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Swamiware

If you know who Goku and Brolly are, then chances are that you’re a fan of Dragon Ball Z, the manga-turned-anime series. If you want to revel in the action beyond the screen, Swamiware has just the ticket.

If you know who Goku and Brolly are, then chances are that you’re a fan of Dragon Ball Z, the manga-turned-anime series. If you want to revel in the action beyond the screen, Detroit-based game developer Swamiware has just the ticket with its recently released “Dragon Ball Z: Taiketsu.” Company president Patrick Alphonso chats about programming, Nintendo, and the chicken vs. egg problem.

What kind of work does Swamiware do?

We are a video game software developer, and the only licensed Nintendo developer in Michigan. We do the software engineering, programming, and artwork for video games. We create the game engine technology and tools that go into making games, and we also make the games. Often called a third-party developer, game publishers ask us to actually design and create the game software.

How did the company get started?

I started the company in 2000, after the Illinois-based game studio I was working for as a lead programmer closed. I worked remotely from Michigan. At the founding of the company we had dot-com clients, and developed and launched numerous high-profile sites. After the bubble burst, we did scientific engineering, application development, and R&D for the automotive, medical, and travel industries. After receiving full Nintendo licensing we returned to the game arena, and spent a year creating original cutting edge game technology and tools for Game Boy Advance.

What are some notable projects you’ve worked on?

I was one of the programmers on “Mortal Kombat 3” for Sega Genesis, and in addition to working on the game, created all the cheat codes and hidden games. I worked on “SeaQuest DSV” for Sega Genesis, and was the lead programmer and AI designer on “NHL Breakaway ’98” for PlayStation/Nintendo 64, the Video Game Spot Sports Game of the Year in 1997. I contributed engine work to “WWF Warzone” for PlayStation, and was one of the leads on “Centipede” for PlayStation. Also, I contributed to “Jeff Gordon Racing” for the PC, and “Gorka Morka” for Sega DreamCast. Most recently, I was the lead programmer/designer and tools programmer on “Dragon Ball Z: Taiketsu” for Game Boy Advance, released last Christmas.

What are some current and future challenges facing game developers?

There are many. One is that this is a high-return business model, but it’s also high risk. There are ballooning development costs as well as management challenges in having to be in charge of large teams of developers. You have to foster synergy in teams, and find qualified people who can stay ahead of technology. Right now, we’re trying to compete with teams that are five times larger than ours, so having the right people on the team is very important.

Your Web site says that you’re an officially licensed Nintendo developer. What does that entail exactly? Do you have similar arrangements with other game companies?

Nintendo, Sony, & Microsoft gaming systems are closed platform. Meaning that the architecture is proprietary and confidential. To develop anything for their game systems you must be officially licensed. Once licensed you receive the specs and documents so you can develop for it. To become officially licensed on any of the game systems, your company needs to have a proven track record in games, and at least one compelling product or a product demo or technology that is demonstrable on that system. The chicken and the egg problem exists here since you need to be licensed to do a demo, and need a demo to be licensed.

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