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Transcript from Jeff Kulczycki (Donkey Kong 2) chat at Coinopspace.com

Back in March Jeff Kulczycki stopped by Coinopspace for a live chat with arcade collectors and specifically Donkey Kong fans. Jeff Kulczycki spent about an hour and a half detailing his decisions during the development of D2K (Donkey Kong 2). It was interesting to hear Jeff talk about his passion for Donkey Kong, the decisions he made in preserving the original gameplay, and what games might be next for similar treatment with new levels.

Donkey Kong 2 Promo Banner

Here is the formatted version of that transcript. You can view the raw chat log with Jeff at Coinopspace.com. I have taken the information relevant to our conversation with Jeff and formatted it so that this post can be better referenced for historical purposes. The original chat was over 15 pages so paring this down was imperative for anyone serious about reading ๐Ÿ™‚

Jeff Kulczycki DK2 (Donkey Kong 2) – Questions and Answers

Jeff has been making arcade mod enhancement kits for awhile, starting out on Dragon’s Lair. But making four new levels of gameplay for Donkey Kong was an animal that even he couldn’t have imagined. From the naming of the game D2K:Jumpman Returns, not Donkey Kong 2 to the use of barrels and jumping Jeff had a ton of questions that would be the turning point to whether the game was acclaimed or ridiculed.

Donkey Kong 2 Screenshots

As always, thank you to all that came by and asked some interesting questions and were respectful of our guest. Again, for simplicity stake, all questions will be asked by Coinopspace and all answers are by, of course, Jeff Kulczycki.

Coinopspace
Why did you choose Nintendo’s Donkey Kong to create the additional levels for?

Jeff Kulczycki
First I own the game and I love it.. I also think it lends itself well to being modified. There are several elements that can be changed You can change colors and add new and interesting objects. It’s got a lot going for it compared to say Pacman or Frogger.

Coinopspace
So, you placed more value on the depth of the game, not the popularity? In this case, those two things just happened to align.

Jeff Kulczycki
Yeah, I didn’t pick DK because it was popular really. I think it was just a coincidence that King of Kong came out about the same time, worked out well :-).

Coinopspace
I notice the fireballs behave differently on D2K than on regular Donkey Kong on the rivets screen. What changes did you make to the “artificial intelligence” (AI) of the fireballs?

Jeff Kulczycki
I didn’t change any of the AI intentionally… but I have noticed that the probability of them climbing the ladders… specifically the direction is different. I actually rewrote some of the behavior for them early on because I had changed a level so that there was both an up AND down ladder in the same spot. You can see it at hyperspacearcade.com on the early… Refinery level. The ladders are usually staggered which makes climbing them easier. The fireballs now had a choice to go UP or DOWN… I eventually realized that it was too hard to climb ladders that weren’t staggered and dropped the idea. I think the AI is still modified though.

Coinopspace
I love D2K but am not very good. Do you have any tips on how to improve my score?

Jeff Kulczycki
It’s probably a surprise but I’m really bad at D2K… I don’t really play it too much. I guess I got sick of it after working on it for so long :-). I guess it pays to have patience and that’s really my only tip. I should be asking you guys for tips!!

Coinopspace
When are you going to get working on new levels for Donkey Kong Jr., or better, an original game that plays on DK hardware?

Jeff Kulczycki
Great question. I would really like to make some more DK levels… I have some other ideas and it seems to be well received. I hope to maybe take on some other projects soon. Who knows, maybe DKJR2?

Coinopspace
Can you share them? Chris Moore

Jeff Kulczycki
Yes… Originally I haven’t added any new sprites but the new ideas I have will add some new “objects” and that’s all I can say. ๐Ÿ™‚

Coinopspace
Will your California Extreme presentation on assembly/game programming ever be made available so that those who weren’t fortunate enough to attend (… like me …) could study the material?

Jeff Kulczycki
It was great speaking at CAX. People had some great…. questions there. I’ve been saying for a while that I should post the presentation on my site but I’m pretty lazy. Hopefully I’ll get around to it one of these days. I think I need to shrink it down. I hope to be at CAX this year so say hello.

Coinopspace
Obviously Donkey Kong and Mario are the intellectual property of Nintendo. I would imagine that they are closely protected as they are still huge money makers for them. I know that NAMCO goes after anything and everything Pac-Man related. Did you have any conversation with Nintendo about using the characters, code, etc. in a game you intended to sell for profit, and if so, did you have their blessing?

Jeff Kulczycki
Good question. I can share some details. Yes there was contact with Nintendo… I did send them the game and a “promo package” with artwork and concept sketches and a bunch of stuff… Things seemed positive at first but unfortunately nothing ever came of it. They have strict policies about accepting outside submissions. If you all like the game then let Nintendo know… It would be nice to get them on board “officially”.

Coinopspace
How do you feel about the Twin Galaxies setting of six Jump Men. Personally, I think it should be the same settings as the original DK – three jump men.

Jeff Kulczycki
Greg Erway and Blaine Locklair and I came up with the settings… …we wanted to accomplish a couple things… 1) we knew D2K was harder and we didn’t want to discourage people from playing 2) We wanted to get some higher scores. Somehow geting 34,000 on a game doesn’t grab headlines like scoring 1,000,000. 3) This is the highest setting so there is no way to “cheat”, you know what I mean, and finally we figured Gary at Funspot would probably want to keep the 6 man setting during normal hours for casual gamers.

Coinopspace
An unlimited men setting for the DK part of the ROM would be fantastic.

Jeff Kulczycki
LOL! I intentionally left out the “unlimited lives” and here’s why… I really wanted to take gamers back to “the day” where you had to sit at a game for hours to get to the next level… ..this is what I remember from my youth… today it’s all about “re-spawing” and death doesn’t mean much in todayโ€™s games…

I wanted you all to “earn” it. It’s more fun that way!!!! ๐Ÿ™‚ Not sure if I’ll add unlimited but you never know.

Coinopspace
Did the idea to create a new version of all the dk cab art come before, during, or after you completed the new version? Did you come up with the idea entirely on your own?

Jeff Kulczycki
I did the art myself (with the help of some cut and paste) and I knew almost nothing about creating artwork… Rich (at thisoldgame) help me get things sorted out… I used Printshop Pro which I found out is not the way to go…. I think the “pros” use Illustrator. I also had way too many colors in the first version… I forgot that silkscreen was a simple process. Rich was like, “I hope you don’t have more than 5 colors”…. and I had like 27…

I decided to do artwork once the game was complete… I thought it would be cool to go the full mile and try to present it as a new game… plus being a collect myself I know people like new stuff to buy Also, I don’t know when Rich is planning on shipping but he assures me it’s “any day now” ๐Ÿ˜‰

Coinopspace
Are you aware of whether Shigeru Miyamoto has seen D2K, and what his opinion might be?

Jeff Kulczycki
I don’t know if he’s seen it. I would be interested to know. I told my wife if Japan calls to let me answer it ๐Ÿ™‚

Coinopspace
I see you’ve done lots of freeplay kits. Which was your first kit and why?

Jeff Kulczycki
LOL I think it was Kangaroo! I know it wasn’t exactly my best seller. LOL I think someone was asking me about it and I really took an interest. I don’t even own the game! My first hacking was with Dave Hallock on Dragon’s Lair Enhanced.

Coinopspace
I noticed that all the springs on the elevator level starting at level 4 are identical. With each passing level after that, the springs shift positions slightly making it a little more difficult on each proceeding level to have enough time to make it up the final ladder. It appears that level 14 might be impossible to pass. Have you looked into this at all? If this is the case, will there be a v1.3?

Jeff Kulczycki
Oh yeah, I think someone found a Killscreen. Iโ€™ve never played the game that long. I don’t think that was done on an actually game though. Hard to get that far without save states I imagine.

Coinopspace
So, you might need a video showing this to be able to look at it more thoroughly, if it exists at all? Apparently people have, 2-3 guys look like they must have or have been talking about it.

Jeff Kulczycki
Wow. That’s pretty far. I’m impressed.

Coinopspace
Like some collectors, I can do some simple game board repairs, but understanding the programming eludes me. It looks more complicated than basic programming. What’s the best way for a newbie to learn about game programming? Also, how did you get started?

Jeff Kulczycki
It sounds old school but you need to learn assembly language… It’s not that hard. I learned early on with my C64. There aren’t that many resources out there but I’m sure you can find some …it sort of a dying art. I feel old. Hacking into old code is a lot of fun though. Feel free to email me with questions.

Coinopspace
So finding an assembly language training guide is the key? Old books maybe? So no specific bible type book or informational links that you would say, “I learned a ton from ‘X’ ”

Jeff Kulczycki
Grab a disassmbler and start tearing through stuff. I just sort of taught myself. You might find an old book on assembly in a museum ๐Ÿ™‚

Coinopspace
What’s a good dissassembler? Mark Hooks

Jeff Kulczycki
I use dZ80. THere is a windows version. No frills, but it’s free.

Coinopspace
How can I tell when Donkey Kong is about to throw a “wild barrel” in the original game? ๐Ÿ™‚

Jeff Kulczycki
Funny but I get these questions all the time. I think King of Kong has people shooting for High Scores and they want to get the inside scoop on how it works.

I got a call from Walter Day one day out of the blue… This was right after the movie was shown at CAX… He wanted to know all about how hard it would be to cheat in DK… We talked for hours. To answer your question, it’s random. I know it’s a lame answer but I don’t really think that you can tell.

Coinopspace
Some of the prizes seem impossible to or not worth getting. For instance, on the “heart level” there is a hat on the top right. How do you get that?

Jeff Kulczycki
LOL. The Incinerator was the last level I did made. I sort of rushed it because Richie Knucklez wanted the game to come out.

I always felt that some of the prizes were located in such a way that there was no choice but to get it… It’s hard but I wanted people to think “Hmm, should I try and get that?”…. Like on the Foundry level…should you really get that? Probably not! There is really no way to get that. It’s just for looks and balance.

Coinopspace
I think you should add a ladder on level 1 so you can get the lower right prize.

Jeff Kulczycki
Good point. Let me answer that. If I added a ladder on the bottom right so that people could go down and pick up the prize then people would just shoot across and climb UP the ladder and miss the whole “hit your head” frustration!

Coinopspace
How many new core routines did you add to the code?

Jeff Kulczycki
I really wanted the prizes to be more random too. Stay tuned. I reused MOST of the core routines. Running jumping and prize collection is all. I probably only wrote 10 or more routines. I can’t really remember.

Coinopspace
Now that D2k has come to fruition, are there any non Nintendo titles you plan on making new levels for?

Jeff Kulczycki
I love Nintendo games. Like I said they have the tools and elements there that lend themselves to modifiing.

Coinopspace
A Tron 2.0 would be cool? DKJr is something I think would be cool too. We’ll see. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Jeff Kulczycki
I try to stick to games I own. It’s easier to play test them. There are lots of good ideas in here though.

Coinopspace
When did you start collecting arcade games and what inspired you to do so? What was the first game in your collection? What was your first grail?

Jeff Kulczycki
I own Dragon’s Lair, Space Ace and Burgertime first… I started collecting because of Dragon’s Lair…I used to play it at the bowling alley once a week. I would save all week to play and then some bigger kids would be hogging the machine so I would have to wait until next week. I guess I needed the game to to complete my childhood quest! ๐Ÿ™‚ I also have Phoenix, Karate Champ, Q*Bert, Track & Field, Ms. Pac-man, Dragonโ€™s Lair II and a handful more. I try to shuffle them around a bit so my wife doens’t notice when I get a new game. I don’t own DKJR.

Coinopspace
Did you invest in creating this game and has your toolset changed any from what is detailed on the jeffsromhack website?

Jeff Kulczycki
ยฌToolset is the same as what’s on the site… I use an assembler and a dis-assembler and MAME and that’s about it. TURACO is cool too. People should check that out. As far as investing, I didn’t really invest money, just time.

Coinopspace (Member Question)
I know that Pauline has a habit of losing her hat, purse, and umbrella. In a future update do you think she could get naked during an intermission scene. Mario deserves it by now.

Jeff Kulczycki
LOL. Prolly not! Jeff Kulczycki

Coinopspace
Are there ways to predict fireball behavior based on the original code?

Jeff Kulczycki
I had to change the fireball movements on the new levels. I wanted people to be able to jump over them without dying. They’re very predictable. I also had to make sure that really good people wouldn’t just sit there and jump fireballs all day to rack up points Like on the L2 Mixer at the top…if a fireball gets going really fast you could sit there all day, so I had to put somethin’ special in there for anyone that tries that.

As far as the orignal code it is random, the fireballs change direction after so much travel, but the direction is random Also I was really stumped by the “hold bounce” fireball, the ones that block the ladders and just stay there, not sure but that’s some wild random chance too. Never really understood that one. Use probability, but there is no really way to predict.

Coinopspace
I know about the Easter Egg at the end with Jr. in the barrel. Any more Easter Eggs? Cheats? Did you sneak anything else into the code?

Jeff Kulczycki
I wanted to add an easter egg but I really didn’t want it to be in the game. I knew TwinGalaxies and HS people donโ€™t always go for that. So I added it at the end. I waited and waited to see if anyone would find it on their own. No one did so I had to drops some hints.

It’s small but its fun to look for. The end of DK is supposed to tie in with the beginning of DKJR. I used DKJr to model the cage. I think Jr says PAPA or something too. No other Easter Eggs though.

Coinopspace
Are you talking about the DK Jr. cage?

Jeff Kulczycki
Yes, I tried to match the colors and shape…fruit too.

Coinopspace
Where are the barrels? 4 new levels and no new usage of the trademark Donkey Kong barrels?

Jeff Kulczycki
The barrels are so unique! I was really afraid to touch them. How do you really follow up with another barrel level? Believe me I thought about it though. I know some people count on them for high scores. Sorry no barrels ๐Ÿ™‚

Coinopspace
Why did you change the fireballs? You made many aspects of the game harder but the fireballs are for the most part much easier to jump over than in the original game. I am grateful for this but it makes it hard to go back to playing the original game – it’s a significant AI change.

Jeff Kulczycki
The new levels are much “tighter”. I didn’t want people to “wait it out” for a fireball to leave…like the top one on the Foundry. I gave this a lot of thought. I realized that the guys name is JUMPMAN. JUMPMAN…Not WAIT AND WAIT FOR IT TO LEAVE MAN. It may sound silly but I really wanted people to jump over them. That’s why they are now jumpable.

I watch people that were afraid to jump them at first, it’s in your DNA to stay away!!

Coinopspace
It is DK2, D2K or Donkey Kong 2? It is impossible to find the HS info on Twin Galaxies. Why did they name it Jumpman, and not Donkey Kong 2? Any idea?

Jeff Kulczycki
I started calling it D2K. Sort of like Y2K. I know it sounds corny. Official it’s D2K: Jumpman Returns. I think people just said DK2 or DKII or whatever. It doesn’t really matter to me.

Coinopspace
Did you put as much thought into the name as the levels? Or saying that just stuck?

Jeff Kulczycki
D2K is more searchable in google then Donkey Kong 2. Plus I didn’t really want to use Mario or Donkey Kong in the name. Just incase ๐Ÿ˜‰ I think there was a Donkey Kong 2 game and watch as well.

Coinopspace
As a result, you have to know to search for it.

Coinopspace
Some people prefer to call it the pie level or cement factory, which name do you prefer?

Jeff Kulczycki
I prefer the Cement factory…hence the Mixer…Cement Mixer. Good question!! Thanks to Jeff for the site and the chance to chat and thanks to everyone for playing the game. It really makes it worth it watch you guys play!

Coinopspace
Huge thanks to Jeff, again, for answering so many questions.

Thank you Jeff for a truly unique contribution to the hobby, that has spawned a brand new cabinet, artwork, and a buzz unseen in recent years. I am sure there have been many requests made for your time and similar questions asked repeatedly, we just appreciate your excitement and passion.

Donkey Kong 2 Cabinet Artwork

If you are interested to find out more about his enhancement kits and freeplay mods, visit Jeff’s website – Jeff’s Rom Hack, including D2K Donkey Kong 2 information. If you liked this chat, you might also check out the transcript from our chat with Rusty Dawe of Atari fame (Agent X, I, Robot, Marble Madness).

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