Editor in Chief
I recently had the opportunity to sit
down with Mark Adams President of Westlake Interactive. Westlake
has proven itself to be perhaps the most popular game porting
house since Lion Entertainment, bringing Mac gamers such titles
as Quake, Unreal, and Tomb Raider II. Mark has always been a
friend to the Mac game community, and we couldn't help but ask
Mark that he be the subject of our very first interview here
MacReactor: How is life at Westlake? Has operation changed
any in the past few years or is it still pretty much the same
have grown quite a bit in the last year, adding two more programmers
to bring our total number of employees to 6. Its a bit more hectic
than when I used to just freelance and do a single project at
a time. I do find I spend a bit more time keeping track of current
projects, bidding on new games, and other business activities
than I used to. I still spend a good part of the time programming,
but the other stuff needs to be done too. The other difference
is just the number of projects going concurrently. At one point
I was doing some kind of work on four different projects at once
(finishing up 3D accelerator support for Tomb Raider Gold, working
on first playable for Railroad Tycoon II, doing Unreal maintenance,
writing RAVE code for Falcon 4).
How many programmers are on staff?
We have 5 programmers right now. We just hired our 5th programmer
in early January to do some work on Total Annihilation.
How is TR Gold coming along?
Are there any little anecdotes you can tell us about the port
(maybe for TRII as well)? Any funny stories? Were there any things
that annoyed you in particular?
TRGold just went into beta, so we should go into duplication
with a week or so. We're anticipating a quick turnaround in beta
since the game is based on a lot of similar technology to TR2.
Both of the Tomb Raider games were really great projects, fun
to play and fun to work on. The only annoying thing we've hit
with TRG was a long delay in getting some final data files for
QuickTime movies. The original developer had been really careful
about archiving off the projects when they were done, but in
the couple years since the movies were made, the software and
hardware on their backup systems changed enough that they had
a hard time getting the files back off the original tapes.
Falcon 4 is a game you've been
chugging along on for some time now. Any update on its progress?
It's finally nearing completion. The team is stomping lots of
bugs and clearing up the last few outstanding code issues so
it can go into beta. Its a very cool game, but very complicated,
so beta may take some time. We want to make sure its as stable
as possible, given that the PC version shipped in a form that
probably wasn't quite as polished as Microprose really would
have liked. We are trying to update the code with patches from
the PC as quickly as possible so that when the Mac version is
ready to go it will have many fixes that weren't available in
the first PC version.
How responsive and helpful are
the PC companies you must work with (Microprose, id, Epic, etc)?
Do they work with you on the ports to some degree if there's
something you don't understand in their code?
Different publishers have different styles. With Epic we had
pretty good contact with the main programmer on Unreal, Tim Sweeney,
and he helped answer questions when we really hit some walls.
Other publishers really value their programmers' time and don't
like to let us have much contact at all. We've recently had some
chances to talk with Falcon programmers, so that has helped clear
up a few hazy areas we had in that port. For the Tomb Raider
games, the code was well written and we never actually even tried
to contact the original programmers/developers, because we didn't
run into anything that threw us for a loop. We've been working
closely with the original developer of Railroad Tycoon II, Phil
Steinmeyer, and he is extremely interested in helping make sure
the Mac version is as great as the original.
How did you get involved with
Deer Avenger? It seems to be such a simple port that it wouldn't
need a separate contractor to do it. How is development coming
That one kind of fell in our lap. The original developer, Hypnotix,
was really busy with some other projects and didn't have Mac
programmers on staff, so they contact us about doing some of
the work. Even though it was really short, it was a fun project
and we decided to do it mainly because it fit in our schedule
and gave our programmers a simpler project to work on during
breaks on the large games.
Are there any goodies of information
you can tell us about concerning possible ports in the future?
We're talking to several publishers about future games, and have
a couple titles that will definitely be triple-A Mac games. There
are always some super hot games we're looking at, sometimes they
come through and sometimes they don't.
How many games HAVE you ported in your lifetime?
Oh, lets see. Somewhere around 14 or 15 I think. And I actually
didn't do games for a few years in the early 90's, I had a job
writing network management and productivity apps.
Any favorites that you're especially
Links Pro is probably still my favorite, and not solely because
it was the best selling game I did. I really loved playing that
game when it came out the PC and I think the Mac version turned
out very slick. Space Rogue has to go on the list too, partly
because it was my first game and partly because I did it in something
like 32 days, and it was the best version of the game on any
platform (it originally came out on the Apple II, and I did the
PC, Mac, and Amiga versions).
Is there a genre that you'd like
to start porting?
I'm enjoying doing a strategy game like Railroad Tycoon II. It's
definitely a welcome break from shooters. I'm still pushing publishers
to sign a sports game, being a big sports fan myself and knowing
the Mac market is screaming for some great titles.
How is the shareware company
coming along? Anything in the pipeline yet?
We haven't done anything in a while, although we've got two or
three games on the drawing board. Suellen (my wife, business
partner, and co-designer of shareware) and I are really hoping
to put some time in our schedule for more shareware this summer,
its a nice diversion.
Do you still get time to play
games these days? Any favorites? Play any video games?
I had been playing Tomb Raider III on the PC a lot, and got almost
to the end before I got sidetracked on other stuff. The other
game that's really been eating up my time is Railroad Tycoon
II. Ever since we got it to playable state on the Mac I've had
a hard time not sitting down and playing it for hours on end.
It's incredibly addicting. And I can always say I'm 'testing'
So, what did you want to do when
you grew up when you were a kid?
I pretty much always wanted to write computer games. Since I
had an Apple II when I was about 12, I was always either playing
games or hacking around on the machine doing stuff I shouldn't
What kind of car do you drive?
I have a silver Lexus SC400 that I bought after getting some
royalties from my first game to sell really well, Links Pro.
Suellen and I have a pet rabbit named Boggle, and a guinea pig
named Mathilda. Boggle is a house rabbit, and roams free throughout
the house and our home office. Mathilda spends most of her time
in a cage, but gets some time out to explore the living room
every couple days. Rabbits make great pets, but they do require
a lot of attention and some special knowledge to make sure they
stay healthy and happy. A lot of people buy rabbits for their
kids this time of year, with Easter coming up, without thinking
how much care they'll need. And then if the rabbit isn't fed
properly, or is kept in a cage too much, or isn't fixed, it doesn't
do well and no one is happy. There is some good information on
rabbits as pets at the House Rabbit Society web page, www.rabbit.org.
We'd like to thank Mark for taking
the time to talk to us. Keep your eyes peeled for future interviews
with other big-name developers and publishers here at MacReactor!