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Who is Gary Rosenzweig and why did he write ActionScript 3.0 Game Programming University?

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G: Hi and welcome to the Flash Game University Podcast episode 3 from I'm Gary Rosenzweig and with me is William Follett.
W: Hello.
G: In this episode we're going to...
W: We're going to talk about Gary.

G: Well, yeah.
W: Who is this guy?
G: Well, I just want to give a bio since I'm the author of the book and the Dean of Flash Game University.
W: That's right.
G: I wanted to go into my history. You know, something for people our age Will, especially people into computers, they always like to talk about 'my first computer,' back, I used to use stone tablets with binary bits in them and tubes.
W: Yes.
G: My story starts with elementary school using a PDP 11 terminal.
W: Oh my god.
G: Which was like a keyboard with like a printer. There wasn't even a screen.
W: Yeah.
G: That's my first program that I typed in, but I can't claim to have written it, because I typed in like a Moonlander like thing that you would do. So then it wasn't until I got, just before I turned thirteen, that I got a TRS 80 model 3.
W: In your own house.
G: I kept begging, begging my parents, my relatives, 'I need a computer, I want a computer.' I remember it was like a thousand dollars for this monochromatic tape drive machine that had Basic built in. But within days I was actually through the 'How To Program In Basic' book and actually making games.
W: That's right and you've talked a lot about how you'd sit down at that thing and they had magazines or something that you could copy games from.
G: Yes. Yeah, the TRS 80 magazines and you could copy games and you could modify them, and then I actually sent a few into those, never had one published, but I sent some in. My parents, quite wisely, if I wanted to stay up all night programming on this thing they let me. I think they kind of realized that while other kids were out getting in trouble he's sitting, learning more computer skills, 'Yeah, he can stay up as late as he wants.' So, thanks mom and dad.
W: You were lucky.
G: I was very lucky.
W: My parents weren't that caring.
G: I went from there. I did a lot of game programming in Basic, and then I started to experiment with other machines because about that time the bottom dropped out of the personal computer market and you could pick up like Commodore 64's and Timex Sinclair's and all that like cheap and at flea markets and stuff.
W: Yeah.
G: So we started to collect these things at our house and I started to like, like I actually made a game for the Timex Sinclair which had 1K of memory.
W: Oh my god. Huge!
G: But it was fun to actually try to work within those constraints. But then in high school I had Apple II's and I started to do a lot of programming on Apple II's and simulation stuff because I was part of this special group, Northeast High School in Philadelphia, that did space shuttle simulations, a student club kind of weird thing. I won't go into that. But I was head of the computer group and I did lots of space shuttle simulation type stuff on Apple II's. And then I went to college at Drexel University for computer science. I was one of those rare people who knew pretty much from the time I was in ninth grade that I wanted to go to college for computer science.
W: Yeah.
G: And then I went to college for computer science and then I got my degree in computer science. There was no changing majors, no switching. I was lucky though, Drexel University had one of the first accredited computer science programs. I started in '87 in college and now, of course, there's hundreds and hundreds of colleges across the United States have accredited computer science programs and I can still recognize their curriculum. I'm actually on the advisory board for one here in Denver, and the curriculum is almost the same like with the same like, 'this is how you learn how to program.' And Drexel did this really early, I think they were like the twelfth school to get accredited.
W: Now Drexel, what type of computers did you start on?
G: Macintosh. Drexel had this interesting thing where it was even, before I started, but it definitely in full force in 1987 the entire campus was standardized on Macintosh's, every student was required to get a Macintosh computer when they started as freshman. So I got a Mac SE.
W: Nice.
G: 1987, September.
W: You're getting into some serious graphic power.
G: Yeah, 512 x 384.
W: You bet ya.
G: Two colors. It was great. We were all standardized on Mac, the whole campus was Mac. You could bring floppy disks, because you didn't have a network back then, so you'd bring a floppy disk to a computer center and you can load course work, actually courses that were not computer courses, like chemistry, physics, psychology. Everybody would have things that you would do, like in hypercard, that were actually things you had to take on a floppy disk and bring them back to your machine and you could turn in your homework. You'd put it on a floppy, you'd go to the machine, and there would be this network on campus that you could actually then drop it into the professor's folder and that was turning in your homework. It was really interesting. So that was cool, and then I did a lot of programming then, but not too much in the game develop...that was back... you know they didn't development was not a career. Now it is. Now there are colleges teaching it. But back then game development was done by a few individuals.
W: Yeah.
G: And things like that. It was not... you were expected to get a computer science degree and go work for a bank or the NSA, seriously, the NSA was like one of the biggest employers of graduates from Drexel for computers or things like that.
W: Yeah.
G: I took...I had a few co-op jobs, during, and they were working for one company that did news syndication over pre-Internet modem lines. And I worked for one of the baby Bells back then, which doesn't even exist anymore. Who knows what the, how Bell of Pennsylvania became Bell Atlantic which became something which is probably Verizon now.
W: Oh, our little Bell grew up.
G: Yeah, but anyway and I did that, it was more like business type programming. So I did that. I took a detour because I worked on the college newspaper and I was editor in chief of the college newspaper and I love journalism so I actually went to the University of North Carolina and got a degree in journalism, a Master's degree, after my computer science degree. So, I was like one of the few journalist type people at Drexel University and then I went to University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and I was one of the few computer people in the school of journalism.
W: So computers and journalism, how could that possibly get you a job in the future?
G: Well, yeah. Well, actually what happened was I soon...I worked as an intern, actually an intern one year and then as a paid employee the next summer at The Baltimore Sun. I actually wrote a few, got to write a few news articles. But reporting was not for me because I hate reporting. I hate interviewing people. I hate going to people that just had some sort of tragedy befall them and then asking them how they feel.
W: Or what kind of tree they'd be.
G: Yeah. I love news writing though. I loved actually formulating a story because it was like programming. So I thought of going into newspaper management, but in the end at the University of North Carolina they loved the fact that I knew how to do everything with computers and they pushed me to really study that so I did actually my master's thesis on newspapers on computers. Which this is pre-Internet. So, there was actually floppy disk distribution and I did a demo of floppy disk distribution of the student newspaper at the University of North Carolina, The Daily Tarheel, on floppy disk and I did a master's thesis on that which is probably still on file. You know you can look up that stuff, Google Scholar, and all that it's probably there, I haven't checked. But then I did, at The Baltimore Sun I actually translated that work for The Baltimore Sun and did a special edition of The Baltimore Sun for the 1993 or was it '94 All-Star game which was there and which we did an electronic newspaper distribution. We actually had twenty people sign up for subscriptions. I finished the Hypercard presentation, this was Mac only actually, finished the Hypercard presentation that went on two floppy disks and finished it that night, stayed up all night, and then the morning they went like overnight to people that, twenty people that had paid to get a electronic newspaper version of the All-Star game.
W: So what did they get a little...
G: Special.
W: Floppy disk.
G: They got a floppy, they put it in their Mac and they saw pictures and news stories and everything from what was a special edition of The Baltimore Sun, but in an electronic format that I had put together.
W: Oh, cool.
G: That was kind of neat. So the I went and I went on a big road trip that summer and after I ran out of money going on the road trip I was looking for a job. I was actually at The Baltimore Sun working on another project at the time, a game, Digital Deficit, is what it was called, and that was in Hypercard as well, and I was looking through Editor & Publisher magazine and I saw an ad for a company in Denver that was forming that was part owned by Reuters, which of course is the largest news organization in the world probably.
W: That's right. Or at least in England.
G: But they were was going to be a multimedia computer newspaper for kids. And I said, 'I know how to do that!' So I applied and they flew me out here and hired me. Then we started doing this product that was a daily multimedia news journal for kids delivered over old cable modems, old cable modems are one direction.
W: This is pre-Internet.
G: Pre-Internet. So they were delivered over night, cable, to classrooms and to homes. So basically it was like getting a delivery of a CD-ROM every night, over the line. We decided to put games in these things, educational games. I started taking over doing some of the games and we needed artwork for the games, and we didn't have any artists to draw any artwork, so we started looking for an artist and we found...
W: Me.
G: Yeah, Will. That's how I met Will. Who was at the Art Institute of Colorado at that point.
W: No, no. I graduated from there and I was at the University of Northern Colorado, designing pet treat packages for Monfort ,which is the meat packing plant. So I had a great portfolio for computer stuff. But I'd done a little bit in Hypercard, I had some animations.
G: Right. And you were familiar with computers and computer art, and most of all you could draw.
W: I was familiar with computers and what I didn't know I didn't tell them I didn't know.
G: Yeah, so you did freelance a few games and then basically said, 'Well we're going to do a lot of this stuff,' so they just hired Will full time. So we started working together it was like late '94.
W: That's right.
G: And freelance stuff and then January of '95 Will started and actually at the same time they hired an audio guy, Jay Shaffer, who...
W: He's also around here somewhere.
G: He's around here somewhere. So we started working together, Will and Jay and I started working together at Ingenius, was the name of the company, with no O, Ingenius spelled with no O. Don't go to the website, it's owned by somebody else now, company is gone, closed in 1998. It dotboomed, before, it dotboomed, it dotbusted before anybody else did.
W: Before the Internet was even valuable.
G: Yeah, exactly, so and then thing is that when I went to this job and they weren't using Hypercard, they were using a program called Macromedia Director, version 4 which had just come out for Windows for the first time. So I started programming in this, and at that point I actually looked around for a book. I can use a book to learn how to program in Lingo in Macromedia Director and there wasn't one.
W: There's no books.
G: I actually went to a bookstore and looked for one specifically and it wasn't there and I got disappointed and I thought I could write one. So I knew nothing about writing books. Basically, I made the big mistake of actually writing the book and then going to publishers and saying, 'I have a book.' That's not how you do it folks. What you do is go to a publisher and give them a proposal, you go through all, months and months of going back and forth and they approve it and then you start writing. Writing it first is stupid because the publisher is almost never going to want exactly what you want. They want to hone the idea and market it and stuff. So I wrote this book and I couldn't find a way to publish it so I published it online for free.
W: Yeah.
G: Which everybody said I was stupid to do. Said it was daft to publish a book online for free and by 'online for free,' I meant I uploaded it to AOL. That's how it was back then. I ended up getting a lot of attention for that book. I ended up getting a freelance job that paid me way more than any publisher would for a book.
W: This is why it wasn't a dumb idea.
G: Yeah I know.
W: That was a smart thing to do.
G: It was smart. I didn't know why it was smart I just thought it might be. And then a few months after I got paid all that for the freelance job I did in the evenings, I actually got a call from a publisher that said, 'We need somebody to write a book on Lingo,' and we asked our guy who does our CD-ROM's and he says, 'Talk to this guy because he's written a book on Lingo that's online.' So I got my first contract to do a book and I did it, that was for Director 5, I rewrote the book and it was a big thing, The Comprehensive Guide To Lingo, or something it was called.
W: Oh, it was huge. It was thicker than a Harry Potter book.
G: Yeah it was. So that was my first one and then it quickly went to my second one. At the same time I left Ingenius to start my own company which is what I really wanted to do at the start. A year later I pulled Will with me after I got enough business going to need a full-time artist. So we're into 1996, '97 and then our business kind of grew, but it was you and I for awhile.
W: Yeah, for a long time.
G: And then at some point during that we were doing all these Shockwave games in Macromedia Director, sometime we decided, we had always known about Flash as a little animator thing, but we hadn't really used it for anything. I think I got a version to play with because it was cheap back then. And then I heard somebody say, at some conference that I was at, 'You cannot make games with Flash,' and I took this as a challenge.
W: What?
G: Because I thought, 'Well, wait a minute, okay,' you can...'cause I've heard that said before about other things, 'You can't make games in Hypercard,' 'You can't make games in Director.' But 'You can't make games in Flash,' and I said well there's buttons, you can use some logic in how the buttons work and we put together a silly game called The Urinal Game.
W: That's right.
G: In Flash 2.
W: It was all film loops I think.
G: It was all little film loops and buttons and as far as I know it may not have been the first game in Flash, but it was certainly the first one distributed pretty widely.
W: Yeah.
G: So we did that and then of course, future version of Flash did actually add more stuff, especially...
W: Well, we didn't know. We did Invading Astro Blobs was just...
G: Invading Astro Blobs was Flash 3 and that was an even more advanced game. It wasn't a quiz game it was actually an arcade game. And then Flash 4 actually had a rudimentary language that you could do conditions and loops and all this and we did a ton of games. We launched a big game, a big site of Flash games. We did, you know, so we had like ten or twelve games and then Flash 5, of course, introduced ActionScript 1 and things took off from there and I really started using it for a lot of games.
W: I remember you challenged yourself. You said, 'I'm going to try to make classic arcade games,' with this early version of Flash.
G: Yes. Well in Flash 4 you didn't have any sign or cosign functions or any way to tell angles and so I figured a way to do Asteroids using...I said, 'Well how did they used to do this back before they had advanced programming languages?' and I found out that the early system the would have a look up table where you look up and angle, say well it's five degrees. Five degrees means it goes off X and Y in this direction, because they didn't have sign or cosign. So I did that in Flash 4 and when everyone else said, 'You can't do that type of game because you don't have sign and cosign,' so I said, 'Well, we can.'
W: Who says?
G: So, we had a neat little game that's probably still up at, I think it's Flashteroids.
W: It's a nice, solid game.
G: We did that and then, CleverMedia, our company here grew. Jay who worked with us at Ingenius started in '95 too, he came on as our sound and video guy and actually did a whole bunch of website things in the first incarnation, CleverMedia 1.0. Which when the Internet collapsed, really the NASDAQ and everything went down, end of 2001 or middle of 2001, we downsized and it just became Will and I, again. Then we started growing again, as things grew and we started with videos and video podcasting and Jay came back on because he's an audio and video expert and he's here. Now we produce tons of games and we actually produce most of our games in Flash. We use Director and Shockwave still for 3D games, but ActionScript 3 is now so powerful there's really no reason to do 2D games in Director anymore.
W: But we're still hoping to do 3D games in Director.
G: Yeah, 3D games, definitely. We still do a lot of 3D projects and we have a lot of old games in Director that we maintain. So, occasionally we do stuff. So that's where we're at now. We're doing lots of games in Flash. We're trying to push...relooking at old games that we said couldn't be done in Flash or couldn't be done yet in Flash, now looking at them again and saying, 'Hey, we can now do this in Flash.'
W: Yeah, and we're hoping they'll have Flash for the iPhone so we can make more games for those.
G: Well, yeah one day. That would be great, or in Flash for other platforms as well. So that all leads into, of course, doing this book and...because over the years you know I ended up going from writing Director books to writing Flash books. I wrote twelve books. This is the twelfth book. A lot of them are Director books. I write a series called, Using Director, Special Edition: Using Director, which is a Que series, you know they have Special Edition: Using Word, Special Edition: Using Windows, whatever, so Special Edition: Using Director is my series and has not been updated since Special Edition: Using Director MX because MX 2004 didn't really add enough for me to go with, you know...
W: It wasn't worth it.
G: Yeah, they added JavaScript. Which was nice, but it's like either you're going to use JavaScript or you're not and if you don't need it, there's really nothing for me to add. So, I updated that series, there's four books in that series. I did a book on GarageBand with Jay, actually.
W: That's right. That's right, with MacAddict.
G: Yeah, MacAddict and Que, my publisher. This is the new book, which will be out and it's exciting and I can't wait to see how well the book's received.
W: It comes out end of August (2007).
G: Yeah, end of August and that's it. In the next podcast I want to talk more about ActionScript 3 and why I like it as a game development platform.
W: Joy.
G: For that it brings you up to date on all the stuff. I guess we should add we're in beautiful Denver, Colorado, that's where CleverMedia is located.
W: That's right. At the top of the CleverMedia tower, looking out our port hole.
G: Yeah, our stuff, our interests, I guess part of a bio type of thing. Let's see, for me, you know I like science fiction is big influence on me, movies, TV, media. I'm a media hound. So I'm married, I have a daughter.
W: A daughter who likes to climb.
G: Yeah, and she already has a Mac, she has an iMac that she uses for little things, plays little games on it. My wife owns a bookstore, The Attic Bookstore,
W: The scariest bookstore in Denver.
G: Yeah, it's a haunted bookstore that we've built together and CleverMedia and The Attic Bookstore are located in the same building that we have. Just enjoying life here. Will just got married.
W: Yes. I'm still recovering from that. I married my...well she wouldn't be my high school sweet heart, would she?
G: No she wouldn't, because you didn't know her in high school.
W: I only met her a years ago.
G: Kind of feels like that though. You kind of do have that vibe between the two of you that people could easily say that, mistake you for being high school sweethearts, because you've got that kind of connection.
W: I married a New Yorker which really made my life exciting and taught me a new word.
G: Several new words I imagine. It's kind of neat because we started working together in 1995 and I mean we were both single and just young guys and now we're like both married, we own homes, we've seen lots of stuff.
W: We're family men and homeowners.
G: Yes, exactly. So it's kind of...
W: We need to pay our mortgages.
G: It's kind of neat when friendship goes through that and just like Will did some illustrations for my first book, Will's done illustrations for this book.
W: Yeah.
G: We have another artist here, Eve Park, who did some illustrations as well.
W: She does some nice artwork. Although I'm a little bit jealous of some of the projects she works on.
G: Yeah she gets to work...Will gets the big beefy projects that you know, because he's the Art Director and he's the senior guy. So then all these little tiny games and stuff, Eve gets to do and sometimes they're kind of neat.
W: It's all so much fun. It's hard to let go.
G: Well anyway. Well I guess that about brings us up to date. You can always go and 'Ask Gary' if you have more questions. The blog online.
W: That's right, at
G: Okay, that's it.
W: Bye.