Pete! Welcome. It must be nice to see that people still care after all these years, don't you think?
Amusing, my wife couldn't believe it.

Concerning your computer career, what made you create something in the first place? What got you hooked?
Actually, you might as well ask "Why do men like girls?". All I can say is that making a computer sing and dance to my tune is "in the blood". I feel I was born to do this job, although if it didn't exist there are plenty of other things which could have occupied my mind. A bit of a strange answer I know but there's no other way I can describe it.

Tell us about Krisalis.
Well, pretty much we've been going now for 10 years (we started as Teque and did Pacmania and Terramex for Grandslam). Teque no longer exists, it was run down when we started publishing as Krisalis.

C64 wise, it's been a long time now since we've done anything for it (or the Spectrum). We quickly moved on to the Atari ST and Amiga (Pacmania on the Amiga even won an award). Right now we're back doing the things we did at the start again - working for other publishers. It seems that's the way everything goes, follow the market forces to stay in business.

In fact, I have thought about that "follow the market" thing quite a lot. As soon as there comes new hardware, the game companies must follow and do games on the new formats - if they want to stay in the business that is.
That's right, in fact, if you can confidently say to a publisher, "hey - we can do you a game on format X" before anybody else then you get a lot of work fast. We did it on the Amiga, Saturn and Sony PSX. Basically nobody else had the guts to touch them initially so we got all the work (Theme Park and Magic Carpet on Saturn and PSX are ours).

When it comes to the game market today, I guess it's just like it used to be: work, work, work. True?

How many of the titles you do today are based on your own ideas? Do you have a game develop/design team at the company who takes care of that??
About 50%. And yes to the second part (although it used to be a trip to the pub, scribble a few notes, have another drink, start coding).

I believe that the assignments you have now must be very different from those you had in the past, because there's so many more possibilities of how to reach a goal.
Very different, and even now each product has to be treated differently. Although a lot of the main principles have stayed the same, most of the "work" behind it has changed dramatically. We still have to do too much work in too little time, it's just there's a whole lot more of us having to work together. That in itself brings in fresh problems of "Who does what?", "Why does it not work?", "OK, who broke the code last night?" and finally "Where's my intro sequence, the game goes out tomorrow!". 8-)

Let's say I'm interested in working for a games company. How I can show them that I'm their guy?
Tricky one this. All companies seem to look for something different. Some take the shortsighted view of only employing people with track records - they'll one day have nobody to employ. Others will require top quality work from day one, rarely possible. Still more will accept demos / story boards as proof of ability. A few will take on trainees (we have in the past) and bring them up to speed. I feel that if you're GOOD at something, you should be able to show it. If you can show it then you need the luck to find someone who'll take that initial chance with you. That's pretty much the way it happened with me, I've NEVER had a job interview - I just showed someone what I could do, not knowing they were looking for a programmer. Those were the days eh? Now, I think you have to demonstrate enthusiasm and ability in the area you want to work in to a company who are looking for just your skills. If you're good enough you'll make them realize they WANT your skills even if they were not previously aware of it.

Since most games now are written by teams of people, I think you also need to get across that you will be an important piece in the development process. Have an understanding of their needs and show them how you fit into it.

Overall though, I think if I was starting out today rather than having been involved for over 10 years, it would be far more difficult. The cost of the required equipment and software makes it quite prohibitive to develop something on your own.

The final method is to try and start up a small company of your own and get a larger company to fund development. Difficult and a little risky, but if you can get a bunch of like minded people together who already have enough equipment, spare time and ability to put together a full game outline and show that some of the code has been written (a demo of part of a level say), then you may be on the way. I think I personally would go this route. I'd continue to work in whatever job I have until I and whoever else was involved had enough product to try to sell to a company. Once we have a contract to finish the product, then we'd all leave work and start up full-time.

Are there any other C64 guys at Krisalis today?
Shaun Hollingworth (programmer) - a couple of the artists (Dave Colledge and Mark Edwards). Other than that, they're all people who came into the scene later (with Amiga / ST / Amstrad CPC experience). Tony Crowther (who you may remember) is currently back at Gremlin (where I started out).

Neil Adamson, one of the old artists still work for Krisalis. How's he doing?
He's very well, still one of our best artists (his younger brother Mark now works for us as a coder).

Let us now turn back the clock a decade. Before you began your work at Gremlin, what did you do?
University Education - Gremlin was my first job (Monty Mole). I only bothered with one Term at Uni, I then left when Gremlin offered me work. At that time, I thought that if I didn't jump into the games business then I'd never get in or it would be a passing phase and go away. Good choice eh?

What had they seen from you before Monty? Is it Monty on the Run or Auf Wiedersehen Monty we're talking about here?
They'd just seen some hacking around of some other games (Ant Attack mainly) where I'd decoded it and added some features of my own (it was easier with only 16K to look through!). Actually, it's "Wanted: Monty Mole" as the first, but I also wrote the other two. (Not "Monty is Innocent" though, that was Chris Kerry, who is now in the US as a programmer.)

How many Monty games are there really????! There's one game by Crowther, one by Kerry and three by you?
The Crowther one is merely the C64 version of Wanted: Monty Mole - although it's different enough to warrant being a different game (in those days, the same game could be different on different machines - no attempt was made to keep the same game play).

So, from my point of view, the Monty games are as follows (in order):

1. Wanted: Monty Mole (me only)
2. Monty is Innocent (Chris Kerry)
3. Monty on the Run (me, Shaun and Chris Kerry - game design by me)
4. Auf Wiedersehen Monty (same as 3)

I then left Gremlin. I did one Christmas free Monty game given away with a magazine and then Gremlin did I think one more game by the people who became Core Design (Impossimole). They gave him super powers and had him kidnapped by aliens.

Chris Kerry - one helluwa coder. Tell us about him.
Once Chris joined Gremlin, he joined Shaun and myself and we really co-wrote pretty much everything decent that came out of Gremlin in those years. Such as "The Way of the Tiger", "Thing II", "Avenger" etc. He was meant to leave Gremlin with Shaun and myself (that was the plan anyway). But both he and his brother Steve became too frightened to leave. At that time, the owner of US Gold had become the owner of Gremlin and had actually threatened us that we'd never work again if we left. So - we left and have never stopped working since. Never let the threat of a large company stop you doing what you know is right. Once the Kerries had seen we had made good on our ambitions they decided to leave also. That was when Chris went to work in the US for a games company. As far as I'm aware he's still there.

And the rest of the Gremlin crew...
Steve Kerry - worked with me on most Spectrum, Amstrad, MSX and later C64 games.

Jason Perkins - Thing on a Spring C64, now works for Sony Europe on the Playstation.

Mark Rogers - worked with Jason on C64 "Thing", C64 Jack the Nipper - unknown what he now does.

Marco Duroe - a pretty lazy graphic artist (who didn't manage to stay at Gremlin long). I had to help out with the artwork in order to get the games he worked on done - primarily "The Way of the Tiger". He was replaced by Steve Kerry. I don't think he's still in the industry.

Ben Daglish - musician, he did pretty much all of the music (once Rob Hubbard became too costly). He has pretty much dropped out of the scene now although I think like Jeff Minter he still dabbles from time to time.

Colin Dooley - changed his name to Fungus T Bogeyman (honestly!). He joined our little coding group later and was never asked to join us when we created Teque. He was however quite good and I think he now writes software for Silicon Graphics workstations (the poor lad).

Damn, why did he change his name?
Because he's just a little insane. What happened was when he was a child, he was a great fan of Fungus the Bogeyman and made the mistake of telling all his school friends. From that day on, everyone would call him Fungus. He told us so we called him Fungus too. He just decided one day that since everyone called him that he might as well change his name to it. He got permission from the author of the Fungus books and changed it to Fungus T. Bogeyman. I don't think the T stands for anything, I guess "the" is not a suitable middle name.

And finally: Greg Holmes, Andrew Green, Robert Toone, Terry "Tez" Lloyd and Chris Shrigley.
Greg left shortly after us in order to write screenplays. I believe he moved out to Hollywood to attempt to sell his work. That's the last I've heard of him - I don't know if he's been successful or even which country he's now living in.

Andy, Rob, Terry and Chris S left to start up Core Design with Greg, one of the Gremlin directors and the Gremlin replacement for our Tony Kavanagh. I don't think they all stayed there, in fact I'm fairly certain Chris Shrigley was sacked. What they're all up to now I couldn't tell you. Old programmers seem to fade away - except for the chronically daft like myself who still seem to LIKE the business for some reason.

Any particular good stories from the Gremlin era?
I can't remember all the details now, but looking back on it we had a great camaraderie going at the time. I even remember one day, the owner was being particularly nasty - I think Chris Kerry had been threatened with dismissal, so we all walked out 8-). Things got pretty much back to normal very quickly after that - it's amazing what fear will do to a manager!

Andy Greens 21st birthday. Memorable due to the "boobagram" that arrived at the office for him. She was pig ugly but had a really large "presence". She turned up wearing just an old mac and a pair of panties. Still Andy entered into the spirit of the day and tried to go deaf (just think about it a little while and the reason will become plain).

Why did you leave Gremlin?
The reason for leaving was to make a successful company in the games (original and conversion) business.

At what point did you decide that your own company was the way to go?
In the middle of writing "Auf Wiedersehen Monty", although the idea had been around before that.

How did things work out after you left?
Well, we were a little concerned that the boss of US Gold could actually have made good on his threat (he also owned CentreSoft - a major distributor). But what we did was design a game (we had it worked out before we left) and sold it to another company which didn't care if US Gold tried anything. After that, we were known to not only be good programmers, but also capable of producing outside a major company. From then on, nobody has been worried that we could not produce the required goods and work has never been hard to find. Although companies still get over inflated opinions of their own power and try to bully us from time to time. We just refuse to work for them again, they eventually come back to us since we do a very professional job.

Who started up?
Krisalis (and Teque beforehand) are owned by Shaun, Tony Kavanagh (never written a game, a management type) and myself in equal shares.

When did you first meet up with these guys?
At Gremlin, Shaun wrote "Potty Pigeon" for the Spectrum, and Tony K came in as Sales and Marketing a couple of years later.

Can you and Shaun call your own shots concerning game ideas and such?
Yes in theory we can (since it's our company) but you've got to take into account what the market wants. After all, we have over 30 people to pay each month.

OK, so Krisalis equals Teque. Why was Teque run down?
There became no need for having two companies once Krisalis was standing on its own. It just got to the point where all the work went through Krisalis so we set up (and then sold) Teque London and finished off everything Teque was doing then closed the books on it.

But why did you set up Krisalis in the first place when you had Teque?
Teque was known as a conversion facility and we wanted to get a publishing name known.

Teque had a very broaden knowledge concerning different computer languages. Did this give you the advantage over other coding teams because you were able to do a game on many formats? I believe that's what a publisher want!
Yes it did. And again, yes it's what publishers want.

What was the difference between working on the many formats?
Very little difference, once you have got around that "but it's a different machine" phase you realize that all computers pretty much behave the same.

The easiest one to program?

Easiest is a relative term, it all depends on what you're trying to achieve. If one machine does one thing particularly well then that machine became the easiest to program. Imagine you needed 60 fps scrolling, the C64 was far easier than the Spectrum, but if you wanted bitmapped graphics, the Spectrum was tops. It's really the same argument you get between owners of different computers where each owner says "mine is better than yours". It can never be resolved because usually they are both right! Just depends on what you are doing with it. The same thing popped up with the ST and Amiga - with the same results.

» Continue to the second part of the interview

» Get his games - from C64 to Atari ST to Amiga and more!

Softography - not only the C64 stuff.

» Klingon - exclusive picture of Pete in full Klingon make-up.

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