Wacky Wheels was developed by Andy Edwardson (programming, design, and sound effects), Shaun Gadalla (art and track design), and Mark Klem (music). The development team also used Jim Dosé’s sound engine. The game was developed by Beavis Soft (now Ugly Studios) and published by Apogee. The retail distributor was FormGen. The game was developed in just under one year. (Sources: this thread at gamedev.net and the Apogee FAQ)
In addition to the information on this page, there is an interview with Andy Edwardson (the programmer of Wacky Wheels) on the 3D Realms web site.
Back around the time Wacky Wheels was coming out, Apogee (owner of Wacky Wheels) and Epic (another computer game company) were in a rivalry. In Wacky Wheels, before it was officially released, there was a command line switch named /NOFUN that displayed a message saying, “Searching for Epic games on your computer…” It was removed from the final version. (Source: this thread on the 3D Realms forums.)
Here are some comments by Andy Edwardson (the main programmer of Wacky Wheels) about what he thought of the game, and whether a sequel was possible (from the 3D Realms forums):
We were pleased with it and I have to say that Apogee did make it a whole lot better when we went into Beta. The main problem was Doom was out and people wanted blood! The PC game players were, and I suppose still are, mainly young male adults who really didn’t care too much for furry little animals driving lawn mowers! So from a commercial point of view it wasn’t so great. However we feel really proud of the game and I still get a kick that thousands of people out there played it and liked it. … We would love to make a sequel but are too busy trying to make a living!
When asked where Wacky Wheels was developed, and where he lived, Andy Edwardson had this to say (on the same thread mentioned above):
Yes Wacky was mainly developed in the UK. However I went over to Texas for a few months and developed some of it over there.
I nearly boiled to death over there! Scott [Miller, founder and co-owner of Apogee] took us in his car round Garland and if it wasn’t for the air con we would have melted.
The artist [Shaun Gadalla] was in Norfolk (UK), I was in Lancashire the musician [Mark Klem] was in Mississippi and the publisher [Apogee] in Texas! And somehow we all managed to communicate over a 9600 baud modem using terminal emulation.
Now I live near Cambridge (UK) and Shaun is still in Norfolk.
As described in Andy Edwardson’s history of Wacky Wheels (below), Copysoft created a game based on source code from Wacky Wheels named Skunny Kart. Wacky Wheels itself was very similar to Super Mario Kart, which had been released in 1992, two years before Wacky Wheels. Apogee’s founder and co-owner, Scott Miller, later admitted that Wacky Wheels may have been too similar to Super Mario Kart for copyright purposes: “Yep, Wacky Wheels, by a team in England, sure is a lot like Mario Kart, and had I known then what I know now, I wouldn’t have allowed that game to be so close to the original.” (Source: this thread from gamedev.net)
The following information is from the Apogee FAQ, written and copyrighted by Samuel Stoddard.
There’s an inside joke in the game that appears when you select your engine power (6 or 12 horsepower). The caption on the screen reads “Lee & Jackson Lawnmowers.” The story behind this is that Lee Jackson (at that time not yet promoted to Music and Sound Director) made a comment at a beta conference that the go-kart engines sounded too much like little Briggs & Stratton lawnmower engines. The game’s programmer, Andrew Edwardson, got Lee Jackson back for this remark by including the caption—“Lee & Jackson,” split up in the same way “Briggs & Stratton” reads.
From early 1993 to late 1995, Apogee and 3D Realms released slide shows of their upcoming games which featured roughly a dozen screen shots from the game in question. Since then, these sneak preview images have moved to Apogee’s web site, obsoleting the need for slide show archive bundles. You can still download the Wacky Wheels slideshow here.
At the time of its release, in October of 1994, the registered version of Wacky Wheels was available in two forms: a regular version, containing three sets of tracks, for $24.95; and an “upgrade edition,” containing an additional three sets of tracks, for $34.95. The upgrade could be also purchased separately for $20. Presently, Apogee only registers the larger, six track set version of Wacky Wheels, and only on CD [and by download—the game used to be distributed by floppy disk]. On March 2, 2000, the registration cost was reduced to $10.
As with Halloween Harry and Mystic Towers, version 1.0 of Wacky Wheels was actually an incomplete version of the game released to a magazine in the UK. The first complete, public release of Wacky Wheels was version 1.1.
Note from Phil: I think the game magazine referred to here may be Game Bytes. See this game preview that apparently came out a few months before Wacky Wheels was released. The screenshots on that page may be from version 1.0 of Wacky Wheels.
Back in 1993, we were doing some low budget stuff for a Belgium outfit called Copysoft. I got fed up with the meager work, so I decided to work on a game engine in my spare time. I figured that the PC could do the mode7 stuff that the Super Nintendo was doing. I could not find any references for it, so I just studied Mario Kart and tried to figure out how it worked. I had a prototype engine up in about a week that did the floor painting and the rotation stuff. After that, I worked on it for a few more months, and Shaun Gadalla did artwork for it, and it started to get pretty solid. I showed it to the Copysoft crew, and they were quite excited and put a few screenshots of it on Compuserve. The problem was, we hadn’t come to any commercial agreement with the company, and it was not a sure thing that they would get the game. Scott Miller, Apogee’s president, happened to come across the screenshots and contacted Copysoft, and then we got into a fight with Copysoft over royalties, should Apogee end up distributing the game. I had made an unfortunate mistake—I had included the C++ source code on the demo disk we left with them.
Shaun contacted Scott, and we came to an agreement. Shaun and I agreed to pay back what CopySoft had given us for equipment and so forth.
Development went on. When we went into beta we thought we would be out of there in a few weeks. However, when we got in there it was apparent that we needed more features. Beta was really important for me. If I had not listened to those testers, the game would not have been what it is. Most of the ideas came from us, but they kept the pressure up. It would have been too easy to sit on our hands and think what we were doing was best. The testers kept me on my toes, and, best of all, they told the truth. Another thing was Joe Siegler. I hate to admit this, but I didn’t understand why he was so blunt all the time. I was so wrapped up in myself and becoming a bit of a prima donna. It was only later that I realized Joe was just being honest with us and trying to help us make the best game possible. I think Joe symbolizes what Apogee is; he works so hard all the time, and he practically lives there. At any rate, at one point I wanted to make amends with him. I knew he was into Dopefish, so I asked if we could put the fish in as a cameo. We discussed how it might work, and he sent me some stills and a collection of belches that he had recorded when he sat down one night with a microphone and a two liter bottle of Diet Coke. I picked one of them, but I think that Joe would have preferred it if I had picked one of the louder ones he sent me!
Because Doom had introduced the concept of modem play, the beta testers wanted it. Despite popular belief, Rise of the Triad did not introduce Remote Ridicule—Wacky Wheels had it first. Rise of the Triad did take it one step further by allowing you to type messages to each other. At any rate, modem play really made my head spin. I never realized how unreliable packets were until I did the multiplayer engine. My hat goes off to John Carmack for his net play engine. To make matters worse, I was working at Shaun’s place, and his phone lines were awful. But it did make the protocol really robust!
The music in Wacky Wheels was really lacking, and George Broussard said we needed more tunes. Jim Dosé had just been hired at Apogee, and he had a terrific sound engine. We ripped out the old one and put his in. Jim also put us in touch with Mark Klem, and I would spend hours on the phone with him listening to his music. I really love the stuff he did, and I really should contact him for old time’s sake.
As testing went on, I got more and more worried that, in the wake of Doom, all game players wanted now was blood and guts, and Wacky Wheels wasn’t about that. But we kept going, and I was determined to make it work. Anything the beta testers wanted, they got, except for the rear view mirror suggestion they kept plugging for. I didn’t think it lent anything to the game, and it would have meant rendering another 3D view in another little window.
One memorable moment for us was when Shaun and I flew over to Texas, and we went to see George and Scott at the Apogee offices. I will never forget going into and seeing the pictures on the wall. They had the cover art for each of their games in a frame. Wacky Wheels was next to Wolfenstein 3D. That was an incredible moment in my life—to be anywhere near associated with one of the greatest games of all time was neat to say the least. We went out to dinner with George and Scott, then visited their houses. (George had this bloody great big shark in a tank!) We got to talking about games, and George showed us Pitfall and asked if we could do anything like that. After Wacky Wheels, we did a test engine for them, but they were moving into the 3D market by then, and we didn’t have anything to offer in that area at the time.
Anyway, we finally cracked the modem play, and it had one final round in beta testing. Joe Siegler gave it a good test, and he was happy with it. So it was finally ready to ship.
Then the bombshell hit us. Scott faxed us that Skunny Kart, a game from Copysoft that used my engine, had hit Compuserve. My heart sank. The only saving grace was that it was not all that similar to Wacky Wheels, and there was quite a legal wrangle over it all.
I was so angry, and it took all of Shaun’s resolve to stop me from acting rashly. There was no way Copysoft had the ability to write an engine like that from scratch. In a perverse way, it taught me a valuable lesson. I was very hurt by it all, and it still bothers me to this day. In hindsight we were very stupid and should have known better.
If I could turn the clock back and make Wacky Wheels violent, full of blood and gore would I? Nah. It was fun, and kids big and small can enjoy it.