How did you first get started in programming?
My brother, who's ten years older than me, was into computing right at the beginning of home computers when you ordered a kit and had to solder it together yourself. He bought me my first computer, a BBC Atom. I started playing around after the first few programs I bought were bug-fests that you couldn't play for more than a minute without them crashing fatally.

How did you get onto working with the Commodore 64?
I left university and couldn't get a job with my lousy degree, so I hung around on the dole for about a year. I then, thanks to my flat mate, applied for a job as a 6502 programmer advertised in the job centre.

You had a rather long stint at Denton Designs, the team behind many classic titles for the 8/16-bit machines. What was it like to work under John Heap and Ally Noble?
Interesting. Good fun. It was a family with all the benefits and pitfalls that entails. Both of them were from the old school and I think I inherited a little bit of that. John was a perfectionist. That's why nothing he did ever got finished on time. Ally was more relaxed and just enjoyed the lifestyle of it. Bloody artists!

Can you describe to us what a typical day's work was like in the development studios back then?
Get in early at 10 AM with a hangover, turn on the Sage, make a coffee, smoke a few Marlboro's in the 20 minutes it took to boot up from the hard drive to the RAM, think long and hard before coding as it took ten minutes for a simple code to compile and download to the C64. Do that until about 10 PM, then to the pub until just before the last bus, go home, drink, sleep, start again.

What other game developers have you worked for in the past?
Denton's was my first job. They sold out to Rage who I worked for until they went bust in January 2003. I worked for a small company called Virtuacraft in Bolton for six months until they went bellly up in August 2003. I then joined Acclaim in February 2004 who – I like this phrase and I wish I'd thought of it – "went down like a hooker owing rent" in August 2004.

Did you have any favourite C64 games back then that you used to play frequently or games on other platforms?
I didn't play games after I started work. I was always a BBC man. My favourite game – I still don't think it's been surpassed – was Elite. It had the perfect balance of adventure, strategy and arcade styles. I even did the old elastic-band-on-the-anoalogue-stick thing for better Elite gameplay.

With regards to programming and general game creation, is there programmers whose work you admired in particular?
Braben (see above), but no, not really. Sad to say I always thought of it as a job. People paid me to make as much as I could out of the limited resources and time we had. I tried my best. With my early experiences of buying games, I was determined to achieve a minimum standard. The best game in the world is crap if it crashes every time you reach the end of a level boss.

World Class Rugby received very stark contrasting reviews in both Zzap!64 and Commodore Format with Zzap!64 giving the game the highly deserving 84 percent, whereas Commodore Format gave a shockingly low score. Even more interesting was the fact that Domark also released a Rugby game the very same month. How did you feel about this bizarre scenario? Do you think Domark slipped Commodore Format a bag of used £10 notes? ;-)
Buying reviews was and still is a big part of the industry. If you take someone who's writing a review of your game for a nice meal, plenty of drinks and then to a lap-dancing bar, and he/she gets so drunk they can't remember what they did that night, they have to give you a good review or else you might let on that they ended up climbing a lamp-post naked! It's the real world. Having said that, I stand by World Class Rugby. It pushed the C64 graphically and was a true simulation. All the rules were in and every byte of memory on the C64 was used, often more than once.

Did you ever play Domark's version?
No. I wasn't going to spend my money on it and the company couldn't afford such expense. Beside, correct me if I'm wrong, but ours was out first.

How did the general development of World Class Rugby go? Were there any problems during its development? Were there times where you wanted to throw your monitor out of the window?
I'm not that strong. Do you know how much a ten inch amber screen weighed in those days? Of course, that's always the case with programming. World Class Rugby was my first programming job, I was learning my trade. There's a lot to learn the quickest way to do things. The safest way to do things. The 'how the hell do I do this' way to do things. I think it was the best grounding I could have had in the industry. You had to do everything from the lowest to the highest level of coding.

With the level of depth and intelligence in the game, I assume that you had plenty of research material to help you along the way. Were you subjected to hours of studying recorded matches on video while developing?
Luckily, although I wasn't taken on because of it (more that I would accept the pitiful wages), I was a Union fan. I only ever played the game once or twice at school, but I loved Saturday winter afternoons watching the Five Nations (as was) and generally understood the rules and tactics of the game. Back when that was coded, Denton couldn't affford £300 on a video player.

Your next game was to be the title which has been subject to various stories and mysteries over the years, Batman Returns. How did you find yourself working on possibly one of the last C64 games to be released?
My next title for the C64... A few years elapsed working on other formats. This period is all a bit vague. I was drinking a lot and the company was in dire straits. We were presented with the script just before the movie was released and put in a bid, I think. Negotiations went on for about six months. We eventually started it for C64 and Amiga with a view to doing Atari ST. Of these formats, only the Amiga was really still alive in the market. As the question implies, the C64 was hardly worth developing for in terms of sales/profit.

Did you feel at the time that it was rather late in the C64's time for a big conversion?
I'm afraid so.

As a conversion, how did you feel your attempts were shaping up? Screenshots depicted something rather special in the making, and certainly excited the last remaining users of the machine. Did it scroll and move fast for example?
As the basics were developed and because we wanted to do justice to the main character, it had to run in a frame. We used 16 sprites on Batman, and correct me if I'm wrong, but the C64 only had eight without a raster split. With everything I'd learnt on previous titles, I was enjoying pushing the machine to it's limits.

Commodore Force tracked your progress with the game, showing approximately four levels over time. Were these levels pretty much complete at the end? How complete would you say the game was (as a percentage)?
Ooh... From the Amiga version – which was eventually completed – I think there were five levels. The C64 version had a complete level 1 (gameplay tested), level 2 (not gameplay tested), level 3 (graphically and basically coded complete), level 4 and 5 not started.

Did Paul Salmon do the C64 graphics or was it a one man team on the conversion?
As far as I recall, Paul was taken on to help Ally with the graphics but produced very little. Ally produced the Batman figure and then got a friend of hers to help with the other characters.

Was it a decision by Konami or Denton for the game to be cancelled? We are guessing it was because the C64 was dying out.
It was Konami who canned it. Denton's lost an income stream when it was cancelled, and when they sold the rights, we had to bust a gut to finish the Amiga version. Those were desperate days. Me and John did 70 hours straight to hit a deadline, had five hours off, then had to do another 24 to get it work with one of the many versions of the Amiga out at that time.

In the very last diary instalment that you wrote for Commodore Force, the diary took a rather bizarre turn where nothing was spoken about the game. I think you went on holiday? Did you know at this point that the game was canned and Commodore Force asked you to write a last instalment anyway?
Pretty much. We hadn't had word for definite but we were basically told they wouldn't be making the next payment unless something had changed in the market. Word was Commodore were still planning a console version of the C64 which could have revitalised the market.

And the inevitable question, but it is known already that you have had a good search for remains of the game, but sadly without any luck so far. How do you rate the chances for anything to be found of the game?
Pretty low. There may be something lurking somewhere, but even if there is, can anyone still read CPM 5.25 inch disks?

Apart from World Class Rugby and Batman Returns, there aren't any other C64 games that you have been accredited to as far as we know. Did you work on any other productions for the machine apart from these two games?
World Class Rugby had many incarnations. It started out as Five Nations Rugby for the British market, developed into World Class Rugby and ended up with ET's Rugby League. But no, after about four years of milking the C64, there was really no more market for it.

What other games have you worked on for various machines?
World Class Rugby went on to the SNES mainly for the Japanese market (Imagineer) and lasted a while. One of the last games Denton's developed was Power Drive for Rage. Rage then bought Denton and I worked on Darklight, Incoming, Incoming Forces and Rolling to mention but a few. When Acclaim went down, I was working on ATV3, a quad-bike game. I'd have to think for a lot longer to remember everything I worked on, but I was very lucky as the vast majority of games I worked on – to a greater or lesser extent – made it into the shops. I know some guys who spent years working on game after game that never made it.

Do you have any interesting stories to share about your development past? Anything which wouldn't get you into trouble? :-)
Interesting is a very subjective word. Lots of it highs and lows, mostly influenced by caffeine and sleeplessness. Nothing springs to mind. You tend to remember the end-game. The courier in the hall for eight hours waiting to speed the gold disk down to Heathrow to get it on Concorde to the States to try and make the next deadline. The elation at finding that one last crash bug, and the despair when you found it as they were printing 50,000 copies.

What are you up to these days? Are you still programming, and if so, what platforms are you dabbling with?
The only progamming I'm doing is a bit of VBL for the Excel I use in my current job working for Her Majesy's Revenue and Custom.

What is your take on the whole retro phenomenon? Is it something which you take part in with in anyway, e.g. playing MAME?
I have played MAME, but as I stated in a previous answer, I was never that into games. I preferred writing them than playing them. As for the retro stuff, that's fine, you can way up the pro's and con's of the old games versus the new, but it all boils down to the fact that if someone enjoys it, I'm not going to knock it.

Please feel free to send any greetings to people you know, and might come across this interview.
I can't imagine many people I know will get to read this. I was never good at keeping in touch. I'd just like to say hello to all the people who survived the industry in more or less one piece. There are more than a few who didn't.

Thanks for your time Roy, and we hope some day that we're able to preserve remains of your stunning Batman Returns conversion. Good luck with all future projects!

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