Thursday, May 14, 2015

24 Megs of Evermore

I ran across this during a recent move. It's an EPROM we used during the final test phase of Secret of Evermore in late 1995. This would be a near-final beta of the game. No, it doesn't contain any secret, hidden unreleased stuff. We were too busy furiously trimming tiles from levels in our attempt to fit on the cartridge to leave in anything remotely like that.
I'm tempted to boot it up for old time's sake, but I have my doubts about that battery. I should also review which direction the board faces when you plug it in: EPROMS can be plugged into a console from either direction (chips towards or away from the player). Finished retail cartridges prevented that but during production we had to be careful. Facing the wrong direction would wipe the whole works.


Tuesday, May 05, 2015


I've been pretty quiet about my work at Microsoft lately. And for good reason. We kept this under wraps until the big announcement back in January. Once again, I've been fortunate enough to work on some amazing, future-y stuff. Here's the announce video for Microsoft Hololens:

The Build event last week featured more information and some very cool demos. Here's a nice video highlighting some of the work that went into the hardware:


Monday, September 08, 2014

Fully Authorized

It looks like I'm officially an author now. After my dad, Brad Kauzlaric, passed away in 2007 I started making a visual record of his artwork. He was an artist for many years, but there weren't good quality images of most of his work. That naturally enough lead to compiling all the images in a book along with a biography, plus notes sketches and details about how he created and worked.
You can find it up on Amazon. I'll probably have a reception and signing wingding over in my home county soon.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Is This Thing On?

Sooo... this blog was a complete wash for 2013 and most of 2014. Amazing. I can misplace a year or two in my couch cushions now and barely notice it. That's not surprising given my job, family and way too many side projects. Here's a quick update on some stuff I've been doing.
I'm keeping busy at Microsoft Studios. I work on an awesome team with some really talented people.

My indie/homebrew projects took a turn for the piratical in 2013 and 2014. Ron Gilbert and I got up to no good with Scurvy Scallywags in The Voyage to Discover The Ultimate Sea Shanty, a mobile game for iOS and Android. The game builds on a mechanic Ron and explored with a previous puzzle game called Realms of Gold. The central idea is that you make matches of 3 or more pieces, but you do that to move a character around the game board to fight (or keep away from) monsters and collect treasure.
Here's the official trailer:


Long story short: The game got some really good reviews and was almost worth the effort it took to create it. Almost.
I still make the occasional piece of art, mostly for fun. I added some new pieces to my series of Northwestern urban myth stories on my Clayorama blog. I might turn those into a book once I get around to creating a few more.
I also tried my hand at stitching together historic photos with images from Google Street View. Some of these turned out pretty well. These were in a Facebook album but after someone scraped those into an Imgur gallery and shared them on Reddit (with credit, thankfully) I decided to put them in a more public place, leading to yet another blog.
For the people who ask, I'm working on the final post in my TA-ncient History series about the making (and eventual release) of Total Annihilation. I promise I won't let two whole years slip by this time.


Friday, July 06, 2012

Save The Princess. Or Don't.

I work on games all day, and it's a blast. But sometimes I get the itch to try some random ideas and see what happens. This is where building stuff with my old pal Ron is a great outlet for all those random ideas rattling around my (our) head(s). We've made around ten games over the last billion years, and way more prototypes that went nowhere. The latest thing that went somewhere is The Big Big Castle. It's based on a concept I was pitching for Beep back in 2005. The game is a nifty little diversion for the iPad that lets you build insanely tall towers -- and knock them down.

This last part was added when my son was playing the game and was wondering why he couldn't destroy what he'd just built. So we added it, giving the kid his first credit on a game. Not bad for a nine year old. This is also my first foray into in-app purchase. It's pretty low key in The Big Big Castle. I hate it when you don't feel like you can do everything for free if you want to. TBBC also has a pretty neat way to share UGC (User Generated Content) where Game Center friends can see each others castles.

And blow them up, of course.

So, feel free to download the game and check it out. It's FREE at the moment. See you on the leaderboards!


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Sound Improvement

I made a little Flash cartoon called "Voodoo Vince Prehistory" years ago during the production of Voodoo Vince. I wanted to show how Vince would have looked in the early 1930's, had he existed during the era of creepy rubber hose-armed animation. When I finished this piece I just dropped in a music track from the game -- a piece called Zombie Guidance Counselor by Steve Kirk. The eighteen people who bought the game may recall this as Steve's score for the selfsame level in the game. It's a great piece, but I always felt that the cartoon would have worked better with real sound design.

Nine years later, Steve Kirk and a band of fantastic musicians have done just that. Steve re-scored the cartoon and did some stellar sound design. It's almost, well, funny now. Or more disturbing. Either way, it's 1000% better. Enjoy!


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Czech Please

It makes me nervous when I do an interview for a publication in a distant land and the only word I can understand in the headline is "idiot." Fortunately, this refers to DeathSpank... At least it does this time. Pavel Dobrovsky wrote a nice Q&A for the May edition of LeveL, a gaming publication in the Czech Republic. The questions were mostly about DeathSpank, Voodoo Vince, my current misadventures at Microsoft and whether my name is fictional or not. Run out and get yours today!


Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Musical Voodoo Toon for Mardi Gras

Today is Mardi Gras! It would be a shame to let the day go by without a Voodoo Vince-related post. Imagine my surprise and delight when I found this swell cartoon up on Newgrounds, set to some of the music from the game. It's an embedded Flash cartoon and you need to click past an ad, but it's worth checking out. I think Mr. Emanhattan (if that's his real name) did a bang-up job!

One correction, though. While he does credit the music from the Voodoo Vince soundtrack, he seems to have missed the fact that the music and lyrics for the Vince theme song are actually by me, not Steve Kirk (who did a superb job arranging the tune). It's an easy mistake, since Steve did compose virtually every other piece in the game's soundtrack.

Anyway, this made my day! Laissez les bons temps rouler!


Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Spanking Good Year

DeathSpank made the 20 Best Games of 2010 list over at Very cool! Seems like yesterday he was just a lump of modeling polymer, not to mention a pitch document that languished on the desk of publishers all over the world.

To celebrate, here are some random images, including some concept work for stuff that never made it into the game, and a screen mockup dating back to the very first concept document.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Print Institution Reborn

Some people read these things called "magazines." These are created when people grind up some trees, make flat white stuff called "paper," then print words and pictures all over it. It's like a blog, but you can smack spiders with it. One of the finer publications is Gamefan, which was resurrected a few months ago.

There's a nice, if somewhat dense, interview with me in this month's issue. Editor Dave Halverson grilled me on all sorts of topics, including DeathSpank, some recent artwork, Kinect and my projects at Microsoft. Pick up a copy at your local Best Buy, Target or Barnes & Noble if you really want to know what I think about... stuff.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Little Concept That Could

I've worked on over ninety thousand games with my friend Ron Gilbert. Or nine. I forget. One of our better known collaborations concludes this week with the release of DeathSpank: Thongs of Virtue on Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation Network. Yes, that lovable dumbass with the stentorian voice appears once more in the downloadable game cosmos. The epic story, first conceived in the seedy back alley of a rant-filled blog, draws to its momentous end.

Ron and I started thinking of DeathSpank as a character back in 2004. We schlepped the original concept all over the world, starting with a trip to Europe in 2005. Even after years of "no," we kept adding details to the character and his world. It just kept growing. We couldn't stop it. One vivid memory is the sight of the proto-story and puzzle tree document spread out on Ron's kitchen table as we explored the nooks and crannies of the initial design in 2006. It was a tough decision when I finally made the call to get a "real job," mostly because my family seems to require "food" and "shelter." It turns out you can't live on the sweet, sweet taste of justice alone.

Sidebar illustrations from the original pitch document for DeathSpank, circa 2005.

That DeathSpank was made at all is still astounding. People who create characters are used to having them knock around inside their heads. It's always kind of surprising when they escape and actually appear in the real world where everyone else can see them. But ideas are easy. The endless hours of detailed, hard work is the tricky part. DeathSpank's existence is a tribute to all the awesome, smart, funny talented people involved in its creation and development. Those who weren't awesome, smart, funny or talented were only minimally inconvenient, so that's pretty great too in an odd sort of way.

Head shape work 2008

I'm proud of my work on DeathSpank. I named him. I took a chunk of sculpting stuff and molded the basic shape of his heroic noggin with my own hands. I iterated on his visual design, taking him from a glorified stick figure to a fleshed out hero who could walk and talk and kill lots of things. Hothead does that nutty "we don't believe in regular credits that describe what everybody actually did" thing, so I guess my character designs, juvenile jokes, puzzles and story contributions will just have to remain our little secret. Due credit or not, my time with DeathSpank is certainly over and done with at this point.

Getting closer! Almost there...

It's the end of a six year saga where I've gone from co-conspirator, to frustrated outsider, to a distant observer who feels pride in what the concept ultimately accomplished -- and regret for what it could have been. Still, when it's all said and done, the world is better off with DeathSpank in it.

And now, randomly selected reviews!



Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Verbosity You Can Touch

One of the casual download games I made a few years ago just got revamped and all tarted up for the iPad. Word Spiral HD launched on the App Store last night. I have to say, it seems to work even better with a touch interface than it did with a mouse. Check it out if you're a fan of word games. Or beaches. Or very laid back Reggae-ish music by (Voodoo Vince composer) Steve Kirk.