At the time of its release, in October of 1994, the registered version of
Wacky Wheels was available in two forms: a regular version, containing three
sets of tracks, for $24.95; and an "upgrade edition," containing an additional
three sets of tracks, for $34.95. The upgrade could be also purchased
separately for $20. Presently, Apogee only registers the larger, six track
set version of Wacky Wheels, and only on CD. On March 2, 2000, the
registration cost was reduced to $10.
As with Halloween Harry and Mystic Towers, version 1.0 of Wacky Wheels was
actually an incomplete version of the game released to a magazine in the UK.
The first complete, public release of Wacky Wheels was version 1.1.
Andy Edwardson's paraphrased history of Wacky Wheels follows:
Back in 1993, we were doing some low budget stuff for a Belgium outfit called
Copysoft. I got fed up with the meager work, so I decided to work on a game
engine in my spare time. I figured that the PC could do the mode7 stuff that
the Super Nintendo was doing. I could not find any references for it, so I
just studied Mario Kart and tried to figure out how it worked. I had a
prototype engine up in about a week that did the floor painting and the
rotation stuff. After that, I worked on it for a few more months, and Shaun
Gadalla did artwork for it, and it started to get pretty solid. I showed it
to the Copysoft crew, and they were quite excited and put a few screenshots
of it on Compuserve. The problem was, we hadn't come to any commercial
agreement with the company, and it was not a sure thing that they would get
the game. Scott Miller, Apogee's president, happened to come across the
screenshots and contacted Copysoft, and then we got into a fight with Copysoft
over royalties, should Apogee end up distributing the game. I had made an
unfortunate mistake -- I had included the C++ source code on the demo disk
we left with them.
Shaun contacted Scott, and we came to an agreement. Shaun and I agreed
to pay back what CopySoft had given us for equipment and so forth.
Development went on. When we went into beta we thought we would be out of
there in a few weeks. However, when we got in there it was apparent that we
needed more features. Beta was really important for me. If I had not listened
to those testers, the game would not have been what it is. Most of the ideas
came from us, but they kept the pressure up. It would have been too easy to
sit on our hands and think what we were doing was best. The testers kept me
on my toes, and, best of all, they told the truth. Another thing was Joe
Siegler. I hate to admit this, but I didn't understand why he was so
blunt all the time. I was so wrapped up in myself and becoming a bit of a
pre-madonna. It was only later that I realized Joe was just being honest with
us and trying to help us make the best game possible. I think Joe symbolizes
what Apogee is; he works so hard all the time, and he practically lives there.
At any rate, at one point I wanted to make amends with him. I knew he was
into Dopefish, so I asked if we could put the fish in as a cameo. We
discussed how it might work, and he sent me some stills and a collection of
belches that he had recorded when he sat down one night with a microphone
and a two liter bottle of Diet Coke. I picked one of them, but I think that
Joe would have preferred it if I had picked one of the louder ones he sent me!
Because Doom had introduced the concept of modem play, the beta testers
wanted it. Despite popular belief, Rise of the Triad did not introduce
Remote Ridicule -- Wacky Wheels had it first. Rise of the Triad did take it
one step further by allowing you to type messages to each other.
At any rate, modem play really made my head spin. I never realised how
unreliable packets were until I did the multiplayer engine. My hat goes off
to John Carmack for his net play engine. To make matters worse, I was
working at Shaun's place, and his phone lines were awful. But it did make the
protocol really robust!
The music in Wacky Wheels was really lacking, and George Broussard said we
needed more tunes. Jim Dose had just been hired at Apogee, and he had a
terrific sound engine. We ripped out the old one and put his in. Jim also
put us in touch with Mark Klem, and I would spend hours on the phone with
him listening to his music. I really love the stuff he did, and I really
should contact him for old time's sake.
As testing went on, I got more and more worried that, in the wake of Doom,
all gameplayers wanted now was blood and guts, and Wacky Wheels wasn't about
that. But we kept going, and I was determined to make it work. Anything the
beta testers wanted, they got, except for the rear view mirror suggestion they
kept plugging for. I didn't think it lent anything to the game, and it would
have meant rendering another 3D view in another little window.
One memorable moment for us was when Shaun and I flew over to Texas, and we
went to see George and Scott at the Apogee offices. I will never forget going
into and seeing the pictures on the wall. They had the cover art for each of
their games in a frame. Wacky Wheels was next to Wolfenstein 3D. That was an
incredible moment in my life -- to be anywhere near associated with one of the
greatest games of all time was neat to say the least. We went out to dinner
with George and Scott, then visited their houses. (George had this bloody
great big shark in a tank!) We got to talking about games, and George showed
us Pitfall and asked if we could do anything like that. After Wacky Wheels,
we did a test engine for them, but they were moving into the 3D market by
then, and we didn't have anything to offer in that area at the time.
Anyway, we finally cracked the modem play, and it had one final round in beta
testing. Joe Siegler gave it a good test, and he was happy with it. So it
was finally ready to ship.
Then the bombshell hit us. Scott faxed us that Skunny Kart, a game from
Copysoft that used my engine, had hit Compuserve. My heart sank. The only
saving grace was that it was not all that similar to Wacky Wheels, and there
was quite a legal wrangle over it all.
I was so angry, and it took all of Shaun's resolve to stop me from acting
rashly. There was no way Copysoft had the ability to write an engine like
that from scratch. In a perverse way, it taught me a valuable lesson. I
was very hurt by it all, and it still bothers me to this day. In hindsight
we were very stupid and should have known better.
If I could turn the clock back and make Wacky Wheels violent, full of blood
and gore would I? Nah. It was fun, and kids big and small can enjoy it.