A short entry for what possibly might be an earlier edition of Samuari Warrior that exists with a much larger and open world experience.
It is suggested from a snippet on the game that it may have had a lot of features in from the start, which were later cut when they realised memory was too short. What kinds of features were these? We do not know, but hope to find out soon and see if there is something potentially which could be interesting to see.
Do the coders still have anything or earlier builds of the game showing something rather different overall?
Well, Craig Grannell has confirmed that there wasn’t so much a C64 game created and much content cut out, but that scripts and ideas fell by the wayside as the programming happened to try and squeeze everything in (as a single load). It is very unlikely that there was ever anything more than what we got to see – though some characters and graphics were likely cut from the final game that were created. Could these be found and shown? Who knows … but it is unlikely.
Craig also very kindly passed on the original transcript of the feature he did with Doug Palmer on the game.
Almost possibly a case closed!
Contributions: Fabrizio Bartoloni, Craig Grannell
From the original interview transcript of the Samurai Warrior feature. Copyright Craig Grannell.
“Paul Kidd wrote the original script, which got sadly butchered as we squeezed things into the C64.”
“A major influence was Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, a collection of Zen stories and koans from Japan. Many of the priest’s sayings come from this book. It also influenced the general approach of the game.”
“At first, we were hung up with sword-play. The idea of a Seven Samurai style duel, where two opponents run at each other leaving one standing and one slowly collapsing, had a strong appeal. After a couple of weeks, the medication took hold and we began looking at the larger context of the game! With the benefit of hindsight, I think that the cartouche of Usagi in the top-left corner supplied an important insight. Once we’d seen the various expressions, we started thinking of ways to use them. Paul had already included a lot of peaceful activities in the larger script, but I suspect that we might have been tempted to remove them.”
“The saddest thing was stripping out parts of the script to fit it into 64k. Russel did some lovely mole ninjas that came out of the ground. Paul wrote a set of level challenges that would involve things like rescuing a rider being dragged by his horse. All of it had to go.”
“In the early design stages of the game, I remember things being a little more fluid in terms of layout and design. But there are certain advantages to using simple, well understood mechanisms, such as side-scrollers. The 80s represented something of a pre-Cambrian explosion in games. People were trying all kinds of odd and interesting things. I remember one where you were an air-traffic controller, for example. All of the structural ideas of the 80s tended to obscure the need for a game to be a good game in terms of playability, balance and flavour. With the benefit of hindsight, I think that we probably spent too much time looking at competitor’s techniques, rather than at the subtleties of gameplay. I’d like to claim that, for Usagi, this was all part of some master-plan, but most of it can be put down to laziness “” on my part, at least!”
“The technical challenges that the Bop’n’Wrestle developers had faced in getting all the 3D-ish moves to work had also acted as a bit of a warning. I’m a bit of a dilettante when it comes to platforms, anyway, and was likely to make a mess of doing something clever and sophisticated with obscure chips.”
“The branching map was in the original script. Paul wanted to get some more strategic decision-making into the game and make it feel a little bit more like an adventure game. As it stands, you really only get to make one decision: do you want ronin or ninjas? The original script give a bit more room to move.”
“The desire to have a more textured game that captured the more expansive spirit of the comics was there from the start. In the comics, Usagi spends a lot of time just enjoying the countryside or interacting politely with other people. We wanted to keep this element of the samurai life; I’d have had the players writing haiku if I could have figured out how to do it. I was pleasantly surprised at how well it worked.”
“Similarly, if we had more space (and way more sophisticated AI) I would have loved to have explored the idea of karma a bit more. ‘Karma Points’ are pretty tacky. Instead, having your actions reflected back to you throughout the game would be nice. For example, if you killed a peasant, you would be attacked when you were unarmed, later in the game.”
12/11/14 – Craig Grannell passes on interview transcript, pretty much confirming that most cuts were from the script.
Just found out this:
“It’s quite clear that these limitations holds the game back from being truly classic however. You get the feeling that more was supposed to happen along the long walks and certain things like jumping is grossly underused. The karma system is a really nice idea, but it doesn’t really affect your surroundings as killing a peasant doesn’t affect your reputation and people will still walk peacefully past you even if you just killed 4 peasants and a lizard 3 seconds earlier. Apart from the quite stellar fighting system, it seems that the rest of the game’s unique features are a bit underutilized and was part of a bigger picture initially. When digging up an old issue of Retro Gamer Magazine, an interview with programmer Doug Palmer confirms this suspicion to be true:
-“Paul Kidd wrote the script, which sadly got somewhat butchered as we tried to squeeze everything into the C64. The branched map was initially a major part of this [game], but the choices of route rapidly diminished as we ran out of memory.”
-“Russel [Comte] created a lovely mole ninja that came out of the ground, and Paul included numerous additional peaceful activities in the larger script: for example, he wrote a set of level challenges that involved rescuing a rider being dragged by a horse. All of it had to go.”.
-“The whole ‘karma points’ thing is a bit tacky. Instead, it would have been good to have your actions reflected back at you throughout the entire game. For example, if you killed a peasant early on, you would be attacked when unarmed, later in the game.
Doug Palmer, programmer on Samurai Warrior
-Retro Gamer issue #29-“