In memoriam, Donald Sutherland

Dragon's Lair

aka: Don Bluth's Dragon's Lair
Moby ID: 1504



David Foster, who worked with Randy Linden on the conversion on 16-bit machine, in Retro Gamer 38 (Conversion Capers) shared some information about development process.

"The key challenges were minimising the size of the data, maximising disk space and access times, and optimising processor usage. We began by carefully selecting scenes without background movement, then spent a great deal of time separating the foreground elements from the backgrounds. We touched up the foregrounds, reduced the colour palette to 16 colours, then compared movement between the foreground of the current and subsequent frames and reduced any Information that didn't change. The foreground image was then compressed.

We didn't use the Amiga operating system at all. In fact on the Amiga 1000 we even reused the special memory where the system would normally load into. All disk access was handled directly and we determined how much data needed to be pre-buffered and continued to load from disk as the animation was playing. We also came up with a proprietary disk format that packed more Information onto each track. Finally, the code was very tight assembly language. The image decoding programming was optimised by the cycle times each instruction took.

We ended up with about 15 per cent of the arcade game in the release version and this was on six disks when disks cost $1,25 each. And clearly there were compromises in video quality and frame rate, but we were dealing with an underpowered system, at least relative to what we wanted to achieve, with limited memory and a slow, small external storage device. It was uncharted territory at the time. Fortunately today's video codecs and storage media handle all of the tough tasks that we had to code for the Amiga.

We released it at the World of Commodore in December 1988 in Toronto and we literally could not make them fast enough. I think we sold over 1000 units at that show alone. Because of the proprietary disk format we could only copy the disks on certain drives. We were copying 24 hours a day and it took us three months to finally clear the backorders."

A semi-sequel called Escape from Singe's Castle quickly appeared, featuring additional scenes from the arcade version and in 1990 the original Amiga version was ported to the PC, Mac and Atari ST.

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Trivia contributed by mailmanppa.