Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Where are they now? - Companions of Xanth

Wow. Apparently this is what a brand new computer looked like in the early 1990s - I guess I was lucky enough to have one with a CD-ROM drive!

For today's Where are they now? post I'd like to talk about a few of the development team members for an old Legend Entertainment adventure game called Companions of Xanth. The game is set in the fictional world of "Xanth" created by fantasy author Piers Anthony and it loosely follows the plot of one of his books (the 18th in the Xanth series) called "Demon's Don't Dream". I was impressed with the game so much that I ended up buying the book while visiting a fantasy/science fiction book shop in Sydney one time. For those who groan at the sight of puns, you'll be groaning every couple of minutes when reading the works of Piers Anthony and this applies to the game as well. Thankfully, I appreciate a good pun or two, and now that I'm a father, it somewhat legitimises my liking of them!

Anyway, so what is Piers Anthony doing nowadays? Well despite being over 81 years old, Anthony is still writing novels! Not only that, he's still writing novels for the Xanth series! From what I can tell, the last Xanth novel published was the 39th in the series and it's called "The Five Portraits". The 40th novel in the Xanth series is to be called Isis Orb (I'm wondering if some idiots will now think it's training material for a certain terrorist organisation) and the 41st novel (which he's also apparently working on) is to be called Ghost Writer in the Sky. Companions of Xanth seems to be the only computer game based on his novels but I'd love to see more!

Okay, so how about a couple of the composers that worked on this game? Well there's Tony Bernetich who developed music for games back in the 1990s (including Companions of Xanth) but has remained as an independent contractor ever since. He balances his work as a musician with other roles including school band director and teacher at Fountain Valley's Yamaha Music School in California.

Another composer that worked on the game is Eric Heberling. Heberling has a long and distinguished career in developing music for computer games from the early 1990s onwards. Besides working on the music for several of Legend Entertainment's titles, he has also worked on the music for 1994's The Elder Scrolls: Arena and 2003's Galactic Civilizations. Legend Entertainment shut down in 2004, but Heberling was already working at a company called Bally Technologies since 2001 which develops slot machines. Heberling left the company in 2014 and is now an independent contractor again. Considering he continued to work on game music even while working at Bally Technologies (e.g. he's credited for composing music for 2007's Galactic Civilizations II) I hope that means there's a good chance he'll continue to do so.

I would've talked a bit about Michael J. Lindner who was responsible for designing and programming the game (as well as being credited for developing the music system) but as mentioned in a previous "Where are they now?" post, he's pursued a career in law and is no longer involved in the computer games industry.

As usual, I unfortunately don't have the time to cover what happened to the entire development team but if you happened to be part of the original Companions of Xanth development team, then let us know! We'd love to hear your stories and anecdotes! :)

LINKS:
[ MobyGames: Tony Bernetich ]
[ MobyGames: Eric Heberling ]
[ Eric Heberling's Personal Website: Credits ]
[ Wikipedia: Companions of Xanth ]
[ Twitter: Piers Anthony ]
[ Wikipedia: Piers Anthony ]
[ MobyGames: Companions of Xanth ]

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