just wanted to compliment you on an excellent site. i enjoyed reading the
interviews with some of the people from the industry back in the days that
the amstrad was the top dog (except maybe for the overpriced and under
supported atari 8bits machines - at least in the uk).
i myself am too blame for several amstrad products (either in terms of
coding them entirely myself or providing support coding to the people that
did the rest). psi-5 trading company (my first game which too forever to
do), throne of fire, war in middle earth and krypton factor being part of
the former and leaderboard, silent service, terra cresta, super cycle,
highlander, its a knockout, miami vice being part of the latter group. i
also did work for hisoft before getting into the games scene.
i also did graphics work for all my games and for some other people (i did
all the in game graphics for a title called whirligig on the pc along with
coding for the amtrad, spectrum and c64 versions of the game that never saw
the light of day).
i worked for several companies during thoose days (canvas, consult and
these days im working over in the states for boss game studios. i recently
completed twisted edge snowboarding (the one that's ment to be crap but if
you actually play it you find it plays better than 1080) as lead programmer
and world driver championship as sound/rumble programmer (wdc is probably
the best racer available on consoles but i might be biased here) and am
currently leading the team for a new racer called SR3K (see www.bossgame.com
for details on these games).
What was your first computer?
FIrst computer I owned was a zx81 but the first I got to play on was
commodore pet at my high school. I was one of the few permitted to see the
beast by the science teacher.
What was the first program you wrote?
First program I wrote that worked was a black hole calculator. I had been
reading the collection of short stories about them edited by Jerry Pournelle
(I think that's how his name is spelt - Larry Niven's long time partner) and
in it was the calculation and some data to test the program.
What was the first game you played?
zap! for the commodore pet was the first home computer game I played. pong
was the first arcade game (played at a Pontin's holiday camp).
What was the first game you wrote?
first game I wrote was the 2nd program. it was a minesweeper type game in
which you had to navigate your way out of a sector of space avoiding space
mines and black holes. the first game I sold in stores was a quill
adventure game called quest for the firestone. I bundled it with a tape to
disc utility I had written and sold it through local computer stores in
Shrewsbury. my first commercial game was PSI-5 trading company for the
Amstrad CPC, then Spectrum and finally for the Amstrad PCW. I followed that
up with Leaderboard for the Spectrum, Amstrad CPC and PCW in a couple of
days. I guy called Roy Gibson wrote a 6502 emulator for the Z80 and we got
the company's secretary to type in the Commodore 64 source. Then I wrote
the sound and sprite routines for the Speccy and Amstrad machines.
My first big title was not a game though. I wrote an art program called
HiSoft Art In Pascal. Written using Hisoft's Pascal program and published
by them. It came with the source code to allow people to learn from what I
How did you get into the games industry?
I was writing a video management program for a computer store in New
Brighton and they where planning a system for Cadburys which would be a
global bulletin board installed in all of their factories and offices
showing company performance, announcing local events (such as picnics,
engagements, weddings, etc), company news and interviews with the top
Cadbury people around the world. Roy Gibson was going to do the programming
on this and I would be the artist. Cadbury's at the last minute decided to
spend the money on buying out a rival chocolate company and so I was left
with nothing to do. Roy Gibson offered me the chance to do graphics and
programming for games he was working on. So I did graphics for a game
called Battleships (Argos Press) with Andy Sinclair (a.k.a. Tharg)
programming whilst I also did sound effects programming for the nearly
complete N.O.M.A.D. (Ocean). After that was complete Roy Gibson became
partners with Ian Weatherburn in a company called Canvas and I was offered
the chance to do PSI-5 Trading company for them.
Do you know what happened to Canvas? I don't remember hearing much of them
Canvas went bust a year or so after I left them. I left because they where
not going to pay their employees that month and they had not paid me for
PSI-5 Trading company, Leaderboard and the first installment on Road Runner
(which was to have been my next project for them).
How did you manage to write leaderboard in a couple of days, it took that
long to draw the screen ;)
Leaderboard had been contracted to a lady down south who's previous credit
was Thrust for Firebird (I think). She worked on the project for about four
months and had nothing to show for the time. So Roy Gibson, Ian Weatherburn
and myself ended up doing it. The most work was probably the 6502 emulator
and the typing in of the original source code. Once that was running, we
just needed keyboard, sprite, sound and C64 to Speccy/CPC/PCW screen format
routines (all but the first and last, I did).
Yes, it did take too long to draw the screen but as I said it emulated the
C64 rather than running 100% Z80 code.
How did you come to leave Canvas and where did you go after that?
After Canvas I went to Consult Computer Systems, they where run by friends
of mine. For them I wrote Throne of Fire (Melbourne House), Krypton Factor
(Domark - TV Games), support coding for Every Second Counts (Domark),
designed the game 19 (based on the Paul Hardcastle song)
(Activision/Cascade), designed a came called Skimmer (Pirahana and did most
of the work on War In Middle Earth. I got them the Return Of the Jedi
contract and before they started work on it I left. The day after I left I
got a knock on my door from Hugh Battersby, Mike Singleton's partner at
Maelstrom. So I went to work for Mike. I completed War In Middle Earth
(CPC/Speccy/+3/C64/C64 disk) then did Whirligig (ST/Amiga/PC/C64/CPC/Speccy)
(the 8bit versions of which never saw the light of day), Midwinter
(ST/Amiga/PC) and Starlord (ST). I left Mike in the end because I wanted to
earn more money whilst having some creative freedom. I joined a company
called Frames which was basically all the old Canvas people working on ST,
PC and Amiga games for Atari. The company was run by Steve Cain and "Kenny"
Everett. I got a warning from one of Steve's friends that Canvas was about
to go bump so I jumped ship to a start up company call Active Minds (which
didn't last to the end of the two projects it signed up for but I finished
out my commitment by working for Empire direct). Active Minds did Total
Recall and Gazza II. Gazza II was my last Amstrad project and all I did for
it was provide the title page and support routines to Steve Pickford who did
all the coding. From Active minds, I joined Microprose until they closed
their Manchester doors. Then it was Virtuality, the arcade VR people. I did
this ride for a theme park in Japan which had more people through it in the
opening month than have ever bought one of my games (sad ain't it). From
there I joined Gray Matter in Canada and then they got very rocky I moved to
Boss Game Studios in Seattle. Which is where I am today.
Are you in the states now? If so how did you end up there?
I got the job here in Seattle by responding to an add in Next Generation
magazine (the USA version of Edge). Boss is run by Colin Gordon (ex Ocean
and Virgin) and he remembered me (I had nearly done work for him during his
Ocean days but it fell through) and the rest his history. Also didn't hurt
that the technical director is a guy called Rob Povey and he had worked with
a friend of mine (Bobby Earl) who I had taught to program and helped out on
projects of his (Hook, Total Recall, FlipIt 'n' Magnose - My credit on these
is usually "thank to" because I was working for other companies whilst I
moonlighted with Bobby).
What are your best./worst recollections of the 8bit days?
Best still has to be seeing my first product on the shelves. Second best
would be seeing a product of mine at number one in the charts, like PSI-5,
Leaderboard, War In Middle Earth and Midwinter did. Worst, probably the
late nights, I once went into work on Friday afternoon and didn't go home
until Monday afternoon. I slept for 24 hours after that and missed a party.
Which piece of 8bit work are you most proud of?
Probably War In Middle Earth. It was one of the games that started in the
RTS thing going. It was also the only game I continued to play for any
length of time after I finished it.
Is there anything you miss about the 8bit days?
I miss sitting down and tinkering with the machine, trying to get something
new and exciting out of it. I miss doing all the programming for myself. I
going directly to the hardware too squeeze every ounce of juice out of a
How does your work differ today from what it was in the 80's?
Its C/C++ mainly now instead of machine code. You don't get to work on the
whole thing generally because you have the AI programmers, the front end
programmer, the physics programmer, graphics engine programmer(s) and the
lead who puts it all together. I'm in the lead position but I don't
generally get to play with all the bits.
What do you see as being the future direction of games?
We are headed towards a more mainstream audience. Games are getting more
realistic every year and that's bringing in the people you wouldn't normally
see playing games. For instance the hunting and fishing games. The success
for the Barbie doll games also shows this but it shows as well that games
may get dumber (easier).
What are your thoughts on the effect that consoles have on the nutrturing of
new talent or game styles?
Consoles have cut off the way into the industry that I took. Which is coding
something up in your bedroom and selling in the local stores or to a
publisher (I did both). Today's children only play the games because that's
all they can do (the PC or Mac has to be off limits because you don't want
them on the internet). As for game styles, when was there a new type of
game? I miss playing something truly original like Knightlore was when it
What are your favourite games of all time?
Boulderdash (my all time favorite and written in forth too boot),
Tetris (still playing on my gameboy),
Sorcery (first game that showed the Amstrad wasn't the poor relative to the
Doom (the best 1st person shooter, didn't like quake as much),
Warcraft (my favorite RTS)and
Half Life (TFC is the most fun multiplayer I've had).
I would like to thank Chris for cntacting me in the first place
and taking time out to do this interview.