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INTERVIEW
John Dondzila

John Dondzila of Classic Gaming Creations is a
modern day programmer of classic gaming consoles
.
He has coded for the Vectrex, Odyssey2, and the Colecovision.

MT> Describe a memorable game-related anecdote?
JD> Uhh, probably not good for my PR, but in my teen years I broke into a "Breakout".

MT> What inspired you to start creating new titles?
JD> I was tired of listening to loads of "talk" from all the individuals who were going to build RAMCarts, development systems, yadda yadda yadda and write their own games.

I am a do'er, not a talker.

MT> What is the typical development time for your creations?
JD> Depends on time and motivation. Vector Vaders took 4 days (with no Vectrex programming experience), Patriots about a month, Vecmania has been on and off for the past year and a half (has it been that long ?) I'm a lot busier than I used to be and don't have much free time.

MT> What differences have you found between programming for the Vectrex and the Colecovision?
JD> Both have their ups and downs. I've always been more fond of Motorola CPUs over Intel. Vectrex sound is easier to code, graphics are more or less easy as well. Coleco graphics are nasty. 3 different screen modes and the only source of reference was the graphics chip programming manual which is as confusing as why Donny & Marie are still so popular.

You didn't ask about the Odyssey 2 - did I mention it's almost as painful to program as an Atari 2600 ?

MT> Your Odyssey 2 multicart is a nice piece of work. Have you done any further O2 programming?
JD> Just AMOK! although I will eventually do another O2 game.

MT> What is your production run for each title? Is there a finite amount? Do you keep track of who owns which cartridges?
JD> I'll keep building carts for as long as people want to buy them. I don't believe in limited runs. The only people I kept track of were the original owners of Patriots who got the serialized versions of the cart.

MT> How does one tell if they own a serialized version of Patriots?
JD> The cart has a signed label with the number, and the number appears on the title screen with the owner's name.


MT> What are your favorite Colecovision and Vectrex games?
JD> Colecovision - There aren't any. I despised those controllers the day the system was released and thought most of the games looked "rushed". Wait, I take some of that back - I seem to recall spending a lot of time as a salesman in JC Penney playing "Miner 2049'er". If there are any favorites, I'd say they are my own.

Vectrex - Star Castle, Rip Off, Armor Attack

MT> What current endeavors are you working on?
JD> Vectrex - Vecmania (it will be done by the fall or it won't get done at all).

MT> What type of Game is Vecmania?
JD> My next Vectrex game release, including a Star Wars style shooter, a Phoenix style shooter, a new updated version of my Rockaroids game and a few other surprises.


MT> Any Future plans for other classic systems?
JD> Atari 2600 - A bit of code lying around somewhere for a game which was said could never be done, which I did anyway, which will probably never get finished due to the incredible amount of time it takes to write code for the machine. Another more feasible project is on the drawing board, and will be the next project after Vecmania.

MT> So what is this mysterious game for the 2600, which was said "could never be done?" (Tempest?) And, if you never take the time to complete it, wouldn't "they" be right?
JD> Tempest was done (well, a playable prototype at least). My mystery game was QIX. Maybe I'll finish it some day.

Coleco - No more plans or desire to continue programming.

Odyssey 2 - A few ideas bouncing around now that I know how to program the thing. Nothing immediate though.

Studio II - In my early programming days (mid 70's) I always wanted a Cosmac ELF (more or less the same system) to write games on. If I live to be old and grey (or at least retire) I'd like to finish reverse engineering my Studio II and do a game for it (Studtris ?).

MT> For those not so savvy, what was the Cosmac ELF?
JD> A very, very primitive computer based on the old SLOW RCA 1802 CPU.

MT> How does one obtain the secrets programmed into your games?
JD> They wouldn't be secrets if I disclosed them, would they? If you really need to know, In Patriots, pause the game with a score of 150 to play Breakout; In All Good Things, hold down button 1 while selecting the games to play an old TRS80 puzzle game.
In Spike Hoppin', hold down 1,2 and 4 at the Vectrex intro screen and a space ship will pass by and destroy the GCE copyright logo (an eye sore for Vectrex programmers). Also at the title screen, press 1,3 then 4 in order to play Vectrepede.

Good Deal Games would like to thank John for taking time out of his busy schedule
to grace us with his wit and wisdom -- THANKS John!

Visit John's Website: Classic Gaming Creations

 

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