Hi Martyn ! It's a Pleasure to have this interview with you. Why don't you introduce yourself a bit more?
Well, I'm now 39 (yes, that is as old as it sounds), and when I was umm... 23, I co-founded Team17 after a few years at "17bit", which was an Amiga club selling games and doing PD/shareware distribution. If people want to know more, then I've got a blog at www.spadge.net.
You've had a hand in so many Amiga games. These are the ones I know about: Alien Breed, Alien Breed II, Alien Breed: Tower Assault, Alien Breed 3D 2, Apache, Arcade Pool, Assassin, ATR, Body Blows, Body Blows Galactic, F17 Challenge, Kingpin, Overdrive, Project-X, Qwak, Superfrog, Ultimate Body Blows and Worms. Did I miss any ?
Yeah, quite a few - the ones that weren't released, finished or were canned :-). It was quite a few games in a relatively short period, really.
How did it feel to be involved in such successful games ?
Brilliant. I've always been a lucky sod, and working with great people and having enormous fun helped. That's where a lot of the enthusiasm for the games came from.
All those games were done by Team17. Did you ever work with any other companies ?
No, and I'm still at Team17 now. I don't know of many others in the industry who've actually been at one place all the time... Let's hope I'm still here in another 15 years or so.
What made you decide to join the gaming industry ? Was it your choice, or did you stumble upon it by happy accident ?
Kind of half and half, really. I've always been a tech and gaming nut, and it just seemed like a good idea. As an Amiga fan, I was a bit pissed at all the half-arsed ST ports at the time, and wanted to see 1MB games, not 512K ones.
So we started a company to do just that.
Team17 was a collection of highly talented people. How was it to work with such a group ?
That's a crazy question. It was fantastic, just as you would expect. Talent was only half the equation, though. The characters of these people are amazing, and it's what's kept us around, to be fair.
What was the size of the team back then ? Did all you guys work in-house only, or did you have freelance developers too ?
Usually 3-4 people. It was a mixture of in-house and external contractors.
Can you describe what the role of the manager was, exactly ? What were your responsibilities ?
Back in the Amiga days, I was managing the development of most games and helping design them. Arcade Pool, Breed Special Edition and Superfrog contain my heaviest design input. These days, I just keep an eye on how things are run, discuss strategies and don't do much hands-on development. I do a lot of the business development and relationship management.
Were you a hardass manager ?
Not at all. I don't bark very often, which, I hope, makes it more effective when I do. :)
How long did each game usually take to complete ?
Back then, 6-9 months, really.
Did you ever do any coding or design for any of those games ? Or did you stick with your own job ?
I haven't coded since I was in my teens (I had a Spectrum game named Henry's Hoard released when I was 17), but I havedone a fair bit of design.
Did the programmers use Amiga machines to develop games ? Or were they developed on PCs ?
Which tools did you use to develop the games ?
Everything was written in assembler back then. We also used Deluxe Paint, various audio packages and a bunch of custom tools.
Is the source code and raw graphics for the games still available ?
Heh, somewhere in a box... Have you seen Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom? I think the back-ups of the source are in the box next to where they left The Arc of The Covenant.
Any chance of a sequel to Superfrog or Project-X? ;)
We did X2 on PSX around 1996-1997. Nothing planned for Superfrog.
Which Team17 game is your favourite ?
That's difficult to say. Probably Alien Breed Special Edition, since it took 6 weeks to create and stayed at No.1 in the UK for 33 weeks (an all time record).
Which one was the most difficult ?
Superfrog was the one we couldn't really bear looking at, post-release. Getting a game to be that playable and flowing is hard. They all had their problems; development is no walk in the park !
Which one was the most successful ?
And Least successful ?
I dunno. Probably Assassin.
Why didn't Assassin do as well as the other games ?
I don't know. Maybe it just didn't appeal.
Alien Breed has the funniest cheat codes I have ever seen in my life. Who picked those ? Was it you ?!
Yes, that was fairly typical of my naïve input back in the day. We liked to have fun, though. Most of our early games had silly cheats (Ali: I don't think Martyn is a Manchester United fan).
Alien Breed and Superfrog received a lot of cheer from the gamers and the press. How did it feel at that time ?
How do you expect ? We were a bunch of young guys having the time of our life; living the dream !
If you take a look on the Lemon Amiga website you'll see all your games are highly praised by the Amiga gamers. How does it feel to see your creations still entertaining people after so many years ?
Great. You can't wish for anything else.
Did you play other people's games too ? What were your all time favourite Amiga games ?
Of course. Kick Off 2 and all of Sid Meier's stuff... But I played pretty much most Amiga games ever created.
How much did you contribute to the disk/CD cover design of the games ?
Quite a lot. Again, I used to manage that stuff.
Who decided which games would be released on CD32 too? And what was the basis of that decision ?
Commodore approached us about it so we had talks. The funniest thing was unveiling the controller in the boardroom. They even waited for the tea lady to leave the room before unveiling it.
Why was Commodore so secretive about their CD32 controller ?
God knows. Maybe because it was so ugly ?
Are the people you used to work with still around ? Guys like Allister Brimble, Andreas Tadic and Rico Holmes ?
Yes, although, sadly, none are at T17. Rico left to live in Sweden just a few months ago, Andreas left a couple of years ago and Allister was always down in Devon. However, myself, Rico and Andreas are pretty much family and are often in contact.
What is your best memory of the Amiga days ?
There are so many, but I'd have to say winning "Publisher of the Year" in 1993 (we tied with EA).
And your worst ?
The day when we realized that we couldn't really carry on making Amiga games. It'd been a very good place for us.
Is there anything about those days that you would change, had you the opportunity ?
It's difficult to say, but, yeah, if we did it again in the same conditions with all the experience we have now, we'd have been much more successful :)
As Isaac Asimov would say, how do you currently justify your existence ?
By helping people achieve their own aims, and making my friends, colleagues and children smile.
Do you still play computer games ? Any favourites ?
Of course, I still play very many. And I have too many favourites - sorry for the boring answer.
How do you compare the games released these days to the ones released back in the old days ?
I don't think you can. You can only compare the spirit that the Amiga had (and it did), and the fact that no other machine has had that kind of rapport with its users.
Well, thanks for your time ! Anything else you would like to add ?
Just thanks for helping me have a little nostalgia burst. Sorry this was rushed through, but I have precious little spare time...
Thanks, Martyn. Goodbye !