Q&A: GAVIN WADE
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.”