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Pangea Software | Bugdom

    Hundreds of thousands of consumers around the world bought an iMac and one of the first games they were greeted with was Nanosaur from Pangea Software. The game was simple yet addictive and showed off the excellent graphical quality of the ATI Rage chips that shipped standard in all iMacs.

   Now Pangea has completed their next title, Bugdom. We sat down with Brian Greenstone, Pangea Software's President and Lead Programmer, to talk about his past work, what Bugdom is all about and what's in store for Pangea's future.

Click to enlargeThe Review: What is your position at Pangea Software and what do your overall duties involve?

Brian Greenstone: My position at Pangea is... well... everything. I own the company, I do the programming, marketing, PR, finances, etc. I do everything except the art and music.

TR: What's your experience in programming and what is the history behind Pangea Software?

BG: Well, I got started programming back around 1981 or 1982 and immediately started doing games. I started as a Computer Science major at the University of Texas, but I hated the CS department and got a degree in something completely unrelated to Computers. Nonetheless, I got a job doing Super Nintendo games in 1991 after doing a whole bunch of Apple IIgs games. Pangea got started in 1987 when I did my first IIgs game, Xenocide. From there, I did a bunch of small games for the IIgs (Senseless Violence I and II, Cosmocade, Grackel, Orbizone, etc.) I did 6 SNES games for Visual Concepts and Mindscape (Harley's Humongous Adventure, Claymates, Lester the Unlikely, etc). During that time I was also doing some Mac stuff on the side as Pangea Software. I did Bloodsuckers, then Firefall, then Power Pete. Power Pete was a huge success, so I left Mindscape 3 years ago to do Weekend Warrior for Bungie. Weekend Warrior sucked big-time and Apple looked like it was going to go belly up, so I didn't do anything for a little while. But, then I got bored and came up with Nanosaur. Nanosaur turned into a HUGE hit. At this time I was working for Apple on the QuickDraw 3D team. Nanosaur was such a huge hit that I decided to leave Apple and return to doing Mac games full-time and thus Bugdom was born and here we are today.

TR: Who worked with you on Power Pete or did you do it solo?

BG: I was the only programmer on Pete, but there were 2 artists and a musician. Dave Triplett (who I did all of my IIgs stuff with) and Scott Harper did the art. Scott is the same guy who did all of the art for Nanosaur and Bugdom. Gene Koh, a guy I worked with since the IIgs days did the music.

TR: What were some of the strengths and weaknesses of Nanosaur?

BG: The strengths were: 1) Mac-only 2) Stunning use of 3D graphics 3) Had dinosaurs, so it appealed to anyone from 2-85 years old. Lots of little old ladies have called me saying how much they liked Nano... strange. The weaknesses were mainly that it was intended to be Freeware from the beginning, so the game wasn't very big or involved. It was just 1 level and not very complex gameplay, but for free it rocked!

TR: What kind of things, if any, would you change in Nanosaur if you had to do it again?

BG: Just the blocky terrain. We completely redid the terrain engine in Bugdom and it looks so smooth and organic. The terrain in Nanosaur was very "edgy" - it had lots of the same pieces of blocky terrain all over the place.

Click to enlargeTR: What's the story behind Bugdom?

BG: The basic idea is that the Bugdom has been overthrown by the evil Fire Ants who are ruled by King Thorax. The Lady Bugs who used to rule the Bugdom have been captured. You are Rollie McFly, a pill-bug bent on reclaiming the Bugdom and freeing the Lady Bugs. You need to travel across the Bugdom to the Ant Hill and defeat King Thorax.

TR: When did you get the idea for Bugdom and where did it come from?

BG: Well... remember the rolling boulders in the Canyon area of Nanosaur? I was always really proud of that piece of code. Those boulders rolled around the terrain really well. So One day I thought: wouldn't it be cool to "play the ball". The game started as a prototype game called "Quicksilver". The ideas was you played the ball inside a giant pinball machine. Unfortunately, playing a pinball gets a little redundant and lacks character. I believe that games should have characters (Mario, Sonic, etc.) So Scott (the artists) and I were driving in the car one day trying to think of what we could do with that ball to make it a character. The hedgehog thing had obviously already been taken, so I thought of a rollie polie bug. That's how it happened.

TR: Who created the art and music for Bugdom and what experience do each of these guys have?

BG: Well, Scott Harper did the art. He worked with me on several other Pangea and non-Pangea games: Power Pete, Steel Harbinger (Playstation), and Nanosaur. He worked at another company doing a Sega game, but I don't remember what. He also worked at 3DO on a PSX game. Mike Beckett did the music. He did the game theme for Nanosaur - that's how I met him. He did a ton of bitchin' tunes for Bugdom. He does music professionally, but I don't know the details.

Continue to part 2 of the interview