Welcome guys! Could you please tell the readers a bit about yourselves.
Dan: Hi! I'm 35, married with a couple of kids. Oh, and I program games every once in a while. :)

Robin: I'm 34, work too hard, smoke too much, drink too much, read too many comics and play too many games. Other than that, life is sweet when I'm seeing me darlin' girlfriend Sara.

John: I'm 35 (same age as Dan!), I'm as good as married, living in East London with my partner and our wonderful son Josh.

How did you first get started working on the C64?
Dan: I got the Expert Cartridge and started messing about with other people's games. I think Spindizzy was the first one. I changed the title screen to say I wrote it. No, I didn't spread it. :)

Robin: I met Dan and the mysterious John Kemp at our local games emporium. We swapped and played a few games, argued about games with llamas and sheep and started mucking around with graphics. My first graphic experiments were modifying the sprites to Nemesis, Warhawk and Terra Cresta. My first real graphics breakthrough was a copy I drew of the Salamander arcade cabinet artwork (seen on the disk version of Hunter's Moon).

John: I badgered my parents for a computer! I was expecting to get a ZX Spectrum as that was what most of my friends had at the time. At Christmas I got a C64 and a 1541. I was doing Computer Studies at school; had to learn BASIC. I started typing in those magazine listings for the C64 but most of the time there were typos and when they did work, most of the time they were really dull.

We got a Commodore modem and Compunet access. That was when things were just starting to get interesting on the demo front! The first thing I did was an editor for Ultima III, which improved your player stats. Dan and I uploaded it onto Compunet. I started mucking about with 6502 code when I got the original Trilogic Cartridge (the forerunner to the Expert Cartridge). It had a normal cartridge body, then a couple of dongles that plugged into the back of it. After that Dan and I both used those demos as a basis for learning basic techniques.

What was your last ever C64 production?
Dan: I did the coding for The Last Ninja 3 intro.

Robin: Hard to say. I did graphics for the C64 versions of Silly Putty and Fuzzball that were later redrawn (and improved!) by a programmer called Jed Adams who took over after the original programmer left the project. My last real work on the C64 was the presentation graphics for Turbo Charge (with a sick end sequence).

John: The eternally doomed Silly Putty. It was a great idea, the sprites Rob did were absolutely gorgeous, hires overlaid on multi colour, horizontally or vertically expanded to get the required stretching lengths. I did the control method and got it really slick too, got the character collision working so you could move and jump about, then ran into a brick wall with the rest of the graphics.

About that time I was asked to project manage Myth on the Amiga. 'Big Dave' Colclough was doing the coding, Rob stepped in and redrew most of the graphics and we all did game testing to sort out the minor bugs and gameplay problems. After that I went back to Silly Puty but never made headway due to the lack of graphics support. I left the industry at that time and never went back to it.

You are famous on the C64 for working on the incredible Thalamus release, Armalyte. Which project did you most enjoy working on?
Dan: Had to be Armalyte. It was relatively short (about eight months) and was a tribute to Salamander (my favourite arcade game). I also enjoyed making Forsaken on the PC. Still one of the best multiplayer experiences to be had (on a LAN).

Robin: On the C64 it has to be Armalyte mostly because I really enjoyed designing attack waves and it had that 'first game buzz'. The final game didn't turn out too bad either. :-D For pure graphics work, I really enjoyed churning out the art for The Last Ninja 3 and Turbo Charge. Another favourite that I worked on was Ruff 'n' Tumble on the Amiga were I did the graphics and level/game design. It was hard work at the time but the final game turned out nicely.

John: Armalyte of course. I remember the buzz of working towards completing the first demo to show to software houses. I did the ships control method, based on Salamanders' two player mode with the ability to push the other player into the landscape.

The level editor was my biggest input into the game. Rob kept on asking for more functions for manipulating character sets and blocks of 5x5 characters for the full screen scroller. Most of the time he forgot the keyboard controls for the less used functions and just plotted pixel by pixel. Sprites were developed on a great sprite editor, these could be loaded in and the sprites sequenced to match the animations to the attack patterns to the scrolling background.

Which game was the hardest to work on?
Dan: Deadlock. It dragged on and on.

Robin: Ditto for Deadlock. It was soul destroying trying to get the ill conceived game design working.

John: Has to be Deadlock. We were on a retainer, getting paid £250 a month (between the three of us). The money from Armalyte was pitiful. Thalamus paid us about £12.000 in royalties, which when split three ways left us thinking we would have been better off on the dole. All the acclaim that Armalyte got left us on a high. Then when we came to do the next game it just dragged on and on.

Who's work did you most admire on the C64 at the time, any inspirations?
Dan: Gary Liddon came up with some smart ideas (Bucket Stack Sorting). John Twiddy's stuff was very smart.

Robin: I loved Jeff Minters' games because I found them such fun to play. I also admired the graphic artistry of DOKK, Hugh Riley and Bob Stevenson. I also thought that Andrew Braybrook's games looked stunning. He may not have been a recognised artist but he sure knew how to make his games look good.

John: John Twiddy, Rob Hubbard, Paul Woakes (programmer of Mercenary from Novagen), Jon. M. Phillips (Nebulus from Hewson), and of course Dan and Rob. I never had the patience to streamline my code. Dan did. Armalyte would not have existed without him and would not have looked anywhere near as stunning without Rob. Enough said.

Did you work on any other machines at the time other than the C64? If so, can you name a few games that you did?
Dan: I only worked on the 64. I would have liked to mess around with the NES/PC Engine.

Robin: At the beginning I also only worked on the C64 but started tinkering with the ST and Amiga around the end of Armalyte.

John: Nope. C64 only.

One of the most awaited games on the C64 in the early 90's, came in the form of Deadlock, which many people were eager to see its release. What did actually happen to the game and why wasn't it finished?
Dan: Ummmmm... Big mess... It was shelved... After Armalyte, we messed around for a few months. Then we spent an awful amount of time getting a demo we were happy with, took it to System 3, and they didn't know how to produce games. It was a kind of magic they used. I don't think they understood how games got done and we weren't experienced enough to lead ourselves. So with no positive feedback, we ended up rewriting the same demo three times, each time taking about three months. Every time the graphics would change and the requirements of the engine would get twisted and messed around with, and ultimately we ran out of steam. We had very little money left (Armalyte royalties weren't very good apparently. It only sold 19.000 units. Strange, cause at the time we were number 2 in Europe for several weeks behind The Last Ninja 2 which sold 200.000+ units) so our artist was given the chance to go off and do the graphics for The Last Ninja 3. And so without an artist who was also the designer, we ground to a halt. The basic design of the game was flawed, it was to ambitious for the 64. Shame...

Robin: I agree with Dan on most points. The game engine was crippled by the ridiculously sprite intensive main character that I designed. Ultimately, it just wasn't fun to play. It's all my fault really.

John: Similar perspective. The idea we came up with was great on paper; big main character; loads of well researched weapons, good AI on the enemies, big map with doors in the background, walls to climb, gaps to jump, then being able to flip switches and use keys to open doors and access different areas, etc. But the levels needed to be thought out a lot more which meant they were graphic intensive. This led to problems with memory and time.

The game was never storyboarded. The changes we made as time went on made the graphics tasks enormous and we relied too heavily on Rob to come up with the game levels. Sorry mate!

Were there any other games which you worked on which never saw the light of day?
Dan: Scimiatar, a kind of Sinistar clone with huge amounts of bullets and very nice graphics, was started.

Robin: Dan just missed out a hell of a lot of game concepts we started designing and working on! The general idea was that we get some quick 'concept' games on the go to finance the development of the bigger games such as Deadlock. Scimitar was a Sinistar inspired deep space shoot'em-up with Defender style strategy, and would have played very differently to the linear gameplay of Armalyte. We started designing an unnamed futuristic racing game that is best described as Wipeout in a Rally Speedway POV as well as a room based arcade adventure. I won't tell you it's name but it's working title had the initials H.L. and had nothing to do with the classic game released in recent years.

John: The very first idea was a breakout type game using up to four linked sprites in the border as the bat, loads of power-ups and very arcade like. During Armalyte we came up with various ideas, but Deadlock saw the necessity to produce another quick game. Scimitar was supposed to be my project and I made some reasonable progress. The control method was adjustable for different gameplay styles, as was the parallax starfield (some more disorientating than others).

Just recently, you allowed the Games That Weren't site to archive the very rare previews to the long awaited sequel, Armalyte 2. Things certainly looked very promising, and I'm sure it could have been a fantastic sequel. What were the reasons for its demise?
Dan: We were made a better offer. System 3 offered us six times the money Thalamus had. We were also still under contract to System 3 to do Deadlock. Thalamus knew it was risky to sign us up while we were still contractually obligated to System 3, so we went with System 3.

Robin: Dan's said it all really. Deadlock died because I went to work on Ninja 3, which was a relief to us at the time. So Dan and John started Armalyte 2 and the plan was that I return to finish the game with them, but in the end, it all comes down to hard cash. During Armalyte and Deadlock, we would have had more money if we had lived on the dole and we were all living with our parents at the time.

John: As above. We all needed security and stability after working for so long with so little cash. Going to work in-house at System 3 was the only option we had.

Was there any C64 game where you thought: "I could have done that much better"?
Dan: All the Rowland's games. (I know them and I am joking. Right Rob?)

Robin: Yes, Dan's joking, :-) There were plenty of games out at the time that were just crap in general. You look at the best and try to better them and ultimately you end up just doing something different, but it's always nice when people like your work.

John: Of course, lots of games at the time were rushed out, not properly tested, bug ridden or had flickers and glitches which detracted from the gameplay. Others had ill conceieved ideas, tricky controls methods or were just flawed. I remember being disappointed with Cholo when I bought it. Also Nemesis seemed a lot less than polished as I recall.

What was your favourite game on the C64?
Dan: Lazer squad followed by Drop Zone and Morpheus.

Robin: Dan forgot to mention Wasteland, a cracking RPG that we used to play in competition with each other. In addition to Dan's list, I'd have to mention Impossible Mission, Sheep in Space, Paradroid, Wizball, Boulder Dash and numerous other games that I'll kick myself for not mentioning. I hate questions like these because I never know what to put in the number 1 slot.

John: Armalyte, Ultima IV, Wasteland, Nebulus, Uridium, Mercenary, Boulder Dash, Loderunner and anything with a decent multiplayer mode (IK+, Summer and Winter Games, etc.)

Who was your favourite C64 musician?
Dan: Rob Hubbard, although I thought Martin Walker was excellent! (Where are you Martin?)

Robin: Hubbard was God of the SID chip, but I really liked Galway's music.

John: Barry Leitch! Oh no, did I really type that? Definitely Rob Hubbard.

What impressed you most about the C64 at the time and for what reasons?
Dan: Hardware scrolling and sprites. Made it the dogs...

Robin: It was colour! The games were IMHO the best at the time.

John: The hardware was all there for you to play with It meant a lot more people were experimenting with it and Compunet was the forum for experimentation.

Was the C64 was just a step in your gaming life or was it a major inspiration?
Dan: It was the beginning.

Robin: Ditto.

John: Old gamers never die, even when our fingers seize up, there will still be EyeToy.

Do you still own a C64 today?
Dan: I think my parents have still got a old brown one in the loft. I've still got a 1541.

Robin: All my C64's have long since gone to silicon heaven. I had a knack of breaking the keyboards.

John: My C64 is still back at my dad's in Exeter. Every time I go back, I look at the disk boxes and think back on the good old days. (Maybe I'll find time to go through them someday soon!) My dad still uses his C128 for his accounts. He prefers to keep them securely offline.

What are your current activities these days? Are you working on systems of today for anyone?
Dan: XBOX/PS2/GBA. All the best ones basically (had to use "basically" at some point).

Robin: After six years of messing around on the PC, I started work on an original 3D beat'em-up/party game concept that, sadly, will never see the light of day. For the past two years, I've been working with John and Steve Rowlands (formerly known as Apex) on developing this concept further and together we have had three Gameboy Color games released. We're now working on the Gameboy Advance.

John: I'm out of the games industry and have a career with the Civil Service. I play the odd PS2 game every now and then.

Have you ever had any disagreements with anyone through computer related activities in the past?
Dan: See below. :(

Robin: Yes. And I'll leave it at that! :-)

John: Let me think!

On the C64 tape loading of Armalyte, there was a text screen before the loading picture came up with "Armalyte – Copyright 1988 Thalamus LTD". If you froze this text screen and scanned the black areas of the background just below, there was hidden text (in black on black), which said the following: "Uncredited programming and games design by John Harries". How did this come about?
Dan: John was an original member of Cyberdyne. He left under bad circumstances and went to work for Thalamus. He was then in charge of the mastering, so when I went down to see the tape duplication machines, he slipped the screen in there.

Robin: Grrrrrr.

John: He was also not credited with being a mendacious, duplicitous, conniving... (&£*!$!””)

Any hints or tips for the new game designers still out there?
Dan: Play Counterstrike.

Robin: Start with design games that *you* want to play and don't be afraid to change or scrap ideas that don't work to improve the feel of the game. Tweaking is all. Everything else comes with experience.

John: Don't follow my example. Code should be tweaked as you go along, it's not carved in stone. The more you play with your code, the better it gets and the more you become familiar with it. (No smut intended.) Most of the time I spend coding, is trying to remember what each bit does, so always put in comments and explanations. Try to build up libraries of routines that you can adapt. Don't try to re-invent the wheel, but if you can improve it, then go for it!

Please feel free to send any greetings to anyone you know.
Dan: Hi to Robin Levy, John Kemp, and the Rowlands.

Robin: Hullo to Sara, Dan and Snehal, Little Dave, Big Dave, John and Steve Rolands, Rob Ellis, Nick Lee, Bell and Brams, Dan Malone, Joe Walker, Martin Oliver, Fish, Mum and Dad. And if you're out there: Martin Walker, Jason Perkins, Jed Adams, Chris Alexander.

John: Hi Jo and Josh, Dad, Bob, Barbara and Matthew, Paula, Jim and Ned.

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Scene interviews - C64 sceners answer 20 questions about their time in the scene.