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CREATED XXX.XX.XXXX
UPDATED DEC.01.2007
VANCE KOZIK INTERVIEW
PROFILE
Name Vance Kozik
Profession Programmer, Producer
NES Reference Color Dreams

Welcome to NES WORLD's first interview. After like half a year of research, I finally found one of Color Dreams' programmers. This was back in December 1997, but I never got around to contacting the person, because of finals in January 1998. Well in the middle of April in finally wrote Stardot Technologies an e-mail asking for the person, Vance Kozik, who I knew was working there.

A few days later I received an e-mail from Vance Kozik, saying that he would be available to talk at the end of April, as he was vacationing in Europe at the moment. So I contacted him in the beginning of May, and here's what he had to say :)

INTERVIEW
NES WORLD:
Hello, I run a large NES site called NES WORLD, feel free to check it out. I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions about Color Dreams?

VANCE KOZIK:
I checked out your site... very nice. It had a very clean professional look and a lot of interesting information. It's the only site that doesn't slam the Color Dreams' games (although 95% of them were definitely way below average).

Sure... via e-mail is best.

NES WORLD:
Ok, here we go... How many people worked for Color Dreams, and who started the company?

VANCE KOZIK:
As few as 10 and as many as 60. The company was started by Eddy Lin and Dan Lawton (plus some other shareholders).

NES WORLD:
Which year was Color Dreams started? (1990?)

VANCE KOZIK:
1989.

NES WORLD:
What was it like to work for Color Dreams? Did you have an office where you all worked together? or was Color Dreams only somthing that existed in a garage somewhere?, if you know what I mean :)

VANCE KOZIK:
There were actually two offices... the main one in Brea and for a while (90-92) there was a programmers/artists office in Tustin. In the early days (90-91), the artists and programmers came in and worked whatever hours they wanted.... usually 4pm - 2am.

NES WORLD:
What did you use to make the games? I mean, you didn't own an original NES development kit right?

VANCE KOZIK:
All of the develpment tools were designed and developed in house by reverse-engineering the NES.

NES WORLD:
Why didn't Color Dreams get an official license to develop games for the NES, it would've made everything a lot easier eh?

VANCE KOZIK:
Too expensive... too long to get a game out. Color Dreams also produced unlicensed games for the Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo and GameBoy. Only one official licensed game was ever produced by Color Dreams. It was Crystal Mines II for the Atari Lynx handheld game system. The programmer for Crystal Mines I & II was rumored to port Crystal Mines II for Windows 95 but I don't think it ever happened.

NES WORLD:
Is it true that the Hellraiser game was supposed to have 16bit graphics? I know it never was released, but did a prototype of the game even exist?

VANCE KOZIK:
I don't know what kind of graphics Hellraiser was supposed to have. The so-called super cartridge did exist as a prototype piece of hardware but no games were ever made for it. The Hellraiser rights were purchased in 1990 for the purpose of making a game. There were regular 8-bit NES graphics and some levels laid out for an 8-bit Hellraiser but no very much was done and no cartridge was ever made.

NES WORLD:
Could you give me some details about Hellraiser? (like which type of game it was)

VANCE KOZIK:
See above. The graphics started out gory... and then were changed to comic since gory doesn't play well with 8-bit graphics. Later, Color Dreams bought the Wolfenstein engine rights from ID Software and altered the code, made new levels and really cool graphics for a PC game. The game was too far behind schedule to complete though. By the time the first test version was ready, Doom had already come out and the look and feel of the Hellraiser game was soon to be antiquated. The graphics were really scary though... all the Hellraiser characters were in it... and you walked around with the Hellraiser cube in your hand. Another reason the game was abandoned was that the Hellraiser license expired in December 95 and there was already another company announcing a CD-ROM game for February.

NES WORLD:
Do you remember the most successful Color Dreams game? (best seller)

VANCE KOZIK:
Just guessing here. Captain Comic proabably. I believe it was the first one and it came out during the peak of NES hysteria.

NES WORLD:
Which Color Dreams game was your favourite?

VANCE KOZIK:
Crystal Mines. In my opinion, it was the only game that was given the proper amount of time spent on it for programming and game/level design. The Crystal Mines engine was ported to Exodus. Modifications were made and Joshua came out. Both Exodus and Joshua have arguably better graphics and game play than Crystal Mines did. The Crystal Mines engine was modified even further to produce Spiritual Warfare and was modified one final time to produce Bible Buffet. I think there may have been an Asian version of Crystal Mines that had anime girls stripping as reward screens.

NES WORLD:
How many games did you make?

VANCE KOZIK:
I don't know off-hand... your list seemed pretty complete. There were some funny prototypes that were never released... one was called Free Fall (eventually turned into Fish Fall, one of the Wisdom Tree games on Sunday Funday). There was another one called Maggots. There are a couple of other games that were fully packaged and ready to be sold that never did... I think was one called Secret Scout and the Temple of Demise (not sure if it was released or not). Another one was called Happy Camper.

NES WORLD:
Why is Saddam's nametag on the box of Secret Storm "Dicktater".? :)

VANCE KOZIK:
I forgot about that joke.... that's pretty funny. Dictator.

NES WORLD:
What was the purpose of the Bunch Games label?

VANCE KOZIK:
From what I understand (I didn't start working at Color Dreams until May 90), the label was started to sell the games that weren't good enough to be Color Dreams games, if you can believe that. :-)

NES WORLD:
Why was Wisdom Tree started?

VANCE KOZIK:
Rumor has it, the original idea came up as a joke made by one of the programmers... a few months later it was a reality. A good thing too... the secular NES market was over-competitive and starting to die out. The Christian market was a whole new market and Bible Adventures may have been the best selling game (250,000+).

NES WORLD:
You must have been inspired by Nintendo's "The Legend of Zelda" when you decided to make Spiritual Warfare, right?

VANCE KOZIK:
Definitely.

NES WORLD:
What made you decide to leave Color Dreams/Wisdom Tree?

VANCE KOZIK:
Wisdom Tree (or at least the name rights) was purchased last year and is now headquarted in Arizona... I have no idea what or how they're doing. Color Dreams last game effort was Hellraiser which never was produced and hasn't done anything since. StarDot Technologies was born out of the remainder of the Color Dreams' employees together with new employees and they mainly design, manufacture and sell digital camera technology.

Nearly all of the Wisdom Tree games were developed from previous game engines. The Crystal Mines engine and major modifications thereafter were used for Exodus, Joshua, Spritual Warfare and Bible Buffet. The BOGUS (binary output game utility system) state machine (engine), which was orginally developed for one of the Color Dreams games, was used to make Bible Adventures, King of Kings and Jericho (unreleased). The last Wisdom Tree game, Sunday Funday, was a direct port (only graphics and reward screens changed) of Menace Beach.

The only Wisdom Tree rarities I know of are the first release of Bible Adventures which had a black bird bug on the 2nd level of Noah's Ark... it couldn't be completed and the first release of King of Kings which had different artwork.

NES WORLD:
Were are the leftovers from Color Dreams today? (ie prototype cartridges, game code etc)

VANCE KOZIK:
There's a lot of interesting tidbits laying around... unfortunately, most of them accidentally went with Wisdom Tree.

NES WORLD:
Most of the graphics were made by "Nina". Was that a nickname for someone or.....?

VANCE KOZIK:
Nina Bedner... now Nina Stanley did almost all the graphics for the Wisdom Tree games as well as Menace Beach. She's really good. She's a professional painter when she's not doing video game artwork. Trivial note: Her father is Owsley Stanley (Bear), who's quite famous in the LSD / Grateful Dead circles... see http://www.fringeware.com/subcult/Owsley_Stanley.html

NES WORLD:
How many Color Dreams and Windom Tree games did you program? Menace Beach, Spiritual Warefare and?

VANCE KOZIK:
Well since Color Dreams actually did the coding for the Wisdom Tree games (they came up with the content), I was pretty much involved in all of the Wisdom Tree games as well as Menace Beach and I did a couple of levels on Perterminator (absolutely horrible game that was being made when I first started with the company). I did 1/3 to 1/2 of the levels and character programming on Bible Adventures, King of Kings, Spirtual Warfare, Exodus, Joshua and Bible Buffet. I also did all of the music for Super 3-D Noah's Ark (not that it's great or anything).

NES WORLD:
Did Color Dreams have any relations to the other unlicensed companies like American Video Entertainment? I mean, did you ever share information and such?

VANCE KOZIK:
No... everything was reverse engineered in house by our then and current resident genius / mad scientist, Dan Lawton.

NES WORLD:
Are Color Dreams games freeware today? or are they owned by Wisdom Tree?

VANCE KOZIK:
I believe Color Dreams own all of the games... the people that run Wisdom Tree only own the name "Wisdom Tree" and the right to sell the games.

NES WORLD:
Do you remember if Nintendo ever sued Color Dreams for violating copyrights or something?

VANCE KOZIK:
You'd had to look through old press reports for that... no one here remembers... I'm guessing there may have been a threat but no lawsuit ever came about because we were within our legal rights.

NES WORLD:
I e-mailed Wisdom Tree about a month ago, asking about their NES cartridges. It turns out that they still have most Color Dreams carts in stock and are selling them for like US$10-15 :)

VANCE KOZIK:
That's funny. No wonder why they snuck them out of the building.

NES WORLD:
Oh yeah(!) It seems like Color Dreams (only the black cartridges though) are the only unlicensed games which will work in a European NES unit without a converter. Did you ever plan on releasing the games in Europe? (My Menace Beach manual is written in German, French and English)

VANCE KOZIK:
The program and video chips just need to be put on a newer board that did a better job of zapping the Nintendo key chip in order to work in Europe. By that time, Wisdom Tree was successful and the Color Dreams titles were just left for dead (except for the last one, Menace Beach included).

NES WORLD:
How did you start working for Color Dreams?

VANCE KOZIK:
I was working at a TV station in San Antonio, Texas (my degree is in Radio/TV/Film). An old friend of mine from when I lived in Germany was now living in Southern California and said he could get me a job at this video game company he was working for.

He said I would be hired as a manager to supervise the programmers/artists in the Tustin office to make sure the games got out in time and the quality was good. He said I had only three days to make up my mind and be out there. So I left my girlfriend, cat and job all within 3 days and was out in California. I did not know how and did not want to manage people...

I figured I would get my foot in the door and then work my way into game design / programming. As it turned out, my first assignment was to evaluate Pesterminator and offer suggestions on how to improve it. The game was and is still just awful... levels were boring, game play was awfull, joystick/here response was choppy, etc. When I wrote up a long list and told my opinions to the programmers and artists, they wouldn't even turn to look at me... it was a really bad experience. Luckily, I was turned into a game designer a couple of months later and I started Menace Beach (unfortunately with a really bad game engine / programming language which I pushed to its limits).

NES WORLD:
Did you program videogames before you started working for Color Dreams? ( if so... for which company for which systems?)

VANCE KOZIK:
I did game programming back in 82/83 when I was 17/18 years old. The same friend who got me the job in 90 got me a job back in 83. It was for a company called Cosmi (later Swift Software) who made disk and cassette-based games for the Commodore Vic-20 and 64, Atari 400/800 and TI-99 computers. It was back in the days when one person did the entire game... design, programming, graphics, levels, music, sounds, etc. I made a game called Slinky for the Atari 400/800 which got ported to the Commodore 64. It was a Q-Bert knock off. I also ported a Com-64 game called Forbidden Forest for play on the Atari 400/800.

I basically learned 6502 assembly on the job and didn't get the time to develop any original material. By the time I did, I was completely burned out and too young to handle living on my own in California, so I moved back to Texas to go to school and didn't program games again until 1990.

NES WORLD:
Ok, thats about all I had to ask you about

VANCE KOZIK:
Now that you're completely bored... :-)
I hope I've answered all of your questions.