Double interview - Antony Hager and Paul Docherty
Hello Antony! First of all, thank you for accepting to do this interview for Ready64.org. Vendetta is a well known game published by System 3. What was your part in its development?
It was my introduction into games, I was being trained up by Paul Docherty on how to anti alias/ pixel plot/animate etc with a mouse. I wasn't involved in the Vendetta ingame graphics, I was doing bits and bobs here and there and eventually...the intro.
How did you get to work on this project?
I saw a documentary on Tv called signals, which had some Speedball graphics on it by the Bitmap Brothers, I was working at a pretty cool Tshirt company in Essex at the time called Imagine Transfers, but decided that games was the direction I wanted to go in. I saw an ad for a job at System 3 in 'Campaign' magazine for Designers and Artists (I had originally graduated from college as a 2d Designer for Magazines etc.). I got the job there pretty much near the end of the 'Vendetta' development.
What tools did you use to create the graphics?
I have connected with Paul Docherty again, since you contacted me and he informed me it was Paint Magic, I would never have remembered that, all I know is that it was difficult, at first. I had never had to create graphics so small and with such a tiny palette at that point. I must have been introduced to Deluxe Paint there too.
The intro sequence you worked on contains some easteregg such as some messages and a "RATED" view of some naked lady... What's the story behind that, if there is any?
I may have done that in some downtime, as a cheeky joke amongst the guys in the office, I was naive in those days, I never thought it was actually going to go in the finished game. Shocking! But there you go, my contribution to renaissance art, in about 30 pixels! ;)
Did you work on the Commodore 64 graphics only or did you get to develop graphics for other computers also?
I did some training on the spectrum (which I hated, impossible to make anything look good, it felt like I had bricks for hands!) but I was working on the C64 and Atari ST mainly, while I was there. I illustrated (Painted in Acrylic) a centre page spread for Sinclair User-Issue 93, Dec 1989 for 'Myth' while I was there and worked through the night to complete it in the office, I was freezing! I've worked on a lot more platforms since, I went and worked for the Government for a while after System 3.
What information can you share with us about the development for Vendetta?
One of the main things I remember (as it was my introduction to games) was all of the trips to the pub! Like I say, I came in towards the end really and I think it had outstayed it's welcome a bit. For lunch, I was introduced to the Cuisine that was Scotch eggs filled with hot chilli sauce that one ate at ones desk, whilst trying to see the screen through stinging, watering eyeballs. Yummy! (Cough!) =/
Did you get to know other System 3 artists or coders, such as Stanley Schembri?
I only realised Stan Schembri had passed away after hearing from you last week, I had wanted to reconnect with him over the years, as he was one of the nicest, funniest guys I had met in the industry, many times he reduced me to tears of laughter with his humour. I was very shocked and sad to hear about it. I think he had been on the project a little too long and worked a little too hard, regarding the hidden messages, but they were hidden.......then. ;) I got to know Dokk - Paul Docherty, Jason Perkins and Doug Hare, all really cool guys, we had a megablast. I also met 'The Boys without Brains' crew and remember how cool I thought 'Flimbos Quest' looked, considering all of the limitations at the time, they were cool dudes. I was in awe of Paul's work, he had an incredible talent with pixels that I aspired to, he had it down to a science I think. I'm happy that 2d game art doesn't have to be done with a mouse anymore, it took too long.
Are you still into computer games? Or into the Comodore 64?
I have fond memories of the C64, years ago (pre System3) one my friends owned a shop, so we used to take a bunch of games to play for the night, when we weren't going out-out and he would put them back in his shop the next day, but the loading time and errors meant we only got to play 1 or 2 of the games! Unfortunately I killed my own C64, it was in the Garage and I accidentally ran it over. How I sobbed, the only thing that survived was a five and a quarter inch floppy disk, but that was flat anyway.......it was 'Vendetta' funnily enough! :) If I was ever going to go looking for an old console, it would be the Vectrex system, I always wanted one but missed out, I was at college at the time and couldn't afford it. I still play games, most recently 'Everybody's gone to the Rapture' on the PS4 by The Chinese Room , which I thought was really beautifully done.
What are your hobbies? What do you do for living?
I do still work as a 2d/3d Computer games artist, I worked inhouse at various companies throughout the years including Teque London, Virgin interactive, Pocket Studios, Ideaworks3d (Where I got to work alongside the awesome Dan Malone- Bitmap Brothers) and Glu, but I've been self employed for the last 4 years and love not having to commute. The projects I have been working on are 'Demise of Nations', 'Age of Conquest' (out now), 'Rogue Aces'-PS4, Xbox and PSVita (Feb 2017) and 'Princes in a Pond'- (March 2017) iphone/ipad, AppleTV. Here's an early trailer for 'Rogue Aces' https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4wvnZDUcfgc and here's one for 'Age of Conquest' https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShgS2XvFGtA
Any free time I have, I'm socialising (Pub) or letting my nephews show me how to get the high score in computer games! (I let them win.......mostly) ;)
Hi Paul, first of all let me thank you for taking part in this interview along with Antony Hagar! What was your role in the development of Vendetta?
I was one of the graphics designers, and to a degree I had a graphics producer sort of role, coordinating with other artists on the project. That last bit might be a bit of an exaggeration though. there was a lot of collaboration, lots of back and forth of ideas.
What tools did you use to create the graphics of the game? Did you have any preferred program to use at that time?
I’m pretty sure I used Paint Magic pretty exclusively to design bitmap graphics, and another tool for sprites that I’ve forgotten the name of now. Also, to construct the level screens, System 3 had the proprietary software John Twiddy had written for the Last Ninja games. That software was designed with Hugh Riley’s art in mind, so I struggled with that a bit. The screens were generated by arranging bitmap elements - bricks, trees, crates, tables, etc - to create a larger, complete image. My problem was that I was obsessively making the elements small - a single brick instead of part of a wall, for example - so that the screen would take forever to draw on. It wasn’t until John Twiddy showed me examples of how Hugh Riley had used the software to build Last Ninja screens that I finally got my head around how to use the software effectively.
Is there any other game for the Commodore 64 you liked working on?
At System 3 I got to work on Dominator with Jason Perkins, which was a lot of fun. I have happy memories of working with Doug Hare on Exterminator for Audiogenic, that turned out pretty good.
How did you start doing graphics for the C64... and why?
I was a member of the online C64 community, Compunet, and my friend Roosta shared a copy of Paint Magic with me so that we could create some demos together. I found that I had some talent for it, and I liked the way the chunky 8-bit graphics looked. Glowing pixels looked like the future to me at the time. One thing led to another and I was encouraged to try to find work doing loading screens for tape-based C64 games, and the rest is history.
You had the chance to work on other famous projects such as Black Lamp, IK+, The Last Ninja, Druid II just to mention some! Can you share some info on the development of those games?
I wasn’t involved in the development of those games at all. I just created the loading screens, which typically were the last thing to be created before the game went to duplication. Actually, the Last Ninja loading screen I created on spec, because I was a fan of the print ad artwork, and Mark Cale eventually used it in the game. The other screens I was hired to create. Black Lamp and Druid II were based on cover art, whereas the IK+ screen I was encouraged to improvise, so I came up with that simple image of a fist punching the logo. People seemed pretty happy with it.
Is there any particular fun story you recall about the development of any of the games you were working on?
Vendetta was my first project at System 3, and Stan was very easy to work with. He had lots of ideas but was always open to suggestions and let me put my spin on things more often than not. He took his job very seriously, but he was great to let off steam with. We were a good team. Tony came on a bit later when we realized the scale of the project was going to need more people involved. Tony was, and is, a gifted artist. He was coming to the computer graphics medium for the first time, so there was a bit of a learning curve with the limitations of the tools and the C64 graphics chip. But he brought energy and humor to the job and was always a pleasure to work with. His Robocop impersonation always cracked me up.
Music cues for Vendetta created by Matt Gray came from a suggestions I made - what if we riff on the track called Infected? And for the driving music what if we went with something like Yello’s Si Señor The Hairy Grill? I don’t recall if those tracks made it into the finished game, but Matt was very open to suggestions at the time.
Programming the game was a herculean task, and in the end Stan Schembri had to admit defeat and hand the driving section of the game to another programmer so that he could focus on the mission sections. Mark Cale brought in C64 genius Chris Butler on programming, and Robin Levy took over graphics chores. I was a bit in awe of Chris - he had programmed Commando, one of my favorite C64 games, plus he was a tall, quiet guy who was laser focused on the job at hand. But one evening, it was late and Stan & I, and maybe Tony, had had a trying day, so we headed out to the bar, and noticing Chris was still hard at work we asked him if he wanted to join us. I assumed he’d pass, because he seemed so serious and focused on work, but he was happy to accept, and it turned out he was a lot of fun to hang out with. That was a memorable evening.
Around that time was my first visit to USA, and while I was there I’d noticed some people in rural New England would deface the back of their Toyota pickup trucks so that the logo just said “YO”. I mentioned this to Robin, and he added that little detail to the pickup trucks in the driving section of Vendetta!
How was working for important software houses like System 3, or Firebird.. or Activision? Did you get to meet a lot of other artists or coders, like Tony Hagar or Stanl Schembri?
I was freelance as a C64 artist, working from home or from other people’s homes for the most part. System 3 was the exception, where I worked in-house for a couple of years. As a freelancer I got to work with many talented people like GI Jo Bonar, Gary Liddon, Dave Korn, Doug Hare. I met John Twiddy, Mev Dinc and Hugh Riley while they were working on the C64 game based on the movie Predator, and while I was at System 3 I got to meet Stan Schembri, Tony Hagar, Phil Harrison long before he was an exec at Sony, Duncan Meech, Jason Perkins, Chris Butler, the Eldritch the Cat crew, and many others.
What do you do nowadays and what are your hobbies? Are you still into the C64 like you were before?
I’m an editor for film and television, living and working in Brooklyn, New York. I don’t have much time for hobbies that don’t involve editing or motion pictures in some form or other. I’ve only recently got back into gaming, and the C64 is part of that, but I wouldn’t say I was as into the Commodore as much as I was when it first came out. The C64 changed my world forever.
We know you like the Speccy a lot too (just kidding!). What are your thoughts about that computer?
I never spent any time with the Spectrum. I did one screen for the Spectrum, a Star Trek loading screen I think. It was a very different beast, and I didn’t enjoy working on it as much as the C64.
# - postato da Amy-Mor - 02 February 2017 [19:49]