Ybarra Productions 1994-1996

Joe Ybarra

After finishing NobleQuest, I thought it time for something new. So I picked up a San Jose Mercury Newspaper and checked the classifieds. I saw an ad in the paper for Ybarra Productions. I thought the name looked familiar. It was an old friend from my earlier days at Apple Computer. We talked on the phone and Joe invited me down to his shop. I was between jobs for about 15 minutes. Maybe I will take a vacation next year. I started the next day. My 1st tasks there was to do more FM music sound work for the Sega Genesis and sound effects for Alien Legacy. I used my FM instrument creator I designed for the Apple-II to create the FM tables for the Genesis. I grew up listening to classical music so I know what an Oboe should sound like. In fact, a long time Genesis programmer and co-worker commented, “It’s the best sounding instruments that I have ever heard coming from a Genesis.

DOOM was just released on the PC. They were very interested in doing a game similar to that one. I started coding bitmap rendering routines for the IBM systems now. I had another inspiration. Binary Split And Pairing – B.S.A.P. Bitmap rendering used a source-stepper and a destination-stepper to draw the pixels to the screen. The source-stepper would have to check for a rollover to see if it had to advance to the next source pixel. This was done on every pixel that was to be plotted. My insight was to pre-process the source-stepper so that I knew the source would not roll to the next pixel -or- that the source would always change on the next pixel. Now I could draw a bitmap with approximately 95% accuracy but at nearly double the speed. So can you really see that the bitmap is a pixel off when a spaceship is flying across the screen at warp speeds?

Next I started experimenting with a new way to draw sprites. Since DOOM had 3D enivronments but only 2D “enemies”, I started working on a method to draw 3D sprites. I like to call it “spoke” rendering. Each horizontal line of the bitmap would be wrapped around a “surface of revolution”. Picture a Lathe oriented vertically. Each line would stretch or shrink to wrap around the given circumference that was on that line. Rendering a pawn chess piece is a good example. Now the enemies had volume. This technique was further expanded to allow a “surface” height for each spoke. Now you could model a nose and deep set eyes into your object. Last variation was adding rotation to rendering and adding live light shading to the bitmap colors.

It was at Ybarra Productions where I met another brilliant programmer named, Andy Riedel. He needed a few sound effects and a short piece of music to enhance his project, Alien Legacy. There was a place for a small robot to open a hatch and then scoot across the floor. I made the click with my mouth and then panned a running electric motor in front of the microphone. We would meet again a few years later.

Creative Insights

My next task was more toward the fun side of things. ScreenToyz was a desktop toy that plugged inline into the keyboard. They had 3 characters, each with their own toy. TNT Tad had a box of dynamite with a T-handle on top. Stitch (Frankenstein) had a electrical knife switch and Latrina had her toilet. These were screensavers that did nasty things to the characters and your screen. Blowing up your desktop into fragments, watching your desktop flush itself into the center of your screen, and having the entire desktop fall like a steel plate to the bottom of your screen. Each character had its own sound effects and mini games that you could play on your desktop. I was proud to see my work on C|NET TV, a program about computers and software.

TNT Tad has a penchant for detonation. He pops up, screen-saver style, juggling hand grenades, dynamite sticks and other explosive devices. A cartoon-like desktop detonator connects to the keyboard port and interacts with the software. Whenever something on your screen sufficiently annoys or frustrates you, just pound on the detonator and explode it into multicolored confetti. A mouse click instantly restores your work, or, you can instantly take control of Tad’s destructive antics.

Latrina is an animated character of great lovability and unique visual appeal. Often accompanied by a gaggle of swarming flies, she resides in a slime-filled desktop toilet. When the user flushes the desktop toilet, anything on the screen including Latrina gets flushed down with appropriate audio accompaniment. Then the user can continue to use the toilet handle to direct Latrina’s on-screen activities such as “sliming” or kissing the screen from the inside.

Stitch is a cartoon convergence of King Kong and Frankenstein. Stitch meanders the desktop digging up assorted arms and legs, which he brings back to the lab for reassembly. The accompanying desktop switch looks much like the wall switch in the Boris Karloff film classic. Throw the switch one way and you zap whatever is on the screen. Throw the switch the other way, and watch Stitch come to life in his animated cartoons.

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