RVG Interviews: Tony Pomfret.

Here we interview Tony Pomfret, Tony was one of the team behind Special FX, a successful British software house that hailed from Liverpool. They created some amazing games, including Midnight Resistance and Batman: The Caped Crusader, he also worked for companies like Ocean and Rage so read on and enjoy.

Zapiy

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

Tony

My name is Tony Pomfret, I’m 53 years old (and feel it)… I’ve been programming from the age of 13. I’m married to my amazing wife Deb, no kids (Deb says she couldn’t handle another one!)

Zapiy

How did you get involved in the gaming industry?

Tony

I worked in my fathers computer shop on Deansgate in Manchester. One day a group of people came in the shop and I got talking to one of them, he turned out to be the lead programmer at OCEAN and it turned out OCEAN was literally a 3 minute walk away. I showed this lead programmer (Dave Collier) a game I was developing for the fun of it on the C64, it was a side scrolling chopper game I called “Bush Fire”, it was using some heavy raster screen and border splitting, Dave was very impressed and offered me a job at OCEAN working on a big secret project!

Zapiy

What was the first game you created?

Tony

My first game was “Daley Thompson’s Decathlon” on the C64.

Greyfox

Which one the games you was involved in are you the proudest of and why?

Tony

Hard question as every game I worked on contained a bit of me… I think Rambo: First Blood Part II was one of my best due to the insane full screen scroll and intense sprite multiplexing.

Greyfox

And which game caused you the most headaches?

Tony

Probably “Roland’s Rat Race” not because of it’s complexity it was just the lack of time we had to make it, approximately 4 weeks from start to finish including all graphics and map layout.

Zapiy

You have worked for a few iconic British Software Houses, tell us about those days, were they as rock n roll as we all imagined it to be?

Tony

Not exactly rock n roll, but they where ground breaking days and great fun.

Zapiy

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

Tony

I worked with Martin Galway at OCEAN and one evening after Martin had left the dungeon (as the development area was called) myself and a few others though it would be fun to play a little practical joke on him. Martin was very OCD, everything in his sound studio was always perfectly laid out and not a thing out-of-place, so myself and the “crew” decided to invert as much as possible in his studio this included Coat hangers, light switches in fact everything other than a large piano. The following morning the “crew” waited for Martin to enter his sound studio, the studio had a massive glass window looking out into the dungeon corridor so we had a great view! Needless to say the result was hysterical!

Zapiy

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

Tony

In the early years we worked without very much guidance, we just got a deadline and got on with the job, we didn’t even have graphic artist’s. The programming teams where normally very small containing no more than three people and a sound programmer, it stayed that way until the early 2000’s With the advent of the Xbox and PS2 the team sizes drastically increased and we had to adapt to a more structured form of game development.

Zapiy

Which software company did you enjoy working for the most and why?

Tony

Hard question! I loved working for all the companies that I helped to build but the two that stand out in my mind where Special FX and Rage, The two companies founded by Paul Finnegan the ex OCEAN marketing director, he is a great bloke.

Zapiy

Did you create any special tools to help you be more creative?

Tony

Oh yes, countless tools from sprite/map editors to full-blown assemblers, the list was endless.

Zapiy

Can you tell us your Special FX story, how you started working for them, any funny stories and what it was like working there?

Tony

It was all because of Paul Finnegan. Paul decided to leave OCEAN and start his own software company close to his home in Liverpool. Paul had an idea for a game based loosely on a comic character from his youth so he asked me to produce a demo to see if the game would work. I was pretty sure I could make a good game from this demo so Paul employed myself and he poached Joffa Smith from OCEAN to work on the C64 and Spectrum versions of the game respectively. We had a scream working at SFX me and Joffa where best mates and creatively we had something very special. SFX grew at a rapid rate and on route acquired some incredible and talented people.

Greyfox

Special FX holds a great deal of magic to me, what was a typical day like when you was working there?

Tony

Loved it, a great Boss in Paul and a group of very talented game makers and not to mention our very own real life FPS at 5pm nearly every evening… we basically threw small tightly packed balls of paper at each other in our office at The Albert Dock… keyboards got destroyed while playing that office game!

Zapiy

Which was your favourite system to work on and why?

Tony

I think the SONY PSX was a great little machine, it had this super co-processer in it called the GTE (Geometry Transformation Engine) that I made sing in games like…

Space Debris

Darklight Conflict

A close second was the ace little C64 though, I loved trying to make everything I coded on run at 60fps 😊

Zapiy

Are you a gamer these days?

Tony

Yes still love playing games, mainly play on PC these days… and of course retro game emulation on PC is great!

Zapiy

Who did you most admire back then for the quality of their work and why?

Tony

One person in particular stands out and that was my good friend Joffa, he was a designer/programmer/artist/musician, very talented at everything he undertook!

TrekMD

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

Tony

Not really as I moved from C64 to NES and then SNES all used a very similar processor and had hardware that aided sprites and scrolling.  It was only when the console changes came to life that things changed as I had to learn new languages and not bother with Assembler very often.

TrekMD

Did you ever take notice of magazine reviews and did they make any difference to how you created further games?

Tony

I loved getting good reviews but nearly every game I worked on was governed by deadline’s and cost, so I just did what was needed to make the games as fun as possible but to hit that deadline.

Zapiy

Are you surprised with the resurgence in retro gaming?

Tony

No, old games are still close to my heart and even now I still play on emulated old school games… it was all about fun in the old days and how much you could squeeze out of the machine you worked on.

TrekMD

Have you thought about getting involved in Retro Game Development?

Tony

Not got the time. I’m still programming now but have moved on from games into education and IT.

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?

Tony

No, I worked on the machines that where guaranteed to have a big market this unfortunately was a business demand

Zapiy

What do you for a living now?

Tony

I’m a software developer but working in education and IT. Not as fun as my game’s programming days but it pays the bills 😊

Finally

A huge thank you to Tony for taking the time to chat to us.

zapiy

Retro head and key holder of RVG.