Close to the Edge

Retro Gamer - - DESERT ISLAND DISKS -

Given that Andy’s early re­leases were all through com­pa­nies owned by Tim Langdell, a man now best known for his over­pro­tec­tive­ness of the word ‘Edge’, we were keen to know what he was like when Andy knew him. “Tim was very charm­ing and I was al­ways ap­pre­cia­tive of him un­der­stand­ing the tech­ni­cal side of what I was do­ing,” Andy as­sures us. “I’m not sure if he coded him­self but he seemed to un­der­stand the tech­niques.” And was Tim as forth­com­ing when it came to roy­alty pay­ments? Andy pauses be­fore an­swer­ing. “Well, it started off good and then kind of de­clined and turned into a strug­gle. But just re­ceiv­ing pay­ments when I was still at school was cool. I got a few thou­sand for those Spec­trum games, which wasn’t fan­tas­tic but for a school­boy it beat do­ing a pa­per round.” we’re go­ing to have to stick that in the game now!’ He re­ally went to town with the press.”

Andy started at Bull­frog in Novem­ber 1993 and worked on his ver­sion of Theme Park through­out the fol­low­ing year. He be­gan by im­ple­ment­ing the iso­met­ric dis­play and mak­ing best use of the con­sole’s con­troller in lieu of a mouse. “They were still work­ing on the PC ver­sion and I was work­ing on mine along­side them,” he ex­plains, “and be­cause that was still in flux, it made it tricky for me to con­vert it. Plus there were a lot of tech­ni­cal lim­i­ta­tions on the Mega Drive, in­clud­ing much less mem­ory, and at some points I did wonder whether it was pos­si­ble. But I kept go­ing, bit by bit…”

Andy’s work on the theme park build­ing sim­u­la­tor was im­pres­sive enough to be named as the Mega Drive’s ‘Best Strat­egy Game’ in 1995, a source of en­dur­ing pride for him. Af­ter its re­lease, he was im­me­di­ately moved over to work on Sega’s new Cd-based ma­chine, the Saturn, a con­sole renowned for its com­pli­cated in­ter­nal ar­chi­tec­ture. “I was in­trigued by the Saturn,” muses Andy. “It was pow­er­ful and had a lot of 2D ca­pa­bil­i­ties and I liked the idea of the RISC pro­ces­sors, which I hadn’t pro­grammed be­fore. Ba­si­cally, EA came to Bull­frog and said they needed a game out by a cer­tain date so could we do some­thing quickly to help with their num­bers that fi­nan­cial year?”

Bull­frog agreed and the re­sult was Hi-oc­tane,a Wipe­out wannabe that never re­ally emerged from its vapour trail. Andy han­dled the Saturn ver­sion, a con­sid­er­able chal­lenge given the con­sole’s short­com­ings when it came to im­ple­ment­ing 3D at a de­cent fram­er­ate, and he diplo­mat­i­cally con­cludes the game “could’ve been bet­ter with more time”. On its re­lease, Andy de­cided to take a break from the games busi­ness and fol­low a long-held dream of be­ing a waiter. It was an ad­ven­ture that took him to the ex­otic shores of Tener­ife and the less salu­bri­ous floors of the Pizza Hut in New­bury. Af­ter al­most a year out, he re­turned to Bull­frog to briefly work on the Saturn

Repul­sar (ZX

Spec­trum) was Andy’s cred­i­ble clone of Mis­sile Com­mand.

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