Thanks to everyone that posted and emailed about part one of this history. I’m glad you enjoyed it, and here is part 2…
So, there I was, back in the tail end of 2001, with a contract to do Creatures and Majesty, and really, no idea how. Creatures wasn’t much of a problem, as Creature Labs had done the port already, and just needed a publisher. I pretty much winged that, I got the game made up, but made the mistake of doing it in parts. To this day, each copy of creatures that is shipped has to be hand assembled with each of its 4 parts. It may not sound like much, but over the years, it’s been a real pain. All other games we had made since then, we had made ready to ship.
At around this time I got the news that we had all been expecting. Loki was going out of business. I immediately contacted Loki, and asked them if LGP could obtain the rights to carry on producing the games they had made. This would have been a great boost to the new company, and would have allowed us to keep on making the games that were still in great demand by Linux gamers. Unfortunately Scott, the CEO of Loki at the time, was asking for such a ludicrous amount of money for the licenses (way more than they were possibly worth, and probably more money than the games had made by selling for the entire history of Loki) that I had to let the idea go. We made a second attempt at the liquidation of Loki to acquire the rights, but the company handling the liquidation was so unprofessional, that they made it impossible to do so. With their policy being that the only way for me to officially state our interest being to fax them, and their only fax machine being broken for over 2 months (they kept telling us it would be fixed any day), we didn’t really have a hope. The liquidation hearing came and went before they contacted me, several months later, and acknowledged LGP’s interest in the liquidation. Not a lot of use really.
So then there was Majesty. I had the porting rights, but I had no idea what to do with it. I mean, I pride myself in being a very good programmer, but porting was something I had no real experience in.
Sam saved the day. Sam Lantinga, previously one of the Loki developers, pointed me at a number of ex-Loki staff who were still interested in doing more porting work. Of those, Mike Phillips was the one that ended up joining us, and even though he left the company some years ago, his influence shapes the way we do porting development to this day.
Mike spent quite a while pushing me in the right direction. I had a number of preconceptions that he had to beat out of me, but I also had to push back on some of his ideas, and I think, in the end, we got the right mix of decisions. Mike set up the idea for the LGP build environment, one that we still use a derivative of, as it has proven to be a build system that is very very portable, and enables us to make games that run on all distros. He also introduced me to the idea of IRC, which has enabled the company to have a real interaction with our customers.
Before Majesty work could start, Mike spent a number of months sorting out the LGP build system, and building some of the basic building blocks that LGP uses to make porting easier. He wrote wrapper functions for file handling and other common tasks, and established the tools we would use for our games. SDL for input and graphics, smpeg for video, SDL Mixer for sound, and openplay for networking, were the main choices.
Majesty work started in earnest. Mike spent a lot of hours on the project, while I carried on trying to find resellers and distributors for our games, and at the same time finding new games for the company. I ended up making an agreement for a couple of smaller games by Pyrogon, and also managed to pick up the rights to Mindrover, one of the Loki games we had missed out on earlier.
Majesty porting finally came to an end, and then we had a decision to make, that has influenced how we do business from that moment, and a decision I am very happy that we made right. After the beta test, we had one bug left, where network games occasionally went out of sync. Mike wanted to go gold, and ignore the bug. I wanted to find the bug, despite the fact that the bug happened in the Windows version too. I put my foot down and insisted, and that was a turning point for the company. From then on, LGP’s policy was always to delay release as long as it takes, to get a good release, not an almost right game, but one that we can be proud of. So Mike spent a good few weeks hunting for the bug. In the end, I joined him in the hunt when his resolve started to waiver, and between us, we found the bug after a hunt that lasted for over 8 weeks. It was a simple 1 line change, and the multiplayer game was fixed.
Majesty was finished, and our first game, ported from scratch, was done!