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Saffire Interview

by the NWR Staff - May 17, 2000, 7:22 pm PDT

Billy interviews Dave Rushton, Game Boy artist and designer for Saffire Corporation, at E3 2000.

Billy Berghammer: “It’s Billy here, from PlanetN2000. Ty Shughart’s also here, he’s filming everything, and we’re sitting outside of E3 with our new close personal friend of ours, if you’d like to introduce yourself that’d be great...”

Dave Rushton: “I’m Dave Rushton, I’m with Saffire Corporation.”

Billy: “And, your position there is...”

Dave: “Linebacker. Oh wait, no. I uh, I’m the lead Game Boy artist, and I design all Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance games for our company, among other things.”

Billy: “Now uh, what are your plans for the rest of the year with the Game Boy Color?”

Dave: “Well, we currently have several games in production... Uh, we’ve come up with some really unique techniques over the last few weeks, and it’s just great. You’ll see them in a couple games that we’ll be releasing later this year. We have uh, an RPG, I mean...the coolest RPG I’ve seen for Game Boy Color, and I’ve played every single one that they have. That’ll be released later this year, as well as uh, the game that you saw last night, Lost Treasures...”

Billy: “That was the Saffire title with the uh, the newly implemented parallax scrolling.”

Dave: “That’s right, parallax scrolling, you’ll see it on a couple of games this year, only by us of course. But, that’s one of our new techniques.”

Billy: “Now, what was...can you mention the name at all about the role-playing game you’re talking, you’re developing?”

Dave: “Yes! It’s being shown at the show, it’s ah, Rune Lords, it’s being shown in the Kemco booth. And, it’s great. It’s uh, the biggest size cart you can get for Game Boy Color, and it is stuffed right now with...it’s a 32-meg cart, that’s the biggest size they have for Game Boy Color. So, and it’s all the way full, I’m writing new compression techniques to get more stuff in there, but it’s a huge game. I would guess, sixty hours to beat it, is what I’m shooting for right now.”

Billy: “Now, last night uh, at the party we got to preview the Saffire title with the parallax scrolling. How long did that take you to implement that, and are there actual other companies that would like to get those tips on how to do that with their games so their games look as sharp as what we saw last night with Saffire.”

Dave: “Uh, I did it on ah, kind of on a dare from Les. He says, ‘Well we used to be able to do this, and I don’t think you can do it.’ And he gave me the artwork and probably took...uh, a day, two days to do it. There’s another guy who works for me who’s a genius who actually did most of the work on it though.”

Billy: “So you basically get about as much sleep as the people on our staff.”

Dave: “Oh yeah! Yeah, if I get more than six hours of sleep a day, I don’t know what to do with myself.”

Billy: “I hear you on that. So, that’s, we got Saffire, and we have the role-playing game coming out in 2000. Do you have any other Game Boy Colors that you’re working on for the beginning of 2001, or would you be, working on things for the Game Boy Advance?”

Dave: “We have a couple other titles that are currently...uh, being worked on, but I can’t say the names of them because they’re not being shown here. Uh, one’s an adventure game and one’s a children’s game, uh, again I’m really happy with them. We’re, we’ve also begun work on Game Boy Advance game shells, Game Boy Advance tools, uh, we have a couple of dev systems, and they’re fantastic.”

Billy: “Now ah, we know about the SAGE engine, could you go into a little more depth on the engine and what it will do with the new games you guys are planning on releasing?”

Dave: “Yeah, the SAGE engine is really amazing. We went out and hired, uh, a group of guys who worked for a 3D animation company, a non-game company, they’re just brilliant. And they invented the SAGE engine because we gave them a game to do on Playstation, and then it got switched to Nintendo 64 and they were so upset because they couldn’t use the data. And they came in and thought well, this doesn’t work, so they wrote the SAGE engine which allows us to basically do a game on any of the major platforms, that would be...Playstation, Nintendo 64, uh, Sega Dreamcast, or PC or Mac, and we could do one game all the way through and divide it into five the day we’re done. Takes, probably takes one day to make it into five games. Except that each of the companies demand that we give them different artwork. Otherwise, we could do one game, be done with five the day we’re done.”

Billy: “So, Saffire is a game that has been...heavily rumored within the Dolphin realm as a game that could possibly hit Dolphin software. Ahh...what can you actually say about that?”

Dave: “About the game or Dolphin? Dolphin, the stuff that I’ve seen is really really cool. The graphics in my opinion are better than Playstation 2, and they’re better, well they’re way better than Dreamcast. Uh, it’ll be really neat if Nintendo ever gets it done and if they ever release it, it will really be a neat thing.”

Billy: “So, well you, they’re going to release it, I mean you’re pretty sure...”

Dave: “Oh yeah, I’m sure they are, I’m just making a knock at Nintendo, saying ‘Come on, let’s get going! It’s a cool thing.’ They ah, accidentally showed a demo of it at a conference I was at...”

Billy: “They accidentally showed it, or you accidentally showed up at it and saw?”

Dave: “I was accidentally in the wrong place at the right time, and I just happened to see it, and it was really really really good.”

Billy: “So, is there anything that you can say about the demo that you saw?”

Dave: “Uh, it was ah, fantastic 3D effects, really smooth, animation was great. It’s uh, much sharper image than with Playstation 2 or with the Dreamcast, either one. And knowing the capabilities of what it’s supposed to do, it has way more capabilities than the other two systems do.”

Billy: “Now currently, do you guys have Dolphin development kits?”

Dave: “No. Nintendo hasn’t given them to anyone outside of Japan, and I don’t think anyone in Japan has one yet. But definitely no one outside of Japan has one yet.”

Billy: “What are your feelings on possibly bringing Saffire or some other games to the Dolphin development system, or the Dolphin system period?”

Dave: “Oh I’d love to, I think Dolphin’s gonna be great. I think it will be, far better, I mean far better than Playstation 2 or Sega. Playstation 2 is much better than Sega, in my opinion.”

Billy: “Have you uh, seen anything or heard anything about the Dolphin controller?”

Dave: “No that’s...no one can know what that is. Anyone who says that they know what it is would be lying, it doesn’t exist yet.”

Billy: “Well it probably exists in Shigeru’s mind. He probably knows damn well what it looks like!”

Dave: “I’d have to agree with that. It’s just like the Game Boy Advance, I was all excited, thinking ‘Oh, they’re finally gonna show us what it looks like,’ and it’s just a circuit board with an LCD on it.”

Billy: “Now speaking of the Game Boy Advance, last night uh, you told us that you have development kits, ah, you have two of them, is that correct?”

Dave: “Yeah, we have two; we’re the only, as far as I know we’re the only company outside of Japan that has more than one.”

Billy: “And uh, what are you impressions about the GB, the Game Boy Advance so far?”

Dave: “The Game Boy Advance will be great, it is so good. I totally love the thing already. It uh, is better than a Nintendo, a Super Nintendo, and almost a Nintendo 64 in my opinion. Although, it uses pixel-based art instead of polygons.”

Billy: “So you’ve seen the Yoshi demo basically.”

Dave: “Oh yeah, I thought the Yoshi demo was great. I would predict that would have to be one of the initial release games, I would think with how much has been done on it.”

Billy: “But now, that’s not a Super Nintendo game, ‘cause I mean it’s been talked about that a lot of the Super Nintendo titles, the classics are gonna be ported to the Game Boy Advance. What about, so you think they’re gonna start porting N64 titles, and how hard would that be to port an N64 title, say like, Goldeneye, or Killer Instinct, or even Wave Race, to the GBA?”

Dave: “It would be, really difficult, especially initially because there’s so much technical...so many technical problems porting it, but I predict that everything you see on Nintendo 64 you will see on Game Boy Advance. Every title, I think you’ll see the same look.”

Billy: “So once the tools actually become available, it shouldn’t...with a few tweaks or something like that, it shouldn’t be too difficult to ah, go from an N64 title and maybe...dumb it down a little bit, to make it available on the Game Boy Advance?”

Dave: “Yeah, that would be a pretty good, simple explanation, actually probably take about a year and lots of work, but...it would...just dumbing it down a little, that’s pretty good way of putting it.”

Billy: “Uh, according to what you know about the development kits, will there be an infrared port on the Game Boy Advance?”

Dave: “I’m not sure...we’ll have to wait and see on that.”

Billy: “Well actually, do you have any games in development currently for the Game Boy Advance that you can talk about?”

Dave: “Um, I can’t be specific...we have offers right now for seventeen Game Boy Advance games...”

Billy: “Only seventeen?”

Dave: “Well I’ve only had five meetings so far on it. So uh, we do have actual contract offers on several...we’ll probably have four games for release of Game Boy Advance. And we’re just knocking around for sure which ones we’re going to do. Right now we’re working on a basic shell for an RPG and a basic shell for a sports game, and that way we’ll be set whichever way we happen to go on this.”

Billy: “Any more specifics on what kind of sports game it could be?”

Dave: “Well we’ve had offers for several different things, we’ve had offers for a baseball, for a football, for a golf, and so whichever one pays the most money!”

Billy: “Any offers to do any Mary Kate and Ashley titles for the Game Boy Color?”

Dave: “Not unless they kill me first!”

Billy: “So, a little bit of background on Saffire, where is it located, how long has it been around, and how long have you been a part of the company?”

Dave: “Well Saffire was formed in 1992 by Les Pardew, he was an artist who had formerly worked for a company called Sculptured Software. He started an art house, my brother Hal, Hal Rushton quit Sculptured and was looking for something else to do, and Les talked him into being partners, and that was in 1994. And the company has grown from being...a dozen people to being, well over a hundred. And, I’ve been with the company for about a year and a half, doing this.”

Billy: “How many ah, total employees does Saffire have right now?”

Dave: “Um, well, depends on who you ask, something between 110 and 150 depending on who you ask in the company.”

Billy: “So, the games you that have in development for the Game Boy Advance, um, would you like to see these become online playable?”

Dave: “Yeah, that’s my dream. I would like to see them...I would really like to see them played online and see kids play back and forth. It would be nice if Nintendo decided to do something like put a modem or something, it would be a really cool thing. It’s one of the rumors...we don’t know, because we haven’t actually seen the new systems, but I think that would be a great thing if they did something like that.”

Billy: “You a big fan of uh, online games and the whole online culture? Are you a big Quake fan...what would be your uh, favorite games to play online?”

Dave: “I’ve actually played Everquest online, I’ve played Starcraft...extensively I’ve played Starcraft. Since we did Brood Wars, I got a free version of it and though well, let’s check this thing out. I played a ton of hours, same with my sons...my sons...I’m online a ton, I think the Internet’s the future, I really do. I’ll be shocked if you don’t see me doing that within a year.”

Billy: “What, just basic online games?”

Dave: “Yeah, I think that’s where...any company that doesn’t go towards online gaming is a dinosaur, they’re not gonna last. Five years, they won’t be in business. If you don’t go online also, you won’t be in business anymore.”

Billy: “There’s a lot of speculation, a lot of arguments between PC gamers and console gamers because... PC gamers don’t think that consoles like the Playstation 2 or the Dreamcast or even the Dolphin, for example, will not be able to compete online as effectively as a PC, what do you think about that?”

Dave: “I disagree, because with uh...some of the new things, like the Dolphin’s not even fully developed yet, and if they develop the technology effectively, and make it specifically to be able to play online, it’ll actually be more effective than a PC, because a PC wasn’t designed specifically to play PC games. So if you have a console that’s made specifically with online in mind, it’ll be much better than a PC.”

Billy: “If you could list, roll off like, off the top of your head, your favorite games ever...even, we’re talking like dinosaur, even go back to like the Odyssey or like the old black and white Pong games...what would be a couple of your favorites that if like, you were in a building on fire and you had all the games you had ever played before, and you could only pick up say, three things, what would be the main games that you would make sure you had on you before you went out?”

Dave: “K, I would take Final, any Final Fantasy game that was there. I love Final Fantasy, I’m a freak for that. I would take any one of those, would be the first thing I would take. Also, probably going way back, Ms. Pac-Man, showing my age...”

Billy: “The original Ms. Pac-Man?”

Dave: “The original Ms. Pac-Man, I love that game. I played it many nights in bars, until they threw me out. So that would be another game that I would take. Other than that, probably, I’m a big RPG fan, so it would be any one of the Dragon Warriors, or Everquest...except Everquest isn’t as good as those, but that type of thing. I just love RPGs, that’s my favorite type of game.”

Billy: “Uh, any Nintendo favorites that you have?”

Dave: “Let’s see...what’s my fave...oh I love Goldeneye. I play that with my boys. We like to do the shooting thing where we run around and kill each other. You know, take out the aggression...with the game rather than kill each other in real life, so it’s really a cool thing.”

Billy: “So the violence aspect is actually keeping the family together!”

Dave: “That’s right, I feel like a family that kills together, stays together.”

(Laughing in the background.)

Billy: “Ok ah, so, I know you’ve been having a lot of meetings with a lot of different companies. Uh, you’ve obviously been able to probably stroll around the floor a little bit. What are some of your favorite games that you’ve seen, not only in the Nintendo area, but even all around in the different companies?”

Dave: “Well I was really impressed with some of the Sega games, probably more than any...if I was just gonna pick a platform that I was the most impressed with, I would say some of the Sega, especially some of the Sega Sports games, I was just...really impressed, I’m not that easily impressed.”

Billy: “Uh, any specifics, like the football game, or the basketball game, or even the new baseball title?”

Dave: “It was baseball. I walked by and I thought, I just glanced and I thought I was watching a game on TV, it was that good. I did a double-take, I was really, really impressed.”

Billy: “What about the Nintendo booth?”

Dave: “I like the Perfect Dark. Uh, I think that’s really cool, that they finally got around to doing that.”

Billy: “Now will that, will that even continually further your, keeping your family together with violence?”

Dave: “I hope so. It’s just, such a nice family thing. You know, we like to kill things together, we go and ah, play all sorts of gory games, but you know, that’s just how we show affection to each other.”

Billy: “Well you said you were a Starcraft fan, did you, have you tried Starcraft yet on the N64?”

Dave: “Uh, no actually I haven’t had time to do that yet. I did see it, I wasn’t even aware they were doing it, because I generally work roughly...sixteen, seventeen hours a day, seven days a week. So...doesn’t really leave me a lot of time, I’ll just be able to squeeze in a half hour here, a half hour there.”

Billy: “If you could sum up the goal of Saffire, one or two quick sentences, what is the passion, and what is the vision for Saffire?”

Dave: “We want to make great games that are so fun to play. If it’s not fun and it’s not great, I don’t want my name on it. And we really feel that way, really strongly. We don’t want to do a crap game. We’ll turn down, we turn down lots of things because we didn’t think they sound fun. If a game’s not fun, then why play it?”

Billy: “Like ah, Mary Kate and Ashley Kart Racing Rally?”

Dave: “Mary Kate and Ashley anything is just garbage.”

Billy: “Anything else that you’d like to, you know, add or tell, you know, Dolphin and GBA fans all around the world?”

Dave: “Well I think that when Dolphin comes out, Nintendo’s gonna jump back on top. Uh, right now they’re a little down, and I think that’s sad ‘cause they’ve been, they’re the ones that’ve led the industry for a lot of years. Game Boy Advance, no one will be able to compete with it in the handheld, it’s just too good. It’s just such a great system, and I would predict that it’ll be really good for at least several years, it’s just really advanced.”

Billy: “Well the Game Boy has only lasted like what, over twelve, thirteen years?”

Dave: “Yeah, with little or no changes. That twelve or thirteen years is pretty amazing for this industry.”

Billy: “Absolutely. I mean, there’s not a lot of consoles that have lasted that amount of time. The only one I can think would even be close would be the Atari 2600.”

Dave: “Yeah, that would be about the only one, cause most consoles seem to turn around in two or three years, it seems. I could have numbers wrong and go look it up, but it just feels that way, maybe five years anyway.”

Billy: “Well I just want to say thank you very much, number one just for the party last night and for hanging out with us today at E3, we know you’re really busy and uh, thanks for chatting with us.”

Dave: “Yeah, I really like the opportunity. This guy’s a cool guy, you guys, if you ever get a chance to meet him, talk to him, he’s fun.”

Billy: “Dave’s uh, we paid Dave to say that. So, but thank you very much and enjoy the rest of E3.”

Dave: “Thanks!”

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