Interview with Mark A. Jones
November 1997

 

How did you get started in computers?

Hmmm.. My parents bought me a ZX81 when I was 15 and I was hooked.....
I'd already been hooked on arcade games so it was the logical thing to do, to get involved in computers.

When did you first see a Spectrum and what were your first impressions?

After having a ZX81, I bought a Spectrum with my first YTS wages I think, with colour and sound it seemed unfeasible, that I was playing Arcadia and Jet-Pac in my bedroom, and it wasn't costing 10p a go....

Ahhhh Heaven..

I dabbled with UDG graphics for a while thinking it was cool to change graphics in basic games, what a Twat!!

I used erm........ Screen machine I think to make screen$ for something to do..

Until I bought 'Yie Ar Kung Fu' by Imagine, at this time every game had a loading screen, and all the game said was

'YIE AR KUNG FU IS LOADING'

I think with yellow/red flash attributes, and I remember thinking that this was shit, a huge company like Imagine and no loading screen..... so I grabbed the advert from CRASH and drew it myself. Everyone I showed thought it was cool so I carried on just making screen$ - then in a local paper someone advertised for an artist so I went along and got the job, just with a few speccy screen$ !!!!!

What was the first game you did the graphics for?

It was either 'Jail Break' on the C64 or the spectrum circuit board level on 'War' for Martech

What have you done on the Speccy?

Ooooh erm....

War (Not All) - Martech
Rampage - Activision
R-Type - Activision
Super Sprint - Activision
Tusker - System 3
Altered Beast - Activision
Atomic Robokid - Activision

There were more but I can't remember, I'll have a think !!!!!!

Out of the Speccy games you've done graphics for which one do you like the best?

I enjoyed Robokid - but it has to be R-Type I guess.....
Ohh also I did the graphics for a speccy version of Drop Zone which didn't come to anything they were quite cool......

You mention you did the graphics for Atomic Robokid. As far as I know, it was never released on the Spec, what's the story behind that?

I know there's a preview version floating about but I can't remember who programmed it, so I don't know why it didn't come out.

What do you think of your games? Which is your personal favourite?

I enjoyed R-Type best definitely, it went down huge, some were real pants, but I enjoyed them all except 'Tusker', working for System 3 was a real nightmare and Mark Cale, helped me get my house repossessed, thanks for that, like my Murphy's I'm not bitter !!!!!!

How hard was it converting graphics onto the Spec?

In the later days all my speccy graphics never saw a real spectrum, I did them all on the 'Atari ST', and just sort of downgraded them. For instance I would get paid to do Altered Beast Graphics on Amiga, ST, C64 Spectrum, & Amstrad, so I would draw the ST version then downgrade for Speccy C64 and CPC, that's why the graphics were pants, as it was quick money and companies weren't really that bothered...

How did you leave the Spectrum scene? Were you sad to leave?

I didn't really notice leaving as I just moved on to bigger more powerful machines, and the spectrum work didn't just stop, it just faded out over a couple of years...

Wasn't really sad to leave, as I am still in the industry.

What are you doing now?

I'm now a programmer working for BITS studios - helping write a 3D space game for the PC, I've been here for 6 years now, I'm married with three kids, and extremely happy !!!!!

Any plans to update any of the old Speccy games? ;-)

Not really as most of the arcade conversions I did have already been done on every machine in the planet!!

What were the best/worse things about the Speccy?

Worse things...
Loading errors...
Attributes...
Rubber Keyboard...
Sound that kept waking my parents...DOH!
Telling the programmer I want 15 megs of memory for graphics and he says I have 4k .........Argh!

Not really worse things, but not the best things....anyone remember the feeling of a game loading, after 7 tape loading errors, can't beat it!

Best Things...
Real Classic playable games, not like today's bollocks, �45 for a CD full of rendering.
Crash..... still not equalled or beaten !!!!!!
You could POKE ya fave. games - oooo'er
I dunno it was all cool

What were your favourite Speccy games and why?

I'll always remember.......

Jet-Pac, it looked so cool..
Everyone's a wally - first game I mapped..
Daley Fackin' Thompson - broke 10,000 Kempstons!!!!
Manic Miner - 'Nuff said.
Turbo Esprit
Star Blitz - Great on Currah micro speech
Tooo many to list here ;-)

Favourite Speccy coders/artists/musicians?

I always liked early Ultimate Games.

Do you use an emulator to play your old games (or any others)?

I collect all emulators for everything, so yeah I play occasionally,
Z80 or X128 for speccy
Snes9X for Snes
Genecyst for Sega
Mame for Arcade - Hooray
etc.

What do you think about modern games? Can they compete with the classics? Aren't they all presentation and no gameplay?

Well it seems these days if a game is successful then for the next 2 years - all you get is clones, but on the spectrum there were 100's of original classics, just take a look at the countless speccy games and see how many could be redone now but better!!!!!!

Is there anything you miss about the old days?

I miss Crash / Zapp 64
�5 a game - ;-)

Any amusing anecdotes/stories etc about the old days?

Don't let ya mum tidy ya room when you are saving ya graphics on to tape after working for hours..... thanks for blowing the speccy up mum
'I didn't know it was so sensitive about me plugging the Hoover in!!'

Have you anything to say to people who still use the Speccy today?

Cool if you enjoy it do it, I must admit I got my speccy out about a year ago to show my son, he thought it was pants

'but why did it take 10 mins, to load and the man looks crap..., and he goes red if he walks by that tree - c'mon dad I'll give ya a slapping on Street Fighter II on the SNES...'

Anything else to say?

Flibble... No seriously I think it's great that people of our age can play their old games on an emulator, whenever they wish, that's cool.


Thanks to Mark for doing the interview.

Interview conducted by Philip Bee.
Text Copyright (c) Philip Bee and Mark A. Jones.