Aldo Spadoni interview – Larry Niven console video game in development!

Aldo Spadoni Discusses LARRY NIVEN’S FREE FALL
at the monthly Larry Niven chat. Lead interviewer was David Sooby.

Aldo Spadoni – Stars in His Eyes (photoart credit – Aldo Spadoni)

An interview with Aldo Spadoni, futurist aerospace engineer, astronomical painter, and – Niven video game codesigner!

Question: For the really uninitiated, what IS the Free Fall project?
A [Aldo Spadoni]: Free Fall is planned to be Larry [Niven]’s first major
entry into the modern world of videogames

Q: Just what are you doing for the Free Fall project?
A: I’m essentially the chief engineer. I’m designing the spacecraft and
much of the technology. Even dolphin spacesuits!

Q: When Larry mentioned it, he wasn’t sure this project would be carried thru to completion. Do you think it will be?
A: The key to selling this project is Alchemic Productions, operated by
Brian Gomez and Rick Ernst. They are working hard to sell the project
using their considerable experience and connections.

Q: So, Alchemic is the designer and they’re looking for a publisher?
A: Larry, myself, Brian, Rick are designing the game together, but Rick
& Brian have the real game industry expertise.

SolBelter: Aldo, can we try in Second Life to make a copy (credited to
you) of your Orion ship [/Michael/] from /Footfall/– I saw the plans
http://www.up-ship.com/apr/michael.htm recently… good work!
A: I’m open to putting battleship /Michael/ in SL. sounds cool!

Q: If you don’t mind my asking, how much time do you spend doing
spacecraft designs? Is Aerospace Imagineering your primary job, or is
it a sideline?
A: No, I work full time at Northrop Grumman. Though, my job is to
envision future technology, so I’m involved in this stuff 24/7.
Aerospace Imagineering is strictly my sideline. I’m CEO and janitor if
you know what I mean.

EML [Edward M. Lerner, Larry Niven’s co-author on /Fleet of Worlds/]:
What part of NG? I used to work there, and still occasionally consult
for them.
A: I’m with NG Integrated Systems in El Segundo, CA.

EML: I was with some IT function (forget what it’s called now) in
Reston, VA (outside DC).

Aldo: Cool! I believe the Reston facility is now part of Mission
Systems. By the way, recently read /Fleet of Worlds/ and LOVED it!

EML: Thanks, Aldo. There are several NG facilities in Reston. I don’t
think mine went into Mission systems. You may be thinking of the former TASC and/or TRW.

A: Yes, I think you’re right. NG is now a vast far flung empire. Hard to
keep track of all the pieces!

Q: How did you first start collaborating with Larry? Did you approach
him about the Niven Project, or what?
A: I approached Larry at a L.A. con sometime around 1995 and showed him my concepts for /Lying Bastard/. He invited me to his house and we’ve
been friends, working together on and off ever since.

SolBelter: I was stunned few days ago remembering I met Aldo at Lunacon when he was a teenager or early 20s… One of Aldo’s first art shows I
attended.
A: SolBelter is that right!?! Cool! I really loved those Lunacons!

SolBelter: I loved the /Lying Bastard/– it’s accurate!
A: Thanks! One of these days I plan to give /Lying Bastard/ the full 3D
treatment. Certainly one of the great spacecraft concepts of all time!

Q: Aldo, thanks muchly for the 3-view of the /Liar/! That looks like it
should be a poster on my wall. How many of the details on that did
Larry contribute?

A: I pretty much came up with everything. I work the concepts on my own
based on reading Larry’s stories and submit them to him for comment.
Larry provides just the right amount of written description. He provides
the framework and a designer has the fun of filling in the details!
SolBelter: I saw Larry’s sketches for /Ringworld/ at NYCon– six of
them. Your /Lying Bastard/ is exactly the same. Those sketches were
sold at the auction– never seen again…

Q: Do you have any idea how many months it will be until you know
whether or not Free Fall will get the green light?
A: That’s a good question regarding a Free Fall go-ahead. I’m guessing
we’ll have a pretty good idea if it will sell before this fall.

Q: This is strictly a video game console release, is that right? If it
sells well, is it reasonable to think there will be a PC version?
A: I think Free Fall will initially be targeted for PS3/XBOX but I think
it might be made available for PC if successful.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about Free Fall?
A: You’ll at least be able to choose your suit art, and possibly paint.
Dolphins will be major characters in the game and they’ll have suit art too.

Q: That sounds very, very kewl! So we can upload a graphic image to use as suit art?
A: Yes, I think uploading your image will be the way it will work. The
game will provide you with a template.

Q: I’m guessing reactionless thrusters aren’t in the game, because Larry said it was all real science except for the artificial gravity?
A: Artificial gravity has been a big topic of discussion as we’ve worked
the game details. We’re planning to avoid it as much as possible. In
other words, artificial gravity will be, or may be, a new technology in
the era of the game. It is expensive and doesn’t package well for small
applications. We want most of the game’s action to occur in zero/micro-G with accurate physics. Still working [out] the details with regard to
how we’ll use some artificial gravity.

Q: I guess the question is *why* will you be using artificial gravity?
Is that so scenes filmed using live actors make sense– that is,
they’re not floating around in freefall– or did y’all just decide you
wanted the tech in the game?
A: The reason for inclusion of AG is the tech aspects and how it would add to cool gameplay. We’re planning on including mining tugs that are AG capable for manipulating large masses.

Q: Release date?
A: Release date is unknown, we are in selling mode and have to close a deal with a game publisher. There is definitely interest.

Q: It occurs to me that someone in your team had to spend a fair amount of time designing vomit flows…
A: Yeah, the vomit aspects will be interesting! Of course the game good guys will be experienced/born into this environment. They’ll only puke when the food is bad.

Q: It could come in handy; if someone’s visor is covered with goo, they
can’t fight. LOL– you have to model each individual chunk…
A: Frankly, we haven’t much considered vomiting. These are good ideas!

A: I need to depart, It’s been a pleasure spending some time with you folks!
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