From: Scott Nelson. Are you ready, Brian?
Oops, I mean Bill. Do you have time right now for an interview
Yes I do, I am just wrapping up another rev of AvP
Cool. Well, I'm new to this ICQ thing, so bear with me - BILL (not Brian,
anything but Brian)
Trying to Chat with Capt Fargo?
Yeah, I wish! Do you stay in contact with him?
Yes. I do, In fact I've spoken to him about 3 weeks ago.
Well, hook me up! Just kidding. Let's start from the beginning...
When was the first time you ever heard of The Bard's Tale?
In 1984 when Mike Cranford suggested that Interplay Productions should do
a fantasy role playing game (Wizardry was hot at the time). However the
game's name was "Tales of the Unknown"
So, you and Mike both worked for Interplay at the time?
Mike never "worked" for Interplay. He was an independent contractor.
He was able to do this since he was an old high school buddy of Brian
Fargo. Cranford worked in an office at Interplay up until the completion
of Bard's Tale I. He did Bard's Tale II from his home.
I've worked at Interplay from the day it was founded in November 1983 to
Feb of 1995
Wow! Were you one of the founders of Interplay?
Yes, Brian Fargo was the main guy, he and Jay Patel, Troy Worrell and
myself were the first 4 people who were Interplay.
Was Tales of the Unknown the first big project for Interplay, or was it
one of many projects?
The first game released by Interplay was Mindshadow and Tracer Sanction in
mid 1984 through Activision. It was followed by Borrowed Time and then
What was your role on the BT team?
For Bard's Tale I and II for the Apple ][, I did all the graphics routines,
disk routines and all other low level functions for keyboard and sound.
Cranford wrote the game logic and was the "producer" of the project.
I then converted the game to C64, Apple ][gs and had a major role in the PC
It's hard enough for me just to learn one programming language. Did you
have to learn every different language for every different computer system
that you made the Bard's Tale for?
At the time, yes. The game was written in 6502 assembly. I converted it to
65816 assembly for the ][gs version and then later helped in the conversion
to "C" for the PC version.
Although I wrote Dragon Wars for the PC in pure intel assembly.
Pure assembly? OUCH! Excuse me for saying it, but that must have sucked!
Not really. You see after Bard's Tale II was completed and Mike left to do
his own things. I started on Bard's Tale III. I found that a lot of the game
logic was simple routines that were copied over and over again. So I created
a script language that was executed by a small runtime interpreter. This
was the basis of the Bard's Tale III engine.
Later when I did Dragon Wars, the entire game was written in a scripting
language. So all I had to do for the conversion was port the scripting
engine and then the game runs fine.
Did you put in a lot of late nights working on BT3?
Yes I do, Here it is 1/11/2000 and it's 8:30 in the evening. And I'm working!
Who came up with the ideas for the different Dimensions in the BT III?
The game design was the brainchild of Michael Stackpole. He currently is
doing Star Wars and Battletech novels.
The fleshing out of the story into an RPG was me and the art was Todd
Camasta. Music was composed by Kurt Heiden (WHo now works at Creative Labs).
That was the ENTIRE team.
That's the whole team? Amazing! Did you ever think that ten years after
you made the BT3, people would still be playing it?
Actually I did, the only thing I didn't foresee was the Bard's Tale III was
to be the last one. :(
Well I sure hope that someday the saga will continue. If you were allowed
to produce BT4, do you have any new ideas in the back of your mind on things
you might do differently this time?
We have a whole game design document and even a prototype of the engine.
We pitched the idea to EA about a month ago but they were not interested. :(
Oh, that is a shame!!! With your new engine, has the game been enhanced a
lot, or does it still look basically the same?
Completely new game. It has more of an Everquest look to it but all the art
and sounds have a Bard's Tale feel to it.
What other games did you like to play in the 80's?
I liked Bard's Tale, Wasteland, Crystal Quest and Space Invaders
Being the WebMaster of BardsTale.com, I know I can't walk down the street
without getting surrounded by ladies begging for my autograph. Did the same
thing happen to you after the release of BT3? If so, how did you handle the
fame, fortune, and media exploitation?
Interplay got all the fame and fortune. Sadly, history doesn't record much
about me. After all, I created Bard's Tale III and Dragon Wars. But people
remember Mike Cranford for BT I and II. I've already worked on over 200
titles from 1980 and my name hardly ever comes up.
I did get some money out of Interplay after my departure, so I'm ok. I now
have Contraband Entertainment keeping me busy doing some original titles.
Our last one was Wild West Shootout for Encore Software. We are currently
doing a Paintball game for Encore and soon we will have our first internally
created game finished.
But I still want to do BT IV.
I can see why. Which computer platform do you enjoy playing The Bard's
Tale games on?
My favorite was the Apple ][gs version. Bard's Tale I and II made it to
store shelves, but I still have somewhere the ][gs version of BT III.
Do you still have an Apple ][gs to play them on?
Yep, on my desk. It's 14 years old but it still works.
What do you think of all the BT pages on the net right now. Is it neat to
see people paying tribute to your work?
I love it. I just wish it would convince someone at EA or Interplay to let
us do BT IV.
I know! Every Bard's Tale fan on the net is dying for a Bard's Tale 4!
If only the Powers That Be would see the light!!!
Well EA, owns the name, Interplay owns the code (Although now one cares
about that today) and the names of the characters in the game(s).
So I'd have to get a license from EA to use the Bard's Tale name and logos,
and a license from Interplay to use the mythos from the original games.
I still think that it is worth doing.
The entire Bard's Tale community agrees with you 100%, especially the
Elders at the Review Board...
Do you have any cool memories of working on
Bard's Tale, or any funny stories?
Where to begin? I remember how bummed we were when people forgot the name
of the game was "Tales of the Unknown". So of course we have to have a Bard
in the sequel. The original idea was to call the first one, The Bard's Tale
since it revolved around the Bard. The sequel was to be called the
Archmage's Tale, and then the third was the Thieves' Tale.
So much for branding.
That's hilarious! I could tell that the next game would probably not be
"Bard's Tale II", but rather "Tales of the Unkown Volume II".
Todd Camasta did the art for all three games. After doing Bard's Tale II,
he was going bonkers about Bard's Tale III. He hated to draw what he called
"Dog like creatures" or DLC's.
Werewolves, hounds, dogs all looked the same to him and he was tired of
coming up with yet another way to draw a dog.
Speaking of Bard, Archmage and Thieves Tale, did you have that planned out
ahead of time? After BT1, did you know that BT2 would be about an
Archmage, and BT3 would be about a Thief?
Yep. The specific stories were not done, but the general theme was already
Amazing. Were only three planned originally?
Yep. After all that's over 2 years worth of work.
Do you have any story ideas for Bard's Tale 4 yet?
As I said before, we have a whole game design document. It takes place
after Bard's Tale III and begins the tale again. We hope it's the first
part of a three part saga.
A 3 part saga? That would be incredible!!!
One last question for you, most honorable Burger. How did you get the
In 1982, I was working at a company called Boone Corporation. Brian Fargo
was the vice-pres of R&D, Troy Worrel, Jay Patel and I were programmers.
The staff sound familiar?
Another programmer worked there, Troy Miles. He was a health food junkie
and was always telling me to stop eating burgers.
Since I walked to work, it was common for me to purchase several burgers
for Lunch and Dinner.
Well I worked a very late night and was still there in the morning. Troy
came in early and sat at his desk across from me. At 3 PM I sat back and
said, "It's burger time!" and opened my drawer and ate my late lunch.
Troy, upon seeing this thought nothing of it until it dawned on him that
the burgers are at least 18 hours old. He ran screaming from the room
yelling "That burger dude is insane" and went straight to the men's
room to throw up.
Brian Fargo came into my room and said "What did you do to him?" And I
answered "I don't know, I'm just eating my lunch".
In time, people started calling me "Burger" Bill and the name has stuck
Oh, what a story! How far did you walk to work?
About 3 blocks.
I see. Well, thank you very much, Bill "Burger" for your interview!
You have been most generous with your time! If you'd be willing, I'd
love to do this again sometime! I'd love to hear more stories about The
No problem, and it's "Burger" Bill Heineman
Oops, yes, "Burger" Bill!
You can contact me at WebMaster@BardsTale.com,
and you can reach "Burger" Bill at Burger@logicware.com.
Until next month, farewell fellow Bard's Tale fans!
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