AN INTERVIEW WITH MARK JONES
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
Sigh...The good ol' days
Now I'm working in the USA with the ever present PC on a new game for
I loved your graphics for Short Circuit, Renegade & Gryzor, you
Brandwood were one of the best CPC pairings going, like Dave Perry & Nick
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
when I joined Ocean.
So you did the graphics for Combat School didn't you or was that
Ronnie as well?
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
years later he was back.
I believe Ronnie did the graphics for combat school, although I have a
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
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
at the time. I thought the Amstrad could do a better job than what I was
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
Soon after I got a call from Ocean to come up for an interview. The rest is
Do you know where John Brandwood is now?
Unfortuantely I have no idea where John is. I would love to know. Nice
So what was the first game you got to do the graphics
The first game I ever did graphics for was the 64 version of Arkanoid.
really good at it too! Ocean had an "Arcade Alley" where all the machines
were converting were kept. So at lunch times we would all "do research".
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
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
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
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
and I had a good rapport but it just didn't work out with me working
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.
get paid for that job!
What are your best recollections of the 8-bit days?
It was good meeting up with Mark Jones "junior" (my old flat mate, talk
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
again. "Junior", last I heard, was involved in the music scene in
After finishing with Ocean I did a lot of 16bit work for Hewson, and a
small companies that have gone the way of the dodo. Take a look at my
for further details.
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!
How have things changed for you since then in relation to
drawing graphics, is it easier or harder?
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
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
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
could hold it's own graphically against anything out there at the
It's much easier. It's much harder. The old pixel pushing stuff is
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
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.
What was your favourite 8bit machine to work on?
How did you end up moving across the pond?
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.
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!
So where do you think games and graphics are going to from here
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.
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
Do you think the games industry is better than it was in the 80's?
Has it matured or is
it just adolescent now?
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!
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
to do this interview. Also thanks for getting me in touch with