Paradigm Entertainment

Unseen Interview: Sean Kord (Paradigm Entertainment)

While working on our book about lost video games, we were able to interview many developers who worked on cancelled projects, but we had to cut some of these interviews from the book because of the 480 pages limit. As promised, we are going to publish all the missing articles directly in our website, and the following interview is one of these! During his career Sean Willsey Kord has worked at Paradigm Entertainment on such games as Duck Dodgers, Mission Impossible: Operation Surma, Terminator Redemption, Stuntman Ignition and on the cancelled Snoopy VS the Red Baron (GameCube).

Unseen64: To start this interview, we would like to ask you to introduce yourself to our readers: we’d love to know more about your career in the gaming industry and what you are working on today.

Sean: Definitely and thanks for keeping game developers hard work in the history books of electronic entertainment :) I’m Sean (Willsey) Kord and I worked at Paradigm Entertainment from 1998-2005 as primarily a character and cinematic animator. While there I modeled and animated for Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2 Century on N64. After Duck Dodgers I animated and modeled characters on an unreleased title for GameCube that I will elaborate on later. Next I created in game cinematics for Mission Impossible Operation Surma. After MI, I was lead in game cinematic artist for Terminator Redemption and finally I created some preliminary work for Stuntman Ignition before leaving Paradigm to relocate with my wife in Denver Colorado area. Due to this move I went into an entirely new career path in forensic animation but having a game development background had its advantages when I utilized the Unity 3D engine for real time feedback on a critical case. Currently, I just relocated back to the Texas area with my 6 year old son and wife and excited to start a new career path in my old stomping grounds!

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Unseen64: Can you name some of your favourite videogames? Have you been playing anything lately?

Sean: Favorite video games? Wow hard one to narrow down as I have been an avid gamer since the 80s arcade boom till now. For retro arcade, I have much love for Galaga, Spy Hunter, Frontline, Sinistar and Star Wars. For somewhat more recent titles it is Conkers Bad Fur Day on N64( loved the humor and Rare did such an amazing job) and even more recent would be Assassins Creed. As of now I have been obsessed with one game on PC… Mechwarrior Online and mainly cause I have been a fan of the Battletech universe since it was introduced in the 80s.

Unseen64:  You worked for about 7 years at Paradigm Entertainment, while we know a lot about their released games during those years (1998 -2005), unfortunately some of their projects were canned: did you worked on any of these or maybe seen them in motion? Do you remember anything from them? (Pilotwings 64 II, Harrier 2001, Skies, Magik Karts)

Sean: As far as unreleased titles you listed, I had not even recalled Harrier 2001 until you listed this title. I was not a developer on this title but can say that from what I saw it had amazing graphics for an N64 title ( like you display in your images ) and very polished sim controls due to the fact that one of the lead programmers had been an original founder for Paradigm Simulations. As far as Skies, this was another title I was not directly involved in but saw plenty of preliminary gameplay. I remember there being issues with the scale of the environments and characters. Namely the structures had to be so large so the characters could fly and battle and this resulted in characters feeling like small fairies rather than human scale. Still it had such great potential and promise and unfortunately the publisher decided it could not continue development. One title not on your list that I worked on personally was a GameCube game based on Snoopy (Peanuts character ) and his fight with the Red Baron. The basic premise was you would be Snoopy flying his Doghouse in 3rd person and battle multiple enemies in the WWI aerial setting leading to the  final confrontation with the Red Baron. It would also have power ups involving Woodstock in turrets and multiple Woodstocks to enhance your firepower. The game utilized a cartoon shader and we had concepts for enemy planes that would have crazy elements like 10 wings layered on top… think Dick Dasterdly and his Flying Machines cartoons ;)  I have fond memories of this unreleased title due to the people  involved and the passion we all had for the content of the Peanuts universe. It was a very small team as many were back then ( might have been 2000-2001?) and we were prototyping the content and gameplay. Many of these developers on this project have worked on very high profile games since then. My tasks involved modeling Charlie Brown, Woodstock, and Snoopy as well as animations. We were all sad when this project was cancelled early on since we had such amazing chemistry but all enjoyed every minute of our time creating content for this project. I noticed years later a similar game was released on PC called Snoopy and the Red Baron and appeared to have many of the same elements we had planned in our game. I would like to think our early work somehow influenced this future game but you never know ;)

You can see some of the very early gameplay ( I mean very early prototype ) here:

Unseen64: Talking about all the games that you worked on and that were released in your career (Duck Dogers, Mission Impossible, Terminator 3, etc.), was there anything major that had to be cut or changed from the final versions? Is there anything that you wish it would have not changed, even if you were satisfied with the final product?

Sean: Hmmm… Really I don’t remember much other than the usual iterations you do to get the best game play possible. I guess Duck Dodgers had the most change since at first it had many levels in alpha stage that just didn’t make the cut. Very early in development we even had a gag similar to the Wiley Coyote pause in air, pull sign out saying “Help” and falling to the ground with a big poof except Daffy Duck was in the gag instead of Wiley Coyote. Mission Impossible had a difficult time in the early stages for what was the gameplay actually going to be? All action or stealth. In the end we followed the route taken by another well known game that you probably know all too well and made it primarily a stealth game with quick takedowns for action. I do however love the drone camera controls sequence since it has the best polished controls due to the fact that our programmer was experienced in simulation development.

Unseen64:  Is there anything in particular that you learned or that you like to remember from your time at Paradigm Entertainment?

Sean: While game development can be rough at times with long hours and late nights, I wouldn’t take any of it back for the world. Paradigm Entertainment gave me so many great times and friends. I miss them all and its so nice to see all of them succeeding in other game studios or even large VFX studios for movies. It’s interesting to see some of the indie games returning to smaller teams and for me that was where Paradigm shined in its peak. There were times when we had 5 or more projects going on and each project had a dedicated office area separate from the rest. It allowed for great camaraderie and special moments that you don’t feel in 100 man teams. Our teams back then started out at 8 or so and then in full swing hit 20 at the highest point of development. I think we did some amazing work back then and it’s still warms my heart to read reviews or love for our games years and years later.

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Unseen64:  As most of the Unseen64 Staff is italian, we just LOVE to eat good food :) What is your favorite food ever? Any secret recipe that you would like to share with us?

Sean: Hah! I’m probably the worse person to ask this question as I am not a good cook and tend to eat more unhealthy than healthy but my favorite food is Tex Mex meals (Texas and Mexican food combined). I love tacos and enchiladas and fresh flour tortillas with cheese queso dip ;). Of course I love Italian food just as much and can’t resist spaghetti or pizza any day of the week :)

Unseen64:  Well, that was the last question, thanks again for your time!  

Beetle Adventure Racing [Beta / Unused – N64]

Beetle Adventure Racing is a racing game developed by Paradigm Entertainment and released for the Nintendo 64 in 1999. Goomther noticed that in the GSCentral archive there is a cheat code that modifies the track you’re about to race on. Some of the values turned out to be beta / unused tracks and debug rooms. You can check them in the video below.

Beetle Battle was known as Bug Hunt in the beta version and had 9 ladybugs. The unused ladybugs are the Black Ladybug, the Grey Ladybug and the White Ladybug. The boxes used in Beetle Battle and some placeholder objects also exist as ladybugs, it’s unknown why they are there, but the developers just tested them (they forgot to remove them). There is a test turning track in the game that doesn’t have it’s own track. It has a bridge in the middle and a road that goes from the other one. The left part begins with it going with no turns. Then it turns right and left. The right part begins with the road then turning left into the bridge. The tracks you see in the menus also exist as their own models. The Inferno Isle menu track 2 has one difference: the small road to the left doesn’t exist. The beetles do have weird crappy textures on their back, however some don’t have it.

Thanks to Vanalker for the contribution!

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Skies [PC Dreamcast – Cancelled]

Skies is a cancelled massively multiplayer online game set in a 3D world of winged creatures ranging from angels to dragons and vampires. The game was coded by Paradigm Entertainment while the concept and publishing duties were by SegaSoft. Initially conceived for PC, later the game was announced to be headed to Dreamcast too. However neither version materialized ever, probably because SegaSoft was restructured in Sega.com Inc. in 2000. Below you can read part of a RPG VAULT interview with Paradigm’s Gary Bandy:

Jonric: Can you give me an outline of the game world and the main storyline?

Gary Bandy: Skies represents the next generation of interactive online entertainment. It transports the player to another realm using state of the art flight simulation technology in a real-time 3D universe. The world of Menigar is an open and extendible universe. It will be constantly updated with new quests and opponents to conquer. The player will have the unparalleled ability to fly freely through the Skies of Menigar. “Skies” allows the player to interact with Menigar’s thousands of inhabitants, most of whom just happen to be other users sitting at internet connected PCs around the world.

Menigar is a magical world with a landscape of floating cities and castles. Within this game we are creating an all new mythos of creatures and environments. All of the inhabitants of Menigar can fly, however there will still be some ground-based movement inside the confines of cities.

Jonric: What kind of characters, classes and races can I play in Skies? And how much can I customize my starting character?

Gary Bandy: Initially there will be a number of different types of characters for the player to choose from. Customization will be offered in terms of different colors and magic the player collects will alter the character’s abilities. One of the really cool features of the game is the ability to “age” the character – as the player becomes more skilled in the game and has achieved certain goals and objectives, the character will physically grow and mature and that aging will be visible to other players. For example, a “newbie” may make a wise decision to not mess with an “elder!”

Jonric: How does character development work? Is it level-based, skill-based, or something else?

Gary Bandy: Character development will be skill based and loosely dependent upon the experiences, accomplishments, and affiliations of the player.

Jonric: Is there a wide range of skills? Are all skills available to everyone?

Gary Bandy: There is a wide range of skill available but not all are available to everybody – some will be dependent upon the type and age of the character and others will be dependent upon the objects in the player’s possession. Skills can also be affected through adventuring, missions and quests, and factions or affiliations.

Jonric: How does magic work in skies? Will there be a lot? And will all spells be available to all characters? What can you tell me about LEDOs and their role in the game?

Gary Bandy: Magic is based on the collection of Limited edition Digital Objects or LEDOs. There are plans to incorporate more than 200 different types of LEDOs in the game – each with a different value and availability – some will be more rare than others. Also, LEDOs can have different effects when used in combinations so there is a huge variety of things that can happen.

Jonric: Can you tell me about monsters in Skies? Will there be any non-monster NPCs?

Gary Bandy: We created a set of characters for the game and will let the players decide which ones they want to play. There will be a variety of NPCs. Balance between races and good and evil was the goal for character creation within Skies.

Jonric: How will combat work? What will happen to your character when it dies?

Gary Bandy: Combat will take place through a real-time 3D exchange of magic spells – depending on which LEDOs the player has in their inventory. In certain situations, the triumphant character can collect one of the LEDOs from the vanquished player.

Jonric: Tell me about factions. It seems like the game will encourage everyone to join a faction. Is that so, and if so why?

Gary Bandy: Factions or guilds are helpful – more brains on a problem, more friends in combat. Factions will create a more social atmosphere into the game. There are plans to have a voting system, allowing members of factions to voice their opinion on current issues within the game.

Jonric: What about quests? How do you plan to implement them?

Gary Bandy: Some quests will be embedded within the game as the player explores and discovers things, while some will be “faction specific” – individual groups may be sent on specific quests. Other quests may be announced to all players by the game managers.

Jonric: Will there be player versus player combat? Non-consensual player combat? If so, how do you plan to address newbie-killing and the whole issue of PK?
Gary Bandy: Player killing is a definitely a part of the game although not the only aspect of it. There will be safe havens where no killing is allowed, while other areas are open. One of the challenges of designing the game is to ensure a balance between the action oriented shoot-em-up and puzzle solving quests in the game. Killing of newbies is certainly discouraged – especially for more experienced players. There is nothing to gain from an elder killing a newbie – they will not be allowed to collect a LEDO from the player, and in fact, their “fame” level will very likely decrease.

Scans from Edge issue 48, GamePro issue 109 and Console Plus issue 79.

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VX Vampire XDV-7 [N64 – Tech Demo]

VX Vampire (aka Vampire XDV-7 or Ultra Copter 64) is a flight simulator that was planned to be ported to the Nintendo 64 by Paradigm Simulation / Entertainment. Previously Paradigm worked on realistic flight simulation for space, military and aviation clients, but  in 1994 it was contacted by Nintendo to aid in the creation of one of the Nintendo 64’s launch titles, Pilotwings 64. It seems that VX Vampire was originally one of Paradigm’s military simulators, that they though to convert to a more “arcadish” game to enter in the mass-entertainment market.

In 1995 Nintendo / Paradigm send some screens of Vampire XDV-7 to magazines (that you can see preserved in the gallery below), claiming that the Ultra 64 would have been able to achieve similar level of graphic details. In reality, VX Vampire was running on the Silicon Graphics Onyx Reality Engine, the same engine used for the Magic Edge Hornet Simulator Hardware, a technology much more advanced (and expensive) than a normal Nintendo 64.

When Paradigm had to finish Pilotwings 64 in time for the release of the N64 in june 1996, they probably had to shift resources to Nintendo’s project and the VX Vampire XDV-7 port went on-hold. In the end Pilotwings 64 was a critical and commercial success for the developer, causing the simulation and entertainment divisions of Paradigm to separate and focus on their respective products. The newly independent Paradigm Entertainment continued to develop for Nintendo’s 64-bit console. [Info from Wikipedia]

Some years later, Paradigm Entertainment announced Harrier 2000 / 2001 for the Nintendo 64, a new flight game that sadly was never released. It’s possible that their plan to port VX Vampire XDV-7 changed when they understood that it would have been too difficult to convert an Onyx simulator to an N64, so the project evolved into a new, different title: Harrier 2000.

Thanks to jorcyd and Celine for the contribution! Scans from Cd Consoles #4, Console Plus #49 and Edge #29

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Paradigm Entertainment FPS [X360/PS3/PC – Cancelled]

In 2008 Paradigm Entertainment were working on a prototype for a new First Person Shooter for the Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC, that would have been published by THQ. They developed a playable demo, but the project was later cancelled for unknown reasons.

Thanks to Hey Hey for the contribution!

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