The Bard's Tale Compendium
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The People Behind The Bard's Tale Legacy

Michael Cranford


The Bard's Tale series of games were created by Michael Cranford, pictured at left. He has an elegant programmer's touch. You can't see it in this picture of him, but you can see it in The Bard's Tale series. Before launching The Bard's Tale phenomenon, he had previously programmed the Apple version of the classic Donkey Kong arcade game, the Commodore 64 version of Super Zaxxon -- not to mention a Commodore 64 game entitled Maze Master which plays like a "beta" version of The Bard's Tale.

The Bard's Tale was the fourth game created by Interplay Productions, and it was distributed by Electronic Arts. The working title was Shadow Snare, and the original pitch document provided by Brian Fargo describes it as,

"...a role playing game set in a medieval fantasy world. If it could be called similar to any existing game, that game would be Wizardry, by Sir Tech Software. The object in the design of Shadow Snare has not been to copy Wizardry, but to come up with a role playing game of similar, though greatly increased, playability. The graphics, sound, and content would be ten times that of Wizardry, which is still a top seller, along with its varied scenarios and Ultima III. Unlike Wizardry, the town in Shadow Snare is depicted with a series of small (though highly detailed) graphic pictures, some of which are animated. The display is graphic, and the text output window scrolls messages up smoothly. All disk access will be quick and hardly noticeable, even on the Commodore 64 (which Wizardry is not even released on)."

As "Burger" Bill Heineman explains,

"Brian Fargo was the main guy, he and Jay Patel, Troy Worrell and myself were the first 4 people who were Interplay... In 1984, Mike Cranford suggested that Interplay Productions should do a fantasy role playing game (Wizardry was hot at the time). However the game's name was 'Tales of the Unknown'... Mike never 'worked' for Interplay. He was an independent contractor. he was able to do this since he was an old high school buddy of Brian Fargo. Cranford worked in an office at Interplay up until the completion of Bard's Tale I. He did Bard's Tale II from his home."

Many fans of the Bard's Tale series don't realize that its creator has a very strong Christian faith which is even evident in the games—for example, there are direct references to Jesus and His crucifixion in The Bard's Tale, and all but one of the city names from the second game are taken directly out of the New Testament of the Bible. (In fact, the power of the Destiny Knight in The Bard's Tale II is clearly stated to actually be that of the Holy Spirit.) When I asked Michael why he was not directly involved in The Bard's Tale III, he said that,

"The reason I wasn't involved in BTIII is complicated. Part of it was that I wanted to leave Interplay so that I could go back to school. I was pretty burnt out on D&D game programming . . . and wanted to pursue studies in philosophy and theology. I also thought I didn't need Interplay at that point, and had a falling out with Brian Fargo. It turned out to be a good decision spiritually, though not financially!" (E-mail, 1998)

And he wasn't kidding—after leaving Interplay, Michael earned a bachelors degree in philosophy from the University of California, a Master of Divinity from Talbot School of Theology, and a Ph.D. in Religion and Social Ethics from the University of Southern California with a disertation focus on ethics and technology. He has taught both graduate and undergraduate courses in ethics and theology, and has publications in several New Testament journals and in scholarly journals of ethics and contemporary postmodern culture.

Michael is also founder and senior designer of the Irvine, California web site design company, Ninth Degree.
Not surprisingly, his very first Internet web design project was a web site for Christian outreach called Sundoulos, "the web's premier forum for discussions on theology, ethics, and culture."

I found a humourous WAV file on the Sundoulos web site from a lecture Michael Cranford gave on fasting where he talks briefly about how "Burger" Bill Heineman got his nickname. (Bill is the fellow responsible for Thief of Fate.)



 
 

Of course, many other talented folks were involved in the creation of The Bard's Tale series, and, not surprisingly some of them have gone on to have extremely successful careers. Just to name a few:

  • Brian Fargo helped create maps for the first two games, and served as director on the third. He was CEO and Chairman of the Board of Directors for Interplay (Interplay grew to make its IPO in June 1998 and listed assets of more than $65 million in the year 2000, employing over 400 people). In 2002, Brian Fargo left Interplay to start a new company, inXile Entertainment — their first project was a new game entitled, you guessed it, “The Bard's Tale.” (This new Bard's Tale is an irreverent console-style top-down action game.)
  • Michael A. Stackpole, Todd J. Camasta, Bill HeinemanMichael A. Stackpole (pictured at right) created the basic storyline of the third game, and made maps for it. He has since become a successful author, and recently penned a many novels in the hugely popular Star Wars and BattleTech series.
  • Lawrence Holland composed the music and programmed the music interface for the first game. He went on to create the famous Star Wars: X-Wing series of games for LucasArts, and is now running his own game company, Totally Games, formed from the team which created the X-Wing games.
  • "Burger" Bill Heineman (pictured at right) filled Michael Cranford's shoes on the third game, designing and programming it. His new company, Contraband Entertainment, once tabled a proposal for another trilogy of Bard's Tale games.
  • Dave Warhol composed the music for the second game. He founded Realtime Associates in 1986, which created console games for platforms like the Nintendo N64, Sony Playstation, and Sega Saturn.

Credits

The Bard's Tale
1985

Concept, Design,
and Lead Programmer

Michael Cranford

Scenario Design
Michael Cranford
Brian Fargo

Additional Design
Roe Adams III

Graphics
David Lowery

Music
Lawrence Holland

Producer
Joe Ybarra

Biggest Fans
Rob Huston
Warren Ayers

Package and Manual Copy
Michael Cranford
Bing Gordon

Author and Screen Photography
Frank Wing

Photography
Kit Morris

Package Design
Michael LaBash

Cover Painting
Eric Joyner

Map Art
Don Carson

Manual Illustrations
Avril Harrison

 

 

(The Bard's Tale Construction Set credits can be found on the Construction Set page.)

The Destiny Knight
1986

Game Concept, Design,
and Program Design

Michael Cranford

Scenario Design
Michael Cranford
Brian Fargo

Graphics
Todd J. Camasta

Music
David Warhol

Producer
Joe Ybarra

Technical Support
David Maynard

Assistant Producer
Chris Wilson

Product Manager
Chris Garske

Art Director
Nancy L. Fong

Package Design
Michael LaBash

Cover Painting
Jonny C. Kwan

Map Art
Don Carson

Playtesters
Caren Edelstein
Tom Norwood
Philip Ybarra

Lagoth Zanta's Name by
Scott Smith

Manual
David K. Simerly

Thief of Fate
1988

Director
Brian Fargo

Programming
William Heineman

Producer
Dave Albert

Assistant Producers
James Bailey
Chris Wilson

Game Design
Brian Fargo
William Heineman
Bruce Schlickbernd
Michael A. Stackpole

Music Composition
Kurt Heiden

Maps
William Heineman
Michael A. Stackpole

Artwork
Todd J. Camasta

Playtest & Development
Dave Albert
James Bailey
Brian Fargo
William Heineman
Jennifer King
Bruce Schlickbernd
Chris Wilson

Art Director
Nancy L. Fong

Front Cover Art
Randy Berrett

Inside Package Art
Lisa Berrett

Package Design
Michael LaBash

Screen Photography
Frank Wing

Manual
Zina J. Yee

Acknowledgements from the Bard's Tale manual

Michael Cranford and the Interplay logo, by David LoweryMichael Cranford wishes to acknowledge:
The great illustrator David Lowery, for fantastic monster pictures, city buildings and dungeon walls; my buddy Lawrence Holland, for such great music; the devious Brian Fargo, for the treacherous design of Harkyn's Castle and Mangar's worst two levels; Bill Heineman, for data compression routines that allowed me to pack so much graphics and animation; and the following play-testers who helped this program be its very best: Caren Edelstein, Jay Patel, Philip Ybarra, Ayman Adham, Carl Ybarra, Mike Easting.

Acknowledgements from the Thief of Fate manual

Thanks
I, Bill Heineman, wish to acknowledge that Thief of Fate couldn't have been done without the help and the long hours of work from many people. Thanks to these people for helping me bring this game to life: Brian Fargo for having the vision to let me begin this project. Michael A. Stackpole for coming up with the basic storyline, the maps and the text found throughout the game. Todd J. Camasta, whose artistic talent knows no bounds. Kurt Heiden who spent many days composing the music that the famous Bards now sing. Bruce Schlickbernd for composing additional text, for the songs sung in the Bard's Halls, and also for finding all those nasty little bugs that seem to create themselves. Dave Albert, Chris Wilson, James Bailey, and Jennifer King for playing the game until their fingers fell off... These people helped make Thief of Fate into a masterpiece of role- playing fantasy. I hope you will enjoy our work.

 

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The Bard's Tale © 1985-1998 Interplay Productions. The Bard's Tale Compendium web site designed by Poverello Media, 2000.