developer interview

August 2003

Interview with Gregg Barnett

Shortly after the release of Ghost Master, I got the chance to interview the main man behind the game, Gregg Barnett. Tell us a bit about some of the projects you have worked on in the past?

Gregg: Ok, but I’ve been in the game business for a long time, since 1982 in fact, when I started with Melbourne House in Australia. I started with a series of games centred around a character called Horace (Hungry Horace, Horace Goes Skiing), before doing the C64 version of The Hobbit (one of the first graphic adventures), then ‘Way of The Exploding Fist’ (the first home computer beat ‘em up). I followed this with ‘Rock and Wrestle’ (the first wrestling game actually), then a host of NES and SNES titles, usually based on a film, tv or more esoteric license. I then came to the UK in 1992 and opened up Perfect Entertainment, where I did a series of adventure games based on Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. Then in late 1999, I set up Sick Puppies for Empire, bringing along Ghost Master as our flagship title. What was your role in the development of Ghost Master?

Gregg: Well, it was my idea and initial design, then I brought in International Hobo to help with design while I directed the title. How and when did the idea of Ghost Master first come to light?

Gregg: It was in 1999, before we set up Sick Puppies. I wanted a game that could serve to launch a studio. It had to have an original hook, high potential in terms of production values and appeal to both the casual and the hardcore game player. I played around with flipping the usual conventions, in particular putting the player in charge of delivering the scares, rather than the usual rushing headlong into them. This was also about the time that reality television first came our way, so I came up with something the equivalent of manipulating people in a Big Brother house and watching the resulting chaos. Does the final game differ much to when it was just an idea?

Gregg: As with most big original games, it is always hard to hit the nail exactly on the head first time around. The end result is definitely more puzzle based and less RTS based than originally intended. The other thing that always happens in the case of big games is the loss of features due to time or technical constraints. In this case, a lot of the enemy design and even ghosts combating and scaring each other was unfortunately lost in the process. Are you pleased with the game's success so far in the UK and Europe?

Gregg: I don’t actually have any exact sales figures, but it appears that while the sales have been OK in the UK, they have not set the world on fire. This has been a little disappointing, if not mystifying, particularly as the bulk of those who get into the game love it. However, with the current release in the US, we are confidently expecting that to change. Many fans from are sure that map editors and mod tools would really open up new doors for the game, and like the idea of having a modding community. Have you anything planned for the near future?

Gregg: I’m sure these fans are correct (in fact most fan comments on sites like yours are well worth listening to), but the time and cost associated with setting that up for this game would have been prohibitive. Any sequel however, would have some degree of modding, if not total modding capability. What's the latest on mission packs? Can you give us any info here?

Gregg: Well, something interesting is happening a bit later in the year. Unfortunately, I’m not in a position to say more. Would you consider releasing new maps and ghosts as available to download online?

Gregg: Yes, of course, but these do take time to create.