I have recently played the incomplete release of Corn Buster, which according to my sources was originally available for download at the Engine Software website. There is very little information available about the game, and few people know of its existence. I feel that it would be beneficial to the unreleased game community, as well as the gaming community as a whole, if more information were made available regarding this game.
I have sent a mail to Engine Software to ask if someone who was involved in the development of Corn Buster would be willing to provide more information concerning the game’s development history, any planned elements for the game, and the reason for its cancellation. Ruud van de Moosdijk was nice enough to answer some of my questions!
[Interview by Marshall Leslie]
Marshall Leslie: Who came up with the original idea for the game, and when did development start?
Ruud: The game was designed by Ivo Wubbels and myself (both founders of the company and still in function) and was furthermore designed in detail by Arjen van Haren (no longer working here) and Marco Willemsen (Senior Artist). Development started around 1994 I guess…before we were officially a company and got Nintendo Licensed. It was our first professional game, and I remember we even wrote our own assembler for SNES on PC (SNASM) because we had no official tools.
Marshall Leslie: How many people worked on the game?
Ruud: Uhh let’s see…that would be about 10 people…3 coders, 4 artists, a concept artist for Globey sketches, musician and…uhh…some other guy of whom we never figured out what he did. These people weren’t all on the payroll though, there were a lot of guys helping out just for the heck of it.
Marshall Leslie: Was Globey an original character created for the game, or did he have a prior history?
Ruud: Globey has been our mascot since 1990, so he wasn’t an original character for Corn Buster. He had his own diskmagazine in the early nineties called Dragondisk, en he made his first game appearance in our 1991 MSX2 game “Dizzy”. Corn Buster was the first game where he was the lead character, and we experimented more with various looks which was great to do :) Afterwards we never used him much although he was a hidden playable character in our PC game “Coronel Indoor Karting”. It was this year we decided to create a new game around Globey, a casual game for PC (it’s listed on our website).
Marshall Leslie: Who had the idea to make a vertical-scrolling, Arkanoid-style ball-and-paddle game? Corn Buster seems to be the only game that has used this sort of concept.
Ruud: Well it would be great to take credit for it, but the basic idea was well…quite the rip-off of a game called “Breaker Breaker” which was designed by Cees Kramer a couple of years earlier for the MSX system. It is still the only game to ever do that, and of course with Cornbuster we added a lot of features, special items, moving enemies, boss fights, a worldmap etc. etc. But the 2-player 2-bat Co-op vertical scrolling Arkanoid style was based on Breaker Breaker.
Marshall Leslie: The game has above-average music for a Super Nintendo game (at least to my ears), particularly in the vertical-scrolling sections. Who did the music for the game, and do you know if they had any specific inspiration?
Ruud: Most of the good sounding music was done by Bart Roijmans, who is still our musician today and writes all the music for all of our games. I just played the ROM myself and noticed there are actually some songs in there that I did hahaha…the worldmap song was meant to stay in, the other songs by me are more placeholder ;-) (I still love the cow sample haha)
Marshall Leslie: You mentioned that you did many of the foreground and enemy sprite graphics for the game. Are there any specific objects that you remember making, and are there any you were particularly proud of?
Ruud: Well I made all the destroyable blocks, these are actually all drawn on the MSX system and later ported to the SNES :-) Although I would have liked higher contrast in the graphics, I am still quite happy with how it looks and how you could create all kinds of fun shapes and colorloops in the leveleditor. I am also quite fond of the big “Chain” elements I did, they are used in several levels…
Oh and although I did none of these myself, I am still really fond of some of the backdrops….like the planet with the “SOLD” sign on it, the mole characters, and the cow playing harp on a cloud (if you didn’t get it: it’s a HOLY COW!)
Marshall Leslie: The thing I noticed the most about Corn Buster was that if you don’t press any buttons when you’re holding onto the ball, you can simply fly all the way to the end of the level, and even beyond that into a field of garbage blocks, wherein the game would freeze. Was this some sort of programming error that needed to be fixed, or just something to make debugging a little bit easier? Were there any particular programming errors that made development difficult?
Ruud: That is a debugging feature… we can easily move through each level to see if there are problems with it. Normally when you loose a ball the screen would scroll like that for 1-2 seconds before the ball would be released automatically.
Marshall Leslie: The story and the game play of Corn Buster don’t seem to be very closely connected to each other. Was the game always intended to have Globey as the main character? If not, what was the original story concept?
Ruud: Nope, the story was always like that. It’s insane, it has nothing to do with the game, and that wasn’t really so uncommon back then. Plus, Globey is quite the ludicrous character…nothing around him ever makes sense.
Marshall Leslie: Were there any particular elements that had to be left out of the game? Also, was there anything extra that would have been added had the game not been canceled?
Ruud: This I really can’t remember…all the basic features are in as far as I can tell
Marshall Leslie: About how close was the game to completion before it was canceled?
Ruud: I’d say it’s about 70-80% complete…unfortunately we don’t have any of the source material anymore, as I am pretty sure we had a build that was more functional as the one that is out there now.
Marshall Leslie: As previously mentioned, there doesn’t seem to be much information available about the game, at least in North America. Was there much press coverage of the game in the Netherlands and the rest of Europe?
Ruud: The press has never seen this game. We didn’t release any information before we had a publishing deal.
Marshall Leslie: Were there plans to release Corn Buster outside of Europe?
Ruud: We were in talks back then with Sunsoft regarding the game who had Japanese, American and European offices, so we were opting for a global release.
Marshall Leslie: You mentioned that the game was canceled as a result of the release of the Playstation. Were there any plans of switching development of Corn Buster over to the Playstation or any other console?
Ruud: Not really. When CB was cancelled we were offered several projects to develop for Gameboy Color, which was less of a risk than porting CB to a different platform.
Marshall Leslie: Do you feel that Corn Buster would have done well had it been completed and released? Do you have any specific criticisms about the game? Is there anything you thought was done particularly well?
Ruud: Well as you stated yourself there are no games out there that have this game mechanic, and the 2-player co-op mode is very addictive (at least I think so) so yeah, i think it would have done pretty good, if we had made it two years earlier. The one thing I never liked myself till the end was the size and speed of the ball, I think it should have been smaller and slightly faster.
Marshall Leslie: Is there any chance that that Corn Buster may be completed and released in the future, perhaps on the Nintendo DS or WiiWare?
Ruud: It’s not unlikely, it is a concept that could be well applied to WiiWare, but it kind of depends how well the service does before we consider new concept for it. There are no actual plans for it as of yet.
Marshall Leslie: Finally, how do you feel about the state of video gaming today? Do you feel that games have gotten better or worse since the SNES and Genesis days? Are there any recent games that you’ve enjoyed playing?
Ruud: It can’t really be compared, the whole marketplace has changed. But in general there are some really great games being made in these times, and a lot of crappy games. Which is no different from the 90s…or the 80s for that matter. Since the market is larger and more mainstream, there are a lot of products that really don’t do anything for me, but I am old-skool ;-) I just finished MGS4 (for the third time) which I really liked, but of course I was a fan of the series since 1987…
Marshall Leslie: Thank you very much for answering my questions, it was a fascinating read! It’s great to finally get some information on this game, and I’m very glad that you had so much to tell :)