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Interview With Ralph Bagley, Maker of Religious Games
2000-08-10 Erik

OMM Interviews Ralph Bagley, Maker of Religious Games

I've always wondered why people get so bitchy about games that express a religious viewpoint.  Of course, they generally suck as games, but the reaction seems to go deeper than that.  Paraphrasing the same logic utilized in most of the hate mail sent to our good friend Miguel of Fat Chicks In Party Hats, I think you people are secretly attracted to Bible games!  I know I am.  I can't help it.  I love them all in the often irrational, non-judgemental way that parents love their children or that Japan loves seeing children violently penetrated by tentacles.

Sadly, no self-respecting company that's involved in producing, packaging, or distributing any religious material whatsoever will come near OMM with a ten foot pole, even through a hole in a sheet.  That is, until now

Yesterday, we were contacted by David Caputo, a representative of N'Lightning Software, makers of the upcoming non-violent Christian-themed shooter Catechumen.  Apparently, he confused us with Gamepro or PlanetBibleGame or something.  I asked him if I could interview someone at the company, figuring they'd either read the site and back out while using their hands to make the cross symbol over their chest, or, worse, set me up with some idiot level designer.  Against all odds, David let me talk to the CEO of N'Lightning, Mr. Ralph Bagley!  And against so many odds that it can only be described as a miracle straight from Heaven, Mr. Bagley reads and enjoys OMM, even though he will have to spend four hundred centuries in Purgatory for it when he dies peacefully in his sleep in 2060 [As usual, thanks to Marvin - ed].

There is a Catechumen demo available.  After downloading it, I can honestly say that it's the best Christian-themed game I've ever played.  Look, I don't know what to tell you.   It's not Serious Sam, but, on the other hand, it might just save you from going to Hell.  I'm talking to you, Mike Wilson.  Read on for more details...

The Interview

Erik: When Black Isle makes a Tolkien-inspired game such as Icewind Dale, nobody jumps to the conclusion that they're expressing some deeply held belief about elves.  But dare to make a game about the world's most famous book, the Bible, and all of a sudden people assume you're some kind of fundamentalist nutjob.   My first question is this: are you?  Or are you just making a Bible-themed game to cash-in on the religion fad that's so popular with unpopular kids?

Ralph: I am the first to admit that our company is loaded with nutjobs...  Fundamentalist however, is not really the way that I would describe us.  We have taken a lot of heat from the mainstream game developers as well as the ultra-conservative Christian wackos. (They think that anything new must be "of the Devil!")  Our vision has been and always will be to make fun, high quality games with a Biblical theme.  Some people have a problem with that, but for the most part we are getting an excellent response from the gaming community worldwide.

Erik: If you had made a serious game about Christianity, but presented it from the viewpoint of Satan, you'd be hailed as a cultural hero.  It would probably inspire Wagner James Au to write one of his classic forbidden-fruity style essays for Salon in which he'd call Catechumen a post-post-modernist revisionist anti-fascist masterpiece and compare it to the works of Pier Pasolini.  By deciding to align yourself with the Bible's protagonists, however, you're going to get nothing but snide dismissal from second-rate gaming sites.  Ultimately, that's preferable to having Au mention you, but, still, you must know you're in for a world of hurt.  What inspires you to keep going?  And don't say something stupid like "God". I really want to know, from a purely human perspective, how you and your team keep yourselves motivated to continue day in and day out when working on a project that's guaranteed to be met with intense derision.

Ralph: Being the creator of the concept as well the President of the company, I knew that we would face some adversity from the media and certain groups. However, the number one priority of our team from day one of development has been to create a game that was excellent in terms of gameplay, graphics and sound. We feel that we have accomplished this and that the gamers of the world will play it if it meets these standards.

Erik: I'm honestly not trying to be a dick here, but Catechumen is the worst game title I've ever heard.  Nobody knows what it means, and its arrangement of letters immediately shorts out the reading part of your brain.  I've looked at it about a thousand times, and I have no idea how to pronounce it.  As close as I can figure, you make a coughing sound followed by a sneezing sound.  Have you considered changing the name?  How does "Ralph Bagley's The Bible" grab you?

Ralph: Remember, we are all nutjobs here at N'Lightning, we did consider several different titles, but settled on Catechumen because it made people say "What the heck is this?"

Erik: I said that too, but I replaced "heck" with a different word - one that, although it ends in "ck" just like "heck" and has the totally innocuous word "mother" in it, is actually pretty bad.  I don't think I'm the only one who's going to have that reaction either, so you should think about that before you unleash this damn game on kids.  Anyway, I'm a Jew and you're the only person I kind of know who has some sort of connection to the Christian God.  I'm holding in my hands last week's issue of The Weekly World News.   They stick to a pretty rigid cycle of covers: Satan, Alien, Giant Chinese Baby, Jesus Christ.  The issue I have is from one of their Jesus weeks.  Two lines on the cover caught my attention:

a) The Anti-Christ is alive - and living in the U.S.!
b) Six signs that prove the world is coming to an end!

I can only assume that the fact that the Anti-Christ is alive and living in the U.S. is one of the six signs, which leaves five signs unrevealed. And I know that you know what they are. Give me three facts about Catechumen that OMM readers must know to survive the end times.


  1. Catechumen has top-notch graphics, lot's of unique puzzle-solving and the sound will literally scare the "hell" out of you!

  2. Adrenaline... our game is loaded with it!

  3. Catechumen is not your typical "Christian" game. We don't preach at the player at all. We have designed this game to be enjoyed by the mainstream gamer.

Erik: Mike Wilson founded G.O.D. games. He's definitely going to Hell for that, right?

Ralph: Fortunately for Mike, that is not my decision...

Erik:  I gotcha.  I knew he was goin' to Hell!   Get this:  We sent a letter to the hotmail account of John Carmack and told him all about Catechumen. He sent us mail back saying "Catechumen is the Quake 3: Arena - of religious games! LOL!!!" He's pretty smug for someone who's going to soon be saying "I'll tell you what, Mike Wilson, I've done some quick calculations, and my figures show that I should have spent less time programming volumetric fog and more time praying" as they bob up and down for all eternity in an ocean of boiling shit - sorry about the language, padre. Did Carmack's ultimate destination have any influence over your decision to choose the Genesis3D engine over the Quake 3 engine?

Ralph:  With all due respect to John Carmack, we are in the first stages of developing a revolutionary new multi-player game that is biblically based. It is still not too late for John though...

Erik: Ralph, check me out [I pretend I'm holding a phone]:   "Hello John Carmack?  This is Satan.  I'm starting a technical advisory board here in Hell, and I was wondering if you'd mind being on it...  Uh huh... Uh huh...  Well, I appreciate that you're a busy man, but unfortunately, I MUST INSIST!!!"  Oh man, that's gonna be great. 

So, Doom 3 was recently announced. Off the top of your head, what do you think the ratio of nerveless subverted Christian imagery to truly dangerous subverted Islamic imagery will be once the brave iconoclasts over at id are done spraying the levels with Trent Reznor-style edginess?

Ralph: 85% Satanic imagery, 12% Islamic, 2.5% New Age, .4% Alien, .1% Christian (as usual!)

Erik: Maybe I didn't phrase the question right...  Anyway, John and Anna Carmack's god, Ayn Rand, holds a special place for the retardeds. Unfortunately, it's a gas chamber! Is there any place for the retardeds in the philosophy underlying your game?

Ralph: Our staff is VERY in tune to this issue. That's all I can really say about that...

Erik: One of the hottest trends in shooters is the ability to target specific body parts. Instead of killing people, Catechumen has you converting them with swords that shoot the word of God. Does your engine support intra-model targeting? For instance, can I convert just the legs of a Roman soldier so that he starts running to church while his torso is still poking me with a spear? Cause that'd be wicked.

Ralph: However realistic intra-model targeting might make the typical shooter game feel, our game is anything but typical so we didn't think that our concept needed that feature. (That is an interesting visual image though, would you like a job!)

Erik:  Thanks, but I need the trials of a job like I need the trials of Job!!!  LOL!  But seriously, will Catechumen support multiplayer?

Ralph: Catechumen does not support multiplayer. However, we are currently working on a cool new multiplayer game that should hit the shelves late next year.

Erik: This is a two part question.  The first part is about video cards, the second part deals with abortion.

  1. Does the Genesis3d engine support T&L? Does it even need to? Have you taken advantage of any card-specific features?

  2. I've made it quite clear that I'm pro-choice because, although I believe fetuses have little tiny souls, I'm dead enough inside to quite simply not care.    Sometimes, though, I think the anti-abortion people should try to spice up their propaganda a little.   For instance, you could get Priceline's William Shatner to reprise his Star Trek role and star in an ad where alien brains encased in computers - representing the liberal media - force him to fight gladiator-style against a fetus.   "I bet four quatloos on the hugh-man Kirk" one would say in a real deep voice, and then another one would say, in a high-pitched voice, "two quatloos on the hugh-man feat-us".   Even though the fetus would kick his ass for a few minutes, Kirk would eventually give it one of those double fisted karate chops to the back of its neck.   He'd stand, grimy and chest-heaving, over the fetus, with his shirt ripped open and bloody scratches across his pecs.   Then the Aliens representing the liberal media would say "Kill the hugh-man feat-us, hugh-man Kirk."   But then Kirk'd get pissed and throw down his battleaxe and say "I. Will. Not. Kill. This. Fetus. For. Your. Amusement!"    Then he'd tell the aliens representing the liberal media about love, and that'd totally blow their minds, and sparks would start coming out of them, and then they'd explode.  Then, just to show that, while you're serious as Hell about abortion, you're willing to give a little on some other social issues, you could steal the scene that ends every piece of Star Trek fan fiction ever published on the Internet and have Kirk and Spock make out.  I think even hardcore liberals might come around if you rephrase the debate in terms of things they've seen on Star Trek.  What do you think about that?

Ralph:  Ahmmm... The Genesis engine has good texturing capabilities and the lighting is spectacular! As for Kirk, I think I'll leave that alone...

Erik: It seems that people who deliberately deconstruct religion, then exorcise it from their lives, eventually realize that maybe they're not so much smarter than everyone who's ever lived after all.  When they inevitably discover that faith has a purely utilitarian value as a way of mitigating the mounting existential dread that arises from simply being alive, they generally resort to creating some kind of half-assed religion substitute.  This leads to spiritual philosophies that embarrass everybody, like aromatherapy and everything Jewel believes.

As an example, noted unemployed agnostic Lord British found the inspiration for his old-fashioned morality play, Ultima IV, in The Wizard of Oz movie [he admits this in his autobiography - ed].  His bizarrely-inspired, heavy-handed moralizing continues to this day, yet his games are treated with respect.  Your game's moral code is based on a much saner foundation, yet you will undoubtedly be demonized for it.  Does this make you mad?  Followup:  Is Lord British going to Hell?

Ralph:  Yes, it does tick me off that the game developers and publishers out there don't have the testicles to create first person games that aren't just bloodbaths and centered on evil.  When we initially sought funding for our project, I was turned away by several high profile game publishers before they even read my game design document. Fortunately, we had several people with a lot of money step up to the plate. We are now not only a game developer, but are a publisher as well. Our game is going to be in every major retailer as well as all of the Christian and Catholic Bookstores in North America.  The response has been tremendous to our demo, and we want to tell all of the game developers and publishers that didn't believe that a "Biblically-based" game would be successful, PPPPSSSFFFFTTTTT! Ha Ha!

As for Lord British, see John Carmack/Mike Wilson answers!

Erik: Thanks, Ralph!  Get rid of the crates!

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