Andy Jervis /
Added on September 23rd, 2011 (3402 views)
Hello and welcome! Please introduce yourself to anyone who may not know you.
Hi! I'm Andy Jervis and I was a freelance C64 programmer back in the eighties.
How did you first get started with computers in general and the C64 in particular?
I guess I was a bit of a late bloomer. I got my first C64 after quitting a job as a pub manager at the age of 21. I remember being bored one day and my brother mentioned getting a computer. He came home from school to find me sitting in front of it with no idea what I was supposed to do with it!
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?
Having no formal training like most people (there wasn't a lot around at the time), I got into software through listings published in magazines. From the BASIC listings I moved on to machine code by dissecting games with a monitor. I found Jeff Minters' games very logical and easy to follow, so I guess he indirectly taught me to develop. :) A friend and I challenged each other to write a game and using the monitor, I wrote Moon Crystals; a game I gave away with my last C64 game published. From this I went on to create a more marketable game and submitted it to publishers until it was picked up by The Power House, the budget arm of CRL.
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 didn't really know much about the alternatives to the C64 until I got into developing on it, so it was more luck than choice. Was it special? Yeah, I think we went through an important part of history at the time. The birth of video games. Although today's technology means the games we play today are fantastic by comparison, we'll never really have that single person bedroom developer any more.
What C64 games did you work on? Please be as detailed as possible.
Moon Crystals (1986) – As I mentioned, Moon Crystals was written as a bit of fun and never meant to be released although I ended up giving it away.
Deliverance (1987) – My mates reckoned I could write a game and get it published so I did and this was the game. I devised the game, the levels, the music, the graphics and the coding as so many of us did in the old days. My brother and I loved playing two player games, so Deliverance became a two player spilt screen scrolling game. It was published by The Power House and got Cheapo of the Month from one of the mags (can't remember which one). My lasting memory of Deliverance was the bad decision to let my brother play test it as he was very, very good at computer games and as a result, I can't even beat the first level now (he still can).
I-Alien (1987) – The first game written for publisher CRL. They basically asked me to come up with a game idea (thanks for the help). The game was tricky to code as I decided I wanted more than the three colours and therefore wrote it in the higher colour display mode (can't remember the exact terminology any more, just remember I'd have been better off not using it). Again, although working now for a publisher, the game, levels, graphics, etc, were all my creation.
To Hell and Back (1988) – Second and last game written for CRL. This game showed hints of one of my favourite arcade games Ghosts'n Goblins, although I wanted something a bit extra and allowed the player to roam freely around the levels instead of making the game play linear. Another game devised and written entirely on my own on a freelance basis.
What companies did you work for, either in-house or freelance, and in what capacity?
I only worked for CRL, and although I enjoyed the experience, I ended up massively out of pocket as they went into receivership owing me thousands. :( I didn't have any tasks other than to write them complete games.
Describe a typical day for you in front of the computer.
Like most people, I wrote my games at home with the exception of To Hell and Back which was written in an office.
When you were assigned to a game, how much time did you usually have to complete your work?
CRL never really set times, although they were constantly requesting updates and deliver dates.
What tools, development kits, etc. did you use, and did you create any yourself to fulfil a need?
Having no formal training, I had no idea how to approach development. I got hold of a copy of Zoom, the machine code monitor and learnt coding through other peoples code. I actually wrote my first two games entirely using Zoom. Yeah, the in-house developers at CRL had a good laugh at that too! They showed me the assembler they used and I thought I'd died and gone to heaven at the thought of using actual words for labels in my code and not making a list of memory locations and what was stored there.
Were there any games you worked on which never saw the light of day?
I started a Mad Max type game on the C64 for CRL. This involved you driving the tanker of fuel while being attacked by motorbikes, buggies, etc. I can't honestly remember why we stopped that one. Last thing I worked on for CRL was a conversion of The Rocky Horror Show from C64 to PC. This never saw the light of day as they went bust.
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?
I guess Deliverance is my favourite as it was the first game I wrote with the intention of publishing. And unlike To Hell and Back and I-Alien, I wasn't working under the constraints of a publisher pushing to get the game to market.
If you had the chance to edit your CV of past games, which ones would you add, edit or remove?
I'd add a difficulty selector to one or two of them. ;)
Are there any particular games you would have liked to have worked on or converted from arcade?
Did you get much of a chance to play games as well as create them? Any favourites?
Ghosts'n Goblins and hundreds of others. Thing on a Spring, Wheelin' Wally and Blagger to name a few.
What games did you feel were appalling and you could have done better, given the chance?
I'd liked to have had more time to polish the two CRL published games, but that's the nature of the industry.
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?
As I mentioned, Jeff Minter wrote easy to follow structured code so he was pretty influential in my life although I only really liked Hovver Bovver to play.
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.).
I worked alone, so I don't really have colleague memories. I do remember receiving a disk from Germany containing a hacked copy of Moon Crystals and not having a clue how it got there as I'd not officially released it at this time.
What made you eventually stop creating games for the C64?
I learned to code in C and worked on a couple of 3D tank battle games on the Apple Mac in the mid-nineties and did a little bit of work on the failed Macintosh console. The last game I ever worked on before submitting to the drudgery of business software development was a port of Deathtrap Dungeon for the Apple Mac. Fortunately, Eidos ran out of cash and shelved the project as the PC version got thoroughly slated.
What are you up to these days?
I write business software (boring), I run an airsoft business (great fun) and I also make full size F1 cars and full sized Daleks!
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.
Although I never made any real money out of C64 programming, I'd do it again in a heartbeat. It was simply immense fun!
back to the list of available interviews