Here is our interview with Shaun Watters and his publisher Jérémie Marsin. We wanted to know more about what their past is and what the new game by Shaun is so interesting. The dungeon and dragons genre for the Amiga is still one of its strongest genres. So it is wise of him to go on such a bald quest and deliver Black Dawn Rebirth for Amiga.
Let’s take you behind the scenes of Black Dawn Rebirth
Please introduce yourself. Tell us a bit about yourself?
Hi There, my names Shaun Watters, back in the day I was fairly prolific in the Amiga scene where over a period of about 4 years in the mid 90`s I released a swath of Amiga games in both the PD scene and several shareware titles including the Black Dawn series, Its offshoot 2 player series Parasite, several Boing platformers, and few others in retrospect I’m too embarrassed to admit.
What do you do today except for doing a game?
Coding aside I do a lot of landscape photography ( shameless plug – https://www.facebook.com/timeslipphotography ). Since I live in Cornwall in the UK, I am spoilt for beaches and beautiful landscapes. Between that, coding, raising two kids I also find some time to work at an IT company that supplies clinical software for hospitals and doctors surgeries
Tell us a bit about your Amiga interest? When did it all begin?
I’ve been fascinated by computers since I got my first – the ZX80 (terrible terrible machine that I spent far too much time typing in bad space invader code listings that never worked), then onto the ZX Spectrum, then to my first commodore machine the c64. Going over to a friend’s house while last ninja 2 was loading and being blown away by the loading music.
I was too poor to pay for the £400 an Amiga 500 but I managed to get a second hand Atari ST whilst my friends had their A500s so I had to make do with the slightly shoddy ports until I finally got my hands on one. I then did what I imagine most people did back then, making liberal use of X-copy and collecting as many titles as I could.
Please introduce your Amiga game development for us. How did you begin?
It was around this time that I and my friend Tim Gilbert starting taking an interest in using the machine as more than a games machine and we both bought a copy of AMOS, followed by AMOS Pro and we started tinkering and slowly started working on larger projects. It was around this time that I came across a popular shareware game called Black Dawn 2.
I fell in love with the title played the demo endlessly, sent off for £5 for the full title and continued to play. It was around this time I came to realize, it was coded in AMOS, the very language I was learning and so I thought to myself I wonder if I can do it. I even wrote to the author Andy Campbell – back in the days of writing something by hand and sticking a stamp on it and waiting and hoping for a response!
Andy was very welcoming and receptive to me and it sparked off regular snail mail conversions and music/disk swaps and eventually, he agreed to let me do my own Black Dawn Game. This one first turned out a Dawn – A New Beginning which (thanks to the popularity of the series) was released via shareware with good reviews in the amiga press at the time. Andy then left the series in my hands where I then released Black Dawn 6 – Hellbound (awesome review in Amiga Format), A remix of Dawn – A New Beginning and the 2 player Black Dawn series (think bloodwych) called Parasite.
At this time I’d moved over to Blitz Basic when I released Champions of Dawn which turned out to be the last in the series
What is your current game development project for Amiga?
My Game currently (just about finished) is Black Dawn Rebirth. Whilst I stopped developing for the Amiga in the 90s it’s always been the machine closest to my heart so I’ve always kept tabs on it and the retro community in general. It was whilst browsing through indy retro news back in January that I came across a preview video for Shadows of Sergoth conversion for the Amiga (I’d already seen the original and came away impressed) so I casually commented on the post that back in the day I’d written several of those myself back in the 90s.
Imagine my surprise when the publisher for it started conversing with me and eventually goaded me into created another Black Dawn title. I installed WinUAE and AMOS and stared at the beigey blue screen wondering what the hell I`d got myself into. Then a funny thing happened, a day or so it all started coming back to me and within a couple of weeks, I had a full engine up and running. It was about this time than Ten Shu came on board with the project and started churning out graphics the like of which I could have only dreamed of back in the 90s. From this point, it was my mission to not only make the best Black Dawn title but the best AMOS title I have ever seen (since it is my last).
For which of the Amiga systems will you make this game for?
The game runs on any Amiga with 1 meg of chip, although the big and better the machine the more features you have access to.
Will you support the nextgen Amiga systems such as AmigaOS 4, MorphOS and AROS?
It works fine in OS4 (its the system I’ve developed on), Whilst I’ve seen MorphOS and AROS I’ve not tested it on
What do you think of the new Vampire FPGA cards and their compatibility?
I’ve seen a lot of articles on the hardware and the certainly seem impressive. What the Vampire can make the Amiga 600 do is truly impressive!
When and Where will you publish your game?
We are looking for preorders to open in October and for it to be on full release well in time for Christmas! The publisher will be Jérémie.
Jeremie! Please introduce yourself?
I’m Jeremie, I’m the owner of Double Sided Games. I also run a youtube/twitch channel, retrogamer.ca, in French. I’m originally from France but I live in Canada. I founded DSG at the beginning of 2019 with the goal of bringing new games to retro computers by publishing them in cardboard boxes as they used to be back in the good old days! I’m always looking for new projects for any retro computer, 8 or 16 bits.
What made you want to publish this game?
answer: I was always a huge fan of dungeon crawlers, Eye of the beholder being my favorite! I was already working on the port of Shadows of Sergoth from the Amstrad CPC to the Amiga when I came across Shaun on twitter. We started to chat about his past productions of Black Dawn that he did in the 90s, he wanted to make a new episode, so I offered to publish it, and this is how the project started.
What is your connection with the Amiga?
I never had an Amiga back in the 80s/90s, we owned a CPC then we moved directly to the PC. I was always baffled by the quality of the games on the Amiga compared to my pc without a soundcard! So when I started collecting retro computers it was, of course, one of the first machines I bought and I’ve been roaming the Amiga world since then and own several models.
What sort of projects do you have planned for the future?
Having moved over to Blitz I’ve got a lot more horsepower to work with. I’ve gone through 4-5 project demo tests while I work out what’s possible. It will be RPG based for sure If it will be a new IP or a Black Dawn Game I haven’t decided yet.
Where do you think that Amiga will go in the next 10 years?
I hope the scene will continue to grow as the system continues to mature, Obviously with new hardware on the way it has the possibility to grow either further as long as its compatible with classic hardware and reasonably priced.
Where would you recommend people to go and read to become great Amiga software developers?
The various Amiga Facebook groups were invaluable into helping me reacquaint with the Amiga`s hardware so that’s a great place to start
How is it to program a game on the Amiga itself compared to for a PC or Mac?
Comfy and familiar and painful at the same time. Missing all the niceties of new languages certainly came with its challenges- Debugging was an endless nightmare but I love the restrictions placed upon you by the hardware compared to new machines and the need to think of clever ways around problems.
Which Amiga game is your favorite of all time?
For wow-factor – Shadow Of The Beast. To play Kick Off 2 or Lemmings.
In the end. Any additional comment to our Amiga community readers?
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being welcomed back in the fold, it being the most fun I’ve had for years and I look forward to sticking around!
Classic Amiga Rebirth is Promising
Both Shaun and Jérémie are examples of why Amiga is still moving on. 2019 seems to have set a standard record high Classic Amiga activity. It is really amazing to see so many giving this platform a rebirth. Commodore did not only create one of the best computers ever made. They invented one of the strongest and most passionate community ever.
With game developers such as Shaun. Amiga shows really what AmigaOS and its tools for programming can do. When you code for Amiga, either its the most advanced Assembler, Amiga E, TurboPascal or AMOS. You always have direct contact with the hardware. Just look at all of the demosceners doing what they can to unleash the unknown powers of the Amiga computers.
Black Dawn Rebirth looks like a very interesting game. Amitopia Amiga Magazine will for sure make a review of it later. Nice time ahead for Classic Amiga users everywhere. You can get much more info by visiting the Double Sided Games website.
Source: Shaun and Jérémie – Photosource: Shaun and Jérémie, Double Sided Games