Chuck's Challenge 3D Interview

Chuck's Challenge 3D Interview
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Do you know Chuck Sommerville, my favorite game developer? Perhaps you've heard of his game, Chip's Challenge, or his new game, Chuck's Challenge?

Chip's Challenge is a puzzle game originally created for the Atari Lynx by Chuck and later ported to Windows. Most people who know it played it on the PC. Fast-forward to the era of iOS games in 2010 to find that Chuck has created a game called Chuck's Challenge in the same spirit as Chip's Challenge. Like Chip's Challenge, it's a fantastic puzzle game. Now there's a Kickstarter to raise money to create a 3D version of Chuck's Challenge and to port it to PC and Mac.

In Chuck's Challenge, like Chip's Challenge, levels are tile-based. Your task is simple - get to the goal. To unlock the goal you'll have to collect certain items, including power-ups that allow you to travel across various obstacles such as water and fire. New to Chuck's Challenge from Chip's is the ability to "rewind" and undo your mistakes; this is a huge feature! The game includes a level editor as well so you can share your creativity.

For a $5 pledge to his Kickstarter campaign, you'll get the game for free when Chuck's Challenge 3D releases. For $25, you'll get a digital copy of the soundtrack as well. For $50, you'll get all that and the chance to beta test! Looking for something physical? Pledge $100 and you'll even receive a hardback copy of the Chuck's Challenge v1 book autographed by Chuck Sommerville. (I pledged $100.) Of course, you can pledge more as well.

Chip's Challenge was a major part of my childhood. It was one of the earliest games I played and has always been one of my favorites. I loved my Atari Lynx, and I played with my father, grandfather, and uncle. In fact, I still have the box with game on display by my TV.

Chuck's received a lot of questions from fans since starting the Kickstarter project. To answer some of them, he's created the following video. (If the video fails to load, try refreshing.)

That wasn't quite enough for me, so I asked him some additional questions. He took the time to answer, and I'm very thankful to him for that. Care to read the interview?

PA: Have you ever ran into a fan that recognized you (or your name) in person?

CS: No, that's never happened. Once I was having my computer repaired, and we were talking about programming. I told him I wrote Chip's Challenge, and he didn't believe me. I had him Google my name, and he said he had to eat crow. That was funny.

PA: Were there any games that inspired you to get into game development?

CS: Only early arcade games like Pong. There really weren't any games when I started. I wrote my very first games before you could even buy a computer, on a college mainframe they used to let me use. I always loved making games. When the first Apple II computer came to the market, my parents bought me one. It had serial number 364. My first games were released on cassette tape by a company called SDL. I was still in high school. My first major published game was Snake Byte, when I was a student at Georgia Tech.

PA: As a child, my family had three Lynx consoles. I played a handful of games with my father, grandfather, and uncle. Chip's Challenge was by far my favorite. Are there any games of which you have fond memories playing with loved ones?

CS: My dad and I used to play a game on the 3DO called "Return Fire". [It] was a great PVP tank game. We could only play it when he visited, because I had moved away from West Virginia where I grew up, so I could live in California and be part of the game industry.

PA: Do you have any favorite levels from Chip's Challenge or Chuck's Challenge? Personally, I enjoyed Nuts and Bolts because it was an early level that incorporated a lot of different ideas. When I returned to replay the game years later, I found that I could solve the room filled with ice just with muscle memory!

CS: My favorite level from Chip's Challenge, because of its simplicity is South Pole. It seems frustrating at first, until you "Get it". It was designed by a friend of mine named Scott Nelson. It was the only level he designed for me.

PA: How was the development of Chuck's Challenge different from the development of Chip's Challenge?

CS: The development was extremely different.

On Chip's Challenge, I was the only programmer, but I had a team of about 10 level designers and 10 testers to speed me through the process. All those engineers and testers had just finished the rest of the initial Lynx games set, and were available to help finish my game. After finishing the game code, my job consisted mostly of bug fixes, and being an editor, selecting and arranging the levels into a sequence I liked.

On Chuck's Challenge, since I didn't have the experience developing for the iPhone & Unity, we have a very talented development team to do all the heavy lifting. My job is to oversee the design to make sure the game has the same flavor as Chip's. It’s more of a level of abstraction for me, but I think it works.

PA: I'm betting you're not ready to reveal any details, but do you have some ideas about future games? Do we get to look forward to more of your games?

CS: Yes, Chuck's Challenge is not the final game for Niffler. We will have more games that I will have a hand in. As far as ideas for new games? Yes, I come up with ideas for new games all the time. The trick is to filter them down to the ones that are fun to play.

PA: Finally, why isn't there a Bit Buster Club I can join? [Note: The Bit Busters was the club in Chip's Challenge that the main character was attempting to join.]

CS: There is a Face Book group I follow called Chip's Challenge Bit Buster Club. There are also other really good groups, like the news group which can be reached through the web at Look around. You will be surprised at the richness of the fan sites out there. I know I was.

I'm very honored to have had the chance to get my questions answered by Mr. Sommerville. I'm sure Chuck's Challenge 3D will live up to Chuck's Challenge and Chip's Challenge. It just needs your pledges! If you're excited about the new game and want to play it, please take a look at the Kickstarter and make a pledge!

- Peter Anargirou


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