As on old Amstrad Artist I want to thank you for your site. It's nice to know the old machine still has friends. I started at Ocean back in 1986 and worked on the Renegade and Gryzor artwork. I remember well the arguments with the Speccy and 64 artist as to which had the better graphics.
Sigh...The good ol' days
Now I'm working in the USA with the ever present PC on a new game for Sega.

Mark Jones

I loved your graphics for Short Circuit, Renegade & Gryzor, you and John Brandwood were one of the best CPC pairings going, like Dave Perry & Nick Bruty. There should have been no arguments, your stuff kicked the C64 & Speccy right out of the window ;)

    Thanks! Although I never did work with John on Short Circuit. That was in production when I joined Ocean.
    I believe Ronnie Fowles was responsible for the graphics. If I remember correctly he left that year to join the army but when I returned a couple of years later he was back.
So you did the graphics for Combat School didn't you or was that Ronnie as well?
    I believe Ronnie did the graphics for combat school, although I have a vague recollection of helping on that one. It was 12 years ago!
What was you first computer?
    First Computer. Good old VIC 20! I was about 11 It was on the VIC 20 that I did my first animation. its was a 2 frame animation of a dog waggling its tail. It was only a UDG (User defined graphic) but it gave me such a buzz!
How did you get started in computer graphics?
    After that a started creating my own BASIC games, again using UDG. After I got my 464 I started copying some of the ideas I saw in some of the games available at the time. I thought the Amstrad could do a better job than what I was seeing in the straight ports at that time. Gradually I built up a portfolio and started sending it out to Magazines and other software companies. Amstrad Action was kind enough to reply with advice on getting into the industry (I still have the letter!) and I won a competition in Amtix. I was well chuffed! Soon after I got a call from Ocean to come up for an interview. The rest is history.
Do you know where John Brandwood is now?
    Unfortuantely I have no idea where John is. I would love to know. Nice guy.
So what was the first game you got to do the graphics for?
    The first game I ever did graphics for was the 64 version of Arkanoid. I was really good at it too! Ocean had an "Arcade Alley" where all the machines we were converting were kept. So at lunch times we would all "do research". Great fun!
What did you use to create your graphics?
    For the graphics on that game I used an in-house utilty. Nothing special but it got the job done.
What did you think was your best piece of 8bit work?
    I think the stuff I deed on Gryzor was the best stuff I did on the 8 bits. I really liked working on the loading screen. Bob Wakelin's stuff was always good, and I really like his work on the Gryzor cover. Of course nowadays we'd just scan the bugger in!
When did you leave Ocean and what did you go on to do?
    I left Ocean in house after about a year there. That was early 1988 I believe. I always wanted to be freelance, but for a while I remained on their payroll. Gary Bracey was really good about it. It didn't work out though. John Brandwood and I had a good rapport but it just didn't work out with me working outside of the office. Later on I would work for another company that was working on a title for Ocean called Total Recall based on the Arnie movie. Mmmmm...Never did get paid for that job!

    It was good meeting up with Mark Jones "junior" (my old flat mate, talk about confusing!) and Simon Butler again at the private viewing of the movie in London. Years later while I was Art director/Manager at Bethesda I tried to hire Simon. Unfortunately he was too expensive for Bethesda, They're only a small company and Simon has yonks of experience. Still good to talk with him again. "Junior", last I heard, was involved in the music scene in Northampton.

    After finishing with Ocean I did a lot of 16bit work for Hewson, and a bunch of small companies that have gone the way of the dodo. Take a look at my webpage for further details.

What are your best recollections of the 8-bit days?
    What are my best recollections of the 8-bit days? Well, I would have to say that it would be meeting many of the "stars" of the industry back then. I remember when the likes of Jon Ritman and would Bernie Drummond would come to Ocean to show off there new stuff and the new guys would like me would be awe-struck! I remember having a conversation with Mr. Ritman about the Amstrad's 4 colour, 320x200 mode versus 160x200 16 colour mode. He thought that the higher resolution made for better graphics than extra colours. I disagreed. I happen to think he may have been right now! He probably doesn't remember that conversation but for a fan like me who had recently got into the industry it was rather awesome! ;-)

    Another of my favourite memories from the old 8 bit days was when the Amstrad show came to Manchester and John Brandwood and myself went across to take a look. Back then shows like this brought in a lot of fans, now it's more business types. But there was this kid there playing Reneagde and I ask him how he liked it. He was about 8 years old but I'll never forget the way his eyes lit up when he realised that I had worked on it! Kinda makes it all worth while ;-)

    I think the colour modes argument can go either way, we could pull out plenty of crap speccy ports to back up your view but also lots of horrendous 16 colour jobs that would disprove it.
    Some games were done in the wrong mode and suffered because of it. I think Head Over Heels showed that a game can look great in four colours if done correctly. Untouchables worked really well with 3 shades of blue ;) But your stuff also showed that 16 colours could work really well without looking so blocky as to be a mess.
    Ocean seemed to be quite good with their in house programmers & graphic artists, just a shame their contract teams tended to be below par, Choice etc. Still better than the ones US Gold used though ;)

      The Amstrad suffered especially from crappy ports. That was one thing that really annoyed me, and I was glad I could make a point that the Amstrad could hold it's own graphically against anything out there at the time.
How have things changed for you since then in relation to designing and drawing graphics, is it easier or harder?
    It's much easier. It's much harder. The old pixel pushing stuff is easier. Higher resolutions, more colours, better packages. The bar's been raised though. 3D is the thing now. Even most of my 2D is 3D these days. And that takes time. Modelling and lighting, texturing animating. Those things can't be done quickly. But consider this..If I had to pixel-push an animating character, for example a barbarian type in an isometric world, including a different version for each direction, it would take forever. If I built that same character in 3D then textured, and animated then rendered him, using a different camera for each direction it would be much faster.

    But I like that old, hand-crafted look that a good pixel pushed graphic can give you. So I wish I had more chance to do some of that. But real-time 3D is huge here in the States so I guess that's what I'll be doing.

What was your favourite 8bit machine to work on?
    Easy. The Amstrad CPC.
How did you end up moving across the pond?
    I met my wife in Europe. She's American. I moved. Simple as that! ;-)
Do you find it easier or harder working in big teams rather than as half of a partnership?
    Personally, I find that it is more efficient and fun working in the partnerships of the old days. While I was at Bethseda we had fairly small teams for the industry. Daggerfall had about 10 people working at any given time. Even at that size we didn't all know what was going on!
    I still believe that a core team of about 5 people can get much more done and have a better time doing it that a huge, sprawling monster of a team can.
  So where do you think games and graphics are going to from here on?
    Well, games are going to be much more mass market. "blue collar" type stuff like bowling, deer hunting, bass fishing. That kind of stuff. What we know of as games now will be viewed in the same way as "Art House" movies are now. But the big money, and the big companies will be drawn to the mass market, cheap PCs. Personally I would rather stay in the fan-based sector of the market.

    Graphics will continue the get better and better. No surprise there! But 3D will lose it's chunky look, and become ever more photorealistic. Stuff that only appears in high end 3D packages will filter down into real-time 3D. This is already started to happen. Pixel pushing will become a lost art...Sniff!

Do you think the games industry is better than it was in the 80's? Has it matured or is it just adolescent now?
    The games industry may have matured. It's very much a big business thing now, but those who make the games I think are still very much in that "Bedroom Games" mentality. That's bad for the business men. That's why I think that you'll find the big guys moving increasingly towards mass market stuff. Made by non game programmers and "traditional" artists.

I would like to thank Mark for contacting me in the first place and offering to do this interview. Also thanks for getting me in touch with Hugh.