Halloween Harry: A John Passfield Interview

In 1993, Apogee released John Passfield’s Halloween Harry, and a classic was born. Later retitled Alien Carnage, the game saw you guiding agent Halloween Harry through a world full of people who have been zombified by Aliens. Using a flamethrower to dispatch your enemies, you used a jetpack to navigate around each stage as you rescued various hostages from the various monsters throughout the game.

So what Happened to Halloween Harry, and where is the creator now? As luck would have it, I was able to get an interview with creator John Passfield. So read on dear readers, all your answers lie below!

Some fancy box art.

Jason: I notice you hold the copyright for Halloween Harry/Alien Carnage. How was this arrangement made with Apogee, or did the company usually let developers retain hold of their IP’s?

John: We actually funded the game ourselves as Interactive Binary Illusions back in the early nineties.  Apogee published the game but we retained the copyright and ownership .  Now, I personally own the rights to Halloween Harry and the sequel, Zombie Wars.

Jason: Why the name change from Halloween Harry to Alien Carnage?

John: There was concern that the word “Halloween” would tie the game to the Halloween season and restrict sales outside of October. I’m from Australia and Halloween wasn’t as big a deal as it is in other parts of the world so this hadn’t occurred to me.  So we came up with an alternative name for the US release – and that name was Alien Carnage.

Jason: What prompted you to release the game as freeware?

John: I didn’t want the game to be lost forever.  With PC architecture changing and new versions of Windows coming out it was getting harder to run the old game, let alone find a way to legally buy it. So releasing it as freeware with DOS Box made a lot of sense. What I didn’t realize is that mobile phones would become a new outlet to find and buy these classic games.  And of course the Mac App Store, GOG and Steam have also made it a lot easier for classic games to be have a new life..

Jason: Any chance we’ll see an update Windows version on GoG.com in the future?

Zombie, zombies everywhere!

John: Maybe, but right now I’m too busy to do the work. If someone offered to port it then I would be all for it.  My old point and click adventure game, Flight of the Amazon Queen, was recently ported over to mobile by another company, and we’ve been in discussions with someone else to bring Halloween Harry to the back of airline seats — so we’ll see.

Jason: What do you think the biggest change in the industry has been over the last two decades?

John: The biggest change that has happened in the last 20 years has been  meteoric rise of Apple’s iPhone. It’s enabled bedroom coders to once again make games like Halloween Harry and retain creative and intellectual property control.  For a while it looked like the industry was doomed to multi-million dollar budget games with hundreds of staff – but now games like Tiny Wings, Angry Birds and the like are giving them a run for their money!

Jason: I see you are now VP/Creative Director of 3 Blokes Studios. What kind of games do you make there?

John: Actually, I’m now founder and creative director of Red Sprite Studios.  Red Sprite makes mobile games primarily for iOS.

Jason: Was the transition to making “social games” a natural one in your eyes? What attracted you to it initially?

John: Social Games for me represented a return to my roots – making smaller games with an emphasis on fun core game mechanics.  Moving into the mobile space has been a continuation of that return to my roots, so it does feel natural.

Jason: What’s the latest project your working on?

John: It’s called Save Our Village and it’s a free to play RPG for iOS. It’s being published by Ludia and will be out soon on iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.
The goal of the game is to rebuild a village that has been ravaged by monsters by hiring heroes to explore dungeons and rescue the kidnapped villagers. Every time you save a villager you get to build new stuff in the village like taverns and blacksmiths. It’s a fun, light RPG that is super easy to play.

Jason: What’s your top five favourite games of all time?

John: Hmmm, that’s tough – I’m going to list 5 with the caveat that my Top 5 has changed over time and will probably change again. These are 5 games that have had a big impact on me:

1) Monkey Island
2) Animal Crossing
3) Day of the Tentacle
4) The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
5) Super Mario 64

Yes, the zombies.

So there we have it! If you want to follow John Passfield on Twitter, he can be found @johnpassfield. For those looking to play Alien Carnage/Halloween Harry, you can download the freeware version (DOSBox required) here.