Hello and welcome Chris! How are things?!
Things are pretty good, thanks. I'm working hard and playing harder which can't be bad.

First of all, I must mention that this is a real treat for me doing this! I've been a fan for many years. Secondly, how did this whole thing with computers start?!
Me too and thanks, I'm flattered. Wow, big question. I got into computers around the age of 13 when I discovered my school had a computer lab full of Commodore PETs. I used to skip other lessons to go and program them. I started writing in Comal and Commodore Basic, and soon progressed to machine code, writing programs in hex with the PETs built in monitor :) For my 15th Birthday, I pursuaded my Mum to give me 100 pounds, which I put with some money from a savings account to buy a C=64. I remember my Mum saying "it'd be a flash in the pan" and a "waste of money". I got my first game published in 1983 (Pub Quest, a text adventure game) at the tender age of 16, by a company called Dream Software. I used to go into Boots in my home town and put all the copies of my game to the front of the shelves :) I was a bit of a celebrity with my friends and my parents couldn't understand it at all. I wrote two more adventure games within a year, but Dream Software went bust and took the games with them.

What's the name of those two games?
They were called "Mad House" and "Mega Mall", and they were both text adventures. Mad House was 100% complete and was huge (about 500 locations). Mega Mall was almost done.

What happened next?
I wrote Pub Quest in 1983 while at college. I took the following year off to learn machine code and enjoy myself. 1984 was amazing fun. A group of us, Rob Toone, Andy Green, Terry Lloyd and myself, decided to write a game in late '84. We split our time between programming, drinking, roller skating, break-dancing (yes, I know it's embarassing), driving fast around country lanes and generally being teenagers. By the end of '85, we had a finished game.

Bounder - yes! How did the idea for that game come about?
We were all really into playing Arcade games and programming our own versions of them. We always wanted to do coin-op stuff and computer games was the nearest we could get. We used to roller skate and play tennis at the local park and one weekend, while lying under a tree after tennis, we came up with the idea (a top down scroller featuring a tennis ball as the main character). We spent all that summer working on the game. Andy and I did the programming and Rob did the design. We got Terry to do the art and after a year of hard work and lots of fun, we had a (near) finished game. We mailed the game off to Gremlin (the first company we tried) around November time in 1985 and were asked up to Sheffield to talk just before Christmas, I remember, we were all so excited. We got up there and met Ian Stewart (a very nice guy), who owned Gremlin. They really liked the game and wanted to publish it. We were blown away! He then offered all four of us jobs paying a whopping 6,000 pounds a year. :) We all started work in January of '86, commuting to Sheffield from Derby every day. I remember meeting Tony Crowther and Pete Harrap, who were both quite famous in the 8bit games world. I was really impressed and amazed to be working with them.

What was Terry doing by the time you brought him in on Bounder?
Terry was the manager of our local computer shop and hangout called First Byte Computers in Derby. He used to "supply" us with floppy disks and software. I remember I used to go to his house and play games with him and his brother. Terry was a bit of a programmer at the time too. He wrote a little Manic Miner clone on the Speccy and did all the art. Terry also used to hang out in Way Ahead Records, playing video games. I remember we used to meet up in town and walk from place to place, playing video games. We knew where all the best machines were; fish and chip shops, taxi companies, record shops etc. We asked Terry to do some art about a quarter of the way through writing Bounder. He did a good job too. It certainly changed the direction of his life. :)

How come you never worked with Tony or Pete on a game?

We pretty much kept in tight groups. Tony worked mostly by himself (still does), although he used to work closely with Ben Daglish on music stuff. Pete Harrap, Shaun and the Kerry brothers were pretty tight and didn't really want any other input. Rob, Andy, Terry and myself made up the other camp. We always seemed to just work like that. Pete and the others did mainly Z80 coding and the Derby Lads did the 6502 stuff.

What did you talk about on the way down to Sheffield?
Everything and nothing! We used to talk about the latest arcade games and game ideas we had. We used to sing Madonna songs and songs from the Top Gun soundtrack (ahem). We used to drive fast to relieve the boredom. We're probably all very lucky to be alive :)

Tell us about the Gremlin years.
They were hard, exhillerating, fun and completely insane. I served my apprentice-ship in the games industry while at Gremlin. I got to work with some of the best people and really learned my trade. We pumped games out at an astonishing rate. We were expected to write 3 or 4 a year (which we usually did). When we joined Gremlin it was still a pretty small company. They were in a couple of offices above the computer shop (that Ian also owned). Gremlin started to expand and we moved to bigger offices within the year. The mid 80s was really the boom for 8bit in England and we were at the heart of it. The typical development cycle was 3 to 4 months, from idea to it being on the shelves. We had a lot of freedom and were able to be as creative as we wanted, with every game being "original" or a least a derivative of our favourite coin-op game.

Yes, I really miss that in games these days where developers had the freedom to put their own trademarks in, just like the scrolly message in Future Knight. It was like you were communicating with us gamefreaks.
I was part of the demo and early pirate scenes way back (all very innocent of course) and I believe that some of the air of camaraderie you got in those scenes, was injected into our early games. It was extremely cool to give a shout-out to friends, and we had the perfect vehicle to do it. Nowadays, publishers don't like people to know that the games are actually written by a bunch of hard-working individuals, so the practice has stopped, sort of. You still get messages and such in games, only now they're hidden and usually can only be displayed by entering an elaborate sequence on a controller or keyboard. Every one of my games has had something "secret" in it.

It must have been really exciting to actually be there when things started off. What were you thinking at this point? Did you think the industry would last?
I was just amazed that I had such a cool job. I didn't really think it would turn into a career, infact I don't think anyone at the time thought it would be anything long term. We were pretty much making it up as we went along. I'm really glad the 8bit consoles came along when they did because the computer game industry really went through a few rough patches. I know they saved MY ass and really injected some life into the whole industry. I think basically, if you were able to adapt and learn the new hardware, you were relatively safe, and thats still true today.

After around three years at Gremlin, you and the guys from Gremlin Derby formed Core Design. Why?
We made Gremlin a lot of money and I guess as a reward, they opened an office in Derby so we didn't have to commute every day. The industry took a nose dive in '88 and Gremlin actually decided to close the Derby office down and lay us all off. We all got called up to Sheffield and Kev Norburn gave us the news; "...the bad news is, we're closing the Derby office and you're sacked. The good news is, we're starting a new company and want you on-board...". So, Gremlin cut us loose and Kev Norburn and Jeremy Smith took over the office lock, stock and barrel. Another programmer, Greg Holmes, from Sheffield was brought down to manage us. The original team was Rob Toone, Andy Green, Terry Lloyd, Simon Phipps, Dave Pridmore and Me. We had a meeting to come up with a name and the favourite one was Core Design. Simon Phipps designed the logo and we were in business.

How did a typical day look at the office?
When we started Core Design, we were based in a conservative office building, surrounded by "proper" businesses. We were told-off many times for rowdyness and assorted tom-foolery (some things never change). We used to surf down the coridoors on Gremin Graphics signs and have chair races everywhere we could. It was, and still is FUN!

Were Kev Norburn and Jeremy Smith the only ones that owned Core or were you given a share when you hoped on-board?
There was a 3rd partner; Greg Holmes, who was the programming manager and a top lad. The founding employees were promised a share in the company, but this never materialized. Jeremy is very shrewd and an excellent business man, and he quickly saw the potential for Core and decided early on that he wanted it all for himself. He bought out his 2 partners and it became apparent that the shares he promised us were never going to happen.

How long did you stay at Core?
I stayed for about 10 months, which was just long enough to write 2 games and get completely disillusioned with Jeremy and the company. I actually left to set up Eurocom Developments with my good friend Mat Sneap, developing NES games for the Japanese and American markets.

In my interview with Pete Harrap, he told me that he was fairly certain you were sacked from Core. What happened?
This is a good question, and one I can answer simply. I quit Core to set up Eurocom. In reality, it's a bit more sketchy than that, and I actually quit about 30 seconds before Jeremy tried to sack me for rabble rousing and spreading unrest amongst the other employees. As I said, we all pretty much realized that Jeremy had no intention of sharing Core with anyone, so I let my feelings be known (something I often got in trouble for), and started to stir things up a bit. During this time, I was working with Mat Sneap to get Eurocom going, which was good timing on my part, as I couldn't see much of a future with Core. I was really pissed off. I remember calling a meeting with all the guys (all 6 or 7 of us at the time) at my house. I voiced my concerns and pointed out that we were in the process of being screwed (boy, did I call that one). Jeremy found out about the meeting and was pretty pissed about it. I remember he called me into his office and told me he didn't like my attitude and said he wouldn't stand for anyone causing trouble. I quit, he sacked me, I moved on.

Tell me if this is true or not: Eurocom was started up by a bunch of friends (Mat Sneap, Hugh Binns, Neil Baldwin, yourself and a few more) who all knew each other from Compunet and one day decided that they had enough experience and talent to start a company on their own.
It's true. Mat and myself were good friends on Compunet (he was also my Best Man at my wedding). Mat had written a game called Knucklebusters I think, and we liked to call ourselves "The Procoders". I'm not sure how it came about, but we started talking about setting a company up, and luckily Mats Dad owned a small electronics company (Zycomm) and was in a position to finance the venture. We recruited Tim and Neil and Hugh to complete the team. I designed the first game called Magician and we went over to Japan to try and sell the game to Taxan Kaga. They liked it and we got the gig. I remember my first job was to figure out the NES hardware, and start building some tools. We didn't have actual offices at the beginning, so I had to work in the conference room at Zycomm, on a cardboard box (all very high tech).

It must have been great to work with a bunch of like-minded people and being able to call your own shots and not have to worry about executives who hardly have no knowledge about how a game is developed.
It was great to begin with. Mats Dad was very hands off, and everything was new and we were having to figured out everything as we went along. I personally love that kind of environment!

You're not even mentioned as one of the founders on the Eurocom webpage!
I know. I moaned at Mat about this a few years back, but it really isn't a big deal. I was a bit hurt when I was a younger man, but those guys really did all the hard work. I was only there for the first 2 games, so I wasn't really instrumental in their eventual success.

Why did you leave the company?
I left because I couldn't afford to stay. After we finished James Bond Jr (or John Smith: Special Agent as it was called at the time), we couldn't find a buyer for it, and we were seriously running out of money. Mats dad put us onto a 3 day working week, which just brutalized my income. I'd just had a baby, and bought a house, and simply couldn't afford to stick with it. The other guys were younger, single, and more flexible. I started looking for another job, and ended up coming to America (a good move). Its a shame I missed out on the later success of Eurocom, but that's life I guess.

I have put together a list of people you worked with in the past. Please tell us about them, just very shortly:

James North Hearn
I don't remember James very well. I think he was some sort of marketing guy who pissed people off a lot.

Ian Stewart
What can I say, he's the guy who gave me my start. I always had lots of respect for Ian and he was always fair and honest. I remember one time while working on FOTY, I was exhausted and stressed trying to meet the deadline for completion on multiple versions. I can't remember what triggered me, but I freaked out over something and started tearing the kitchen apart at Gremlin. I was kicking the refridgerator and shouting and throwing things around; I was really pissed about something that I can't remember now. Ian intervened and I told him to f**k off. Ian immediately dragged me into his office and said something along the lines of "...you can come to me and tell me to f**k off anytime you like, but if you ever do it infront of other people again, I'll sack you immediately". I never said or did anything like that again and it gave me a great deal of respect for him.

Kev Norburn
Kev was Ian Stewarts partner at Gremlin. Kev was a gental person, softly spoken and a really nice guy. I liked Kev a lot. He was one of the original three partners in Core Design, Greg Holmes and Jeremy Smith being the other two. Jeremy brought Kevs share out pretty early on. Kev stayed there for a little while longer and then left. He started a small company in Chesterfield, doing animation software. I have no idea what he's doing now though.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy (or Jezabel as we called him back then), I believe started as a salesman at Curries or Dixons or some such store. I think he joined Gremlin as a sales manager. Jeremy was obviously very ambitious and knew exactly where he wanted to be. I don't know how him and Kev got involved together and decided to set up their own company, but Jeremy was the architect and original project getter for Core Design. In my opinion, Jeremy is a genius. He took Core from 6 guys to a hugely successful company. Sure he walked on a few people on the way, but you have to admire the man.

Andrew Green
Good, fast programmer, nice guy and good friend. He blazed the trail to America. He works for EA Canada now, on the Need For Speed games.

Robert Toone
Rob went from designer to programmer and is also a really nice guy and friend. I'm actually working with him at Mass Media here in California (small world).

Terry Lloyd
Terry is another really good friend. He's an artist and now works for Atari Coin-op in San Mateo. Terry is unique in every way. One of the nicest people you'll meet and PASSIONATE about games.

Greg Holmes
We always gave Greg a hard time because he was our manager at Core AND he was older than any of us. Greg was kind of a mentor to me and taught me a lot about maturity and being humble. He had excellent taste, introduced me to all kinds of good music and ideas. I lost contact with him when I came to America. Last I heard, he was married and writing a screen play.

Chris Kerry
Chris was a good programmer but I was never really good friends with him. Gremlin was quite cliquey, with the Derby Lads keeping to themselves. Chris, Steve, Shaun and Pete were a very insular little group.

Steve Kerry
Chris' brother. I liked Steve and got on well with him. He had an evil sense of humour though. Chris and Steve went to America and were doing pretty well at Ocean US. I don't know what they're doing now though.

Jason Perkins
Nice guy and great programmer. I remember hitting on his dancer girlfriend at a Gremlin Christmas party :) He threw some good parties. I think he still programs games or manages the production of them somewhere in London (can't get much vaguer than that).

Mark Rogers
Mark was Jasons side-kick and always seemed to live in Jasons shadow a little. Mark became a good programmer in his own right but I have no idea what happened to him after we left Gremlin.

Marco Duroe
Marco annoyed everyone at Gremlin. He was an artist (not a very good one) and had a relative who owned a gym in Sheffield. He spent a lot of his time (when he should have been working) body building. I don't believe he's in the games industry any more.

Ben Daglish
Ben was a good friend and I wish I'd kept in contact with him. He was a marvelous musician who didn't get the recognition he deserved (Hubbard and Galway stole his thunder most of the time). I used to sit in his office listening to him jam on his bass, talking about music and stuff. Nice bloke.

Colin Dooley
Fungus was a very unique individual. We always called him Fungus (at his request). One day, he came into the office and said he'd changed his name legally to Fungus The Bogeyman. He made the national newspapers and was quite famous for a little while. I remember we both got our American Express cards at the same time and he was extremely proud that his had Fungus T. Bogeyman embossed across it. He was a good drinking buddy and had a taste for fine malt whiskey. :)

Shaun Hollingworth
I never got on with Shaun. Shaun was the head programmer at Gremlin and he didn't really like me (I never knew why) and I had several big shouting matches with him in the offices at Gremlin. I had and still do have a lot of respect for his talents though. He went on to start (hmmm, what was that company called?), which later became Krisalis, with Pete and the Kerry brothers.

Pete Harrap
Pete was Shauns second hand man and so followed his lead. We got on okay, but not great.

David Pridmore
Davey was just one of the lads. Good programmer and very humerous (once you got to know him). He was really into fast cars and was obsessed with his VW Golf (or some such fast car). I believe he now works over at Eurocom with Mat and the rest.

Mat Sneap
Mat is a top lad, and a really good friend (although I talk to him rarely nowadays). I first met him on Compunet, which was a hangout for nerdy programmers and artists at the time. He was one half of the dynamic demo team, "Mat and Psy". We'd spend hours online or on the phone, talking about programming and games. I discovered he lived really close by, so we started to hang out together when we could. Mat was a really good artist, but what he really wanted to be was a programmer and write games. I was already doing just that, so I helped him where I could, and he did pretty well.

Simon Hulbert
Psy the Hero. Psy was a really nice guy who always wore pink clothes. I met him through Mat, they were sort of a demo team at the time. I didn't actually realise that Simon and Psy were the same person for a few days after he started at Gremlin. You can actually see half of Simons head, with Ben Daglish in the background on one of the photos I'll be sending you :)

Your favorite programmer, artist, musician and game from the old days are?
My favorite programmers were Tony Crowther (Thing on a Spring, Blagger), Andrew Braybrook (Gribbly's Day Out, Paradroid) and Jeff Minter (Matrix, Psychedelia and everything Llamas). My favorite artists were Mat Sneap, Bob Stevenson and Terry Lloyd. My favorite musician was Ben Daglish because he was a really nice guy and would let me listen to him jam in his music room at Gremlin. Other musicians I respected were Neil Baldwin and Rob Hubbard.

Are you in contact with some old C64 people today?
I'm still good friends with the people I worked most closely with; Rob Toone, Andy Green and Terry Lloyd. In fact Rob, Andy and myself all work for the same developer here in California, and my office is next door to Robs. Strange. Unfortunately, I lost contact with many of my old friends from England, after I moved out to America. For a while I would meet with some of them at the Game Developer Conference or CES (Consumer Electronics Show), but slowly I lost touch with most of them over the years :(

Any cool stories to share with us from the old days?
I used to be in the demo scene and on Compunet and met lots of really cool people on there, Stoat and Tim, Mat, Psy, GIJoe etc. etc. (I later set up Eurocom with Tim and Mat and worked with Psy at Gremlin for a while). I remember we all met up at a trade show in London in '87 (I think) and had a blast. Jeff Minter rented out the Lasarium and put on a show for friends; music by Pink Floyd. They projected the landscape from Drop Zone all around the edges and graphics from Psychadelia on the roof. We all got very stoned. We all ended up in Jeffs hotel room, playing games on the Speccy and C=64 and talking all night. We were all very young and the energy and enthusiasm for what we were doing was incredible. Fond memories indeed.

Who else was there?
A bunch of Jeffs friends (he had an entourage) who I didn't really know. GIJoe, Mat and Psy and a few other people whose names I can't remember now, people came and went. I remember lying on one of the beds listening to Jeff talk to us like some sort of Guru, about his pets and the games he was working on. I think he really liked the attention. We all played Jeffs new games too (something to do with llamas, go figure). :)

Did you often go to the computer shows?
Back in the C64 days, everyone used to go to ECTS in London. It was an absolute blast to meet up with all your mates from around the country. I used to spend a lot of time on Compunet back then, as did a lot of programmers and artists, and we'd all arrange to meet up down there.

What was your name on Compunet?
I had several as you could change it to anything once you were chatting. The most frequent were; Shriggzy, Shriggs, Chigley, Schatzi (10 point bonus to anyone who can tell me where that name comes from). My default name was CPS10 (I think).

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