conducted an interview with Chris Delay for the June 2004
issue of PC Gamer UK. This interview was used for the two
page scoop that made it into that issue. The full interview
text is reprinted here with kind permission from PC Gamer.
Can you explain some of the concepts behind Darwinia. What
are you doing? Why are you fighting? Who are you fighting?
What units are under your control? And who is this mad Dr
The back story to the game concerns an electronics pioneer
called Dr Sepulveda who ran a very successfully computer games
hardware company in the 80s. Unfortunately his company went
bankrupt when he released a defective product called the Protologic
68000 onto the market, and for the past 20 years he's been
working away in an abandoned factory with around fifty thousand
returned Protologic units, trying to make something useful
out of them. Eventually he discovered he could wire them all
together into a huge grid, giving him massive computer power,
and inside this grid he has begun a simulation of an incredibly
detailed virtual world called Darwinia.
very surreal and retro place that he's built, since he's been
locked away for 20 years and the underlying hardware is all
from the 80s eight-bit era. Its populated by a race of computer
entities called the Darwinians, who are in a constant state
of growth and expansion. Each generation gets more intelligent
than the last. Unfortunately the latest generation has mutated
out of control into a destructive viral force, and the world
of Darwinia has erupted into warfare.
the backdrop of this war, the player is brought in to help.
Dr Sepulveda is desperate to save decades of work and research
into digital life, and he has written a number of weapons
programs designed to help you regain control of the world.
At the start of the game you can take control of small insertion
squads that can be sent into Darwinia to accomplish specific
tasks - sabotage buildings, recapture areas, save a group
of Darwinian hostages etc. You're also trying to regain all
of Sepulveda's research so he can write more useful programs
for you to use. As you do this the range of weapons and systems
available to you increases, until you are in tactical control
of the whole Darwinian war effort.
The way you're generating sound is really interesting. Can
you explain to our readers exactly what you're doing, and
what it adds to the game?
We are very lucky to have an industry veteren by the name
of Alistair Lindsay working with us on the audio system and
authoring our audio for us. I asked him to answer that question
for you. This stuff is very much still in development, so
some of the stuff we said in the promo doc is out of date
- the pokey chip for example isn't being used anymore because
we've since found something better.
Lindsay: My first reaction was to suggest using software emulations
of the original sound chips from some of the classic games
machines (such as the POKEY chip, or the SID chip), but then
I changed my mind. I wanted a system that would allow me to
use sample banks, just like a modern game, but also an engine
that would function like a synthesiser, taking the raw sfx
samples and mangling and warping them interactively at run
allows us to take a game event and link it to a given aspect
of the audio engine. For example, we can take the proximity
of an engineer to the camera, and link this to one of the
realtime dsp parameters available, say echo delay time. The
result is kind of freaky, slightly trippy, but very very arcade,
and the interactive morphing of sounds gives a dimension to
the gameplay that no retro game ever did!
Have we seen any sign of "difficult second album syndrome"
Definately. By the time Darwinia hits the shelves it will
have been 3 years since Uplink was released. It took us a
long time to really focus on what we were trying to do with
the game. For pretty much the entire first year of development
we tried stuff, threw it away, then tried more stuff, on and
on, without really stopping and zooming in on specific ideas.
It was very experimental which is great, but it was also very
uncontrolled. The game we're working towards now is very different
from our original plan...originally it was called Future War,
was multiplayer only, and had huge armies that you controlled
by waving your mouse around. Since then we've been through
a lot of different ideas and styles and it took us a long
time to settle down on what we have now.
are some people within Introversion that believe Darwinia
is an inner reaction against Uplink from our company, since
Uplink was so minimalist and cerebral and Darwinia is so visceral
and beautiful. I think we got tired of people's impressions
that Introversion Software could only do 2d teletext style
graphics. And there was a fear that we would just fall into
the easy groove - maybe make Uplink 2 or some other game that's
based around interfaces and gui's and emails and stuff, and
that would be all that Introversion ever did for the next
decade. There was a very strong desire to get as far away
as possible from Uplink and make something totally different
all, Darwinia has been considerably harder to pull together
than Uplink ever was.
Do you feel you have anything to live up to after your last
now I think people's impressions of Introversion are very
closely linked to Uplink, since that's the only product we've
released. Everyone we talk to thinks we make low budget hacking
games, which just isn't the case...that just happened to be
the first game we released. I think a lot of that will go
out the window when people see Darwinia.
said that, we have a lot of people on our forums that are
really holding their breaths. We worry quite a lot about this
because they're interested in Introversion because they're
interested in hacking, and Darwinia is something totally different.
But I think people are also hoping for something original...a
breath of fresh air from the corporate games world, since
Introversion has remained totally independent and we're still
trying to make very experimental games. And I don't think
they'll be disapointed on that front.
Also: I quite fancy starting a running joke about you guys
fixing the Readers
Top 100 a couple of years ago. Fancy copping up to such
a heinous crime?
Well, its a funny thing. Opinion is divided within Introversion
about our responsibility for that little anomily. It's certainly
true that we requested our fans vote for us in the PC Gamer
Top 100, but there's no law against that. It's just that we
have a particularly fanatical following, and it has been suggested
that this might have swayed the votes a little. Certainly
we are in a position where we can ask fans to help us and
they do, and I don't think larger developers or publishers
would be able to raise that kind of underground support.
case, it's guerilla marketing at its most effective...a lot
of people noticed Uplink from that Readers Top 100, and it's
all down to building a loyal fan base and then asking them
to help spread the word about what you are trying to do. When
you're as tiny as Introversion you have to find ways to publicise
yourself that don't cost too much and don't put you head to
head with the latest mega-publisher movie tie-in advertising
campaign. We're just glad that Gamer has a sense of humour
about it - here at Introversion Software we really didn't
stop laughing about it for a very long time.