Interview - Lobotomy - Part
Conducted by: Will Curly
Sega X: Was it ultimately
slightly disillusioning putting so much effort into games that
fundamentally were not your own?
Brian: Having to go from
creating completely original work to doing ports was the most
disillusioning part of it. It wasn't as fun or as satisfying or as
personal. We were in a situation where we had to sign those
contracts out of necessity, not choice. It was just a job that we
had to do to keep the company alive. So by the time we started
working on Quake and Duke we had already gotten past the fact that
we were going to be re-doing someone else's work, and we forced
ourselves to just forge ahead and get the job done.
X: People said at time that with Quake and Duke you pushed the
Saturn's 3D powers to the limit. Was their more to come? With more
time could you have optimised the PowerSlave engine further?
At the end there we were using every piece of hardware that
machine had. Oh, except for the 68000 in the sound hardware which
Sega didn't release documentation for. We could have probably shaved
some cycles off here and there but it was pretty much maxed out.
X: Is it true that you had a version of a split-screen 2-player
version of Quake running on Playstation?
Ezra: No. We did have Quake
running on the PSX, but it wasn't multi-player. It was looking like
it was going to be pretty fast though. Too bad it never went
X: When you completed Quake, did SEGA approach you to do any
other projects? For a while you were rumoured to be doing the House
of the Dead port……
The House of the Dead thing was just a rumor. We were
actually talking with SEGA about doing a 3D version of Death Tank
for Dreamcast. We even did some conceptual work on it, both art and
design. Basically we were trying to figure out how the game could be
done in 3D and still retain the same style of game play.
talked to SEGA about doing an underwater adventure game for
Dreamcast that we were already working on. The work we had done on
the underwater game led SEGA to consider us for the Dreamcast
version of Ecco, but obviously that never panned out.
X: Powerslave, Duke Nukem, and Quake (Saturn) -- were these
financially profitable for the group? How did they sell overall?
I really don't know how well Duke and Quake sold, because the
company disbanded shortly after they were released. Only 12,000
copies of the U.S. Saturn version of Powerslave were manufactured,
and they all sold out fairly quickly. The Japanese version of
Powerslave, called "1999 resurrection of the Pharaoh" also sold only
a handful of copies. By far, the European version "Exhumed" sold the
most due in large part to a much larger manufacturing run and better
marketing and media coverage. Overall the company made very little
profits from Powerslave though, which directly effected the eventual
demise of Lobotomy.
Ezra: Lobotomy was
basically on the edge of starvation for its entire existence. We
were hoping that the high profile Sega ports would pull us out of
our hole, but it didn't happen.
X: I remember an Exhumed/Powerslave 2 being in the works.
Gamefan showed some graphics/art from it. I assume the project has
been long cancelled, however I'd like to ask: were the Lobotomy
folks 'glad' to move on, or did they really miss the opportunity?
Brian: We really wanted to
finish Powerslave/Exhumed 2. It was too bad we didn't because it
would have been a great game.
X: What formats were you planning the game for?
Brian: It was mainly going
to be a PlayStation game but we had also talked about doing a PC
version as well.
X: How far into development was the game?
We had built a playable PlayStation demo with a test level
and a controllable main character when we stopped. We also had
several enemy creatures modeled and animated and a fairly complete
design document. Overall though we were probably only 10% into
X: What was the design brief?
Brian: The game was to take
place in a fictional Egyptian past, where the player character was a
young Egyptian soldier, possibly even King Ramses before he became
King. So in that sense the game could have been called a "prequel."
as game play goes, the world was going to be larger in scope than
Powerslave with a lot of the same action and adventure qualities
like fast play control action and fighting, puzzle solving, heavy
atmosphere and mood, etc. We had also planned to incorporate a
unique use of the "afterlife" concept that was a staple in Egyptian
X: Was it to be a third person game?
Yes it was. If so, what are your thoughts on 3D camera
positioning? Brian: Third person 3D cameras usually work best when
they don't make you feel like you are controlling two entities at
once, both the character and the camera. To me, if you can't feel
the camera as an obstacle in the game world you become more immersed
into the game. Games like Metal Gear Solid and Dino Crisis work well
because you don't have to worry about controlling the camera,
however, they don't give you the freedom of being able to look
anywhere you want to. You are restricted to viewing only what the
designers want you to see with fixed cameras and cameras on tracks.
Free moving camera systems work best when they are used in huge
environments that are wide open. Mario 64 is the best example of a
controllable camera system I can think of. In games like this, the
fewer objects the camera has to run into, the less the game player
notices the camera as an object in the world. At the same time
though you still have the problem of controlling both the character
and the camera as two separate objects throughout the game, which
negatively impacts game play when the two aren't working well
Ultimately I feel the best use of a 3D camera system in a
third person game would be one in which you never have to control
the camera in any way at all, but still get to see everything you
want to. But that would require the camera to think like the game
player on the fly.
X: There was talk of Lobotomy developing some sort of
under-water based N64? Any truth in those rumours?
Brian: Yes, we had a
playable PlayStation demo of our underwater adventure game and had
done quite a bit of conceptual artwork and design work. Ezra also
had a cool game engine in the works for the N64 in hopes of possibly
developing the game for that platform. The game had the potential to
be a great original title with a very unique game world, but
unfortunately we didn't have the chance to finish it.
X: How did it all start? Did Ezra just walk in one day and say:
'Hey guys check out this Death Tank game I've made!'?
Ezra: Pretty close. The
guys had come up with that nutty team-doll idea so we needed some
kind of reward for the players that found them all. For the European
version we had included a bonus mode where you could fly around all
the levels, but that was pretty lame. Playmates was kind of dragging
their feet on the US release, so I had some extra time and I started
working on something better. After about a week of semi-secret
development, the game was revealed to the whole company at our
X: Was Death Tank designed as a 6+ player game? For me this when
the game is at it's best...
Yes. We always had a full game at Lobotomy, so we
concentrated on making that fun.
X: I assume the game was not always so perfectly balanced?
Ezra: After the party, we
started playing DT for a couple hours a day every day. All this
playtesting made the game evolve rapidly. We must have spend a few
hundred dollars burning new DT CDs. Intensive playtesting is really
the reason that the game turned out so well.
X: Were any mysterious weapons removed from the final code of
Death Tank Eine?
Ezra: No, I think all the
weapons made it in. Oh, except the "Landscaper", a rapid-fire
terrain destroying but not tank hurting weapon. That was just too
X: Do you feel that Death Tank Zwei is perfect or are there
still some tweaks you'd like to make?
Ezra: There are some rough
edges that I wish I'd fixed. In particular, the physics on the
rolling mines is terrible. But I can't think of any new things that
would really improve the game. That's not to say that I think there
are no significant improvements possible; I'm interested to see what
those DD Planet guys come up with.
X: Is there a Death Tank 3 floating around in Ezra's mind
Ezra: Maybe not DT3, but I
think multiplayer games, online or otherwise, is the most exciting
area of game development. I've fooled around with a few different
new ideas, but nothing has really turned out good yet.
X: Are you aware of SoJ's soon to be released title: Dee Dee
Planet?...essentially four-player online Death Tank plus the odd
Ezra: I've seen the screen
shots, but I don't know anything else about it. It's cool to see the
concept get some mainstream exposure.
X: It seems odd that Death Tank has never hit the PC?
Ezra: Well, there are some
serious problems with a PC DT. DT doesn't make a very good network
game because of latency problems and hardly anyone has the big pile
of gamepad controllers that they'd need to all play locally.
X: Could you give our readers your Lobotomy's top 3 Death Tank
strategies of all time?
really good with missiles and pirate other people's
2. Save your money during the first part of the
game and hang back in 2nd or 3th place so that you are not the main
target. During the last few rounds buy a big pile of Death's Heads
and catapult yourself into the lead. (Warning: some people will get
angry when you do this.) 3. Cancel the standings screen
before anyone can read it and then lie about who is in the lead.
X: My friends and I have managed to scrape together about 300
bucks...is there any chance of you and Ezra coding up a DC version
of Death Tank for us?
300 bucks? No way. Don't you think Dee Dee Planet will be good?
X: If Lobotomy were still around today what do you think you'd
be working on?
Brian: We would probably be
working on a next-generation action adventure game heavy in mood and
mythology or another crazy mulitplayer game that Ezra designed.
Either way I'm sure we would all be having a good time together.
Ezra: I don't know. But
whatever it was, we'd be having fun, working our hardest and
probably be dirt poor. Thanks for the excuse to reminisce about the
old Lobotomy days. Those were good times.
would like to express our heart-felt thanks to Brian and Ezra.….We
wish you all the luck in the world with your current pursuits (as
long as you keep us posted if it's SEGA related, you got our
like to thank all the people from the SEGA X and DCTP forums that
helped me compose the questions, especially dachande12, Cafeman and