RPG Codex - Dark Heart of Uukrul Retrospective
RPG Codex has again done one their retrospective interviews, this time with the developers behind the game The Dark Heart of Uukrul, Ian Boswel and Martin Buis.
Crooked Bee from RPG Codex writes about this game:
Corrupted by the evil wizard Uukrul, the underground city of Eriosthe is but a shadow of its former self, its passages now twisted beyond a mortal's understanding. The Dark Heart of Uukrul, a first person turn- and party-based dungeon-crawling CRPG with top-down Goldbox-like combat developed by Ian Boswell and Martin Buis and released by Broderbund in 1989 for Apple II and PC, entrusts you with a single task: cleanse Eriosthe of evil, no matter the cost. And the cost will be high, probably higher than you imagine; Uukrul knows you are coming, and he will be prepared.
A quote about the roles of Ian Boswell and Martin Buis:
You co-designed Dark Heart of Uukrul. What were your roles on the game?
Ian Boswell: We both had a hand in most things. I did more of the programming, and Martin did more of the plotting and design. But the most creative stuff usually emerged from collaborative sessions and many cups of coffee. The maze design – which is huge – was broken into regions, one region being the area you explore between two consecutive sanctuaries. Mostly, one of us took responsibility for the detailed design of a given region, then when it was ready brought it back to the other for playthroughs and fine tuning. This is why many of the regions have a distinct theme or tone to them. Each of them “feels” different. We also had to develop a lot of the required code libraries and design utilities that we needed. There was almost nothing available off the shelf, or open source, back then.
Martin Buis: We started out with more or less equal roles, but specialized as the project progressed. Ian was a fantastic developer and ended up doing all the code – I doubt that any of my code survived into the released game. I remember that Ian designed and wrote the maze drawing algorithm, which involved perspective views and hidden surface removal both of which were state of the art, in 6502 assembler in a single shot and that at the end of coding there were only two bugs that needed to be fixed. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an equivalent feat of programming. The level, artwork, story and mechanics were very collaborative. A lot of what we had to do was working out how to get the most from the limitations that the memory, disk and processor imposed upon us. Within those limitations we tried to come up with innovative ideas that would advance the play without taxing our resources.
A quote on the development process:
Ian Boswell: Going from memory here, we were a couple of years at it spare time, while completing University studies, and I spent a year working on it more solidly after that, during which we got signed by Broderbund, so then we had to finish it. But it took more than a year after that. I think challenges we faced were that you had to code everything yourself back then (even wrote our own graphic library in assembler so it would be fast enough), and we had to fit the entire game onto two floppy disks. Martin Buis: Broderbund paid an advance on the Apple version, and we agreed to produce an IBM port, so we put some of that money into ‘hiring’ a couple of our college friends to work on the port. Overall, the process took many years across those two platforms. I shudder to think what the hourly rate would have been! There were a lot of changes that occurred during the development process. We had laid out the basic story, and implemented much of the game engine, but kept trying to do new things with that platform. It seemed like the game was largely complete for a long time while we added features that our playtesting found or that Broderbund requested. For example, the automap function was added relatively late in the process. Perhaps a more focused vision would have helped that, but the gaming market was moving quite quickly as we were completing the game, so there was an element of proactive catch-up, if that makes any sense.
Thanks Crooked Bee.
Source: RPG Codex