Jon Ritman (Artic & Ocean 1982-1987)
Coder of classics like Batman, Head over Heels or the two parts of the best 8 bits soccer saga: Match Day. An interview by Guardian Misterioso and CEZ.
If a coder deserves to be the exception between the spanish guys we interview in this pages, he is Jon, creator of the most important isometric titles for the 8 bits computers (with the Stamper bros., of course).
>> Its a curious thing to see how the machines that helped to finish with the 8 bit era now have inside one of those little computers (8 bits) as a emulator. I am sure that you have tried one some time, do you still use emulators? or maybe actual machines? still have any spectrum working?
I have tried emulators for several machines, most recently the Game Boy and previously the Spectrum, ZX81 and Amstrad CPC. I still have a two working spectrums and two working ZX81's, one of which is the first computer I bought and my first game was written on.
>> The ZX Spectrum had great games but at the same time some other very crap games, how do you remember those productions? (both great and crap)
Very poorly is the answer - my memory is not as good as I would wish. I can certainly remember a few of the greats - most of the Ultimate games, Spindizzy, Ant Attack but the crap ones have faded from my memory.
>> The 8bit computers death was something like the dinosaurs dissapareance, there was a meteorite falling and afterwards everything was lost (almost everything), so I guess there were some projects withouth finishing in your case? can those ideas still be used for any project?? Have you seen any of your ideas used in any game?
I had one project that was underway when I stopped working on the Spectrum but although it looked good for the time it is nothing special by today's standards. It's working title was Starship. I've seen a few graphics that looked suspiciously similar to graphics we had in Head over Hells and Batman but I've never been able to identify ideas of mine being reused.
>> We would be charmed with being able to see some material that nobody has seen before, we want a sole right, is it possible?
There is nothing I can think of.
>> When the dinosaurs dissapeared, what did you do, what changes did u take in your professional life?
At the time I had started doing some work with Rare including writing the development system they used for most of their early games.
>> How do you think the transition from 8 bit to 16 bit was?
I missed it as I was working on PC's and arcade machines.
>> Talking now about the retroscene, I dont know If you follow it much, but we would encourage to do it, hehe , and check out our page, we are still producing 8 bit games, and improving game by game, we would like you to tell us what you think about our games.
I don't know the url (webmster note: it could be nice if someone could send him an e-mail with it).
>> We know that JoffaSmith is working in a project. Have you thought in compete against him?
I don't know who he is.
>> From your post-8-bit-era I still have two of your original programs, I keep them as little gems of my collection : Super Match Soccer for PC and Monster Max for GB. Super Match Soccer is in my opinion a pretty addictive and funny game, I got to know that there was some legal problems that made impossible to call it Match Day 3, Is that the third part you dreamed to write?
There was a minor issue that made the publisher change the name to Super Match Soccer.
No I never thought I could do much better than Match Day 2 on the 8 bit machines.
>> Did you ever think about writing a Matchday 3 for 8 bits?
No I never thought I could do much better than Match Day 2 on the 8 bit machines.
>> About Monster Max I have to tell you that when I discovered it, it made my day, a Filmation like the one they used to be in the 8 bits...Head Over Heels style. What do you think about that game? ¿Do you think there is still something possible to do with the Filmation technique?
I played this a few weeks ago for the first time in a decade and I loved it - I couldn't remember the puzzles so I had to play it and work it out like anyone else, excellent. I think the isometric 3D could be employed in a mobile phone game.
>> Match Day was one of the most important games in our childhood, how came the idea of making a football game? didnt you like any of the footy games there were before? Was It a challenge, to show that you could write the definitive football game? Please, think about a Match day 3 for our Speccys!!
The only football game for the Spectrum were crap at the time and I had been told by distributors that they needed a game to match International soccer on the C64 so I wrote Match Day. There were challenges, not least in the writing of the AI, something I had never attempted before.
>> Do you like football?, what is your favorite team?
No I don't like football and don't support any team.
>> Who made the graphics of Match Day 2?
Bernie Drummond did the graphics.
>> The beggining of all of us as coders and writers was induced by the work people like you did back in the day, but we still have the doubt of not knowing how you started in the business. Where did you get the motivation those years? what made you think you could make money writing computer games? was that a hobby or something taken very seriously in your case?
I was working as a television engineer when the rental company I was employed by started thinking about renting out computers - I thought it would be a good idea to get one and learn about it as I knew they would need engineers for them. I bought a ZX81 as soon as it came out and then discovered that I enjoyed programming but couldn't think of anything to
program on it except for a game. I wrote Namtir Raiders and it was published - I then got a Spectrum and wrote a few more games (I was still mending TV's) - By the time I left TV engineering I was already earning more from the games than my day job.
>> We know there are many ways to write a game with MC, Did you have arguments about how to use a scroll or something like that in a game?
There was no one to argue with, I really was having to work out everything myself.
>> You worked for Ocean, did you choose them or they chose you? Why? Many people say that Ocean was the best label, what do you think about that?
I was at a computer show in London and had just started programming Match Day (I had started 2 weeks before so had nothing to show) when I got into a conversation with Ocean's boss - I told him about the game I was writing and many months later he phoned me and made me a good offer for the game. When I worked with Ocean (I was always independent and never employed) they were great, good marketing and good support.
>> Some people prefer to forget those years when thay wrote games for the 8 bits, do you think the same? why do they do that? I guess you should be proud of having written games and doing it with less tools and money than now?
I am very proud of my 8 bit games, I think they are excellent.
>> We think that you wrote games cos you had fun doing it, is there any special or funny memory you have from those years?
I did have a lot of fun - one of the best memories was writing that AI for Match Day, I kept putting it off until I just had nothing else left to do because I was scared of it. Finally I had to face the task; the first 10 lines of code did this:
if the nearest player to the ball has the ball in possession then
Kick the ball up the field
Run toward the ball
I started the game running and those 10 lines scored in the first 20 seconds, I was crying with laughter and relief.
>> The Retroscene is growing these last years, how do you see it? do you think is more a nostalgic thing or cos those games really impacted us? Do you think young people would like those games if they had a chance to play them?
I don't follow the retro scene myself but I know that the freedom from monetary pressure does allow a game designer to try wacky ideas and sometimes they work. If you are involved with a Playstation 3 game with a budget of millions you are far less likely to try something innovative.
>> Again with the retroscene, there is a tendency or like a retro fashion for new games, what do you think the reason for this is?
I think they enjoy doing that, but you are asking to the wrong person.
>> Would you dare to write a remake? If you did that, the retroscene would get a lift! would you choose one of your games? Or one from another author?
I don't have time.
>> The ZX Spectrum reigning time was finished by more powerful machines, do you think it would be possible to make conversions for the speccy (of these PC, amiga and atari games)? which one would you do?
Probably not, the extra power was used and the Spectrum doesn't have it. If I were to write a game for the speccy now I would think about a clever wire frame 3D game, I could have so much more than I did in Combat Zone.
Thanks for everything ... for your games, for your presence in those wonderful times, for those unforgettable moments and for having made ourselves enjoy with your games. A hug of all the followers who don't forget you.
Thanks for the nice comments.
An interview by Guardián Misterioso & CEZ.
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