Hi Jon and welcome! You are well renound on the C64 as being one of the guys who attempted to save the C64 game market in the mid 90's with Visualize Software. Please feel free to introduce yourself to anyone who might not have heard of you.
Hi there! Many of you probably won't have heard of me as I didn't start developing games on the C64 until the later years of the machines life. I concentrated on smaller budget titles like Blitz 2000, Sceptre of Baghdad, Escape from Arth to name a few and was a regular contributor to Commodore Format, Zzap!64/Commodore Force magazines during 1991-1995, and later the Commodore Zone fanzine by Jason Mackenzie of Binary Zone.

How did you first get started with computers, and most importantly the C64?
A good friend of mine got a C64 for Christmas the lucky git! This would've been sometime around 1984. One cost around £300-£400 quid back then which would've been the equivalent of over £1.000 today. I was engrossed by the games and when I typed in a few BASIC programs and got something happening on screen, I was instantly hooked!

It wasn't until my 14th birthday in mid-1986 that my parents could afford to get me a computer, a ZX Spectrum 48+. I spent hours playing games at first then started to get more interested in how they were made. So I started poking around with BASIC and wrote a few crappy games. By Nov 1987, I'd managed to save enough pocket money to get myself a second hand C64 and progressed my BASIC skills onto there moving to machine code shortly after.

What was the first thing you programmed on the C64, starting from the earliest production you can remember, to the first full game you ever created?
The first proper game I programmed was a crappy horse trainer game in BASIC during 1988. I remember sending this off to D+H Games/Cult and although they didn't think the game contained enough to sell (it was crap, believe me!), they wanted me to do some conversions for them. The first game I did was British Super League which I finished during the early part of 1989. It wasn't very good, but I did the conversion and they we're happy so I created three more titles before they stopped C64 development in 1991.

You didn't just program games but also did your own graphics and music, making yourself a one man show. What aspect did you prefer doing, and did you intently set out to be a "Jack of all trades"?
I've always preferred programming the most, although I now also enjoy creating music. I eventually opted to do all aspects as finding reliable graphic artists and musicians towards the end of the C64's life was rather difficult. I never intended to cover all trades; it was the only way forward at that time and once I got into doing that it sort of stuck with me.

Was there anyone on the C64 (or other machine) who you particularly admired for their work and whom inspired you with your own work?
Yes, several. John Twiddy (The Last Ninja), Archer Maclean (Dropzone, IK, IK+), and Paul Woakes (Mercenary) to name a few, inspired me programming wise. Those guys achieved so much and really set some standards during that time. Music wise, obvious talents like Rob Hubbard, Ben Daglish and Martin Galway definitely inspired some of the music I attempted with their many great theme tunes and styles.

What are your favourite C64 games, and also games on other platforms which help burn away many hours?
There's quite a lot... Mercenary, Nebulus, Bruce Lee, The Last Ninja, IK+, Dropzone, Captive/Human Race/1985/Big Mac (Mastertronic) etc. On the Spectrum, all the Ultimate games, Highway Encounter, Feud, Scuba Dive, The Wild Bunch, Loco-Motion, Bak To Skool and many more. Too many retro games to list. On today's formats, Fight Night Round 2 and the Grand Theft series on PS2 are regular games I play.

Visualize Software was one of the few new software houses of the mid 90's which attempted to resurrect the dying C64 market, but support had sadly dried up too much by that time. Looking back, could the market have been saved (maybe if approached different), or was it a shared dream that was never to happen?
Personally, I think looking back it was indeed a shared dream. A handful of companies were never going to keep the 64 going commercially as the machine had already peaked and faded. With the gamebase not being large enough on new releases, this faded further as time progressed. The market had moved on to other bigger platforms and so had the games players.

You had many different games in production, but staggeringly it was mainly just yourself behind them all. How did you manage to juggle so many projects at once?
With great difficulty and very long hours, including many overnight hours taping away at the keyboard!

Blitz 2000 was one of your first releases under Visualize, and was well received and a fun update to the classic Blitz genre. Once when loading up Mastertronic's Challenger game, I was greeted with a game that played quite similar to Blitz 2000 but with a fair few flaws. Did this old game offer any inspiration towards the final Blitz 2000 game?
Lol... Yes! Nicely observed! This was one of the early games I played on a friend's C64 when this first came out and I got quite addicted to it at the time.

Probably your most eagerly awaited title for release was the incredible looking 10th Dan, with various diaries appearing in Commodore Format. Of course it's hard to review your own game, but how well did the game play in its early stages? Was it playable, and could it have really bettered IK+ and Bangkok Knights?
It wasn't fully playable, but it was shaping up very nicely with some very low processor routines that handled the base engine for the scrolling and player sprites. Hmmm... I can't really say it would've been better than IK+ and BK as talk is easy. What I will say is that I didn't intend to cut any corners on this and I had lots of ideas that would've gone in. I basically was going to cram in as much as I could in order to make the final product at the very least on par with the likes of IK+ and BK.

Penguin Towers was another title highly anticipated for imported release after an awesome cover-mount demo on Commodore Format. Unfortunately contact was lost between you and the coder, Jani Hirvo, after you had collected some 700 pre-orders. What happened?
Everything was going smoothly and I was all ready to go with the product, then unfortunately contact could not be reached with Jani. I wrote several letters and followed these up with several calls, but I was unable to get any replies or reach him. I later heard a rumour that the army had called him up. Most likely he never got to see the mail I'd sent him. To this day I still don't know what really happened.

City Bomber was my personally most anticipated release from you, but sadly this was never to be, although the game was almost complete. What prevented you from finishing a game so close to the end? Was it because you already had a *slightly* similar game out (Blitz 2000) and wanted to hold it back?
Yes, I decided to hold back on this in the end and focus on other projects that featured a different genre, I'd already released a Blitz style game and it didn't make commercial sense to release another so close together. I intended to come back to City Bomber later.

There are many other titles which you worked on, and which are either on hold or were cancelled (Germ Alert, Rescue Mission, Kung Fu Warrior, Astromine, etc.) Which titles possibly not discussed earlier would you say stand out from the crowd?
It has to be Astromine in terms of playability. My focus was to cover this aspect more so I intended to cram in as much detail as possible. Astromine alone was going to feature several different styles of play and mini-games, thus giving it a more varied and lasting appeal. At the release date of the Astromine demo, which covered one of the platform levels, this was actually flawed and still required lots of work before platform engine alone was complete. Luna Lander, thrust, jet pac, shoot 'em up scene, flick screen puzzle action and many more parts were planned.

Were there any titles or ideas you really wanted to go and do which you never got round to trying? Any big conversions?
I really liked the The Last Ninja series, especially the first two and fancied doing a Ninja 4. I did contact System 3 at the time, but they weren't interested in doing any more Ninja games on the C64. Ironic that around 10 years later, I did International Karate Advanced on the GBA for them through Thalamus (Andy Roberts). Mark was keen for me to do a Last Ninja game on GBA, but negotiations fell through.

As well as original titles, you had quite a dab hand at enhancing SEUCK titles for Alf Yngve, your own titles and even my Synetic effort. What made you enhance SEUCK titles, and do you feel that the tool has anything more to offer nowadays?
Basically it started off as a coding exercise when I was first learning how to program in assembly language on the C64. I originally created a space game called Zen and enhanced it in SEUCK with music. Yes, the tool actually has plenty more to offer if there's anyone out there willing to enhance it. For example, it's possible to override the player control system with beat 'em up moves as well as bullets. The enemy engine could be enhanced with intelligent or formed attack waves. But why limit it to that, there's absolutely no reason why you couldn't rip out the entire existing SEUCK engine, re-use the editor code and replace with a platform engine for non-SEUCK games!

Keeping on the subject of SEUCK, another title created by yourself was the impressive Breakthrough. What was rather special about this game was the fact that it was created in SEUCK, but it scrolled sideways! How did you manage that? (Certainly the idea of the feature built into the editor excited me, and could have given SEUCK a new lease of life.)
I literally removed the original vertical scrolling source and added in a routine that would perform sideways. I also had to modify the scrolling pointers for all the sprites so they moved sideways when static. This did have limitations, but I was going to improve this further so you could just load in a chuck of code over the original SEUCK editor that would make it work as a perfect sideways scroller.

A demo of Breakthrough was given away on Commodore Format, but a sneak screenshot in a later edition showed a rather different looking game taking place. Did you restart the project again and ditch SEUCK, or was it merely a graphical enhancement?
I decided it would be much better if I created this from scratch so there would be no limitations and scrap the SEUCK version. The graphics were being constructed in a brand new map editor I'd created which was from the screen shown. On reflection I should've stuck with SEUCK as it would've been a better achievement, seeing as it would be the first sideways SEUCK game.

After what was sadly a lack of support with the Visualize label, Supportware was born as an idea where you were literally giving your games away. All you asked was for contributions, which sadly never came through in huge numbers. How did this idea come about and would you have done anything different had you the chance to redo Supportware?
Supportware came about due to games being constantly cracked and spread for free, the reason so little sales were being generated. If I'd had the chance to redo Supportware I would've done things differently, probably giving out 50 percent trial versions of the games within each pack first. Any contributing customers would've then received the 100 percent versions.

A fair few of Clive Wilson's adventure games made it onto Supportware from your Visualize label. It seemed that you were to enhance pretty much his entire backcatelogue at somepoint (with an old Visualize advert listing them all). How did you get involved with Clive, and was he to have any input with possibly some new adventures?
This all came about with The Guild who were re-releasing his stuff on the C64 via mail order at the time. Kenz took this over and with me being a bit of a fan of Clive's Mastertronic sdventure games in the mid 80's, I got in touch with him with a view to enhancing them and re-selling them on the Visualize label. There wasn't going to be any new stuff, just enhancements of his older games. Later this was changed to Supportware but this fell by the wayside, as there wasn't much interest being generated.

Around the time of Supportware, you got working a lot with Jason (Kenz) Mackenzie. How did you guys get working together, and was Kenz really as crazy as in his videos? :)
I actually worked with Kenz 2-3 years before Supportware started. I sent him a brief SEUCK demo that I'd enhanced with music, and around the same time Alf Yngve had sent him his SEUCK creations. He sent over Twin Tigers for me to tackle first which I updated and returned it to him a few weeks later. He was dead impressed and it ended up on the C-Format cover mount which got me noticed and started off our various project ventures. Kenz is an all round cool chap! Personally, I don't think he's that crazy, it just seems that the camera unleashes the inner demon in him. OK, he is mad... LOL!

In about 1996, you broke into C64 music composing and knocked out some awesome Hubbard, Galway and Matt Gray sounding tunes. Did music come natural to you, or was this an undiscovered talent that happened by accident?
Yes, basically by accident I suppose. I needed original music for my games and there weren't any musicians around. This wasn't easy as I don't consider myself to have a natural talent for music. It took a lot of experimentation over several months and very helpful critisim from Kenz before I started to get to a style that sounded halfway good. As practise and time progressed, it seemed to get easier and more natural. Then I started to enjoy it much more.

In 2001, after a good few years since your last game release on Commodore Zone, you surprised everyone with a very good small game release called Shaolin, coded in just a few days. What prompted this sudden return to the C64?
A number of factors I suppose, but mainly nostalgia and wanting to surprise with something new to those of you who still support the C64 after all this time, just to show you all I'm still a fan of the old beige breadbin to this day.

Are there any events during your time on the C64 which got you angry or didn't help things when you were trying to just produce new software and keep C64 gamers happy? At least anything you can mention legally? :)
Although it wouldn't have made a massive difference, something that didn't help at the time was a certain Simon who, without my permission, decided to put the first Supportware pack on the final issue of Commodore Format's cover mount. He offered me a measly £75 quid for Treasure Isle and Arth at the time, which I rightly outright refused and specifically told him he couldn't use the games. But he still went ahead and released it, and didn't mention to the readers of the 5.000 final issue details of what Supportware was about or how it worked. Oi! Simon! You still owe me that £75 quid you b**tard, with interest at approx 1.000 percent!

After moving away from the C64, you became involved with Thalamus Interactive for a brief while and produced a lot of work on the Colour Gameboy and Gameboy Advance. What was the transition like to the colour portable, and how different was it to produce on?
It was surprisingly easy! The GBC actually reminded me in many ways to the C64: it had sprites, 8x8 characters, and sound channels in a similar form to the C64. The only difference was I had to program the GBC using Z80 assembly language, the very language the Speccy used. The GBA was even easier as this has bigger multi-sized sprites and was programmable in C.

Now into 2006, it's been sometime since you last produced anything on the C64. Is there a new C64 game still in you yet, or has time really moved on now?
It's funny you should say that as I've... No, just kidding! But anything's possible. I think I'm gonna keep that secret for now. You'll have to wait and see. Who knows? Time has definitely moved on though.

What do you do these days? Still developing games? Do you still have time to play the odd C64 game?
I mainly run my own PC repair service, on-site repairs, upgrades, etc. Although at present, I'm working freelance back on GBA again for a developer on various licensed titles and looking to progress onto DS later this year. I'm also keen to develop titles and possible remakes using Blitz on the PC at some stage when I have the time. Yes, I still have the odd half hour once in a while to play the odd C64 game, but not very often these days.

Away from computers, what other interests do you have?
Collecting paper clips (joke!), spending time with my gorgeous fiancée (gotta say that or I'll be in trouble, LOL), martial arts (No joke!), various sports, DIY, TV, pubs/clubs, and travelling abroad to name a few.

What is your general perception of retro? Now that it has started to become business, do you feel that retro gaming is beginning to lose some of its original magic when the concept was kind of born?
Probably, but as retro is getting more and more popular these days, there's much more interest being generated which is always a good thing. And it brings back a bit of nostalgia in the process too! Who would've thought ten years ago that magazine's would appear in the shops again covering these classic machines and that plug and play joysticks crammed with popular retro games would be available in many retail shops? The retro scene is quite important, not because it's trying to bring back the C64 or old machines, but for preserving computer history. If it wasn't for the industry of the past, there wouldn't be one today.

Thanks Jon for your time, and we hope to see some more of your work soon!

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