David P. Gray Interviewed By Classicgames

Despite never having finished the game, I have this weird attraction to Hugo’s House of Horrors that I can’t really explain. Part of it probably has to do with some strange feeling of nostalgia–I had the shareware version on one of those ONE MILLION GAMES disks back in the mid to late 1990s, and the aesthetic of the whole thing has been lodged in my head for most of my life.

I’m making this post because Darius sent me an interview with the creator of the game, David P. Gray, from thirteen years ago. Here is the internet archive link. It isn’t very long, so I’m going to paste the entire thing below.


I think it is a really great thing that just needs to be a little more accessible than the internet archive for Hugo enthusiasts.

Thank you Kevin for doing this interview with David Gray.


The latest edition of Inteview with the Author is here, allowing you to pick the brain of David P. Gray, the mastermind behind the production of the series of Hugo games.

Us: How did you get started in programming and computers in general?

David P. Gray: I “fell” into scientific programming in my first job straight from school, it wasn’t my decision since I had never really programmed before but I’m very glad someone made that decision for me. I must have shown an aptitude for it. I used to secretly write games at work like Asteroids, the scientific computers were great for that. I kept getting caught, though, since colleagues used to play them and give the game away (so to speak).

Us: What other things have you made besides the Hugo series? What kinds of things are you working on now?

DPG: Before Hugo was my first shareware program “Touch Type Tutor”. At the end of writing and testing it I found I could touch type so it definitely worked 🙂 It’s in desperate need of an upgrade but it’s not as much fun as writing games so it will have to wait. After Hugo came “ProCR”, an OCR program. It didn’t work so well and sold only 92 copies. I don’t like to talk about that one… Then came Nitemare-3D which was the first 3D shooter to run native under Windows and won a Ziff Davis Best Game award in 1995. Then came Jigsaws Galore which has been hugely successful for me. It’s been twice nominated for a best game award but has so far not won.

Us: As a technical question, how did the process of porting N3D to Windows go? I know DOS has a kind of do-what-thou-wilt attitude towards hardware access whereas Windows wants everything to go through the API.

DPG: It was only possible because Microsoft had just created a driver called WinG which allowed Windows 3.1 apps to manipulate pixels in memory directly, the same way you could in DOS. Mine was the first game (as far as I know) to use it. They also created another driver, DispDIB, which allowed a special full screen mode which could take over the whole screen which I also used. Both these technologies were incorporated as standard into Windows 95 and later.

Us: How well has shareware worked out for you? Do many people register your software?

DPG: It has worked very well for me (and my family). I quit my day job back in 1991 when my sales reached twice my salary and I’ve never looked back. My wife helps a bit but our two young children that takes most of her time (and mine!).

Us: What is your favorite of the games you’ve developed?

DPG: Hugo’s House of Horrors since it was the first and got me started.

Us: What is your favorite adventure game?

DPG: From that era, probably Monkey Island.

Us: What is your favorite classic shareware game for DOS (besides yours)?

DPG: Captain Comic, by Michael Denio, since it was the first “proper” arcade game I’d seen working on an IBM PC. It inspired me to write Hugo. To be honest I don’t think it was shareware (or any-ware for that matter, being circa 1988) but it was truly astonishing at the time. I just couldn’t stop playing it until I’d finished it. I guess before that, people just assumed it couldn’t be done.

Us: How did you come up with the name “Hugo”?

DPG: I had the opening house picture done and came up with the phrase “House of Horrors” for it. So I chose “Hugo” to get the three “h’s”. I made the program hhh.exe which matched nicely with the “lll.exe” of “Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards”, another game that inspired me.

Us: How did Hugo land a babe like Penelope?

DPG: They were high school sweethearts. After rescuing her in Hugo 1, they reversed roles with Penelope becoming a strong character in Hugo 2 and solving the whodunit. In Hugo 3 we’re back to stereotypes with Hugo once again saving Penelope.

Us: What’s the significance of 333?

DPG: The combination to the safe daubed in red on the bathroom mirror? It was originally going to be twice that number but my neighbour and friend, being religious, put her foot down and said NO WAY! So instead we used our company PO Box number, 333. This number appears several times in the first two episodes and also in the sequel, Nitemare-3D.

Us: Is there any chance of another Hugo game in the future?

DPG: I do get a lot of requests and my standard reply is that I’d love to do one but the cost of the Hollywood Studio, special effects team, famous voice-overs and cast of thousands expected by today’s market is prohibitive.

Us: One more question: Is there a strong rivalry between you and pop singer David Gray?

DPG: He he! I saw him for the first time about a month ago on TV and I can say we are totally dissimilar. According to the presenter he was last year’s “best kept secret”. Maybe if he gets mega-famous he’ll want to buy my dgray.com off me. There is also a famous snooker player in England called David Gray. I’m glad I use my middle initial…

Visit David’s site at www.dgray.com.

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