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Frank Maddin Interview

Frank Maddin Interview
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Not long ago, Frank Maddin, the author of Crystal Caves was nice enough to spare some time to answer a few questions that lots of Crystal Caves fans and I had put together. The questions that were asked are in bold font, and Frank's answers are in italic font. I would like to say a big thank you to Frank for taking the time to answer these questions. :)
(Interview conducted in August, 2005)

I'll start off by saying that it’s been a while and some of these things are a bit fuzzy, so some of the answers might be "I'm not sure about that".

- What are you doing now these days? (from Frenkel)

I'm not sure about that.

I've been working for Microsoft/Digital Anvil for almost 6 years. Currently working on Next Gen related console stuff. Mostly AI, gameplay, and tool type things.

- Where did the idea for Crystal Caves come from?

I'd liked Miner 2049er back in the day (when jumping puzzles were cool). Then it was like "Ok so what do you run around collecting?" They answer was crystals. As far as the name goes I think we remembered the old coin-op where you used a trackball and pick up crystals. We considered that people might confuse this with that game, but in the end we liked it, so stuck with it.

- Where did the name/ inspiration for 'Mylo Steamwitz' come from? (from SpikeNexus and John the Ax)

George Broussard came up with that one. The idea was that this guy couldn't catch a break no matter how hard he tried. So he wanted a name that sounded like a loser. I think I remember the phone conversation. It didn't take long. I guess that was as goofy a name as he could come up with in the 5 minutes we spent talking about it!

- You were involved in the Graphics of Crystal Caves. Was there a particular area of the graphics that you produced (e.g. enemies, tiles, items)?

I did a bit of everything. I think I did somewhere around 60 to 80 percent of the graphics. The first creature I did was the one-eyed hopping dude. I remember that George was floored by how "great" it was, and "I was the best animator ever!". Funny thing is I'm really no artist, couldn't draw my way out of a paper bag. The "fluid" animation was just because I took more frames. I didn't have good control on the animation, it went where it went and took as long as it took. When you are working with 16x16 pixel blocks, it's so limiting that I could almost do something at good as a better artist if I played with it enough.

My best work was probably the snake. There is a story about that. At one point during development we'd flown to see id software (involved with Apogee) for business reasons and I'd shown CC to them. Later, I heard that John Romero thought I had stolen the snake from one of his earlier games it looked so similar. The truth was that I hadn't seen that game and that it was the only way I could figure out how to do a snake in 16x16 pixels. But it kind goes to show you the limitations can really influence what the art is. So John, REALLY, I didn't steal your snake! Swear to GOD mode. I just know this will get back to him.

- You're also listed in Crystal Caves as a Game Designer. What sorts of tasks does that involve, for people who don't already know?

Back then designing was brainstorming ideas and puzzles. Then turning them into art, programming, and levels.

Here is another story. At one point there was an idea quibble between Crystal Caves and Duke Nukem. I'd done a Danger sign that fell on you and killed you. Get it, its dangerous. Ha! George had shown that to Scott. Scott had given the idea to Todd who was working on Duke Nukem at the time. When Micro F/X joined Apogee I saw Duke Nukem for the first time. And there it was. A danger sign that fell on you! I was like "Hey that's my idea!". It ended up getting changed to say something else in Duke.

I'm still mad about it to this day and I'll exact revenge on everyone involved, or perhaps a cat since I prefer dogs and they are more readily available and aren't tool users and won't fight back too hard. Well, maybe a small cat when it's asleep and then only with a water gun.

- Do you still have any of the plans or artwork drawn up while planning Crystal Caves?

There was no paper artwork and really no "plans" as such. There may be a list of notes or ideas somewhere but I wouldn't know where. I have early run-able versions of the game with bad art. It was named "fun.exe" back then. Haven't looked at them in a decade probably.

- How much of Crystal Caves had been completed when the game moved from Micro F/X to Apogee?

Maybe 50 to 70 percent.

- Was there anything cut from the game that you would liked to have seen included?

I can't remember cutting anything. Designs weren't that big. You typically just designed as you went along. If you didn't think you could do it quickly, you just didn't do it. I'm sure there were ideas that were a bit too crazy to do but you typically eliminated those quickly.

- What gave you the idea to make a Mario themed level? (from Genius314)

Given that I can't even remember the levels much, I'd have to say George wanted to do it. We generally just wanted to give people with "insider knowledge" into to the game industry something to have fun with. That carried over in many other Apogee products.

- Was there any secret to dealing with the tornado/whirlwind [Episode 2, Level 7], or was it simply a trap for greedy players? (from XkyRauh)

You know, I can't remember. Given our mentality, it sounds about right for it to be a trap!

- With the three refrences to Commander Keen in Crystal Caves (Hi-score, Story and helmet in sludge), one might suspect you were a fan of Keen. Is this true? (from Superadammario64)


I think it all started with the helmet in the sludge, before Apogee had the game. I remember doing that and sending it to George in a level. I was like "You see anything in the sludge down there?" He thought it was great. It said to us "This game is so tough, Keen couldn't make it through here. Mylo goes where no game character dares!" Which of course is utter silliness.

So it started out to poke-fun-at/pay-homage-to Keen. When it became an Apogee product there was discussion of whether we should take it out. But we decided that references to other games were cool.

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