Much Scoobydoo about nothing
Richard wilcox on the missing Scooby-doo game
how did Scooby-doo come about?
God, I loved the scooby cartoons. I still do; they’re probably my favourite of all time. Not quite sure who had the idea of licensing scooby. It’s highly likely that I would have suggested it, but steve would have done the deal. He was very good at tracking down who owned the rights and getting the licences, even though the tv and film companies weren’t attuned to merchandising and rights exploitation like they are today.
Tell us about the original idea.
When it came to what the scooby game would be the design really fell to me. I was never a great programmer and only a very mediocre designer of graphics, but I wasn’t a bad games designer. I was methodical and structured even back in those days when the idea of creating a game design document before starting coding was alien. the ambitions for scooby were enormous. Even though it would sell because of the licence, I wanted it to be a great game in its own right. the prototype was don Bluth’s Dragon’s Lair, something that looked as good as any cartoon but was interactive. to me, it seemed that if we could at least distil some of the elements of that then we might have a chance of telling a real scooby story and make something that felt at least a little bit like an episode of the show.
why didn’t it happen?
the big difference between that game and ours would be the hardware. theirs was pulling the animation off laserdisc. We just had 48k of RAM in which to cram all of our animations. In our defence, we gave it a pretty good shot. I came up with what these days you might call a ‘game engine’ that allowed us to define and run interactive scenes. It was pretty darn powerful and allowed you to create mini-games that were extremely varied. the really clever thing was that you didn’t need to code each mini-game separately; we had developed a scene designer tool that allowed you to do the layout and define the interactivity. this tool then encoded the levels in such a way that they could be played back in real time. Andy Williams did the coding. He was Elite’s number-one programmer and, of course, he nailed it. But what killed us was the graphics. I hadn’t accounted for just how much animation we would need and how long it would take and ultimately how much memory it would need… memory that, of course, the spectrum didn’t have.
could it ever have been made?
It was ahead of its time. A few years down the line when art teams were much bigger and machines had more memory we would have got there. I still don’t think there’s been a game that has combined the best elements of cartoons and games.