I guess this is what they call “coming full circle,” eh? The podcast that inspired me to start my own podcast allowed me to do my own guest episode for that podcast.
Confused yet? Don’t be. It just means that I got the chance to do my very own episode of Upper Memory Block, the podcast usually hosted by Joe Mastroianni. But because he’s off populating the Earth, he asked friends if they wouldn’t mind keeping his show alive while he was tending to the new heir to the throne, and I was fortunate enough to be included in that roster of people.
The game I’m covering is Steel Empire (also known as Cyber Empires in North America); a little-known strategy/arcade hybrid by then-fledgling company Silicon Knights.
I even managed to score an interview with Silicon Knights founder Denis Dyack, who kindly spoke to me for an hour about making the game. There’s about 30 minutes of the interview in the episode itself, but I put the full-length interview on Mixcloud.
No, seriously, I’m asking. What gives? It was teased by the current rightsholder, then apparently just dropped and forgotten. At least, that’s how it seems.
Maybe I should backtrack, in case you don’t know what Toonstruck is. Because, even as popular as it once was, mentioning it still seems to draw some quizzical glances.
Toonstruck was a late-golden-era (1996) graphic adventure game created by Burst Entertainment, a company made up of a bunch of adventure gaming veterans (the one I’m most familiar with is artist Bil Skirvin, who had previously been at Sierra On-Line). They sunk everything they had — and then some — into developing Toonstruck, their first — and, as it would turn out, only — product.
The production values are really second-to-none. You’ve got fully animated cartoon fun in the style of 1930’s Warner Bros. cartoons, voiced by industry veterans like Dan Castellaneta (Homer Simpson), Tress MacNeille (Mom from Futurama), and Frank Welker (every goddamn cartoon you’ve ever seen). On top of that were live acting performances by Christopher Lloyd (yes, that Christopher Lloyd!) as the protagonist, and Ben Stein from before he came out as a right-wing nutjob.