With over 25 years experience in the industry behind him, Ste Pickford has created a number of legendary games. Alongside his brother John, Ste has made numerous titles for home computers, consoles and mobile platforms.
At the moment, Ste is running Zee-3 with John, an independent studio that's recently had success with Naked War and Magnetic Billiards: Blueprint.
Thanks to Ste for taking part in this interview and enjoy[/size]
What's the best loading screen you think you ever created and why? Ste
The Feud Amstrad one was my favourite. I think because it was confident. I wasn't trying to duplicate a game cover, but genuinely trying to design an image which captured the feel and mood of the game. I was also being a bit arty by deliberately drawing it square, rather than to screen proportions. Going for an 'album cover' vibe perhaps. And I was proud of the fact that I came up with different designs for the Spectrum and Amstrad loading screens, even though they were the same game. The designs were trying to play to the strengths of each system - the Amstrad had all these colours, so I used them all in the Wizard's hair. Attempting that on the Spectrum would have looked awful, so I designed something that worked with less colour, and more pixelly stipple.zapiy
World Darts was a very popular game, i loved it personally. How long did it take you to do the graphics and why do you think Darts games dont do as well these days?Stezapiy
How did the PLOK character come about? Do you have any early sketches of the character?Ste
The whole story of the origin of the Plok game (it started out as a coin-op called Fleapit) is here: http://www.zee-3.com/pickfordbros/archive/plok.php
All my early Plok sketches are on our website, here: http://www.zee-3.com/pickfordbros/archive/plok-fleapit.php WiggyDiggyPoo
For Feud - Who did the music for the Amstrad version, its quite striking. And (cheating with 2 here lol) are you going to return to it as your blog threatens Ste
I've no recollection of who did the Amstrad music. I'd imagine it was my then boss David Whittaker, as he did most of the music in the studio at the time. My memory is shocking though, so I might be wrong.
We'd love to revisit the concept of the duelling wizards on day, but it's not on our current list of games we're working on or which we want to develop.WiggyDiggyPooSte
Never heard of it. I missed out a lot of the later Amiga scene. After doing a couple of Amiga games, we got started working on NES games around 1988, and then had NES games and PC Engine games in the studio at Zippo Games. These made Amiga games feel incredibly poor and primitive by comparison at the time (even if the Amiga games had better graphics), so I became a console kid and pretty much never touched the Amiga as a games machine ever again. TrekMD
How did you get started in the video game industry?Ste
I did work experience at Binary Design, a work-for-hire game development studio in Manchester in the mid 1980s (it was probably one of the first such studios in the UK, if not the world). My brother had got a job there on their first development team the year before when they set up, and in the two weeks I was there I did about 5 loading screens for them. They offered my a job when I finished school, and I took it. My plan was to work there for a year, then go back to art college. I never stopped making games though. TrekMD
After developing so many games for so many different systems, do you have a favourite type of game you prefer to work on? Is there a system you find more enjoyable to program for?Ste
Any console, for sure. It's so much easier working on a system where you know exactly how much RAM there is, exactly what processor is available, exactly what the screen resolution is, exactly what input device the player will use, etc. Any system is fine, but knowing all this stuff makes gamedev so much easier. The PC can be a nightmare with different configurations, Android is a right pain by all accounts, and iOS is getting to be a pain to develop for with all the different screen sizes and aspect ratios and different generation devices you have to support. TrekMD
Are you yourself a retro gamer? Do you still have any retro consoles?Ste
Nope, I'm not a retro gamer at all. I've still got my dreamcast and gamecube, and modded Xbox with Mame etc., but I hardly use them. I can barely find time to play the current games I want to play, and so many of the older games are unplayable by modern standards. I enjoyed replaying Wind Waker on the Wii U, and I'd love a remake of Majora's Mask (the blurry textures and low frame-rate are unplayable to me now), but generally I like to look forward and play / make games that are new and fresh.TrekMDSte
We've considered it. The development environment sounds more difficult than iOS, and you need way more devices to test on. We're game designers primarily, and only developers out of necessity, so we'd rather develop on the platform that's lets us express our game design ideas most easily. OUYA and GameStick don't sound appealing at all.TrekMD
Who has been the best company you've worked for? What makes them the best? Ste
We've spent most of our careers working for ourselves, or our own studios. Of the places I've worked I probably enjoyed the time at Software Creations the most. There were a great bunch of people there, and we had a lot of fun times and great nights out. We also got to make some pretty good games in the SNES days, so I've got fond memories of those days.The Laird
Glider Rider is a really clever and original game that I enjoyed a lot, where did you get the idea for that?Ste
Hah, John came up with the idea. I couldn't tell you exactly where it came from, but that's just what he does, invent original game ideas. Glad you liked it!The Laird
You have worked on a lot of budget games over the years, how does this differ to making full price games? Are you given a bit more of a free role?Ste
It never differed in the slightest when we worked at Binary Design. Budget games were made by the same staff, sat at the same desks, using the same equipment, with the same budget, and the same deadlines as full price games. And we approached development in exactly the same way. It used to really annoy us when later the reviews would say 'ok for a budget game' and knock the review score down a bit, or not give us the Crash Smash, because it wasn't full price. The Laird
You seem to have made a lot of games based on cartoons and comic books, is there a reason for that? Are you a fan?Ste
I've worked on a lot of licensed games, but I've never actually wanted to. That's just the work that comes in when you work for a studio, or the work you need to take on to pay the wages when you're running a studio. I've only ever been interested in making original games that we've designed ourselves, but you don't always get the opportunity to do that, and often you have to do whatever paid work is around. I don't actually mind working on licensed games, it's often an interesting challenge with some extra restrictions and hurdles that make the act of designing the game quite difficult but fun. The Laird
You also seem to have done a few darts games, so are you a fan of the sport?Ste
Not especially! The Laird
What was your favourite system to work on and why?Ste
Probably the SNES, as I prefer making 2D games, and love working in characters, with all the restrictions that they bring - there are lots of fun challenges and tricks to getting the most out of character-based screens. The iPhone was great to work with at first - high powered for the screen size - before all the different models and screen sizes made it a bit of a mess from a gamedev point of view.The Laird
Who in the gaming industry has inspired you over the years?Ste
Oh gosh, I can't think of many. I really admire Nintendo, because I think they make such consistently great games, and I generally agree with their philosophies on design and game development methods, if not always their business methods. I can't really think of many individuals. I like people who do their own thing and who make original games, not copies or re-skins or clones of existing games.The Laird
What differences and challenges have you come across making mobile games? Has it been a big change?Ste
The challenge is making any money at all. We haven't cracked that one yet.Ben
As someone who has worked on a lot of games based on existing properties, specifically comics, how much leeway did you have (and how important was it to you) to stay close to the original series? Specifically, most Marvel Comics games I've played seem to utterly disregard the history and established fanbase of the series, but you seemed to really put an effort into respecting them, particularly in regard to Spider Man. So I'm wondering if that was by design, and if so, are you a big comics fan in your personal life or did it just grow out of the desire to make a quality game?Ste
I grew up as a big comic fan, and although I still consider myself a big comic fan, I've got no interest in mainstream American comics or superhero comics or any of that stuff. With the licensed work, yeah, you generally have some pretty heavy restrictions in place, and people at publisher and licensor level approving or not approving your work. When we did Maximum Carnage, that was based on a particular series, so the game was based on the content of a few particular issues, with restrictions about locations and characters coming along with that. Generally all such licensing restrictions get in the way of making a good game, because sometimes a game might need this or that to play better - and you only know what it needs as you develop the game - bit the license might not allow you to change some aspect of play control or change the location or add a character etc.
I have to say, I've never chosen to make a game based on a comic, it's just the work we had. I've made games based on children's TV series, or girls toys. They're all the same to me, an opportunity to make the best game we can for a particular target market, within an arbitrary set of constraints imposed by a licensor. I've always enjoyed that kind of work, but I didn't get any extra enjoyment from making a comic game because I happened to like the comics.