RVG Interviews Steve Hammond.

RVG Interviews Steve Hammond.

Steve Hammond started his career as one of the founding members at DMA Design. Games like Lemmings and Grand Theft Auto came from their creative output so it gives me great pleasure to share our latest Interview with you all.

 

Zapiy

Firstly Steve could you tell us a little about yourself?

Steve

I describe myself as a Science Fiction writer, which is my current career goal after having had it on the back-burner for too many years. My career in the games industry is best described as ‘miscellaneous’.
 
Zapiy

Why the gaming industry?

Steve

I got into it by accident. Well that’s a little strong, but really I was just allowing myself to be blown along on the wind. I’d been doing some graphics conversions on the Commodore 64 for Dave Jones and one day he offered me a full-time job. Otherwise I didn’t really have any specific plan other than to finish my computing course at what’s now Abertay University and get a job as a programmer.
 
TrekMD

Can you tell us how the game Lemmings was developed?

Steve

I was still doing stuff on a freelance basis at that time, so I only went up to a office maybe a few times a week when I had a few hours. Usually Wednesday afternoons when there were no classes at college. So I didn’t see the details, although I do remember being shown Mike’s famous animation which kicked it all off. I ended up designing levels for it, though I proved to be better at converting graphics than designing levels. I designed some levels for subsequent games though, and it’s always a point of pride that my digitised face is in the original Lemmings right at the end.
 
TrekMD

What was the inspiration for the game?  How involved were you?

Steve

Mike Dailly’s famous animation, to prove a point about how small a character could be and still look good. Russell Kay said there was a game in it and Dave agreed. I ended mainly converting or redrawing the graphics to different formats, such as for the CGA and EGA PC.
 
Zapiy

What tools did you use to create games, did you make any to help you create them?

Steve

I really ended up doing supplementary stuff like manuals and writing, but before that I did graphics. We had a number of in-house tools to help. The only tool I ever wrote, and the only thing I ever coded for DMA, was the level editor for the Atari Lynx version of Lemmings. For years, however, the go-to tool was Deluxe Paint.
 
TrekMD

Can you tell us how things were like when DMA was working with Nintendo?

Steve

I had nothing but frustration with Nintendo. Peak Nintendo for me came when I was developing an early version of the story for Body Harvest. I have kept the faxes, one from Nintendo of American and one from Nintendo of Japan in the same week, which respectively were telling me to make the story more complex and to make the story simpler. I wasn’t alone in this, the relationship with Nintendo was creatively fraught. We both thought we were making a different game.
 
TrekMD

I see that you're an amateur movie-maker and that you're involved with Star Trek Intrepid.  How did that get all started?

Steve

Back in the early 2000s there was a Star Trek club which met every six weeks or so to show new episodes. At the time new episodes meant having a friend in the USA who sent over tapes. As the internet grew, the attendance diminished to the point where it was obvious that only the ones who actually socialised were turning up. The club was no longer cost-effective so we started wondering what else we could do as a group. One of the members suggested we make a fan film. I said “I have a camera” and that was how it got going. That was 2003.

Zapiy

What was your favourite system to create games on and why?

Steve

Amiga all the way! It was just the nicest system to use, rich graphics and sound and a ton of programs to run on it. There was always something new to be doing with it.
 
Zapiy

What are some of your favourite games from over the years?

Steve

Frontier, for sure. Millennium 2.2. Wrath of Nikademus. Spent too much time playing Frontier.
 
Zapiy

DMA and Psygnosis worked on and released many games together, what was this working partnership really like?

Steve

They were interesting, mainly because it was all new to me. Any disagreements seem to be been kept at a distance to allow us to work. By that time I was part of DMA’s Design Department, which wasn’t as much at the coal face as the individual teams were. In retrospect I think I was insulated from a lot of stuff.
 
Zapiy

Do you have any stories that you can share from your time in the industry?

Steve

Well, on the 10th September 1992, I think I met Shigeru Miyamoto for around twenty seconds. I say “I think” because at the time I he wasn’t as well-known back then in Scotland. All we knew is that Nintendo was visiting DMA on that day and that we had to dress smartly. In fact there was a small prize for most-improved appearance (which I won, mainly because I had more to improve than the others). The visitors were shown around the Design Department for most of a minute and weren’t introduced to us. So in summary I can thank the most famous name in the games industry for winning me a KitKat.
 
Zapiy

Tell us how Hired Guns came about?

Steve

Scott Johnston started developing a Dungeon Master style game on his own time, which eventually became an official DMA project once Dave liked what he saw. One day Scott came over to my desk and read a Cyberpunk 2020 faux-newsletter I’d written for a roleplaying group I was part of. He asked if I wanted to write the Hired Guns story.
 
Zapiy

What was the inspiration and concept Hired Guns?

Steve

That’s something you’d have to ask Scott. It started off as a fantasy game, but the influence of Aliens got larger and larger. I remember persuading him to make his Science Fiction but he remembers it differently.
 
Zapiy

Do you have any code or graphics from unfinished games lying around in your collection?

Steve

Mostly it’s graphics and photos from those days, quite a few design and proposal documents for games which didn’t get much further than that. On the other hand I have the complete source code and assets for an unfinished version of Hired Guns for the Amiga CD32. It was basically a rescue attempt. Scott Johnston, who was writing it, no longer had an Amiga and so he sent the hard drive to me so that I could take a back up and ensure that it wasn’t lost forever. I’d love to release it if I was allowed to. If you have any contacts within Sony - who I think own the IP - then please let me know…
 
Zapiy

Did you ever get to do any work or even physically see the Konix Multisystem?

Steve

Nope, sorry. Haven’t crossed paths with that. I do vaguely remember reading about it at the time, but I never heard anyone in the company talk about it. DMA only really started afterwards anyway, so it couldn’t have been a possibility.
 
Zapiy

What's your Favourite, C64 or Spectrum and why?

Steve

Commodore 64, because my first ever machine was a Commodore VIC-20 and this was so much better. It was just what I started with. I was never envious of anyone having a spectrum. Not after listening to what Rob Hubbard could make that sound chip do.
 
Zapiy

What's your favourite, Amiga or ST and why?

Steve

Amiga. Because c’mon! It’s an AMIGA! OK, seriously it all came back to that time when Dave Jones first showed his Amiga 1000 at the computer club we were going to. It was such a jump over the machines the rest of us had, that the impression it made never left me. There was no possibility that I would save up my money and buy something else. The Amiga was something you aspired to own one day. There’s never been anything like it,or like that feeling, since.
 
Zapiy

Of all the games you were involved in, which is the one your most fond for and why?

Steve

Hired Guns, because Scott simply trusted me to get on with it and do a good job. We often had lunch and discussed science, science fiction and stories. In the end, HG was by far the most personally meaningful project I’ve ever worked. That story still needs a resolution though: we never did have the opportunity for a sequel. Maybe in a book!
 
Zapiy

What are you doing nowadays?

Steve

Writing. I should have become a writer twenty years ago, but I have the time to do it now. I recently left my job in the aerospace industry, in an engineering support role, to do writing full time. Might be a few years before I finish the first drafts of anything, but at the moment I’m writing a hard SF novel, Bit Patterns. Also been toying with the idea of writing the novelisation of Body Harvest, something which I had an outline for and which nearly happened for real in 1996. Nothing like the story that the game was eventually released with. Oh, and I’m writing the complete history of DMA Design. That may be of interest to someone one day, right?

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