Rafi Guroian, 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 at MacReactor.


MacReactor: How is life at Westlake? Has operation changed any in the past few years or is it still pretty much the same old routine?

Adams: We 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 along?

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 proud of?

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' it :)

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.

Any pets?

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!

 


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