RVG Interviews: Andy John.

Hello, here we are we another fabulous RVG Interview, in the hot seat this time is Andy John, Andy has worked as an artist for many years and recently caught the retro game dev bug and started to released some games for the Spectrum, read on to learn more..

The Interview

RVG

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

Andy

I’ve been in the games for about 25 years now. I’ve been an artist and a technical artist in that time

RVG

How did you get started in the video game industry?

Andy

I had been doing some bedroom game dev with a few mates for a while, and one of them had managed to land a job at EA UK, he took my CV in with some work examples and I got an interview. Back then at EA interviews were an all-day affair and after about 5 hours they told me I had got the job of Jr Artist. Was a great day to finally achieve my dream of making games for a living.

RVG

Can you tell us about those early years?

Andy

Game dev back then is very different from how it is today. We knew what game we had to make but we were just left to ourselves to develop it. It was a small team but a good team. Things were more fun, we worked hard and played harder, something that has gotten lost over the years. For me at least a lot of the fun has been lost.

RVG

What was it like working for of the most iconic Software Houses? (EA)

Andy

It was great! Every day was challenging and fun. I loved going into work, it wasn’t like work back then it was just fun, a job yes but it was always enjoyable. EA was a great place to work back in the day.

RVG

When you first started did you ever think that the video game industry would become as big as it has and still be going strong all these years later?

Andy

It was already big back then, I had grown up with the Speccy and Amiga and the games industry was already heaving. I could only see it going one way. I knew back then that this was the career I wanted.

RVG

What was the first game you created?

Andy

The first game I worked on was called Fifa Soccer Manager. I was a pretty basic football manager game trying to steal the crown of championship manager…I don’t think we did, but it was a good effort

RVG

Do you use any special programs to help you create your graphics? Any tools you created yourself for this task?

Andy

For my AGD games I only use the AGD editors. They are simple and elegant. They do what they need to do. I love that. The old spectrum days were the best.
For work I use Maya and Photoshop mainly, but I don’t get to do much art these days. My current role as a Technical Artist means Im more into problem solving and the more technical side of game dev, scripting particle systems etc.

RVG

Are you surprised with the resurgence in retro gaming?

Andy

A bit yeah, but I guess if I grew up with and loved these games and platforms so must many more. I think it’s great that it’s so popular. I don’t think there will be another generation that love the same games that I did growing up…it just moves on. One day ps3 and ps4 etc. will be retro.

RVG

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

Andy

There are a few yeah, Ideas mainly, most have them have evolved into other things. Nixy’s graphical style evolved from another game. Some might eventually become games in their own right one day.

RVG

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

Andy

Hmmm tough question. In my day to day I’ve had to fill every kind of role at one point or another. Design and production have been a big part of my latest role. I’ve enjoyed that a lot to be honest.

RVG

What games from back in the day (and now) would you say are your biggest inspirations?

Andy

Manic Miner for sure, one of the first platform games I ever played. Monty Mole, Jet Pac…the classics.

RVG

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?)

Andy

Memory, memory and memory. I’m hoping that I’ll get to do something on the ZX Spectrum Next. I want to keep the Spectrum style but have the luxury of the extra graphics modes, speed and memory!

RVG

Do you have a favourite game that you were involved with?

Andy

Career wise, probably a racing game called Shox, it was an odd game but so much fun to work on and play
Ooze has been my favourite retro game that I’ve made. Nixy is the best looking and most polished.

RVG

Was it hard adapting to the changing hardware over the years?

Andy

Actually not really, at first you have to understand what the new boundaries are. But they shift as people get to understand better and faster ways to code the platform, so it’s a gradual shift I guess.

RVG

Are you a gamer yourself? Do you own any retro systems? Modern systems?

Andy

Not so much anymore. I do still play Spectrum and old arcade games but that’s about it. I don’t own a current gen console though

RVG

When you’re not working on games what are some of your favourites to play?

Andy

Donkey Kong Jr is probably my all-time favourite, Mr Heli, Mr Do, Bomb Jack to name a few…oh and Dragons Lair!

RVG

How different has it been to work in the gaming industry through the years?

Andy

At the beginning you worked hard and played hard. You made games for fun and to make money. Now you make games to make money, for the me the fun has gone out of it. It’s just a job now unfortunately

RVG

What company back in the day did you most admire and why?

Andy

Ultimate were the ones to beat. The games were so playable, the graphics excellent they could do no wrong.

RVG

Can you tell us if you will have any involvement in the Spectrum Next game dev?

Andy

I hope so, I have one sitting right here at the moment !

RVG

If you were stuck on an island and only had one game to play for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Andy

From the last few years it would be Alien Isolation. Never have I been more terrified than when playing that game…it’s an atmospheric masterpiece!
Retro game would be Zelda a Link to the Past…what a game

RVG

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

Andy

I grew up with the ZX81 and the Spectrum (which is what got me hooked) I coded and did artwork on that and it was that which set me on the path to my gaming career. My parents always moaned at me back then to go outside and play…they look back now and see that actually it was all worthwhile.

RVG

Are you doing all the development individually?

Andy

The game side of things yes. I do all the game coding and graphics myself. I do get help with loading screens sometimes like with Nixy (thanks to John Blythe). David Saphier wrote the loaders and menus for both Ooze and Nixy and Allan Turvey is always helping out with bits of code in AGDx

RVG

How did the name Bubblesoft come about?

Andy

I have 2 cats, Bubble and Squeak! BubbleSoft sounded better than SqueakSoft.

RVG

Nixy The Glade Sprite is a stunning game, what was the inspiration for this game?

Andy

I was walking to the station one evening after work with John Blythe about how it had been ages since I had made a game. I hadn’t been able to come up with anything that I thought would come close to the level of polish that Ooze had had. As we walked the Idea of a tiny fairy character running about in a garden, saving it from being destroyed popped into my head. Very quickly that Idea became Nixy: The Glade Sprite

RVG

Which one of your homebrew games would you say is your favourite and why?

Andy

I love Nixy for graphics but Ooze for gameplay and originality. It’s really hard to pick a favourite.

RVG

Also which was the hardest to create and why?

Andy

Ooze was the hardest, simply because of the movement, I had made a few Monty Mole games back then but really I was still learning with Ooze.

RVG

What’s up next for the homebrew scene from you?

Andy

I hope to do a follow up to Nixy, I have ideas and I had a fair amount of gameplay already done when Nixy was released but I didn’t have enough memory left to make all the screens. I’m hoping that the AGDx boys will work their magic and give us access to the 128ks memory banks soon…then I can do what I want to with the game. I’m also working with a friend on some Next stuff which is still really in a pre pro stage.

RVG

Have you ever thought about releasing games for the SNES, Mega Drive or Amiga?

Andy

No, the Spectrum was my first love so any games I make will be on that besides AGD currently only supports Spectrum, Amstrad and Acorn. And each of those has limitations. I do have a next dev board though and stuff might be happening there!

RVG

Can you tell us about your use of AGD? I’m currently making a little game with it and yours give me inspiration to carry on.

Andy

The way I make games is very haphazard, I get Ideas which evolve or don’t pan out. I create art styles which change over the course of a game

RVG

How did your connection with Monument Microgames come about?

Andy

I had seen some of the releases from Monument and they looked really polished. So decided to give them a try for Nixy.

RVG

Will all your games get physical releases?

Andy

All of my games have so far and that’s the plan going forwards, George Cropper has released Montys Honey Run, Monty and the Temple of Lost Souls and Ooze and they were great. It’s really satisfying to see your game made “real”

Finally

A huge thank you to Andy for taking the time to chat with us here at RVG.

Retro head and key holder of RVG.

zapiy

Retro head and key holder of RVG.