There's no intro part for this because Mark mailed me first :)

If you're senior programmer/project leader, how come you only ever seem to get small mentions on games - Dark Forces, Sam 'n' Max etc?
NB - This question was referring to his sig.

    As for being a Project Leader, etc... Well I helped out the guys on DF at one point (they were in the next office), and for Sam'n'Max I did some assembly stuff. I wasn't always a PL here.... I've also worked on Rebel Assault (PC, SEGA CD, 3DO) and a bunch of other stuff. BUT you *will* see me more prominently in the credits of my current project. This is called SHADOWS OF THE EMPIRE for the Nintendo 64. I'm the PL on this game as well as doing a little of the programming. I've been working on this since the end of September '94 which is why you've only seen those minor credits. I have high hopes for this game... it's really coming together. It's been a lot of work but the effort is finally paying off.

    The N64 is a *superb* machine... less than 3 weeks until the launch in Japan. Mario 64 is one of the best games I have played in a LONG time.
    I played Mario some time ago, and again at E3. Very impressive.
    I was also lucky to spend 2.5 hours with Mr. Miyamoto discussing both Mario & our game. He is a genius.

What was your first computer?

    The first one I actually owned was a ZX-81. I wanted a ZX80, but waited until the '81 came out. I had the 16K RAM pack from the start :-)
When did you start programming and what was your first program?

    I probably started sometime around late '79, early '80. Of course I didn't have a computer at that time. I taught myself BASIC out of "Illustrated BASIC" by Donald Allcock, and I used to "dry-run" programs on paper in the school library. When I got the ZX81 I taught myself Z80 machine code by looking at the opcodes in the back of the BASIC manual & a sheet of instuctions that I bought at the second ZX Microfair. Later on I got the "Mastering Machine Code" book and the Rodney Zaks one, but by then I knew most of that stuff by trial & error...
    My first BASIC program of any significance was a game based on "Alien" -- you moved around a spaceship trying to find the Alien. However, it would lay eggs & the eggs would begin growing... All text of course. This was on my school's TRS-80 Level 1.
    My first machine code program was to draw a line around the screen using character graphics on the ZX81. It took 2 weeks to write, no assembler of course, simply entering opcodes, and I was so satisifed when it worked!
The first time i heard of you was obviously Vortex. Did you do any work b4 that or was that your entrance into the programming market?
How did you become involved with them?
How did you end up leaving vortex?

    Prior to Vortex I had done some work for ARTIC -- I wrote a machine code toolkit & an arcade/adventure game based loosely on "Alien". Neither were published. I crossed paths with Jon Ritman back then. I also got to know the guys from Carnell Software - remember Black Crystal?
    I actually sold copies of that at a couple of ZX Microfairs... even packing them into boxes at the show :-) I remember having a great conversation with Malcom Evans about 3D Monster Maze for the ZX81.
    At the shows I also got to know the guys from Vortex - Costa Panayi & Luke Andrews. It became a regular thing for me to bug them & show them the games I was developing. In the summer of '84 Luke offered me a part-time position (I was still at University) to learn the Amstrad CPC & perhaps port some of their games to it. I leapt at the chance and in 3 months in my spare time I wrote ANDROID ONE -- without having a disc drive or any firmware manuals! 2 weeks after leaving University in July '85 I started work full time at Vortex -- my first game being HIGHWAY ENCOUNTER, which took 8 weeks to convert. After that I did a number of games for Vortex, including ALIEN HIGHWAY & REVOLUTION. Sadly Vortex didn't have the marketing power to go up against people like Ultimate and after an unsucessful partnership with US Gold, the company was scaled down (to 2 people) & I left to work freelance.
    This would have been late '86. Working at Vortex with Costa is one of my BEST memories -- not only did I learn a tremendous amount, but formed some great friendships.
    I have still have my old Z80 books... :-)
    I keep in touch with Costa. He's now living in the South of England working as a design consultant -- he was originally a Mechanical Engineer before writing games.
    Luke is now living in Cyprus where he's teaching English -- he was a teacher before Vortex.
The next thing i remember was Paperboy for Elite. Famous because,
    a) it was 1 year after the speccy and c64 versions came out
    b) it had no sound
    c) it was still the best conversion.
What was it so late? Was it anything to do with you or was it a late starting conversion?
Why no sound? I know AA asked if any hackers would be able to add it....

    64K games were the norm around Paperboy, so I had to fit in that space. PAPERBOY is one of my favourites. It was a year late because I didn't start it until 6 months after the other versions came out. Apparently the guys who did the Spectrum version attempted to do a CPC version, but it was a real mess. I started from scratch, set up my own company (just me! :-) and wrote the game in 6 months to the day. I was fortunate that Paul Walker, another freelancer, did the great graphics for me. He lived a 100 miles away from me, so we did lots of stuff over the phone. He did a really good job.
    I finished the game on the morning of my deadline... having worked a lot of nights - at least at this time I had a reasonable development system -- I had two CPCs, a 5.25" floppy (700K!), & other good stuff. Helped tremendously. I was very proud of the code I wrote for that game. Sadly at the end of the project I had NO memory left for sound -- that was the only reason there wasn't any! In hindsight I should have done something to get the space back...
    Thanks for the kind words -- I felt that my version was closest to the arcade -- it was hard work but worth it in the end. I got a little money from royalties though I'm sure ELITE did very well out of it -- no doubt if it had come out at the same time as the others it would have been very sucessful. ELITE offered me a position as Senior Programmer which I took. I worked there for a while & left to join Tiertex, although people like Ocean offered me a position.
    Elite had management problems -- and when I joined Tiertex there were only 4 of us in the company, and things were actually not bad at all. I think as they got more sucessful they lost track of WHY they were sucessful & starting to treat people badly. They had NO management skills whatsoever.
    Ocean didn't give me a good impression, and it turned out that it wasn't that great a place to work at either. Of course, it was probably better than my choice...
    Interestingly Ultimate (who I also interviewed with) said I didn't have anough 6502 experience... things could have worked out very differently if I had ended up there :-) BTW I ran into Chris Stamper at E3 recently so it was interesting talking to him about the old days.

    Amstrad Action was my favourite magazine -- their reviews were fair and I was lucky enough to get "Mastergame" a couple of times.

    If you have any more questions, please feel free to ask.

    I'm including a list of the projects I've worked on, in case you're interested:

      Android One (Amstrad CPC *)
      Highway Encounter ( Amstrad CPC*, Atari ST*, Commodore Amiga*, IBM PC*)
      Alien Highway (ZX Spectrum*, Amstrad CPC*)
      Revolution (Amstrad CPC*)
      Paperboy (Amstrad CPC*)
      Overlander (ZX Spectrum*, Amstrad CPC*)
      Thunder Blade (Amstrad CPC* + parts of ZX Spectrum & Atari ST)
      Human Killing Machine (Commodore C64*)
      Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade Action Game (Spectrum*, CPC*, IBM PC*)
      Italy 1990 (ZX Spectrum*, Amstrad CPC*, supervised IBM, Atari ST, Amiga)
      Magic Boy (coordinated Atari ST, initial Amiga conversion)
      David Robinson's Supreme Court (SEGA Game Gear*, unfinished)
      Rebel Assault (80386 optimisations for IBM PC)
      Rebel Assault (68000 optimisations for SEGA CD)
      Sam & Max (Blitter routines for IBM PC)
      Zombies Ate My Neighbours (SEGA Genesis*)
      Big Sky Trooper (Systems programming + Slug AI for Super Nintendo)
      Dark Forces (minor assistant programming for IBM PC)
      Rebel Assault (ARM optimisations for 3DO)
      Shadows of the Empire (Nintendo 64 - Project Leader + programming)
    The versions with an asterisk after the name are games on which I did *all* the programming.
So how would you compare programming nowadays to they way things were done then?

    Obviously things are MUCH better now. The whole development environment now really helps -- fast processors, big hard disks, and integrated editors, etc. It certainly makes making changes easier. The target machines are much more powerful which means that we can concentrate more on the actual game, rather than trying to force the machine to do *anything*. Programming in C means that portability is quite possible. Although I spent a lot of my time in the past learning different CPUs for porting games that is less important now -- you still need assembly on some machines and I love getting that close to the hardware but C is the language of choice. Of course, it wasn't an option before due to memory & CPU constraints.
    One downside to the improvements in development environments is the "quick change" mentality. When developing games for, say, the CPC on tape, you'd make damn sure that any change you made would be a good one & that you understood why you were making the change. Simply because of the turn-around time for loading the editor, source code, assembler, etc. It's all too easy now to make quick fixes & see if it works -- it doesn't require the same discipline as before.
Are there any things that you prefer from the way that you used to work as opposed to the way you do them now?

    Well, everything was a lot simpler then. Anyone could make a game and development times were much shorter. I guess there was a lot of satisfaction to be had from pushing the machines to their limits, or in some cases getting them to do anything at all! On the whole, developing is much better now.
Do you feels games have moved on very far technically since the 80's are are they just the same games with better graphics and more space to play with?

    Well yes and no. Clearly the technology now allows us to do things we couldn't even attempt before, e.g. 3D games. However, I still see a lot of very poor games out there. Some of the early 80s games are far superior in terms of gameplay -- I still love playing DEFENDER, for example.
    Naturally having a CDROM & other hardware can give the player a more atmospheric environment, we can have voice & real music, etc. I believe we are on the cusp of a change between technology-driven games & content-driven games. This seems to go in cycles but the next few years will be very interesting indeed.
Relatively speaking, what do you consider to be your best piece of work?

    Well, SHADOWS OF THE EMPIRE is pretty amazing even though I'm not doing as much programming as I have in the past. From the old days, I was very proud of PAPERBOY. HIGHWAY ENCOUNTER, too, especially the Atari ST & Amiga versions that were never published.
How did you end up at Lucasarts exactly?

    Now *there's* a story.

    After the court case, I basically had large debts & had to look for a job. Around December 1990 I had sent a Xmas card to a friend of mine who worked at LucasArts. We had met back in 1989 when I did the Indiana Jones game. For the PC version I had spent a week working at the Skywalker Ranch fixing 40 bugs! It was a complete blast, though -- despite jet lag & 16 hour work days :-) I said to myself then that one day I would end up working for LucasArts.
    Anyway, I had kept in touch with Aric Wilmunder and jokingly asked him if any jobs were available.Well, he writes back and says, yes, if I'm interested they need an Amiga programmer! There followed 3 months of phone interviews, etc. and basically I had the job BUT LucasArts were going through changes and were unwilling to do the immigration stuff at that time. It turned out that Vince Lee (Rebel Assault) got that job, so it's just as well :-)
    So that all fell apart.
    About the same time the court case was settled & I noticed a small ad in one of the weekly games magazines for jobs in California. So.... I sent off my CV to a company called Acme Interactive, not expecting anything of it. 2 weeks later I get a phone call asking me down for an interview in London. Well, I did the interview and 2 weeks after that I was offered a job earning twice the money I had been earning in the UK! I jumped at it! Within 6 weeks I was living in southern California! I moved out on July 7th, 1991.
    After the initial culture shock, things started to work them selves out, I met my future wife and was really starting to like it out here when I was laid off due to my project being cancelled :-(
    Fortunately it was 3 days before CES in Las Vegas. I drove there, gave out lots of my CVs and within 2 weeks had a number of job offers. I interviewed at a few companies & when LucasArts offered my a position, I immediately took it! And I've been here ever since....

Do you have a picture of yourself, cat dog, office home or anything which could be put on the site?
It's nice to be able to put a face to the name. I think everybody knows what Dave Perry looks like but the majority of programmers go fairly anonymous.....
    I'll see what I can come up with. I have a photo already digitised of my wife & I in front of our new house as it was being built.

    Mark Haigh-Hutchinson
    Project Leader / Senior Programmer
    LucasArts Entertainment Company

I would like to thank Mark for taking the time from his N64 project to respond to my questions.