Q&A: GAVIN WADE

Retro Gamer - - ULTIMATE GUIDE: GEMINI WING -

How did you land the job of con­vert­ing Gem­ini Wing?

The short ver­sion would be that our small team of de­vel­op­ers, com­pris­ing Chris Ed­wards (artist),

Barry Leitch (music and SFX), Tom Pin­nock (C64 pro­gram­mer) and my­self (pro­gram­mer/pro­ducer) found our­selves starv­ing in an over­priced bed­sit near Cat­ford in Lon­don. A white van and a rapid overnight de­par­ture pro­pelled us up the M1 to Raven­sthorpe in York­shire. Gem­ini

Wing was the first game we did for Imagitec.

Did you feel daunted by the task of con­vert­ing such a busy shooter?

No, not at all. Be­cause Chris and I had worked on sev­eral games to­gether al­ready we just went into au­topi­lot and did our usual things. So we knew we’d need the side pan­els to both shape the ver­ti­cal play­ing area of the orig­i­nal ar­cade ma­chine and also re­duce the per­for­mance de­mands on the poor Speccy, as we hit a per­for­mance is­sue with the power-ups as the tail of the ship. We wanted to use that per­for­mance time to draw the bad­dies and ev­ery­thing else in the game, so we made the choice very early on to use the right panel to ‘list’ the tail items.

Did you have ac­cess to the coin-op ma­chine dur­ing de­vel­op­ment?

Yes, that’s all we had. Ev­ery­thing in the con­ver­sions had to be recre­ated from play­ing the orig­i­nal ar­cade game, mak­ing notes, then recre­at­ing the con­tent. So yes, that’s hun­dreds of playthroug­hs of the ar­cade ma­chine, which was okay. It was re­search!

What was your opin­ion on the coin-op?

I think at first glance the im­pres­sion wasn’t all that great, an­other ver­ti­cal-scrolling shooter. But once you started play­ing, and be­came aware of the ben­e­fits of the var­i­ous power-up types, it be­came more about man­ag­ing and not los­ing the tail items. This made it pleas­ingly dif­fer­ent to other ar­cade games I played around that time.

Was there a lead ver­sion?

We were most fa­mil­iar with the Spec­trum so that al­ways came first. Gen­er­ally any­thing un­known would be ad­dressed first, to elim­i­nate po­ten­tial prob­lems later in de­vel­op­ment, then we’d just get on with what­ever was needed.

If you had the chance to re­visit the game again now would you do any­thing dif­fer­ently?

There are things I would have done slightly dif­fer­ently in the presentati­on of the Spec­trum ver­sion – bet­ter colour con­trast on some of the maps, pos­si­bly wider mask­ing on some of the sprites to help them pop out over the de­tailed back­grounds.

Any­thing else you would like to share about the de­vel­op­ment pe­riod?

I clearly re­call the shock Imagitec had over all the ver­sions be­ing com­pleted on time. That had never hap­pened be­fore, so a party in a lo­cal pub was ar­ranged to cel­e­brate this achieve­ment. It had seemed per­fectly nor­mal to me that projects should be com­pleted on time, but if it pleased them then that was great.

We chat to the coder of the Spec­trum and Am­strad CPC ver­sions for Imagitec » [Am­strad CPC] “Look­ing back at the Am­strad ver­sion, it’s sur­pris­ing to be re­minded of im­ple­ment­ing some­thing so vivid colour-wise com­pared to the Speccy,” says Gavin. » [ZX Spec­trum] Gavin: “I now have ideas for how I might be able to ap­proach a faster fram­er­ate, at least on cer­tain ver­sions of the Spec­trum.”

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