Death Pit ακυκλοφόρητο! [update Clive Townsend interview]

Wally

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Πρωτο-πρωτο στα νεα του WOS...

Written in 1984, this game from Clive Townsend was dropped from publication, alledgedly because it was not considered good enough. This year, Clive Townsend found the development versions...Many thanks must go to Andrew Rollings for convincing Clive to share it with us, plus Andy Barker and Steve Brown of the Preservation Team for recovering it from the tape and microdrive cartridges.
O Clive Townsend μας εδωσε και τα Saboteur...respect

Κατεβασμα απο εδω
 

Wally

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Για να μην ανοιγω αλλο thread αφου αφορα τον Clive Townsend...

Εδωσε προσφατα συνεντευξη στο elmundospectrum.com και ανεβηκε και μεταφρασμενη στο WOS

Περιεχει ενδιαφερουσες πληροφοριες για το μελλον του Saboteur...

P- Thanks for your time. It΄s a pleasure to have the opportunity to interview you.My pleasure! It's an honour to have a game remembered after all this time!

P- We would like to know about Clive Townsend today and your work at Incognito Games.

Today I mainly work on websites, but with a few game projects running in the background. Although games are my passion, the development process seems to take a long time compared to websites which can be completed in a few weeks. Saying that, things are changing – I'm building a cross-platform development system called EZcode which enables me to convert game code to Java (for web-based games), iOS, Android and Windows at the touch of a button.

P- How did you start in video games world and what was the first computer you used?

I first discovered computers when a school-friend, Steven Hodge, bought a ZX81. Between us we learned to program through trial-and-error and typing in listings from magazines. The listings almost always had mistakes in them, so it was a challenge to find the bugs and fix them. There were rumours of a ZX82 coming out next year (this was 1981, and Sinclair had been very unimaginative with their computer names – the ZX80 came out in 1980, etc.) so I signed up to buy one. As it was their first colour computer, it was soon renamed to the ZX Spectrum and I started writing games in BASIC...

P- How was the first contact with Durell and how your collaboration begins?

When I had a few games of sellable quality, I asked a local shop in Taunton if they would sell them. They said they would – but that there was already a games company in Taunton, and that I should speak to them. So I visited Durell (named after the boss, Robert James Durell White) who liked the games and graphics, but said I should learn assembler to improve the speed. After hanging around the Durell office all summer, I was offered a job when I left school. I did go to college, but after a year I realised the job offer was too good to refuse and started work at Durell full time.

P- What΄s the origin of Saboteur? Where the idea came from?

As a child I was very interested in martial arts and what would now be called parkour or free-running. I also loved the James Bond films, so when I discovered Ninjutsu it seemed to combine everything I liked. I started training with an old friend, Miguel Peρa Romero, until his parents told us off for practicing 'arrow cutting' in his garden. Basically one person fires arrows at the other, and they try to dodge or catch them...

It wasn't until years later that I started training with a real Bujinkan Ninjutsu group. Pic enclosed of me fighting a Kunoichi called Karen. To be fair, she does have a sword!

P- Saboteur remains as one of the most loved Spectrum games. Tell us about its development. Did you first worked on graphics, or concept, or map,…?

The first game I was asked to write was called Death Pit. I was still learning assembly language as I wrote it – so it wasn't brilliant. But I was also working on a pet project at home with a Ninja in it... It was a size-scrolling platformer but I couldn't get the backgrouds to scroll fast enough. Rob White suggested I make it into a flip-screen game, which solved the speed problem. I then designed the story, map, and graphics in parallel. There were no art packages in those days, so all the original art was done on paper. Original crate drawing enclosed. I then converted the pattern of dots into binary and typed it into the source code.

P – Any problematic part along the creation of Saboteur? Any funny thing you remember to be told?

The original code was written on an actual Spectrum. So in memory I had the source code, assembler, and object code. So I'd work on a routine, compile it, then save it out to tape. To test it, I'd need to reset the Spectrum and load that bit of code in along with the other code, graphics, and data. After testing I'd reset again and load my source code and the assembler – still all from tape. Nightmare!

Even though I'd left college, many of my friends were still there. So occasionally I'd sneak in and pretend that I was still attending. One of the computer science teachers caught me out, but instead of complaining he actually left his teaching job and came to work for Durell, writing Thanatos on the C64!

P- Saboteur loading screen was based on an old martial-arts film. Were you fan of Cannon ninja movies?

Very much. I still have them on VHS in my film collection.

P- Is it true you were teacher of some members of the Royal Family? )

It's true! I was a gymnastics coach for a few years, and taught Princess Anne's children. Gymnastics may seem very different to programming, but my interest in martial arts connected them both.

P- How was your relation with Mike Richardson? Do you keep in touch with Durell people?

Mike's a legend. He did incredible things with the limited power of the Z80 processor.

Having Mike and another coder, Ron Jeffs, at hand to answer programming questions was a great help and an inspiration. I'm terrible at keeping in touch with people though!

P- Durell ceased its activity about 1987. What was your next step into videogames work?

After a few years of travelling and relaxing, I did some freelance work then ended up working in Birmingham (Data Design) then London (Microtime). I eventually ended up in Somerset with some ex-colleagues and we formed Pukka Games.

P- Did you moved then to Ubi Soft and The Edge or were The Reaper or Garfield: Winter΄s Tail works on your own and licensed to those companies?

I was a freelance programmer for Winter's Tail, but The Reaper was something I created on my own for a friend to play. It was really just an excuse to have all my friends' names in a game. And then I thought I just might be able to sell it if I added a unique twist – rude language. I'd hoped it would get lots of publicity. Ubi Soft published it, everyone hated it, and everyone forgot it. Except YOU it seems

P- Did you find console game development (Game Boy, Game Gear, Genesis) very different from 8 bit computers?

Not really. You are still faced with the same old problems of speed, graphical quality, and memory constraints. The trick is to balance them all.

P- How do you think Saboteur has influenced the world of videogames? Isn΄t your ninja an inspiration for, let΄s say, Sam Fisher?

Possibly – you could certainly sneak up behind enemy guards if you were quiet enough. Maybe Saboteur was the first 'sneak-em-up'

P – Any future project about a Saboteur remake, iOS maybe? Even a Saboteur III?

Hmmm... How much should I tell you? I've enclosed some Santa Pics. Some are a bit blurry but you may be able to use one if you shrink it down.

Yes, it's on its way! Won't be for a few months yet, but it's made from the actual Spectrum source code (via Ezcode) so if you know any gameplay tricks from the Speccy version you'll be able to use them again! It'll also contain the original graphics, so you can play it in 'old school' mode or with the new updated graphics.

P- About Saboteur II, was your intention to make a “bigger, better Saboteur”?

Originally, yes. My plan was to send the same Ninja out on another mission, but with a much bigger map. As I planned the game I printed each room on paper and stuck it on my wall. Pic enclosed. As development progressed, I decided to change the lead character to a female – a risky choice in those days as this was years before Tomb Raider made female leads successful.

P- What did you have in mind for the never-released Saboteur III? There are some published graphics in a pseudo-3D style, seems very different to the previous parts.

Sab III, despite never being published, has been remade about 5 times. I started an isometric version on the Spectrum, then a switched development to the PC for a flip-screen digitised version. Then a scrolling version, then a side-view platformer with a 3D engine, then finally a full-on 3D game. I have the whole game design document sat waiting for an opportunity. It's still the game I most want to make.

P –Is there any game that you regret?

Did I mention The Reaper?

P – If you could manage now a great videogame production, could you imagine how the game would be? Which genre, platform game, RPG, strategy, FPS? What aspects would be important?

I still have big plans for Saboteur III. It's all of the above genres, and many levels will allow you to choose the style of gameplay to complete a particular task. I can't say too much at this point of course!

P- Is the future of games the portable-mobile platforms as you make at Incognito, far from AAA productions?

As a programmer, yes. I quite like the freedom to create a whole game without waiting for other people. In terms of being part of a larger team I'd probably work as a consultant and/or producer, as I wouldn't need to be as involved in the finer details of how the code actually works.

P- Your work is loved among fans of the Spectrum. What do you think when you see people remembering your programs 25 years later?

I think “Fetch the head-containment unit!”. It's a great feeling to be remembered a quarter of a decade later. Recently I discovered someone in the States selling Tshirts with the Sab loading screen on them, and of course I had to buy one. It was probably the only one they sold, but I'm going to pretend they sold millions! Someone's even contacted me about making a movie based on Sab II... “Fetch the secondary head-containment unit!”

P- Which are your favorite Spectrum games (not Durell valid!!!)?

Knight Lore was one of my favourites - everyone at Durell was astounded when we saw it. It raised the bar, both graphically and technically. And I spent many, many hours struggling with The Hobbit...

P- Thanks from all members of EMS and all the Spanish fans.

You're welcome! I'll let you know when Saboteur! is re-released. Hopefully next time we speak this: pic_n1 will be replaced by this: pic_n2

Hope you enjoy reading it.

JMV

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angel_grig

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Πολυ καλη συνευντευξη για το παρελθον αλλα και το μελλον του saboteur!Thanks Wally!
 
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