I don't really remember but it started out as a demolition derby game but changed early on. I think it was a combination of Don Mattrick, Rob Martin, myself and a few others.
Was creating Stunts a big challenge for you?
It was very challenging as at that time my math skills were very weak. I was just learning 3d graphics and it was my first time using matrix math.
How did Stunts's success change your life?
It actually was not very financially successful. Test Drive the game done before it was much more successful and that is why it was sequeled and Stunts was not.
What games did you create after Stunts, which is your favourite?
Fifa International Soccer was my favorite after that, it was created by Jan Tian, Brian Plank and myself and has gone on to be one of the all time best selling games ever. Technically speaking the code I am most proud of is in a game called Skitchin on the Sega Genesis. Up until Skitchin, the music on the Genesis was very plain and boring, I figured out a way to make music with multiple digital samples play at the same time. Sound like that is very common today but when Skitchin came out the music blew people away. The game itself was not very good but the sound rocked!
How did you imagine that the game would be played? (alone, torunaments, hunting records, with friends, etc?)
I never really thought about it. I thought that the best part of Stunts as not driving around but creating your own custom tracks.
Did you expect Stunts to be played after 13 years of the creation?
Any funny stories about the creation of Stunts?
Not that I can think of, it was a very long time ago.
Why are there so many versions? (Broderbund 1.0 and 1.1, Mindscape 1.1)
Is there a version above Stunts 1.1? Broderbund only had distribution in the USA so DSI was free to find other publishers in other countries. The change to version 1.1 was probably just a bug fix but frankly I don't remember what the change was. Did you know it was Also released in Japan called 4D Driving, published by EA for the PC-9801, some sort of it was ported to Japanese by Ray Nakazato.
What can you tell us about the Amiga port of Stunts? I have it, but have never played, but heard it's not as good as on PC.
The graphics are not as good as on the PC but it should play exactly the same as the PC version.
What do you think of the fan-made sequel projects and utilities? (like Track Blaster where you can build track on water, Car Blaster, where you can change any performance of the cars, Stunt Mania and Ultimate Stunts )
I am not familiar with any of them.
When did you last played Stunts? Which is your favourite car & track in the game?
I last played it back in about 1995. My favorite car is the Porsche 962, I don't remember much about the different tracks that came with it.
Why is there no Otto's track? All the other opponents have one.
I don't know, we probably ran out of time.
We already know about who the opponents are in real life. Why are them so weak and dumb in the game?
They wanted them to be vastly different, originally they were only slightly dumber and slower but the company wanted to make them more different and the only way was to make them even slower and dumber.
Was multiplayer feature planned? Why isn't hotseat or serial cable game implemented? There were games in 1990 which supported it.
It was not planned as at the time we figured that such a feature would not give us any more sales and therefore it was not worth our time to implement.
Why are so many things prohibited in the terrain editor?
Probably because it would make the opponents crash every time, I think that was the reason.
Are there any possible hidden parts or command-line switchs beside the terrain editor accessible with Shift+F1?
Not that I remember.
Why these cars are in the game, who choose them?
I remember us having trouble finding stats for cars and finding good front and side pictures that we could use to make the 3d models. I think that was one of the deciding factors on the final list of cars.
Is the 6th gear a feature or a bug? For example with the Porsche March Indy, when jumping in the 5th gear, your speed is maximalized, and you can keep it on grass too. We are very curious about this one, it makes the game a lot more interesting :)
Why is it that sometimes when hitting a jump you fly way up in the sky?
That is a bug in the car/ground collision code.
Was it hard to program that you can skid in the air with your car? It's just awesome, no other games from this era can do this. Also it's incredible how fast the 3d engine is. Was it done in assembly, C, or some other language?
The skidding code was actually easy, the hard part was making it so the skid happened gradually and the user could try and stop it from happening. The polygon rendering is done in assembly, all code above that layer is done in C.
Did you know when releasing the game that you can pass through obstacles like block house and slalom block when hitting them perpendicular? Is it a bug with the collision checking routine?
It is a bug.
How does the program calculate the length of the track (for average speed) and car speed?
I think it is the centerline for the track pieces, it doesn't assume that you apex the corners.
Is it possible to add any new carshapes or dashboards to the game?
I don't know, they were probably compressed using in-house tools and I don't remember what formats we used.
The racing community biggest problem is that you can continue a replay when rewinding back (it warns you its not valid, but you can make it valid when saving before the finish line and continueing from its end, and finish.) is there any possible method to prevent this? Like the program wouldn't allow saving replay until you've finsihed, or it could store the continued status in a separate byte.
It could be fixed but I don't have the source code anymore and regardless even if a not valid flag was added I'm sure someone could load the replay into and edit and change it back.
Do you still have the sources of stunts? Have you planned making it GPL for the community? So we could add more cars, maybe track elements, and possibly solve replay continuing problem.
I don't have the source and frankly in what I have learned over the years I would rewrite it from scratch anyway. It was pretty inefficient looking back on it.
+1. What do you think, when will be the last date when people play Stunts?
When someone finally does a better one on current hardware.
Thank you really so much, and wish you and your family a long and happy life, in the name of all the Stunts fans. And there are still lots :)