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King Frog was my entry point into the world of computer graphics and programming. When I moved to Madison in the spring of 1988 I hooked up with Nick Preus, an old friend of mine who was then working on a Ph.D. in English. Nick and a programmer named Jim Gray had joined forces as Actreo Software (old english for oak tree), and were just starting their second HyperCard stack for children: King Frog. They were looking for someone to do the illustrations, and after letting me do a sample drawing on Jim's Mac SE, they gave me the job.
As a job it was kind of a flop, since they couldn't afford to pay me, and it never sold enough copies to generate any of the profits that I was supposed to share in (despite getting good reviews). It was, however, a great career move and learning experience, since my work on King Frog was what led Woodland to hire me.
Before King Frog I'd never used a computer with a graphical user interface. I'd done BASIC programming on a teletype in high school (the 'display' was a roll of newsprint), and I'd written a screenplay treatment on an old Osborne portable, but I'd never had a chance to create graphics on a computer. Jim's little Mac SE was a revelation to me.
I started by learning to use HyperCard's simple bitmap paint module. I quickly settled on a technique that involved drawing in thick black lines and then going back and scratching over the lines in white with a 1-pixel brush. This softened the harsh B&W bitmapped images and gave them a pleasant surface somewhat reminiscent of a wood engraving.
While learning to use HyperCard's painting tools I became interested in its HyperTalk scripting language as well, and started studying it. While Jim Gray did almost all of the programming for King Frog, I did manage to contribute a development tool: a script that let us record animation paths for King Frog simply by dragging his image around the screen.
After the illustrations were done I tackled the box art, manual, and Actreo logo. I had copies of Pagemaker and Illustrator 88 to work with, but no documentation. I had to teach myself to use the programs through experimentation. In the case of Illustrator I also spent a half hour thumbing through a third-party how-to manual in a software store, just to get the basics.
The box was especially difficult, since I was working with color on a B&W screen that could only display dither patterns. I believe I selected my colors by taking the files into one of the UW's computer labs and working with it for a while there. I also remember that I'd never heard of trapping, and the company that printed the boxes wasn't very happy about having to kiss-fit all the color plates (but they did an amazingly good job of it).
Finally, I built two partial fonts for the front cover. The bold text in the words King Frog and Actreo is one of them, and the lighter copy on the front of the box is the other. These weren't real fonts, since I only built the letters that I needed, and I set them by hand in Illustrator, dragging copies of each letter into place.