The writers here at RGM have been celebrating the month of So Bad Its Good, we decided it was in need of something special. An exclusive with the creator of one of the worst rated games in history! We got together with Mr. Eric Caen creator of Superman 64 for an email interview in which he tells us a few details of the game and his thoughts on the matter!
Dash the Bomber (DtB): Mr. Caen, I am Dash The Bomber with Retro Gaming Magazine, we wanted to host an article for the game Superman 64 for our So Bad It’s Good month of June here at the company. I was very happy when I saw your response to my tweet and I’m honored to have a chance at a Q & A considering your very busy schedule.
Now I was a child when I played Superman 64, but in as far as bad games go, I quite enjoyed it. I said perhaps, I could get in contact with the developer and build upon the questions asked by Proton Jon a few years ago. I want to get a different perspective on what could have been made of Superman 64. Make it the feature article of the month or at least one of the top articles during the celebration of bad games at RGM.
DtB: First I’d like to ask a few personal questions about you.
What inspired you to start developing video games?
Eric Caen (EC): I wrote my first game in 1981.
I was very close to the Game & Watch Octopus but on Commodore 3032.
DtB: What is your favorite video game?
EC: Mario series
DtB: We are aware you were quite young when you started Titus Interactive (19 or so), but how did you feel about starting out your own company?
EC: As I started coding at 14, I rapidly lost interest in high school. At 18 I wrote to French video-games companies and as I had too many interest it felt normal to start a service company coding for them. My brother being not shy comparing how I was then, we teamed up and start on April 15 1985.
DtB: Did you have a clear direction when your company first started out?
EC: We started by coding for others. And we grew fast as we were always on time and very cheap. After 18 months it became clear that developing our own games would be interesting.
DtB: Did you make contacts on the market which would publish your games or was it trial and error?
EC: In parallel to our service activity we started coding our first games. And rapidly after that I coded Crazy Cars on Amiga.
DtB: What were some of the high/low points of your career?
EC: So many! Not sure where to start.
Prehistorik Man SNES
Our acquisition on Interplay and Virgin Interactive
Top Gun Combat Zones
Titus disappearance in 2005
DtB: At any point during your career, did you feel overwhelmed being at the top of a video game company?
EC: Never ever!
DtB: Your brother and you have worked very closely for a long time, were there any moments you remember in which it it became hard to see each other eye to eye in regards to the direction of your company?
DtB: Now for the Superman 64 questions. What made Titus Interactive decide to create a Superman game?
EC: We heard that WB was preparing a new TV animated series based on Superman. I thought we could try to get the license even I doubted we could obtain it. But we did.
DtB: When Superman 64 released it was (and deservedly so) reviewed very negatively. Did you or your employees expect the response or did it catch everyone in the studio by surprise?
EC: The development of this game on N64 suffered a lot so we knew the game was only ok. No surprise at all.
DtB: How was the overall mood of the company during the development of Superman 64? Was there the infamous “crunch” time which has gotten severely negative press recently during the developments of the game?
EC: We knew since the beginning that the develoment of an open environment on N64 would be a big challenge (remember that only Tomb Raider PS was released at that time as a 3D action/adventure). We tried to do a better 3D engine. We were excited but, WB relationship deteriorated and then we struggled.
DtB: During the interview with Proton Jon you had mentioned that the ring flying levels were “tutorial” stages, but aside from a few at the
beginning, most of them only taught superman how to fly and solve basic puzzles. But, most of the levels were small and did not require
flying, were the levels meant to become more open?
DtB: The licensor severely hampered many aspects of the game, but did they ever disclose the reason as to why Superman couldn’t kick “real” people? I mean by all means he punches “bad” guys all the time in the series. Why was there such a conflict with the video game?
EC: A question for them I think. Video game in 3D were new and I guess they were scared to associate violence with their IP.
DtB: I understand the licensor caused a lot of problems during all stages of development. Could you tell us what kind of roadblocks they kept
imposing on the company?
EC: They wanted the game to be a Metropolis city simulator a bit like Sim City and we wanted to do an action/adventure game. Then they slowed us down by asking to justify everything…
DtB: I understand you’re not allowed to disclose the cut content of the game, but instead could you tell us, what you would have put into the game had the technological limitations not been there when the game was developed?
EC: I think I overestimated our own capacity to achieve an entirely open space game but also the N64 hardware was not strong enough to fulfill our vision.
DtB: You said it made you feel proud to allow Superman the ability to fly all over town and land wherever he wanted, But was there anything else in the game that was enjoyable for you?
EC: The combat could have been better.
DtB:Superman 64 sold surprisingly well, and actually generated money for the company. Do you have a close number to the amounts of copies sold for this game?
EC: Over 500,000 units
DtB: What were some of the biggest problems that hardware limitations that had to be worked around during development? For example the green “kryptonite haze” to limit visibility due to the distance rendering.
EC: The 3D chipset of the N64 had a very low number of polygon limitation under acceptable fps.
DtB: If you could develop a Superman game with the technology available today, what do you envision? Would it be an open world game akin to Fallout 4 or a level based adventure?
EC: Yes totally. Imagine Superman with the engine of Assassin’s Creed!
DtB: Finally, do you have any closing words for our readers?
EC: When you create, you can never expect to always succeed. My career is made of these ´only ok’ and great projects. Superman is such an icon for the US audience that it is almost impossible to deliver according to the expectation.