HBL Interviews: Blackjet Games.
HBL Interviews Blackjet Games, run by two bedroom developers they have so far created Spiker, Dave Invaders, Dave Infuriators, Moebius and SpaceWhale across various platforms, read on and enjoy!
Thank you for agreeing to our interview, please take a moment to tell us a little about you guys?
Andrew: I’m blonde, blue eyed and kind of lovely looking.
Jaco: Old schoolers that decided to make some retro games when we have time, nothing more really.
What was the first game each of you created?
Andrew: Dave Invaders on SAM Coupé. It is crap but that is fine, we didn’t know what the fuck we were doing back then.
Jaco: As above. I did the graphics.
Can you tell about Blackjet Games, how it started, its mission statement and so on?
Andrew: I didn’t realise we had a one. I just like trying to program games on old computers. I wish I was better at it.
Jaco: We like playing old games on old hardware and like to keep the spirit of it all alive.
Why the name Blackjet Games?
Andrew: Coming up with a name was the hardest thing. I think we could never agree on anything so it was just a random stab in the dark.
Jaco: Yup, some random thing.
What do you for a living now?
Andrew: IT Manager.
Jaco: Contract web developer.
Andrew: Probably bed.
Jaco: Andrew might be thinking of finishing work on Spiker 2. I’m working on an android top-down racing game called Alpha One Racing, but it’s slow going.
Any thoughts for doing games on other systems? (CPC464, Dreamcast or Spectrum)
Andrew: I want to backport Spiker 2 to ZX Speccy. First, I need to finish it on SAM and that’s taking a very long time. The Amiga game “Vamp and the Pork Pie Escapade” is in progress, too. That was started for the English Amiga Board competition but I didn’t make the deadline unfortunately.
Jaco: I’m keen to make a modern game for older hardware. Stay tuned for more in the future, likely the Amiga though.
Are you surprised with the resurgence in retro gaming?
Andrew: Not really, but it took a while for people to realise modern games are crap.
Jaco: Modern games are not crap. Well, some are. But no, retro has been making a comeback for many years now and has actually made retro hardware pricier. I do hope more games get released by other people though.
Dave Invaders for the Sam Coupe, tell us how you guys came up with this game?
Andrew: After mucking about with asm on the speccy the year before and not getting anywhere fast I decided the SAM Coupé would be a cool thing to program for. I bought one in about the year 2000 for a very good (cheap) price but it remained in my collection largely gathering dust. It seemed most platforms were well catered for but the SAM didn’t have much coming out for it so I thought I’d give it a shot.
Jaco: It was our first game together. We were both learning how to do that. Andrew with his crappy programming, me with my crappy graphics.
Do you have any games that are just sitting on your drives unfinished that you may release one day?
Andrew: Spiker 2 is the main one unfinished, plus a bunch of SAM platform games that were test projects really (that came after the two Dave games).
Jaco: I have some C64 projects that I am/was working on and hope to get them out at some point, but 6502 asm breaks my brain.
Can you tell us what prompted you to get involved in Retro Game Development?
Andrew: Because modern games are crap.
Jaco: I wanted to get into game dev for a long time, no matter the platform. But older hardware seemed simpler to start with and it has pretty much stayed that way. I do, however make games for PC too though, so it’s only Andrew that’s living in the past really.
What games at the time (and now) would you say are your biggest inspirations?
Andrew: I like 8 and 16-bit console platform games. I suppose they inspire me the most.
Jaco: I love pixel art and seeing the Amiga, Speccy and C64 graphics always inspired me to want to do game dev. Specific games? Too many to mention really.
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?)
Andrew: the biggest challenge is feature creep, the graphics becoming more demanding and the lack of improvement in my coding.
Jaco: Yes I am demanding (since I do the graphics) because I can see so much more in the game and want us to produce good quality games and I also have a bad habit of introducing feature creep because I keep coming up with more and more ideas 🙂
Do you have timelines built in to the management of these games?
Andrew: Jaco hates me for I have no timelines or project management. I just code haphazardly. The project gets finished when it gets finished.
Jaco: I like making lists of things that need doing, breaking it down into small tasks. It helps me make actual progress. Andrew hates it 🙂
Do you actually meet each other at events? (team members)
Andrew: I prefer to avoid him at all costs. Nah, we met at work in the year 2000 and have been good mates ever since.
Jaco: Yes, unfortunately we’ve been friends for a long time and meet up a few times each year to have some fun times out with each other and our other 8bit friends, who are not game devs, but enjoy retro games too.
Which one of your games are you both fondest of and why?
Andrew: Goatlizard DX on Amiga is my favourite. I actually play it from time to time! I just wish I’d designed the original concept.
Jaco: Yeah I agree. It was the quickest turn-around game we ever did. For one month or so, we were on fire! Getting that game done the fastest we ever got any game done. We were totally hooked by the game, so doing a conversion was a love letter to it on older hardware.
Which game you guys have released would you recommend to a first timer in this scene?
Andrew: None of them. There are significantly better games out there on every platform than anything we’ve ever put out.
Jaco: I think Goatlizard DX is fun. Give it a go.
Who’s games from back in the back would you same most inspired you and why?
Andrew: Most games inspire me
Jaco: Agreed. If you love playing games, it doesn’t take long to find a game that inspires you in one way or another.
What games company from back then was your favourite and why?(Bitmap, Sensible, Gremlin and so on)
Andrew: Sensible, Gremlin, Taito, Sega Wonderboy stuff. Fuckign adore Wonderboy in Monsterland on Sega Master System. It is my favourite game of all time.
Jaco: Gremlin, Sensible, Team 17 and a few others too.
Spiker looks is a fantastic game, tell us the inspiration and what are the main differences between the Spectrum and Sam Coupe Versions.
Andrew: Well, Spiker on Speccy is really just a demo, the game is over so quickly – blink and you almost miss it. It has some beautiful off the shelf music from Yerzmyey, though. The inspiration came from a thread on the World of Spectrum forums discussing the creation of a new spaceship mascot for the speccy. I saw the sprite there and thought I’d give it a go. I am quite pleased with the way the thing plays but in some ways the game is an embarassment as it requires a 128K Speccy and you’d be forgiven for wondering why as there are far better examples of shoot-em-ups on lesser 48K speccies. Still it chops a long at 50hz and is fun. Spiker on Sam is the sequel of sorts to it. With proper enemy attack waves, power ups and even a story with cutscenes. There is also a straight SAM conversion of the original Spiker to go along side it, too. That would be included on the disk if Spiker 2 ever completes.
Jaco: As he said. I do hope we complete Spiker 2 as I think it’ll be fun to play. It is definitely finer coding coming from Andrew.
Huge thanks to the guys for the informative and fun interview.