Q&A: SI­MON PICK

We speak to the coder be­hind the com­modore 64 ver­sion of Narc and pro­ducer for The Sales curve about all the home con­ver­sions of the ar­cade run-and-gun

Retro Gamer - - ULTIMATE GUIDE: NARC -

How did the sales Curve get the Narc job?

As part of her five-year plan to be­come a pub­lisher, Jane [ca­vanagh, Sales curve founder] was de­vel­op­ing ti­tles for a few pub­lish­ers. We used each project to hire new coders and artists to grow the in­ter­nal de­vel­op­ment team, ran­dom Ac­cess. The qual­ity and suc­cess of Silk­worm, com­bined with Jane’s ne­go­ti­at­ing skills, made it easy for us to get work.

What was your role?

There were es­sen­tially three ver­sions of the game. The c64 was stand­alone, the Spec­trum and Am­strad shared code, as did the Amiga and ST ver­sions. my role, in ad­di­tion to cod­ing the c64, was to track progress, en­sur­ing that we hit dead­lines. I also put the team to­gether.

Did you have ac­cess to a Narc ar­cade ma­chine? yes, a cabi­net in the of­fice. One of the first or­ders of busi­ness was to grab the sprite images from the roms, matt Spall was our IT guy who did this for us. We couldn’t di­rectly use these as they were too high-res and colour­ful, but they were su­per use­ful as ref­er­ence ma­te­rial. Trivia: matt is the brother of ac­tor Ti­mothy Spall!

Were you aware of the ar­cade game and its rep­u­ta­tion?

No, we weren’t aware. most games around that time in­volved shoot­ing things, the whole drug cul­ture stuff went over our heads at the time. I think it dodged a bul­let by min­imis­ing the blood, and hav­ing the bad guys sink into the floor in­stead of hang­ing around dead.

Were there any is­sues dur­ing de­vel­op­ment of Narc?

About a month be­fore the end of de­vel­op­ment, dave Leitch was still strug­gling to get the ZX Spec­trum ver­sion run­ning fast enough. It was al­most okay, but still chugged badly at times. Then, one day he re­alised that he was up­dat­ing the screen twice for ev­ery game cy­cle – tech­ni­cally speak­ing, he was copy­ing the screen’s back buf­fer across to video me­mory twice. He re­moved that point­less sec­ond up­date and overnight the game be­came su­per-fast and much more playable!

Were you pleased with your ef­forts on the C64 and how well did it sell? yes, there were a lot of things that I was very pleased with: si­mul­ta­ne­ous two-player mode, the colour scroll, bul­lets with shad­ows, the scan­ner and spray-painted letters. All of those things were fairly tricky to get right. I think they all did rea­son­ably well, but it was to­wards the end of the 8-bit era, so I don’t sup­pose the com­modore 64, Spec­trum or Am­strad ver­sions would have sold very many.

given the dead­lines, was there a ‘crunch’?

There was a pe­riod where I was work­ing from home, putting crazy hours in. Be­ing sev­eral years be­fore the in­ter­net or email, ev­ery cou­ple of days I would make a disk, walk to the lo­cal sta­tion and use Bri­tish rail’s same-day de­liv­ery ser­vice – red Star I think it was called – to get the disk up to clapham Junc­tion, the clos­est sta­tion to The Sales curve QA. They would play the game then fax me a list of bugs, which I’d work on be­fore send­ing them an­other disk two days later. How times have changed!

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