RVG Interviews: Adrian Cummings.

Here we interview another industry veteran, Adrian Cummings has been in the industry for over 30 years, he has created Amiga and Atari ST game right up to modern-day mobile titles and even now working on Spectrum NEXT games so sit back, relax and enjoy.

Zapiy

Thank you for agreeing to our interview, please take a moment to tell us a little about you?

Adrian

No problem, the pleasure is all mine. We are a very small compact but established cottage industry sized indie games developer and publisher. I basically create the games so handle all the programming, graphics and sound duties. As we now publish our own retro games, my wife helps out with the production and packing and postal side of things whilst having a fair amount of input on the design stage of each game. She does this mainly in her spare time to help out along with our pet dog Schnoodle, who likes to get into everything bless him.

Bug Bash (Amiga, Atari ST)

Zapiy

What was the first game you created?

Adrian

My first commercial game was Bug Bash (Amiga).

Zapiy

You founded Mutation Software, can you tell us a bit about this time in your life, how the company came about and so on?

Adrian

Mutation Software was born in the Amiga/Atari ST days as a solo label that I could release my own work under to offer to publishers.

Zapiy

What was the reason behind the name Mutation Software?

Adrian

I was actually at a car boot sale around 1988/89 when I spotted the name ‘Mutation’ on the side of a 2nd hand shoe box. I thought the name fitted well with the constantly changing software I was producing, so I chose that.

Greyfox

Do you have any anecdotes you can share from those days?

Adrian

I remember sending off my first ever completed game ‘Bug Bash’ for evaluation to some publishers at the time. I got a fair bit of interest. My mum rang through to the office we had (I was working with friends at that stage) and said ‘Gary Bracey’ just rang and wanted to speak to me asap. I recall thinking who? perhaps he was a game tester at Ocean that had probably played it, but a friend said ‘You do know who he is?’… me back then ‘No’ LOL ūüôā I eventually went to a game show in London not long after to meet him/Ocean Software but nothing came of it in the end.

Zapiy

Who in the industry from those days and now most admire and why?

Adrian

Probably Jeff Minter, The man is a living legend in my eyes. I remember playing his early games on the C64 whilst being in total awe of his unique 8-bit creations. He has seen all that the games industry has to offer and survived, so for me he gets the medal without doubt.

TrekMD

You’ve written games, designed games and produced games. Which is your favorite role in the game development process?

Adrian

I like all facets of games production and it’s really great being able to swap between being a programmer, artist, musician and production etc. as the projects come to life. It keeps me focused and interested mainly. I rarely have time to get bored these days.

TrekMD

As a software house owner, did you ever pay much attention to press reviews of your work and was there any coverage that sticks in your mind?

Adrian

Not really. I do read everything but decided long ago not to pay too much attention to the critics and reviews. I just do what I do which is create games and try not to focus on pleasing everybody, which to me is an impossible task. For me writing games is about the love of computer games and the fun doing it foremost …the money is a welcome bonus especially when you hit the big time.

Zapiy

Are you surprised with the resurgence in retro gaming?

Adrian

Totally! I was only just talking about this with my wife recently. It’s really great that both older and newer gamers are embracing and loving retro now. When I first came into the retro scene, I really didn’t think it was going to be such a big a deal but it 100% is! Such a vibrant scene in which I’ve made some fantastic new friends and possibly some enemies to boot. Creativity and productivity seems to breed contempt in some LOL ūüôā

DoodleBug (Amiga, Atari ST)

Zapiy

Which one of your early years games are you the proudest of and why?

Adrian

I think that would have to be DoodleBug (Amiga/Atari ST). Core Design took on the publishing duties back in the day and it really helped me get on my feet and gain confidence¬†as an indie games developer in the early 90’s.

Zapiy

Which game caused you the most headaches?

Adrian

Battle Buggy Racers (PC) Unreleased… It was unreleased for a good reason, I totally cocked up the isometric design of the game at coding level so had to shelve it in the end.

Zapiy

Do you have any games that are just sitting on your drives unfinished that you may release one day?

Adrian

Battle Buggy Racers (PC DOS)
Monster Football (PC DOS)
Fantastic Island (Amiga OCS/ECS)

Fantastic Island (Amiga)

Zapiy

Tell us more about Fantastic Island, how much of the game was complete and what was it about?

Adrian

Fantastic Island featured a funky Toucan that had to traverse and escape a magical island that he had crashed landed on. The game had one of those animated intro’s that were common in Core Design games at the time. I had made good progress on the graphics and was just starting to code it when I had the mother of all hard drive crashes and lost the lot pretty much. The drive was in really bad shape, and all I could salvage was the title screen sadly. The snake in the title screen is now in quite a few of my games, including Montana Mike (Spectrum Next).

Zapiy

Can you tell us what prompted you to get involved in Retro Game Development?

Adrian

Yes I’ve always been interested in retro gaming alongside developing games myself. After working pretty much non-stop on mobile apps for around 8-10 years from Java mobile through to modern smart phones, it was time to semi-retire. That didn’t last long however and I soon got bored not working on games full-time. I saw the NEXT kickstarter and decided¬†to jump in and¬†buy a Spectrum NEXT development board. Later when I managed to write something, I then started Spectrum Next Games mainly as a creative outlet for my new 8-bit game projects.

Greyfox

What games at the time (and now) would you say are your biggest inspirations?

Adrian

My favourite game of all time has to be Marble Madness, it really stood out in the arcades back in the day. Today it’s very different as I rarely get time to really sit down and play games often, but when I do it’s normally to unwind for an hour and is Battlefield (latest version) multiplayer on console. I basically just pretend the enemy side are all the tax man LOL ūüôā

Greyfox

What is the biggest challenge you face with the limitations of the hardware, particularly as you continue to expand features title-to-title? (Memory? Graphical capability? Speed?)

Adrian

On Spectrum NEXT the only problem I have personally encountered is ram banking, as it can really cause problems with game design if you don’t think it right through first.¬†Thankfully having working on other ram banked systems like Gameboy in the past, it just required some thought up front before diving in with a whole game idea I found after trial an error.

Greyfox

Do you have timelines built into the management of these games?

Adrian

I give each game on Next about 5 months full-time development cycle. That includes everything from concept to duplication and out the door usually.

Greyfox

Are you doing all the development independently?

Adrian

Yes as I have said many times in the past, modern tools and approaches allow you to do a lot more in a shorter time now. I usually design games back to front starting with the packaging which cements the theme¬†and logo in my mind. I then move to graphics, layout and skeleton code and work onwards from that point. Usually I stop at¬†certain milestones and let my wife at the game. My wife is not a gamer and that’s¬†great as she has almost no concept of what is good or bad about the games until she plays them as a novice. I love that, because if something is just plain bad whilst playing, she will let me know so I can change it to the best of my ability. If she can play them then so can you! ūüėÄ

Zapiy

Which is the most downloaded game you have created?

Adrian

I’ve written about 80 mobile apps in the last 10 years and of all of them the best-selling mobile game app I ever wrote was ‘Crock O’Gold Slots’ on Android which did over a million downloads on Android alone.¬†I ported the app to as many different phones and TV boxes as I could but Android still remains king even to this day many years on. That game actually did change our lives in so many ways.

Zapiy

Where can people get physical copies of your games?

Adrian

On Spectrum Next from… www.SpectrumNextGames.com …from November 9th 2018 onwards, as we have restocked everything for physical release then.

Zapiy

Any thoughts about doing games on other systems? (More Amiga or ST games)

Adrian

I have thought a little about returning to Amiga games yes. The Spectrum Next is so good in reality to work on, that I just can’t leave it alone. It’s like an 8-bit Amiga in some respects.

Zapiy

Have you ever been involved with the creation of games on systems like the Gizmondo, Konix Multisystem or any of the other less known or unreleased systems?

Adrian

No. The closest I ever came to Konix was a game show back in the day and I never really saw it as an option for me personally TBH.

Greyfox

Doodlebug was a great game, even achieving a respectable 82% for Amiga Power mag back in 1992, did you take much notice of the reviews back then and what was your thoughts on how the game was received overall?

Adrian

For my first ever really big chance with Core publishing it, I think it did very well indeed. I sent it to Gremlin too for evaluation and it was well received and generated quite a few offers from various publishers.¬†I recall Gremlin wrote back saying it needed more work and that they couldn’t take it anyway, as they had a competing product ready for release …that product later turned out to be Zool – Chupa Chups and all ūüėÄ

Greyfox

Tin Toy Adventure is another cracking looking game, may I even suggest it was one of the finest looking back then, can you tell us about how this game came about, what was your inspirations and so on?

Adrian

Toy Story the movie was happening around that time and I had been playing Clockwork Knight on a friends Sega Saturn. The Amiga was dying off a bit by then and I had this idea to combine all that into a game… Tin Toy Adventure was born on AGA Amiga only. I think I pushed the base machine as far as I personally could and used the copper list to do as much as possible. The game levels are a bit linear mainly because¬†of the copper list effects used to give the horizontal illusion of depth. I did and still do personally like it yes, plus it seemed pretty well received by the Amiga scene as a whole back then.

Zapiy

Can you tell us about your involvement with the Spectrum Next?

Adrian

Simple really. I was getting a bit jaded by the mobile development side of my small business having worked on it for so long. I saw the NEXT kickstarter and bought the dev board to tinker on. The more I played with the Next the deeper it pulled me in. What turned out to be a hobby pursuit soon turned into another creative outlet for me. Spectrum Next Games was born in April 2018. The Next is like a breath of fresh air to work on after so much high level stuff down the years. I much prefer assembler to any other programming language, it’s what I grew up with and what I feel most comfortable with when writing 2D games anyway.

Montana Mike (Spectrum NEXT)

Zapiy

Montana Mike looks like a fantastic homage to Rick Dangerous, was this an influence in the design of your game, what was the biggest challenge?

Adrian

Thank you. Yes Rick and a few other platformers went into the melting pot for a Spectrum NEXT game with an Indiana Jones theme. Montana Mike is certainly inspired by previous similar games, but actually has some newer things like the whip weapon and swinging vines etc. to add its own game play flavour of platform game. I hope everybody likes it when released on the 9th November 2018.

Dungeonette (Spectrum NEXT)

Zapiy

Everyone loves a dungeon crawler, tell us about the early concept of Dungeonette and why you decided to create such a game for the Spectrum NEXT?

Adrian

Dungeonette was actually further developed from an Apple Watch game from the same name I had written much earlier. Whilst I was tinkering with the Next dev board in 2017, I decided to not waste time and just write¬†a game in z80. I had not touched z80’ish code since 2000 when I worked on Gameboy/Gameboy Color with Climax/LEGO on LEGO Alpha Team. After about 17 years I had forgotten most of it too! I later heard the Next was soon¬†to be released around May 2018 and so I crammed as much as I could into Dungeonette and prepared it for release with what I had learned thus far.

It was a huge learning curve over about 5-6 months of than non full-time work on NEXT as I was still attending to my mobile games releases and had also just moved to Scotland from the South coast of England in late 2017 etc. The game is finished but was a little rushed toward the end, as I honestly thought the NEXT release was imminent from what I had read. The latter was not to be the case due to Next production problems, but I was left having written and released the first ever physical Spectrum Next game on the planet. It sold pretty well too all considered.

DeltaStar Earth Defence (Spectrum NEXT)

Zapiy

As a huge shmup fan, tell where did the idea to create DeltaStar Earth Defence come from and do you only make games from genres you’re a fan of?

Adrian

I love shmups too and arcade games like Galaxian, Phoenix, Galaga all took many coins from me on my frequent visits to the arcades with friends. I’d always wanted to have a go at a Galaxians style game and saw the¬†Next as the perfect retro machine to develop it on with its hardware sprites and 256 colours. DeltaStar was created. I actually used part of my older unreleased game on Amiga from the 1987/1988 the space shooter¬†Outlander 2. I tend to create games that are within my ability as a programmer as I am primarily an artist/musician in reality.

Zapiy

Your games for the NEXT are stunning if you don’t mind me saying, can you give us and insight to the development of all this, how you go from the finished game code to a complete boxed game?

Adrian

Thanks again! Yes as I may of said earlier I get the idea in my mind for the game name/theme first. I then attempt to create a few passes of a title screen/logo. When that’s complete I then proceed to theme the entire design of the game very quickly. I do work very fast and that is mainly because I find I need to get it all out of my head on huge download on the screen.

I rarely work with drawings¬†and go direct to Photoshop for layout and graphic design. The only time I tend to use pen and paper is mapping levels out before going full on in map editor perhaps. The code skeleton is usually brought¬†up to speed by the 2nd month and then everything gets listed on a work sheet. I then work through several tasks on the sheet each day until I need a small break to recover. I usually finish every project¬†I start now and hate wasting time on dead-end projects. Finish what you start or don’t even bother IMHO. A finished game is always better than a pile of shelved projects in my eyes.

Zapiy

Which one of your NEXT games are you the proudest of and why?

Adrian

I think it’s an ongoing thing as I learn more about the machine having started from nothing and a bare board. So far it has to be the Gold Compilation which is the result of a LOT of effort over the last year¬†to bring together 3 complete games for the Next in one¬†physical package. I hope both current and newer Next fans to come will enjoy the games presented on it. I think the games will get better and better over¬†time of course as new all machines go through this phase of course.

Zapiy

Whats coming up for you and the NEXT?

Adrian

Well ever hopefully and firstly I hope everybody gets their actual NEXT computers soon! We have up for development next on Next ‘Super Dragon Gems’ a match 3 type game and then hopefully the since delayed ‘Repel All Borders’¬†war themed shooter. No release date has been allocated to those because we don’t want to release any more games until the Next is fully released now.

Zapiy

Can you share some more light on Repel all Borders and maybe a sneak peek?

Adrian

Repel All Borders is a cross between Beach Head and Nam 1975 on the Neo Geo. I had written and published a similar game called Tommy Gun on Amiga in the 90’s but this game is more war themed. Also I can show for now is the cover art.

Finally

A massive thank you to Adrian for taking the time to chat with us at RVG, I am always humbled by the time these devs give us here at RVG and capturing their stories and in some cases, history that could be lost. Was a pleasure to chat with you and thanks again.

To follow Adrian and his future releases please visit his website HERE.

Retro head and key holder of RVG.

zapiy

Retro head and key holder of RVG.