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Nexa
Post Posted: Sun Dec 11, 2005 2:33 pm
CRV wrote
Nexa, eh? The same company that gave us F-16 Fighting Falcon?


Yup. Nexa was formed by Gilman Louie with a few friends from college. After F-16 Fighting Falcon was released (which IIRC used a non-documented bitmap mode, which is why it doesn't run on the Genesis Master System emulator) was merged with Spectrum Holobyte to form the corporation Sphere (which continued to market games under the Spectrum Holobyte label).

When I started there the Nexa office was still in San Francisco (Spectrum Holobyte had just moved from Colorado to Alameda). Several games released under the Spectrum Holobyte name were actually coded in the Nexa office (Tetris PC, Sokoban Apple II, and some police story game I can't remember the name of). Monopoly SMS was also developed there.

Kevin Seghetti
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Alf
Post Posted: Sun Dec 11, 2005 2:58 pm
Raccoon Lad wrote
Interesting... Kevin Seghetti also worked on SMS Monopoly, but Alf is definitely the crappiest thing on his list of credits.

I guess collision detection isn't his specialty.


I have to completely agree, Alf sucked.
In my defense, I was only 20 at the time, and it was my second game.
If you don't like the game design, John Emerson is the one to blame for that. (I didn't know what he did was called 'designing' back then, and he was also the producer). Of course, I am not sure one can design a GOOD Alf game. :-) As research, I actually started watching the TV series. It also sucked (so our game was faithful to the quality of the licence ;-)

Now the controls and playability was my doing, and I take full responsibility. I tried playing it a few years ago, and can't believe how difficult it is to control. Back then I was under the false impression that games should have proper physics, and you shouldn't be able to modify ones movement when in the air.
Now the code for Alf was much cleaner than Monopoly (Monopoly was essentially the first program of any size I ever wrote, so many mistakes were made). I think I have a 5 1/4" floppy with the source code around here somewhere (not sure that it would be readable anymore).

Trivia: Amiga users may recognize the font in the Alf credits screenshot. It is topaz, the Amiga fixed width system font (which I also used on my Genesis and SNES games).
All of the graphics were drawn in dpaint on the Amiga, and converted using a custom tool I wrote. It worked MUCH better than the graphics pipeline Sega provided for Monopoly, where there was this large 2 monitor box with a light pen, and the artist had to burn their graphics onto an eprom, which we would then read on the PC (and there was never a blank eprom around when you needed one).

Monopoly was a MUCH better game, but I think Rampart was my best SMS game (by then I had several games under my belt, and knew what I was doing).

BTW, there were 2 releases of Monopoly, the first 50,000 cart run has a hidden credits screen in it (pause the game and press a key sequence to active, the press a direction to get to personalized credit screens). Sega was very unhappy when they found it, and we had to issue an update which removed it. It is easy to identify the first edition carts, the P in monopoly is upper case: MonoPoly.

Kevin Seghetti
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Post Posted: Sun Dec 11, 2005 3:15 pm
Oh, this is very interesting. Just some questions:
1. What was "Developer Resources", the company that ported Rampart according to the splash screen?
2. Why do you think Sega was upset about the credits screen? They often have those themselves, once you've finished their games. Or was that because you used your real names? Japanese publishers apparently don't want to reveal their subcontractors.
3. Are there no credits in Rampart for this reason?
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Post Posted: Sun Dec 11, 2005 8:37 pm
Very interesting stuff. Thanks a lot for posting. But I only have two minor questions:

1) Was Nexa involved at all with the Master System version of F-16 Fighting Falcon or was that handled completely by Sega in Japan (I've read Yuji Naka ("Sonic the Hedgehog") worked on it)?

2) I don't suppose you remember the button sequence for those Monopoly credits, do you?
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Monopoly
Post Posted: Mon Dec 12, 2005 5:37 am
Someone at the Sega8Bit.com Forums found it, and I tried it myself. I just randomly mashed the buttons. I don't know the exact sequence (interesting that you can scroll the playfield left and right when you have it paused - was there a point to that?).

The credits:



Project Leader
R. Anton Widjaja

Programmers
Bill Chau
Jinda Pan
Kevin T. Seghetti
Scott L. Statton

Artists
Dan Guerra
Tim Dunn

When you press right:



For Jenny and Elisa

When you press left:



From Kevin to Melanie
I Love You

Awww...How cute...

And if you press down:



Bill Chau
Born-Again Ex-Hacker

Specializing In Micros and
Hardware. Competitive Rates

For Free Estimate-
Call 415-911-CKID
Telex 13288-Hi-Mom

-This Ad Space For Rent-

Seems this was found in the ROM in a previous thread (see here), but no one actually accessed it in the game.
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Re: Questions
Post Posted: Mon Dec 12, 2005 7:11 am
CRV wrote
Very interesting stuff. Thanks a lot for posting. But I only have two minor questions:

1) Was Nexa involved at all with the Master System version of F-16 Fighting Falcon or was that handled completely by Sega in Japan (I've rea d Yuji Naka ("Sonic the Hedgehog") worked on it)?

2) I don't suppose you remember the button sequence for those Monopoly credits, do you?


1. F16 Fighting Falcon was done before I arrived at Nexa, so I can't say for sure, but I was under the impression that Gilman worked on it.

2. No, but as other mentioned, it isn't ver hard to make happen.
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Re: Questions
Post Posted: Mon Dec 12, 2005 7:12 am
idrougge wrote
Oh, this is very interesting. Just some questions:
1. What was "Developer Resources", the company that ported Rampart according to the splash screen?
2. Why do you think Sega was upset about the credits screen? They often have those themselves, once you've finished their games. Or was that because you used your real names? Japanese publishers apparently don't want to reveal their subcontractors.
3. Are there no credits in Rampart for this reason?


1. Developer Resources was a company I founded with a friend of mine to build development systems for the Genesis and the SNES. Rampart was actually a contract through RazorSoft (Tengen contracted RazorSoft, who contracted me). But I started Developer Resources during the Rampart port.
Trivia: I didn't use an official development system for Rampart. Instead I just plugged a Sega Dev RAM card into the cart slot, and replaced the boot ROM with some custom code that would download via the 3rd joystick port (on the back) from my Amiga. So I could't trace the code, just download and watch it crash. For the wall closure algorithm I ended up having to code a simple debugger on the SMS which just displayed the register state and went forward when the joystick button was pressed. That was the hardest part of that game.

2. I don't really know, but the contract explicitly forbade it. I had originally hidden it quite well, random pressing didn't work, but at some point one of the other programmers modified it to be much easier, which is why Sega was able to find it. I was told that Monopoly was the first time Sega contracted an American company to do a game for them, so maybe that had something to do with it.

3. I don't remember even discussing it. By then I don't think I cared as much. Maybe no credits because RazorSoft didn't want to reveal their sub-contractor, although at the end I went to Tengen a few times, so they did know who I was.
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Re: Monopoly
Post Posted: Mon Dec 12, 2005 7:21 am
CRV wrote

For Jenny and Elisa

Jenny & Elisa were Jinda's wife and daughter.

CRV wrote

From Kevin to Melanie
I Love You

Awww...How cute...


I was young and in love. Still am, actually. Melanie and I are still together, have a 4 year old son, with another baby due in February.

CRV wrote
(interesting that you can scroll the playfield left and right when you have it paused - was there a point to that?).



The reason the screen could be scrolled was Monopoly used all 32 columns for important game data, but some TVs the image runs off the left or right side. So the pause scroll was a way to get around that, allowing the user to center the image (notice that the offset remains when you un-pause).

The only person in those credits I am still in contact with is Scott. I should point him at these forums, he is into retro hacking, and misses the old days when a game could be make by just a few people.
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Re: Monopoly
Post Posted: Mon Dec 12, 2005 7:28 am
CRV wrote




I think it is pretty funny that the screen shots are 640x480, considering the SMS could only display 256x192.
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Re: Monopoly
Post Posted: Mon Dec 12, 2005 7:30 am
CRV wrote

Seems this was found in the ROM in a previous thread (see here), but no one actually accessed it in the game.


The list of names at the end of the text dump from Monopoly in that other tthread is probably the high score table. Melanie did a LOT of playtesting of Monopoly, so I slipped her name in there as well.
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Post Posted: Mon Dec 12, 2005 9:09 am
[Admin note: I split this off into a separate topic. It's cool to hear this stuff. We all feel kind of uncomfortable for being so mean about Alf, but... it's undeniable :) ]
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Post Posted: Mon Dec 12, 2005 10:37 am
Hi Kevin,

And welcome on those forums. We're glad to hear from Sega 8-bit developers, and the info/trivia you're providing are nice reading. :)

Now we have an explanation about the re-run the Monopoly. We knew there were two versions with different builds but I never bothered investigating about their difference.

That bit about Rampart development is telling a lot about the condition in which developers made games at this time. Today we live in luxury and I can't imagine many people surviving without a debugger or other kind of audit tools. Makes me wonder how "better" SMS games could be done with today's tools if given proper team and time.

KevinSeghetti wrote
Now the code for Alf was much cleaner than Monopoly (Monopoly was essentially the first program of any size I ever wrote, so many mistakes were made). I think I have a 5 1/4" floppy with the source code around here somewhere (not sure that it would be readable anymore).


Any data of this kind would be great (I can help reading data from a 5 1/4" floppy if needed). We have few game source code around, it's always interesting bits for the hacker-wanabee.
I'm curious about any development setup, hardware, software, documentation, that were provided to you by Sega or that you had to develop.
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Post Posted: Tue Dec 13, 2005 2:27 am
Thanks for the info Kevin. I love reading stuff like that.

What I also find interesting is that Monopoly wasn't the first time an American developing for Sega had to remove his name from the credits. It happened a few years earlier with Robert McNally and the Apple II port of the Star Trek arcade game.
http://ironwolf.dangerousgames.com/writings/retro.html
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Re: Monopoly
Post Posted: Tue Dec 13, 2005 5:29 am
KevinSeghetti wrote
The only person in those credits I am still in contact with is Scott. I should point him at these forums, he is into retro hacking, and misses the old days when a game could be make by just a few people.

I am here now.

Things I remember about Monopoly -- besides showing up to the twice-daily staff meetings to discuss why the schedule was slipping The beatings will continue until morale improves -- are the absolute horribleness of the development tools.

Tim and the Big Black Beast ....

Jinda saying one day, as he was working, "I hate computers. I wanted to be a fisherman."

The fact that for most of the development we built the code as one giant .ASM file, because linking the code took longer than assembling the whole thing from top-to-bottom.

The fact that the assembler had no local labels -- so, Kevin and I would name what should-have-been local labels with random words. JR NZ,PIZZA and the like ... That the big ugly piece of code to handle writing a vertical strip in the scroll routine during piece movement was called PINK_FLOYD because we were listening to Dark Side Of The Moon as we were writing it.

Writing parts of the code in a "Porta-Desk" notebook that we bought one day for a road trip -- which I found in a box during a move a couple years ago.

Writing letters to Parker Bro's to handle tweaky parts of the rules (People In Real Life don't like playing Monopoly with me, because I'm such a stickler for rules :)

Sitting on the train one day, watching the scenery go by in the window, I remember saying, "GOD -- How are they able to get so many tiles loaded into the VDP per vblank?"

After Monopoly, I did the compression code for Sokoban, and the music for PC Tetris.

Oh yeah -- I'm also the guy who is responsible for the asinine music in Monopoly. We had a little Yamaha DX-3 synth (think the baby brother of the DX-7) in the office that I used to play while thinking about a coding problem. Anton walked into the office as I was playing The Entertainer and said, "Why can't we use THAT Music?" "Ummmm .. because it isn't the tiniest bit RELEVANT?" "Use it anyway. Check the copyright status."

At least "We're In The Money" and "Happy Days are Here Again" had vague connections to the game.

The "Unhappy" music at the end I wrote my own self. Somewhere, is a little file folder containing some handwritten sheet music with my 'arrangements' of the tunes all legally signed over to Nexa/Sega.

After we finished that title, and I had moved on to bigger and better things, I computed that for the time we put into Monopoly, based on our pathetic salaries, and unpaid overtime that we put in, we made PI dollars per hour.
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Re: Monopoly
Post Posted: Tue Dec 13, 2005 5:55 am
n1gak wrote
I am here now.

If it isn't obvious from the content, n1gak is Scott Statton (n1gak is his HAM call-sign).

That triggered another memory: All of the development was done on a couple of PCs made by JC Lips (why do I remember that?). Anyhow, a full compile took something like 20 minutes. I found out AFTER the project was finished that those machines could run at 2 clock speeds: 8Mhz and 10Mhz, and for some stupid reason the default was 8Mhz. So all of those 20 minute compiles could have been 15 minutes. Grrr.
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Re: Monopoly
Post Posted: Tue Dec 13, 2005 9:26 am
n1gak wrote
Sitting on the train one day, watching the scenery go by in the window, I remember saying, "GOD -- How are they able to get so many tiles loaded into the VDP per vblank?"

Now THAT is due some respect :D

n1gak wrote
Oh yeah -- I'm also the guy who is responsible for the asinine music in Monopoly. [...] "Why can't we use THAT Music?" "Ummmm .. because it isn't the tiniest bit RELEVANT?"

Aha, I'll have to give you credit in the VGM files, and maybe add some of these comments :) I'm not sure which of the tracks is "We're In The Money", though, and I'm not sure about "Unhappy" either, is the pack missing a track?

Great to hear this stuff, it seems there weren't many game programmers in the 80s who weren't overworked, underpaid and generally screwed by the game companies... plus ça change...
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Re: Monopoly
Post Posted: Tue Dec 13, 2005 9:38 am
Maxim wrote
Aha, I'll have to give you credit in the VGM files, and maybe add some of these comments :) I'm not sure which of the tracks is "We're In The Money", though, and I'm not sure about "Unhappy" either, is the pack missing a track?


"We're In The Money" doesn't seem to be in the pack, but "Happy Days Are Here Again" is ("End of Game").
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Re: Monopoly
Post Posted: Tue Dec 13, 2005 12:19 pm
Maxim wrote
n1gak wrote
Sitting on the train one day, watching the scenery go by in the window, I remember saying, "GOD -- How are they able to get so many tiles loaded into the VDP per vblank?"

Now THAT is due some respect :D

Then there was the morning when the alarm went off, and my brain said:


ld MOVE_UP,a
out ARM_IO
ld MOVE_OVER,a
out ARM_IO

or something like that, since I was asleep it was probably less coherent. (and it has been a very long time since I coded any Z-80, so I may have bungled the op-codes).
And I thought "maybe I should spend at least a few minutes each day doing SOMETHING other than coding". :-)



Quote

Great to hear this stuff, it seems there weren't many game programmers in the 80s who weren't overworked, underpaid and generally screwed by the game companies... plus ça change...


True, but I think we must come pretty close to the lowest paid (at least in the US), Scott and I were making $10,500 a year each while working on Monopoly. In San Francisco. That worked out to $600 a month in take home pay.
I have to run, maybe Scott will tell that story.
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Post Posted: Tue Dec 13, 2005 1:28 pm
ld a,MOVE_UP
out (ARM_IO),a
ld a,MOVE_OVER
out (ARM_IO),a

ld hl,USELESS_KNOWLEDGE
ld c,BRAIN_IO
ld b,USELESS_KNOWLEDGE_SIZE
otir
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Re: Alf
Post Posted: Tue Dec 13, 2005 1:41 pm
KevinSeghetti wrote
Trivia: Amiga users may recognize the font in the Alf credits screenshot. It is topaz, the Amiga fixed width system font (which I also used on my Genesis and SNES games).
All of the graphics were drawn in dpaint on the Amiga, and converted using a custom tool I wrote. It worked MUCH better than the graphics pipeline Sega provided for Monopoly, where there was this large 2 monitor box with a light pen, and the artist had to burn their graphics onto an eprom, which we would then read on the PC (and there was never a blank eprom around when you needed one).


Yay, DPaint! Yay, Amiga! Indeed, could you tell a little more about the development process? Was any assembly done on the Amiga? And... what the hell was the point of the Sega graphics editor? It didn't have any floppy drives, hard drive, or anything? It sounds cool nonetheless, so please tell more.

Quote
The fact that for most of the development we built the code as one giant .ASM file, because linking the code took longer than assembling the whole thing from top-to-bottom.


That is just abominable! I know from experience that keeping track of all the code in just 1 file makes the eyes and brain go boggly after a while. How did you manage it in your minds with just 1 file?

Thanks for sharing your stories, guys. Modern teams of dozens of games developers don't have as many wacky and amazing stories as the 3-man (or whatever) teams of yesteryear, so I love hearing about the bad old days.
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Post Posted: Tue Jun 12, 2007 1:15 am
I recently caught up with Mr. Seghetti. We primarily talked about his days as a freelance contractor in the early '90's (to keep this Sega 8-bit related, that includes SMS Rampart). You can read more here.
http://gdri.smspower.org/wiki/index.php/Interview:Kevin_Seghetti
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