HBL Interviews: Stuart Collier.

Here we interview Stuart Collier, Stuart has programmed some amazing C64 games recently, we are talking Sizzler, The Legend of Atlantis and many more.. read on and enjoy.

HBL

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

Stuart

Hi I’m Stuart Collier, 49 , I currently live in a town called Shelfield near Walsall in the west Midlands with my wife and 2 kids.

I’ve been coding since I was given a VIC-20 way back in the day, my route to this day has been VIC20 – C64 – AMIGA – PC.

In my day job, most programming revolves around database work but my passion is most definitely games writing.

Early 2000s’ I co-created Ovine By Design where we started to recreate 8bit games on the PC. Never thought I’d ever write a C64 so the next best thing was to recreate them. There was quite an active remake scene then (unfortunately seems to have disappeared now)

I have also self-published a young adult book on Amazon called “DreamVolk” and in spare-spare time I am writing book 2. My day job sometimes involves a lot of travel and I find time on planes and hotel rooms to write (or extra time for c64 coding!)

HBL

What was the first game you created?

Stuart

First game I finished was on a DOS version of attic attack – called the Burps. Think that was back in 1993ish. I did attempt lots of games back in the 80s but using programmer’s art did mean that they never saw the light of day. When clearing out the loft I did come across a lot of code scribbled down on paper and some designs for game ideas.

(I can see why I never made it as a games programmer :))

HBL

What do you for a living away from game creation?

Stuart

I work for a large Swedish corporation as an IT Manager. My work is varied from managing staff and computers to creating hardware and software solutions.

HBL

What’s the idea behind the name Eyecon64?

Stuart

Eyecon64 came about because we wanted to separate our remaking works from our commodore 64 creations. Eyecon64 is made up of myself and Trevor Storey, who is the creative genius to be honest. He dreams it up and I follow it through. It’s a fun setup and Trevor is a good motivator.

HBL

Are all your games released under this name?

Stuart

Yes, apart from our Armalyte remake on the PC, that was release (by Psytronik) under SAS Designs.

I’ve had a few games on the mobile platform too under the Ovine By Design name. We let the IOS membership expire so they are no longer available, but do have a few left in the google store.

HBL

Any thoughts about doing games on other systems? Megadrive, Dreamcast or SNES.

Stuart

Nope none. As I never had any of those systems I have no passion to look at them.

HBL

Are you surprised with the resurgence in retro gaming?

Stuart

Encouraged more than surprised. Some of us never left retro gaming so its great to see the revival. I tried to get my 13 year old son interested, but the pull of the PS4 was too great.

HBL

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

On the C64 that has to be Legend of Atlantis, it was full of new programming challenges and actually a game I enjoyed playing myself. Of course most proud of it as it won 2 GOTY awards.

Stuart

On the PC, CHOLO. I love this game with a passion, love to get the time to get it up and running in VR. Im currently using the unreal engine for a work project so you never know. I was contacted by Joey Headon (original creator) who gave me his blessing to release it and send me over little tit bits on the making etc. Once I’d released it, he sent me a really nice email saying that he loved the remake.

HBL

Which game caused you the most headaches?

Stuart

Probably the “sky is falling” as it was my first attempt at finishing a C64. Trying to remember all that I had learnt in the 80s :). Big thank you to codebase64 and the forums on Lemon64 else I doubt that it would have been finished!

HBL

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

Stuart

On the C64, all the games I have started I’ve happily finished. Of course like most developers I have lots of folders full of test ideas of routines, but none are anywhere near finished games.

PC games, too many to mention, one which I do hope we return to is a 3D vector version of Return of the Jedi. My PC WIP folder goes back to the 90s !

HBL

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

Stuart

I started out as Ovine.net doing retro remakes, where we would take an 8 bit game and turn it into a much more graphically enhanced PC version. Mainly down to my good friend Andy Hewitt who had started todo this bby himself. After a few projects I met up online with Trevor Storey who took over the graphic and design duties. We did a PC version of DARKNESS at the same time the c64 was being developed which wet my appetite. We also did a Rocky Memphisc64 style game on the PC called “Rocky Memphis and the Temple of Ophuxoff” which amazingly someone said they wanted to recreate on the 64 (not sure if it was ever finished).

After a lean few months of no PC development I cracked open VICE and started to create one of our mobile games called “the sky is falling”.

“Trev want to do the gfx?” – “Yes” – the rest they say is history – LOL

HBL

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

Stuart

Probably not a conventional list (seeing that the BBC games I played on a friends computer)

Cholo (bbc), Action biker (c64), Glider Rider (c64)

Saying that I do look at a lot of games and think “how did they do that?”, especially the demo scene – those guys are cutting edge and I’m always amazed by what they produce.

Glider rider is still a running joke with Trevor. I always though Glider Rider would be ace real 3D but when I sit down and design it, it falls a bit flat hence I’ve never started it.

HBL

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?)

Stuart

So far my biggest limitation has been fitting everything into memory. We start with the level design and then work backwards (probably not the best way of doing it), which means

Saying that, Its alot easier now than back in the day. When I dabbled in the 80s I was using an action replay cartridge to code directly into memory so I shouldn’t complain.

HBL

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

Stuart

Sizzler is the only game we have had to get finished by a specific date – which we did :).

The rest are not time sensitive so its a case of get it done when we have time. Having a family and kids does mean that time is limited for when I can get coding done. I tend to go into my man cave around 10pm when the rest of the house goes to bed and then up early at the weekends before they awake. I’m sure I can get games done a lot faster if this were my day job.

HBL

Are you doing all the development independently?

Stuart

I code with Trevor Storey doing design and graphics and to date we have used 2 other guys for music. I have reached out a few times to my fellow c64 coders, they are a really friendly bunch of people.

Other than that there’s a bunch of resource available, codebase64 was invaluable in the early days for me.

HBL

How did your connection with Psytronik start?

Stuart

As Trevor had been doing C64 games already, he knew Kenz and put to him that we wanted todo an Armalyte remake. Kenz expressed an interest and even got Dan Phillips and Robin Levy involved. This was released via Psytronik and was the obvious choice when we started the C64 games.

I’ve met Kenz a couple of times, the first was at a retro event where he was showing Armalyte for the PC. I gingerly walked up and started to play it when Kenz started to talk about the game when I proudly announced “yea I coded it”.

The quality of the packaging at Psytronik is amazing too, nothing more satisfying than having a big box version of your game (and hard work) arrive in the post.

HBL

Which is the most popular game you have created?

Stuart

If we go by downloads alone I would say our remake of CHOLO and BRUCE LEE (both on PC). My claim to fame for Cholo is that it appeared on a CD on the front of a PC magazine. Closest I’d ever come to having something released!

For 64 games currently its Legend of Atlantis. Psytronik periodically tell us the downloads/physical count.

HBL

Where can people get physical copies of your games?

Psytronik have a really good website where both physical and digital download can be purchased ( http://www.psytronik.net/ )

HBL

Whats up next for you?

Stuart

We have been commissioned to do the next ZZAP64 annual Kickstarter game. I can’t give many details as we have to announce via the Kickstarter. I’m safe to say that it’s going to be a “Master of Magic” inspired game with a 10 minute piece of music for this one written by none other than Jason Page.

I’m also about 50% the way through ARCADE DAYZ , a game inspired by Lazy jones, it features 5 different game styles each with 3 variations. It’s a biggy in one single load. I also have HAWKSMILL which will use the Legend Of Atlantis engine, but instead of a whip he has a gun. Puzzles are a bit more advanced too.

HBL

THE LEGEND OF ATLANTIS has won a couple of GOTY awards, do you get encouragement from winning awards like this?

Om my god yes – humbled in fact. There were loads of good titles last year, too many to mention, and the thought that our game could get the award is very rewarding. The thought that the hard work we put into our games is being appreciated, not only by people buying it but also that they take the time and effort to actually vote for it.

Finally

A huge thanks to Stuart for taking the time to chat with us, you can follow him at the various links below.

Stu Collier
www.eyecon64.com
www.ovine.net

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