Olav Mørkrid (Daze Before Christmas)

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I’d never heard about Daze Before Christmas until shortly before we recorded this podcast. It is a great platformer! What’s even greater is that Adrian managed to track down the SNES version’s programmer and No Escape legend Olav Mørkrid for this quick Q&A!

 

How did you get the opportunity to enter the video game industry and what was the first game you ever worked on?

I had done some games on the C64. I met Erik Gløersen who offered me to do a port of his game to the Atari Lynx, which has the same CPU. This was the precursor to starting Funcom.

 

With Daze Before Christmas, you probably worked on the best known Christmas-related game in existence! How did this unusual opportunity arise and why do you think there are so few holiday-related video games?

You’ll have to ask Erik whose idea the game was. No idea why there are so few Christmas-themed games. Is this true? (apparently so! – Ed) It would be an obvious sell!

 

 

I really enjoyed Daze Before Christmas, what was your exact role on this game and how what were your main inspirations and ambitions with this classy title?

I was the SNES programmer. I did everything on the SNES basically, but we shared some basic principles and libraries with the SEGA version. The SEGA has 32 bit 68000, so obviously the code had to be written in 65c816 from scratch. Tough, because the CPU is much slower.

 

Is it true that you used graphics and programming from A Dinosaur’s Tale when working on Daze Before Christmas?

I think some of the same libraries were used, like linked lists and that kind of stuff. The reuse was probably higher on the SEGA. There was never a Dinosaur’s Tale for the SNES.

 

Can you confirm that Santa drinks coffee or hot cocoa to turn into evil Anti-Claus, and which of these two drinks do you personally prefer?

I would suspect that the drink is mulled wine. My personal preference is hot cocoa made properly with Valrhona chocolate.

 

Do you have a personal favourite boss within Daze Before Christmas?

They were all cool, because they were designed by Tommy Sydsæter of “Pyton” fame, who is completely crazy. I mean, he is actually insane. (we can believe that! – Ed)

 

 

Why was the game only released in Australia and Europe and how do you reflect back on this game?

Don’t remember. We thought it was sort of a joke, but it actually became quite cool with the bosses and some of the special areas and little details, like the Z-s coming out of the cave was my idea.

 

How did you get the opportunity to work on Winter Gold for the SNES?

Erik had a dream of making the official Winter Olympic game for Lillehammer. This never came to pass, but instead we made FX Skiing, which was a revolution in terms of style and technology. We were
lucky to have some real geniuses on the team: Rune who did the 3D models, Paul who did the 3D tracing, and Frank who did physics (and the falling snow, in an ingenious way!) Without these guys, the game would have never been. I remember saying to Erik: “Why should we make a winter sports game? They are always crap.” Erik replied: “That’s exactly why we’re gonna make a great one”. He was right.

 

NBA Hangtime looked to carry on from NBA Jam. How did you aim to approach this game and make it stand out from the crowd?

Henrik Holmdahl did most of the work here, and what an accomplishment! He basically just got a lot of 32 bit source code with lots of 32 bit operations, including multiplication and division, and had to get it
running from nothing. I remember the first time we got the main loop running. We could see a sprite moving around on the screen. We screamed of joy. My great accomplishment was optimizing the sprite
plotting. Mario Van Zeist had made some crazy code which was not fast enough and claimed it was impossible to make it any faster. I made it go twice as fast, and fast enough for the game to run in a single frame. Mario was incredulous and Henrik was almost in tears.

 

 

No Escape looks really interesting and almost ahead of its time. How did you get the opportunity to work on this ambitious title?

I had an idea about characters running around on a planet and shooting each other, but for kids, with slapstick violence. The characters were supposed to be single-colored “seigmenn” (Norwegian candy), but this was modernised after a feedback session. Tore Blystad did an amazing job with the style and design. I’m proud we had the planet idea 10 years before Super Mario Galaxy.

 

Was No Escape ever touted for a console release alongside its PC release and why do you think this game never gained the reputation it probably deserved?

Don’t think so. I left Funcom around the time the game was released, so you’ll have to ask Tore about that.

 

 

How would you describe the video game industry in Norway and do you still work within the games industry?

Nope. I sort of lost interest in games when 2D became 3D, but I still play all the Mario and Zelda games (the best games in the world).

 

If you could be transported into any one of your video games, and live there for day, which game would you choose and why?

Breath of the Wild, maybe?

 

If you could travel back in time and work on any video game, which game would you have loved to be involved in?

I would have loved to have been there when games like Super Mario World, Salamander, Forbidden Forest and many others were made.

 

Out all of the games you have worked on, which one are you most proud of and why?

Probably No Escape because it was our own idea. And I’m very proud about the sprite optimisation on NBA Hangtime. There was also an impossible memory overwriting bug that blocked the release that I was able to find. So I feel like I saved the day. Twice.

 

What are your three favourite video games of all time and why?

Super Mario World
Super Metroid
Ocarina of Time

 

If you could share a few drinks with a video game character who would you choose and why?

Princess Peach. I’d tell her to get with the times and save herself.

 

Ha ha! A Princess Peach: Demolition game has been far too long coming! Thanks for stopping by Olav! We wish you all the best for the future!

Adrian

 

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