Author Topic: RVG Interviews  (Read 168 times)

Offline zapiy

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RVG Interviews
« on: July 27, 2020, 20:03:20 PM »

RVG is back with its ever popular RVG Interviews series, this time we interview Karen Davies Downey, Karen has worked on many classic titles in her career, we chat about some of them and much much more. Enjoy!


RVG

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

Karen

My name is Karen Davies Downey, I was born in Liverpool in 1960, I knew from an early age I wanted to be involved in art, I just didn’t know then it would be computers ……… to be honest I don’t think many people knew about computers then, let alone computer games. I attended Liverpool Polytechnic where I studied textile design, a subject that lent itself quite nicely to game graphics.

RVG

How did you get involved in the gaming industry?

Karen

While at Liverpool Polytechnic I met Paula Cain who introduced me to her husband Steve Cain who also attended Liverpool Polytechnic but who studied graphic design, anyway after leaving Poly I went to work in Lyon and London in the textile industry but always stayed in touch with the Cain’s and it is while I was working in London that I heard from Steve about a company that was expanding and developing its own art department, that company was Imagine. I moved back to Liverpool and was lucky enough to get a position …… and so it all began.

RVG

What was the first game you created graphics for?

Karen

The first graphics I created for the computer were for the Dragon, it was an educational piece of software but I don’t think it was ever published. The first game I ever worked was probably Bandersnatch and Psyclapse, the so called MegaGames, but again these were never published, so my first published game graphics were probably at Denton Designs and were Spyhunter for the spectrum.

RVG

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

Karen

The games I am most proud of are Shadowfire, this I liked the comic aspect with lots of icons, Frankie goes to Hollywood with lots of different style of games within a game and Batman as I really liked the animation and different size playing windows that opened and close again very comic like. I can’t really just pick one as there are different things about each one I like and this is not from a playing point of view as I was never a game player, this is purely from a visual point of view, I also like Hysteria as this was the first time I used overlayed sprites so I could get more detail into the image.

RVG

And which game caused you the most headaches?

Karen

The game that gave me the biggest headache was Enigma Force, this was a follow up to Shadowfire. My main problem with this game was the problems I had with the graphic package, it had a few bugs in it and I lost a lots of graphics while working on it which meant I had to redraw them many many times. This was very frustrating and I feel the game suffered a lot especially as we were on such a tight schedule.

RVG

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?

Karen

“Rock and Roll” that’s a big statement, We did have some crazy times, and it was not like any where I had worked before or since. It was a very young industry filled with very talented young people, there were fast cars and expense accounts but there was also lots of long hours, people sleeping under desks, living and breathing computer games. I do have very fond memories of this time.

RVG

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

Karen

My best memories are of the people, most were fresh and creative, giving 100 percent commitment to what they were doing but there were times  when people played tricks on each other, I remember at Imagine when some employees removed the furniture out of a manager’s office through the ceiling as he always locked his office when he left work of an evening or at Special FX we would have paper ball fights some afternoons , where we literally through scrunched up paper at eachother..( not so rock and roll ) , this would last for about 15 mins, was really funny but was also a release of physical energy allowing us to focus on the work in hand.

RVG

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

Karen

I left the computer gaming industry twenty years ago, looking at it now it still looks as exciting as when I was involved but it does also look much more grown up as an industry, there seems to be lots more people involved in the development process, lots more money and lots more scope for creativity.

RVG

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

Karen

I worked in four computer games companies, Imagine, Denton Design, Special FX and Rage Software. I have very fond memories of all of them, mostly because of the people. While working in these companies we worked for other software houses, eg. Ocean, Sega, EA, Beyond. We probably worked with Ocean Software the most and again worked with some extremely talented people. We were always given a fair amount of creative control, propably the reason they came to us was because the had a reasonable amount of trust in us.

RVG

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

Karen

Yes art tools were often written for me, usually by the programmer who was writing the game and usually they were written in such a way that made them easy to slot into the game making it easier and faster for me and the programmer to see if the graphic worked, It was a very good system and worked most of the time.

RVG

Netflix has rekindled the interest in Bandersnatch, was you involved in this game whilst you was working for Imagine, can you tell us about it?

Karen

I was involved in the development of both Bandasnatch and Psyclapse but I remember very little, we had our own section in the office and the artist and programmes all sat together, we often worked late into the night and we drew the graphics on paper, but that’s about it, I cannot remember anything about the actual games.

RVG

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

Karen

Over the years I worked with some incredible people, the first that usually comes to mind is Steve Cain, he bought me into the industry, he was a brilliant graphic designer and illustrator as well as a great person, he was always there to help if you needed help or for encourage if you needed encouragement, and then there was Joffa Smith, he was a natural games designer, programmer and graphic designer, he knew games and made it all look so very easy. He was incredibly generous with his time and his talent. I was very fortunate to work with many incredible people, John Gibson ( need I say more), Ian Moran, Ally Noble, Jim Bagley, Tony Pomfret, Andy Rixon, Chas Davies, I could go on and on.

RVG

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

Karen

No it was always fun to work on new hardware, it gives new parameters, a new challenge to push the technology as far as you can.

RVG

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

Karen

I always read reviews and it would be nice to say they made no difference to me but I am sure they did, everyone wants their work to be liked, but I usually knew when things didn’t work but sometimes you can only do what you can do, what can I say.

Finally

A huge thanks to Karen for taking the time to answer our questions.
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