Tony Williams / Icon Design,
Added on May 3rd, 2011 (4830 views)
Hello and welcome! Please introduce yourself to anyone who may not know you.
My name is Tony Williams, sometimes known as Tiny Williams (that's a long story involving a joke about a barely literate programmer writing a spell checker).
How did you first get started with computers in general and the C64 in particular?
My first computer was a Sinclair Spectrum when they first came out. I was pretty amazed by it and immediately wanted to program it. After a few goes with BASIC, I started getting books from the library because I wanted to write games like the ones I was playing. I first got involved with the C64 when I worked in a computer games shop.
Tell us how your career in games started. Did you submit sample work to various games companies in order to procure jobs, or did jobs come to you?
After writing a part-finished demo game on the Spectrum, I replied to an ad in a local (Manchester) newspaper and got an interview for a job as a games programmer. I was one of the lucky few to get the job!
What attracted you to the C64 as a development platform? In your opinion, was it as special as we like to think it was?
I only started with developing with the C64 after starting to use my musical experience and writing music for some games at Icon Design. I was of course already aware of the awesome power of the SID! At that time, the company was developing C64, Spectrum and Amstrad versions alongside each other with a team of two programmers and an artist.
What C64 games did you work on? Please be as detailed as possible.
After some online research (and in no particular order):
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Bob's Full House
The Ninja Warriors
Great Courts (aka Pro Tennis Tour)
Star Wars Droids
Psycho Hopper (with Paul Tonge)
Sadly, I remember very little about any of them. Most of the time, I was writing games during the day and doing music in evenings and weekends, until I went freelance.
What companies did you work for, either in-house or freelance, and in what capacity?
Icon Design, Software Creations, Lothlorien and Sound Images (initially in partnership with Paul Tonge, then solo).
Describe a typical day for you in front of the computer.
In those days, you'd be in a room with three or four other people, either programmers or artists, usually those working on the same projects. Things were pretty lax, really. Management just left us get on with it.
When you were assigned to a game, how much time did you usually have to complete your work?
We used to take two or three months to create a game from start to finish, across the three formats.
What tools, development kits, etc. did you use, and did you create any yourself to fulfil a need?
We used to work on Tatung Einstein computers with all kinds of RAM disks and disk drives attached. We were always creating tools, and I of course created sound drivers.
Were there any games you worked on which never saw the light of day?
I don't think so. Not on the C64 at least. I did get quite a long way through coding a Spectrum version of Solar Jetman though.
Which game are you most proud of, which was the most fun to do, which became a real challenge, and which ended up giving you the biggest headache?
All too long ago really, although working on music for games like Ninja Warriors was good. :)
If you had the chance to edit your CV of past games, which ones would you add, edit or remove?
There is a phrase (I'm not sure where it came from): "never go back." Things are done because of the circumstances at a given time and you make your decisions based on what you know.
Are there any particular games you would have liked to have worked on or converted from arcade?
Around that time, I used to really like OutRun.
Did you get much of a chance to play games as well as create them? Any favourites?
We were always playing games. We tried to play all the games that would compete with us. I remember Uridium with great fondness.
What games did you feel were appalling and you could have done better, given the chance?
I wouldn't like to comment on that. Let's keep the energy positive, shall we?
Was there a particular programmer, artist and/or musician who influenced you and possibly inspired some of your own work, or did inspiration come from somewhere else?
The top musicians around at the time were Rob Hubbard and Tim Follin. They both made the SID do great things. I worked for a while with both David Whittaker and Tim Follin (different times and places). Tim and I became friends, but I've not seen him for ages as he's now married and has a family.
Please share some memories from the old days! (Like something a colleague did or said, your time on the demo scene, crackers stealing development disks, going to computer shows, etc.).
There must be loads of anecdotes from those days, but just at the moment I'm struggling to think of any! Oh, yes! There was one instance where I had to sneak out of work at the office to meet someone off a train to give them a disk with music I'd done freelance. This was in the days before email and Internet of course...
What made you eventually stop creating games for the C64?
Far too many things and far too much water has passed under the bridge... I do remember writing a disk protection system for the Einstein because a good friend and colleague was releasing a game on it. My most recent game was Fruitfall (now licensed and available as Super Fruitfall on Wii/DS/PSP/iPhone/J2ME etc).
What are you up to these days?
I still write code, but not games. One current project is Piano Tabs (www.pianotabs.co.uk). I've rewritten the main application. It's a way to score music that's not as complicated as traditional music notation. Outside of computers, I play in R.E.M. UK (www.remtribute.co.uk), a tribute band along with Paul Tonge.
Thank you for helping us preserve an important part of computer and gaming history! Do you have any parting comments with which to leave a final impression on our readers? Feel free to greet anyone you know.
Hi to everyone from Icon Design and Software Creations... and the opposition, Binary Design!
back to the list of available interviews