Johnny Castaway – p.1 – User Article

Johnny Castaway - p.1 - User Article

Table of Contents


Flying toasters, fish tanks, open fires or the matrix code. Everything on our screens. If we keep our hands off the mouse and keyboard. Screensavers were once very much in fashion.

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Back then we had nothing in our childhood and youth. So felt. Our parents would certainly disagree with us, but what do they know. Our beautiful games mostly had no packaging or even instructions, our computers always had too little RAM and our monitors had to be used constantly because still images could burn into the screen. Might not be so bad if it was the end screen of a particularly difficult game. Stupid, however, if the monitor should be used for something else at some point. So – even if probably very few users ever actually had the problem – a very special software genre boomed for a few years: The screensaver.

Of course, Sierra also found online boss Ken Williams Liked this kind of programs. In an interview with Adventure Classic Gaming he said

As a CEO, my favorite game was probably Hoyle’s Card games. It didn’t cost much to build, and made a fortune. Dynamix had a string of products in this category; Pinball, Johnny Castaway, The Incredible Machine, and others. All BIG money makers.

We like to associate Sierra with the big adventure series, but of course they also had corresponding budgets that had to be generated again first. Of course, like every other company boss, Ken loved the products that generated a lot of profit with little effort. The BIG Money Makers. Like the product this article is about, which Ken mentioned in his quote: Johnny Castaway. Released for the PC in 1992, it fell out of the large and varied Sierra portfolio simply because it wasn’t a game. Not even a learning game or a card game. no It was – as just so cleverly introduced – a screensaver. But not just a constantly babbling waterfall or a few randomly placed pipes on the screen. Johnny Castaway actually told us a story. Except for a few grunts without any language, but still understandable and very funny.

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Lale Andersen already sang about the South Seas night. In the background an airplane overlooking Johnny.

The team

But let’s start with the team behind the screensaver. In his quote, Ken Williams mentioned the company Dynamics, which acted as the publisher in this case. Johnny was developed by Jeff Tunnell Productions. said Jeff Tunnell founded Dynamics in 1984, left the company six years later to start over with JTP and came back to the Dynamics fold in 1995. JTP has always been part of Dynamics. Jeff had after Willy Beamish and Rise of the Dragon only wanted to concentrate on smaller projects and started working with a small team independently of the day-to-day business of Dynamics. You can still see Jeff’s pride in this team today when he writes about the sales successes: The two best-selling Dynamics titles are 3D Ultra Pinball and Trophy bassboth of which are from JTP.

The character design of the main character, so Johnny, controlled Shawn Bird at which otherwise graphics to tutorials like Quarky & Quaysoo’s Turbo Science or Turbo Learning: Mega Math made. Mobygames lists the game as its last games post drama queen on the Nintendo DS. Otherwise he was busy with the design and content of the manuals for many Dynamics titles. If you don’t know what a “handbook” is, please ask older relatives, who will be happy to tell you about it with bright eyes. However, Shawn said he was asked to create a character that was “weathered but lovable.” However, he did not design more than this main character. He went back to his desk and started working on Turbo Science, a science-related educational program for children. Jeff Tunnell describes the character’s development as saying that he and Shawn were on the same wavelength from the start. I was lucky enough to be able to ask Jeff a few questions via Twitter and I was particularly interested in an old test in PC Mag 03/1993. There, Johnny is described as: “Looks suspiciously like Leisure Suit Larry with a beard”. I couldn’t understand that – and Jeff texted me “I would say Larry was about the furthest person we thought of Johnny.”

So we’ve covered the most important people so far: Ken Williams, Jeff Tunnell, Shawn Bird. And I’ve already revealed that it’s about a screen saver. But how did this happen? According to Jeff, a bunch of Dynamics people were out and about one night in a beer mood. They passed a bus stop on their way between two bars and Jeff said he could make a game out of anything, including a place like a bus stop. It would be great if little figures came and went, communicated with little speech bubbles, maybe fought… Someone in the group picked up the thought and said, “How about a guy on a desert island instead?” The conversation Didn’t go anywhere for a few years, but Jeff kept the idea in his head and when Ken Williams at a meeting asked him for his best idea, he presented him with this funny self-winding story of a shipwrecked man. Ken’s famous response was, “Well, give me your next best idea.” The other two ideas were Turbo Science and The Incredible Machine, but Jeff sat down at a small prototype Johnny Castaway where Johnny ran across the island, climbed the palm tree and fished. He showed this demo to Ken and he was excited. So suddenly Jeff Tunnell Productions was producing three programs at once.

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