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== The Paranoia Story By: Ken Pierce ==
== AGE Entertainment Software ==
Because of the large amounts of personal email I've been receiving
asking what is going on with the game Paranoia, AGE Entertainment Software,
DEM Software and myself, I have decided to go public with the complete
story of Paranoia from day one.
In May of 1993, Jim Georgeadis (the Paranoia head programmer) and
myself were working together at a computer store (Ace-Tech Computers in
Calgary, Alberta) and had been for some time. We had bantered back and
forth the idea of doing a game together for a while, and we were sort of
playing with a beat-em-up concept as a PD release. This game was to be
released at AmiJam'93 in Calgary, and was a TRUE example of the troubles we
would face in the future.
The game was delayed and delayed, until AmiJam was upon us, and Jim was
quite literally working on the game in the Ace-Tech booth. I had done some
cheezy Ren & Stimpy graphics, and we had added R&S sound effects to the
game as well. The engine, though, was far from complete (although the game
was fun to play). Eric Schwartz was one of the guest speakers at that
show, and re-did the graphics for the game (his were much nicer than mine,
I must say) but alas the game was never finished, and thus never released
into the public domain as we intended (although we did show it AmiJam and
it did get quite a response).
Still, at least Jim and I knew we could work together on a project, and
we started talking about sitting down and doing something /serious/. We
discussed the different possibilities, and Jim seemed to have a burning
desire to do a serious beat-em up. I didn't think there was much of a
market for it, though, so we scrapped it. From there we had to decide
where to go. Jim also had a desire to a 3-D RPG of some kind, and I
thought there may be a market for *good* RPG since there had been so few
lately. Thus began work on "the game", and tests to see if it was
After about a month, Jim had a working copy of the engine up and
running, and we could see this thing had some potential. It had crap
graphics, no name, no plot, no theme, no sounds, but it did have some line
drawn walls (filled with a really grotesque shade of orange) and a stick
man with a big red head that chased you arouund (Mr. Stickman, who may
still be in Paranoia to this day). The game worked in a step-mode way
(like Dungeon Master), and we thought we could get away with that if we
just made sure the game reeked of suspense and atmosphere.
Work continued on the engine, and we started talking about possible
plots. We thought of the standby D&D style plots, but scrapped those
because it had been done to death, and eventually stuck on a game which
would be like "playing" the movie Aliens. We wanted to have the player
feel helpless and distraught while running through a maze, not knowing
what's around the next corner and being chased by vicious critters all the
At this time, a demo came out called "DWAGA". It was an AGA based
dungeon walking demo, which had smooth scrolling walls. We looked at the
way the programmer of that game had done his engine (which we had
mentioned, but written off because we thought it would be too slow) and
decided that maybe smooth scrolling walls were the way to go.
Jim began work on the next revision of the game engine.
As he did that, I began to think of plot possibilities, keeping the
Aliens theme in mind. That was when the basic plot of the game was worked
out. You were on this ship, and it had been attacked by aliens. The
aliens had boarded the ship, and you had to find a way off the thing. It
was simple, but effective, and offered the opportunity for lots of puzzles.
Now, Jim had the next revision of the engine done, and it looked ugly,
but effective. At this point, we needed some real graphics. I contacted
Bryan Ewert, who is a 3-D animator in the Calgary area. He was on a hiatus
from work, and agreed to work on the project with us. He did a few test
renders for us so we could see how his work was, and we liked it, so work
began on the interiors.
At this point, I figured one thing that could add atmosphere to the
game would be several exterior animations at key plot points in the game.
These would have a typical sci-fi flavour to them, and would help to keep
the different segments of the game attached. They would also help to
explain some key elements of the plot (like how the aliens got on board in
the first place).
I explained my concept for these animations to Jim and Bryan, and both
were quite excited by the possiblities offered. Bryan, though, didn't want
the task of designing an alien and terran fleet of ships, so I told him I'd
come up with a rough idea of what I thought things should look like. In
the meantime, he continued work on the interiors which were coming along
very nicely and Jim continued working on the game engine, which still
needed a lot of tweaking.
This was around the same time that I was beginning to think we may have
something very special here, and it may be something that could really
leave its mark on the Amiga community. This is when I began posting
messages into Fido AmigaGames describing the game, and when I started
receiving mail asking me for more information.
Slowly, the walls were being finished and Jim was implementing them
into the game. At this point, though, we started to realize how limiting
Chip RAM can be when working with these types of graphics. We made some
design changes to the engine, and work continued again. The new engine
wasn't as smooth as the old one, but it took a lot less RAM (it would've
barely worked in 2MB of Chip RAM the old way). I wasn't happy about the
trade-off in performance, though, and asked Jim to try to find a way around
it. With the new engine, though, Jim told me that the game could be done
in "4-6 weeks", assuming of course, that Bryan could keep up his current
pace with the graphics.
I finished up my drawings (in DPaint) of what I thought the alien and
terran crafts should look like, except the freighter (which will come
later), and Bryan had a look at them and, for the most part, liked them. I
also wrote up technical documents explaining how the ships "worked", and
this is the point where I began to think a bible may be necessary to keep
us from screwing up continuity in the game. Besides, it could be quite a
help in writing the manual later on.
It was also around this time that I approached my girlfriend, Lisa
Priebe, to do the music for the game. She received some quick training in
OctaMED, and began work.
Somewhere in this time frame, we showed the early demo (called
AlphaTeaser) to the Amiga Users of Calgary at a meeting. It went over
well, and I still get asked about the game from local people because of
Eventually we were coming into December of 1993, and the public was
getting kind of impatient while waiting for the game. Still, I kept
adamant in my posts, saying that it wouldn't be released "until it was
done". I was still disappointed that we had missed our September and
October deadlines, though.
In December, I lost my job at Ace-Tech (which is an even longer story
than this one), but wasn't too concerned about it. I figured I would be
able to hold out long enough for the game to be ready, and then with any
luck we'd be on our way to success and stardom in the Amiga games market.
Then came January.
In January of 1994, Lisa and I broke up. This stalled the music
(which, quite frankly, hadn't gotten far), and stalled me. I went into a
deep, dark depression, and at that point development (except for some
tweaking on Jim's part) pretty much stopped. There was little, if any,
communication between Bryan, Jim and myself, and Paranoia was at an
In the beginning of February, I came out of my depression, and work
began on Paranoia again. Still, Bryan had started doing some very serious,
and very time consuming work on an animation with JW Lees Developments, and
eventually had to drop out of Paranoia.
Still, though, even with Bryan gone, the game progressed at an amazing
rate. Jim had managed to pull off some astronomical acheivements in the
game engine, and things were looking good. At this point, we started to
discuss sequels to the game more seriously, and worked out a plotline which
would cover three games.
In the first game, the player would simply escape from the ship. At
the end of the game, he would be seen landing on a nearby planet. In the
second game, the player would be on a colony on the planet, and everyone
would be dead. The player would have to figure out the mystery of what
happened on the colony while trying to find all the parts to repair a
damaged communications array and send a distress signal to someone so he
could be rescued. At the end of the second game, he would be rescued, and
taken back to Earth. In the third game, he'd have to go to the alien
homeworld where he'd be part of an attack squad which would be out to
destroy the alien civilization. This last game contained lots of moral
dilemmas for the character to go through.
After discussing these sequel possiblities with Jim, I sent out another
message on the nets discussing Paranoia, and its future sequels (assuming,
of course, that Paranoia was a success). This was when things on the net
*really* began to buzz.
There was still a lot of stuff to do on the Paranoia engine, though, so
we figured we'd finish what was on the plate, and then deal with the other
This was around the same time that Don Kittle came into the picture.
Initially, Don and I were just friends. Don had broken up with his
girlfriend around the same time I'd broken up with mine, and the two of us
hanging around together had helped us each to work our way out of our
depressions. I knew Don was into rendering, so I asked him to pick up
where Bryan had left off in the graphics department. At this time, just
about all that was left to do were the exterior animations, and I already
had diagrams for what they were all supposed to look like done.
Don began working on some stuff that night, and by the next day, I had
the first render of a Hoarder Infestation Pod sitting on my hard drive. I
was happy with the results, and he seemed happy with the project, so he was
officially "on the team". We still didn't have any music, but Brad Lazaruk
(another friend) had heard us mumbling about sound effects on the Paranoia
mailing list. He sampled some gunshots and sent them to us, and they made
it into the game in no time. There were also some other sound effects from
sources all over the place which were being put into the game. They were
inconsistent, and at times, simply poor, but it was better than nothing.
And besides, they were just for testing. We'd resample all the sounds we
needed later on.
Also at this point, Lorne Laliberte paid a visit to Calgary from
Manitoba. Him and I had sent mass volumes of email back and forth about
Paranoia, and knowing that he was a writer, I wanted him involved. I
decided that Lorne was the person who would write the background story and
manual for Paranoia. As soon as I let him know that I wanted him to do it,
he started work, and the email REALLY started to flow.
By this time, though, money had started to run a little low (I had been
out of steady work for some months...I had managed to get a few temp jobs
in there, but nothing steady), and I had to give up my apartment. I had
the option of moving back to British Columbia, which would have really
hampered Paranoia development, but reduced my living costs substantially,
or finding a place to stay for less money in Calgary (actually, no money).
I asked Don if I could crash at his place, and he said yes. I didn't
realize at the time what a strain this would put on both our personal and
There were still a few weeks before I was set to move out of my
apartment, though, and so development on Paranoia continued at a breakneck
pace. The final control panel (or next to final control panel in the end)
was in place, buttons were working properly, and the game engine was still
running at a good speed on a stock 1200 by the time I was making the move.
I moved into Don's place, and for the first few days, things were fine.
Work was getting done on Paranoia, and I had managed to re-establish my
email feeds and had caught up on my mail. Work on the bible continued,
including technologies, and the Paranoia universe was coming together
nicely. Lorne's work on the story was coming together well, too.
Shortly after moving into Don's place, though, something changed. Don
wasn't around for long periods of time, and quite frankly, I saw him less
when I was living with him than before I moved in. It didn't take a genius
to figure out that he was uncomfortable with the situation.
Also, he had been going to meet with Jim regularly to work on the game.
That, to me, was fine, though because at least something was getting done
Around here was when the teaser demo was (finally) finished, and sent
out. That teaser demo refused to work on 68000 based machines.
Some weeks passed, and eventually the tension got so bad that I started
spending nights at my girlfriend's house, and only went back to Don's place
during the days to do the work I needed to do. Still, after about a week
of this, I decided to spend another night at Don's in the hopes of being
able to accomplish more (four or five hours a day isn't a lot of time) the
day after that.
Jen dropped me off in front of Don's building, and I went in. I
unlocked the door, but when I tried to enter the deadbolt was locked. I
didn't have a key to the deadbolt, so I tried ringing the doorbell and
banging on the window.
There was no response. Eventually I gave up, and started the long (and
cold, since I didn't have a jacket with me) walk over to Brad's place,
where I spent that night fighting off my allergic reaction to his cat. The
next day, I went into Don's place and did the work I needed to do. I left
before he came home that day.
For the next while after that, I spent the nights at Jen's and the days
at Don's, which was inconvenient, but helped alleviate the stress. One
day, I wasn't gone when Don got home from work. After that day, he started
locking the deadbolt during the day. That meant that my clothes, computer,
close to every possession I own, was locked away from me.
I went in one night when Don and Jim were there, and grabbed my clothes
and took them to Jen's. I didn't say a word to him in the time I was
there, and he didn't say a word to me. That was when things got really
I also saw the work they had been doing on the game at that point, and
had some problems with some of the stuff that had been done. I let them
know the problems I had with the things they had done, and got into an
argument with Jim. He said something to the effect of "well, why didn't
you say something earlier", to which I responded that I needed to know what
was going on before I could tell them what I thought of it. Afterwards,
Jen showed up, and I left with her. The argument was never resolved.
I couldn't call Don, because I couldn't bear to talk to him with
everything that was going on, but I had to, because he had all my
possessions at his place. I called Jim one day, and talked to him, and Jim
told me that there was no doubt that I was going to have to move out of
Don's. I wasn't surprised at that. That was the same day that another
mutual friend told me how Don was telling him that I was using his place as
a "garbage dump".
I called Don at work, and told him that I had to talk to him. I met
him at his place that night.
We talked for a while about the various goings-on with the deadbolt and
everything else, and then we talked about the game. He told me that him
and Jim had decided that I wasn't fulfilling their needs as a "publisher"
for the game, and that they had decided to form their own company to
produce the game. He said they had already sent out press releases and
made an announcement on the nets to the effect that I was out and they were
in. They had already formed the company (called DEM), and had already
contacted the european press about the game. He said they didn't "slam"
AGE, but when he showed me the press release they had sent, I didn't see
how he could say that.
Still, at that point, the friendship was more important to me than the
game, and I told Don that. He explained to me that it was "never their
intention to screw me over", and that I would be receiving a royalty from
the game. The amount was never (and has never been) discussed.
I moved my essentials (especially the computer) out of Don's place and
into Jen's. I was still confused about what was going on, in terms of
Paranoia and Don's and my friendship. I still haven't heard anything from
Jim to this day, aside from little bits of chit chat here and there when
we've run into each other.
At this point I had to leave town for my brother's wedding, but my suit
was locked in Don's apartment. I stopped at the airport (where Don works)
and asked him if I could get a key to the deadbolt at his place so I could
get in to get my suit. He told me that he didn't feel he could "trust me",
and that his computer was sitting there with Paranoia. He told me he
didn't want me there without him being there. This not only hurt me, but
insulted me, because I had thought I'd made my position pretty clear to him
during our face to face conversation a few weeks prior.
That night, I went to Don's, and got the suit. He asked me when I'd be
getting the rest of my stuff out of his place, and I told him I'd do it as
soon as possible. Then I went to my brother's wedding. I was gone for a
The rest of my belongings were still at Don's place through this time.
When I got back, I saw Don briefly when Jen and I stopped by his place
to drop off an invitation to a Halloween party at Jen's place. I was
friendly, Jen was friendly, and Samantha, another friend who was with us
was friendly. Don took the invitation, thanked us, and never showed up for
Don not showing at the party wasn't a shock, but the email I received a
few days later was. I'll quote it here:
DK> I think it's kinda shitty the way you've basically
DK> assumed me to be a warehouse for your stuff. Please
DK> remove it all by Thursday, November 3, 1994 or I'll
DK> have to dump it in the yard...
At this point, I finally snapped and sent back a long reply telling him
how I felt about everything that had happened. Jen borrowed her father's
truck, and we went there on the evening of Wednesday, November 2nd. He
turned us away, giving us a feeble excuse that he was about to go to bed,
so we came back the next day. Another friend of his was there that day,
and I never set foot in his apartment. He put it in the hallway, and my
friends and myself loaded it into the vehicles and left. I haven't seen,
spoken to, or emailed Don since. From what I understand, Jim has been out
of town, although I haven't heard anything from him in quite some time,
Another friend was telling me about how Don had said I, "never
contributed anything" to the game. Quite frankly, I don't know if Don
believes that or not, because Don wasn't around in the early stages where I
did most of my work. I will admit, that I wasn't as involved in those
later stages, but full blame for that can't lie on me. I was never told
what was happening at any point in late development even when I directly
asked. I'd receive runaround answers which didn't solve anything. That
was when I made the decision to go public. Royalties or no royalties (and
I *can* use the money), I was tired of being slammed both publically and
privately by these guys when they had no right at all to do that. Don
tried explaining to me how I legally don't have a leg to stand on because
copyright law in Canada is so vague, but what I don't think Don or Jim
realize is that if I did decide to go to the courts with it, Paranoia would
probably die there because the work (and copyrights) would be split into
chunks. I have friends in the legal profession as well, and they're very
well versed in Canadian copyrights.
I don't plan on going to the courts with this story unless I absolutely
have to, because quite frankly I can't afford it, and neither can they.
I'm not a vindictive person, and I am moving on with new AGE developments.
I do feel I've spent a year and a half of my life devoted to Paranoia,
though, and that I do deserve compensation for that time.
This game has been the destruction of two of my best friendships (or
what I *thought* were my best friendships), and I'm not writing this
article simply out of spite. I'm writing it, because my name has been
attached to all the hype and anticipation which Paranoia has received.
Quite frankly, Paranoia, as it sits right now is incomplete. It's probably
around 70% done, and I don't want people to get the idea that I "approved"
this product as being done in its current state.
I was told by Don and Jim that they wanted to get the game out to
market by Christmas, at all costs (including the release version being
buggy...and never having been playtested by anyone outside the development
team), and I don't want to be the one blamed for its shoddy construction.
I've also been told by both Don and Jim consider the Amiga to be a dead
platform, and that Paranoia will be their only game on the machine. They
like the machine, but they don't want to support it because there isn't
enough money in it. They also scrapped the ideas for the two sequels for
the game, they said they had no interest in tying the game together with a
big plot (or taking a chunk out of their profits with a big storybook) and
they had no interest in doing a CD32 or AGA version of Paranoia. These are
all things which were put a little more politely in their press release
(which I would've included had I still had it), but which are all in there
if you read it (it was posted to Fido AmigaGames sometime ago, perhaps some
reader has a copy of it in their archives?).
I just wanted to set the record straight, and give my side of the
story. I welcome an equivalent diary of events from Jim and/or Don.
I'm sure that I've probably forgotten a lot of things in this story,
but I think everything major is in here. A lot of things can be done in a
year and a half, but apparently Paranoia wasn't one of them.
AGE is going to stay in the Amiga market, and their will be future AGE
products. The next one is already in early development, and I hope to go
public with some details as to what it'll be in the near future.
I'll keep this promise to the Amiga public, always. A game will not be
released through AGE Entertainment Software unless it is something that I
as a game player would play. The last time I saw Paranoia, it was not
something I would play. It was something I would fiddle with, but not
something that would absorb me the way a good game should.
Stay tuned, folks, because this one isn't over yet. Thanks for your
support, and keep listening on the nets because I'll be back with a new