Interview with Return Fire Developer Reichart Von Wolfsheild

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Interview with Return Fire Developer Reichart Von Wolfsheild

Post by RetroGamingBlog » Tue Jun 16, 2015 11:27 am

Hey guys,

I managed to get an interview with Return Fire creator Reichart Von Wolfsheild. He talks extensively about his history with 3DO and the industry at large.

Below is some excerpts I've pulled, there's quite a lot actually and the formatting in BBCode will make it look a mess. If you you want to read the full thing, feel free here.

Alternatively if someone can find a good way to format the whole thing here I'd appreciate any help on that.

Reichart was a really nice guy and I was shocked he was more than a developer.



Reichart Von Wolfsheild is a busy man in the throws of many projects at any one time, yet despite this, he generously took time from his home in Maui to talk with me about his experiences and contributions within the video-game industry, but more specifically about his 3DO game, Return Fire.


Entrepreneur, scientist, artist, technologist and inventor are just a few of the titles earned over the years.

He opened our conversation through his interest in strategy and wooden puzzle games. Something he always had a penchant for until some 10 years ago. He recalls, he could solve most puzzles, and any puzzle that could be completed within 3 minutes wasn't worth his time, except for Bill Cutler's, Sneaky Squares.

R.W [Reichart Von Wolfsheild]: "I thought . . . this would be a great gift. So right on the spot I said to the person behind the counter, order me a thousand of these. I figured I would give them out as gifts, and I gave them out as gifts for over 20 years."

This is the man who built a CPU from scratch in his early teens and still possesses a highly infectious enthusiasm for what he does.

His portfolio of work includes some well respected names, not limited to: Disney, Mattel and Dreamworks and an early career as an MTV music art director meant he would be surrounded by artists, such as Andy Warhol, Diana Ross and Deborah Harry.

He also contributed to the development of the technology surrounding music videos through a hardware device he built that auto corrected frame speeds between film and video formats.


. . .


RGB [RetroGamingBlog]: What do you think contributed to the failure of 3DO, given their huge ambition with the M2 project?

R.W: At the time 3DO was growing and growing, but their biggest problem which no one talks about… Sony should of had a class action suit against them.

It’s a Japanese company and they don’t have to tell anybody the truth and this used to piss us off because the fact is, the 3DO was sold at a real price. Profit built in, of course, but, the $600 price tag that seemed ridiculous to everybody, that’s reflecting the cost to make one of those.

So how did Sony come out with a machine that was cheaper? Well, they didn’t.

They lied.

They dumped product, they basically started undercutting and doing lost leaders and they were making it up on the back end through software sales, but they were doing the same thing that happened years before that caused the whole terror thing with televisions.

They dumped cheap televisions to America and destroyed industries here.

So Sony got ahead the old fashioned way. They cheated.

That’s a shame and customers should be annoyed by that, but that’s a whole different conversation.

So what I’m saying is, the 3DO was too expensive given what the market was.

This is back then, $600 for a machine that plays games, even today with all the new economics that’s just a ridiculous number. It had the allure, got that part – even we were like, god this machine needs to go down, this thing gets down to $299. Magic number.

Then a lot of people stopped bitching immediately. That’s why 3DO were so focused on doing bundle deals. They wanted to cut deals with people and get the software shoved on there with the hardware.

. . .

“It’s better to only sell 10,000 copies but put money in your pocket rather than take a chance on marketing and lose everything.”


On release, Return Fire’s music was always celebrated in conversation between gamers, and at that time was one of the first games to use classical music. Today widely used as a standard, but in 1995 it was almost non-existent.

It was also the first game to use real 3D Dolby Surround.

Over a period of 3 months, Reichart, went through 300 classical CD’s stored in his truck.

R.W: “What I was looking for was the Rock ’n’ Roll version of these songs, I wanted to hear the upbeat versions, I wanted to hear heavy drums, it was a video-game I wanted it over-the-top. Even blind, even when I didn’t know what CD I was pulling, EMI’s collection from Giovanni was the best I’d heard.”

A schedule was put together with an approximate budget of $15,000 to fly out to Europe and have a selection of classical themes scored for the game, with Reichart conducting the orchestra himself. At that time a dialogue was also opened up between EMI and Silent Software which led to two months of negotiations.

Silent Software were asking for 45 minutes of EMI music, and the price was $100,000.

R.W: “I said I don’t have a one-hundred thousand dollar budget. He finally agreed to full licensing rights for any games I make in the next three years and I can’t tell you the final price, but it was definitely cheaper than me flying to Europe, so I got all the music rights to all the music I wanted, best quality and part of the deal that actually pushed it through was I told them I would advertise them, I would put ‘EMI’ first image full page, again, video games didn’t really do that back then.”

At the same time Von Wolfsheild managed to cut a deal with the American Military, something that was encouraged from his current work with the DoD. The deal would see a tongue-and-cheek advert appear in the game, another first in advertisement for promoting the army via video game.

R.W: “As a result of that relationship it ended up making us an interesting amount of money on the back end because we ended up in the PX stores, the military on base stores, they bought it for everyone. If I remember correctly we sold something like 20 thousand units in the first couple of months just from military bases. So again, that caused them to buy more 3DO’s. They didn’t have the 3DO at that time, they had the game though.”

It’s clear the game takes on the theme of war and many elements were used in balance with great success to keep the atmosphere from taking on a dark tones. A lot of these were handled with nods to tropes, as well as the unbelievably great work done in the sound design department. Even co-creator of the 3DO, R.J Mical got involved.

R.W: “RJ and I, being old friends, he had this most ridiculous laugh. And I realised he has to be the laugh. I would hear him laugh and I would have his laugh in my head on certain other things . . . It sounds fake even coming out of him, but it’s completely real. It’s pretty hard to explain. I would ask him, you’re not really laughing like that, are you?

But no, this is a genuine belly laugh, but it just sounds like he made it up.

So that became the skull laughing. It was a way to add a little bit of levity to something that was taking on something that was a rather dark mood. My goal was not to make it something that wasn’t nazi-istic – to create a fake word.”

Aside from Mical’s cameo, other sound recordings were taken from Silent Software’s Will Ware, such as the ‘squish’ sound that accompanies a soldiers death as he goes under the vehicle as well as the grunt vocals as troops lob grenades.

All these elements came together cohesively to bring a blend of stylised aesthetics and an atmosphere, whist riffing off the absurd. An approach which resonated with gamers and critics alike.

. . .

Von Wolfsheild explained their simple approach to projects encouraged profit margins. Beyond that they even tracked one of their products dollar units next to Michael Jackson's Thriller which were matching in comparison. Despite these different industries it highlighted the potential to be made within the video game market.

R.W: "When we’d talk to movie directors about games I would say we’ll probably make more money. I actually met with Francis Ford Coppola, he played Return Fire at a party, and he laughed when he heard the music, of course - Ride of the Valkyries. And he made a comment, it’s cute.

And I said, Francis, we made more money off this than you did off the movie. And he just looked at me. What are you talking about? I then explained and worked through the numbers.

I know what movies make and I know how the industry works and we make a killing, and we don’t have anyone to share it with.

There was this interesting turn, where the market began to comprehend how much video games really made. And the fact, unlike movies, the whole accounting B.S hadn't taken hold yet, the numbers were the numbers."


Crystal Dynamics soon arrived on the scene and was a heavy content creator for 3DO, many of which were the best games. A company that came from nowhere was created by Dave Morse and Selina Perkins, and heavily funded.


There is a lot more via the link, and as time permits I'll update this post with more images and content. I'll look into formatting for a more coherent read.
RGB Website | Twitter | Twitch Stream
Streaming 3DO every Mon, Weds & Sat 8pmGMT

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Re: Interview with Return Fire Developer Reichart Von Wolfsh

Post by T2KFreeker » Tue Jun 16, 2015 7:27 pm

This is really cool to read. I always liked Return Fire. One of my all time favorite games for the 3DO and I hated the audio problems with the Playstation version. Still a cool read though for sure.
This is a stick up! Put all of your 3DO games in the bag and nobody gets hurt!

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Re: Interview with Return Fire Developer Reichart Von Wolfsh

Post by pitsunami » Fri Jul 10, 2015 4:15 pm

Thank you very much! Nice to read some fresh 3DO related interview.

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Re: Interview with Return Fire Developer Reichart Von Wolfsh

Post by mikemacdee » Sun Jul 12, 2015 9:55 am

Very cool, man. I love the Coppola bit.

Still trying to wrap my head around the "Sony cheated" thing though. I never quite understood economics.

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