A sister site to Lemon Amiga. Made in Sweden by Kim Lemon 1998-2013.
|An interview with Steve Rowlands
Hi Steve! It's a Pleasure to have this interview with you. Why don't you introduce yourself a bit more?
Steven Thomas Rowlands
Age 32 (aries)
Location - Highgate, North London.
Born in Chelmsford, Essex.
Married to Robyn (Australian) Aug 2002, no kids yet!
Mobile phones (current project)
Sony PlayStation 2
Nintendo Game Boy Advance
Nintendo Game Boy Color
Autodesk 3DS Max 5
Bones and Hierarchy creation (PSX2/XBOX friendly)
Game Character, Background and Effects Animation
Cosmigo Pro Motion
Autodesk Animator Pro
|Burnt Out Cop (prototype version)||PS2/XBOX||N/A||2003|
|Matt Hoffman's Pro BMX 2||GBA||Activision||2002|
|Matt Hoffman's Pro BMX 1||GBA||Activision||2001|
|Matt Hoffman's Pro BMX||GBC||Activision||2001|
|Road Champs BXS||GBC||Activision||2000|
|International Karate 2000||GBC||Studio 3||2000|
|Bloodlust (unreleased)||PC-based Coin-op||Atari||1995-7|
|Mayhem in Monsterland||C64||ACP||1993|
Can you tell us a bit about your brother John too? Who is the older one?
John's about a year and a half older, married and has a very cute 2 y/o baby boy.
What made you and John decide to join the C64 gaming industry?
It was the best platform around at the time. We had one already, and often messed around making demo's and stuff. After I left school I went to college to study architecture. Six months into my course an opportunity came up to get into the gaming industry (working on Scorpius), a tough decision had to be made… So I left collage and the rest is, as they say, history.
You are guilty of having a role in Creatures, Creatures 2: Torture Trouble, Mayhem in Monsterland, Retrograde and Scorpius. Any other games you may want to add to this accusation list? :)
Cyberdyne Warrior (released on Hewson's 4th dimension).
All of those games were done with your brother except Scorpius. Why wasn't he involved in that one?
He was, albeit to a lesser extent. He had a few months left on his 2 year collage course (computer programming) so he worked on Scorpius as much as he could.
How long did each game usually take to complete?
Cyberdyne Warrior was about 6-8 months (I think)
Retrograde, C1, C2 and Mayhem were about a year each, give or take. (I presume you mean to develop not play).
Did you ever do any coding for any of those games? Or did you leave all that with John?
No, no coding… the graphics and sound kept me busy enough.
What tools did you use for designing the graphics?
I don't remember the names of the utilities (except Vidcom64 for bitmaps), but used good sprite and tile editors. Then of course, we had our custom editors. These varied from block editors, to map designers, to monster mapping and boss construction/animation tools (several of which were explained in the diaries). The bosses in C2 for example, ended up being a huge sprite grid, all of which animated, essential to have a custom editor.
What about the music?
John coded the music editor. It was a simple text editor/compiler with the relevant commands for each channel, ADSR, tempo, waveform, filters, all that sort of stuff…It was as close to programming as I got.
What were the steps you took for designing the backgrounds and sprites for each game?
Backgrounds/levels - First you need a concept, whether on paper, or if your competent enough, in your head… mine were all on paper! =)
Build the tiles and blocks for the main features, the most important first; platforms say, because they are used throughout the entire level, then an occasional special graphic feature (like the smiley trees in Spottyland). Put the blocks together to form an interesting path through the level.
Sprites - Using what you have for background as reference, design enemies to suit. Usually using less animation frames than the main character, which needs to be smoother as it's what you look at for the entire game.
And what about the music?
When I composed the music for the games my tracks started as ideas for interesting instruments, tunes, riffs and beats. Once several tunes were started I tailored them slightly to fit certain places. As long as you have a selection of tracks to cover all the bases you'll be okay…Title, in game, boss battles, game over, game complete.
Well you are a Jack of all trades aren't you…which did you enjoy more, designing graphics or creating the music?
Graphics. You can't see screen shots of music!
The art seemed to be more free-flowing - I'd have a picture in my head and translate that to the screen within the limits of the game, which would be very competitive against other game art. Whereas the music was much more of an effort and much harder to make as good as Hubbard or Galway for example. I've never had any real training in either, but am naturally artistic.
What language did John use for the games?
6502 assembler I believe, on a PC with PDS (programmers development system).
The use of a PC to develop for the 64 seemed to be cutting edge at the time.
In the 90s, programmers started developing C64 games on 80286 machines. How about John?
PDS (see above) Then we went from programming the C64 with a PC to doing a PC game, Bloodlust (also programmed in assembler) being our next project after Mayhem In Monsterland.
Which one was more time consuming; backgrounds design or sprite designs?
Backgrounds, just because of the sheer quantity and size of them.
Which one your games is your favorite?
Fave to play
Mayhem In Monsterland then Creatures - I kinda liked the scrolling bits.
Fave to work on
Retrograde. We had an excellent time developing it (me, John & Rob Ellis). We were always taking breaks to play football/Frisbee in the park on those boiling hot summer days. Also Creatures, because during development we new we were onto a winner. Much fun was had 'researching' arcade games.
Which one was the most difficult to create?
I think I'd have to say Mayhem, but not creatively. All our previous games were developed from 'Rowlands Towers' (our parents house), but our parents immigrated to Cyprus (left home) so we were on our own with our own bills to pay…things were tight.
Creatively, all our games evolved as they were developed, adding new ideas on the back of the last ones, many of which were never considered until we had a playable version. Nowadays you need the entire game down to the smallest details planned out with not much room for evolution. The price for that is game-play :/
Creatures 2 and Mayhem In Monsterland were created in the dying days of C64, how did they do in the market?
As far as sales go for any of our games other than Mayhem we don't know (see worst memory).
Mayhem did comparatively well. I'm sure the sales were considerably less than either C1 or C2, but because we released MIM ourselves we made more than all of our previous games put together.
Well by looking at what you guys achieved in Creatures 2 I daresay C64 died way too soon (I kept using mine actively until late 1995). What do you think?
Don't know if 'died too soon' is the right way to put it. Technology gets better, people upgrade to more exciting things. It's just all part of life in a consumer market. The choice for developers is all about risk…the cost to develop over the potential return.
Creatures 2 looks like a 16-bit Amiga game…How did you guys managed to get the old C64 to dance like that? :)
Experience with the machine, creativity (both graphically and technically), hard work and of course, an immense amount of talent (lol)
One of the coolest things about the Creatures 2 was the snow effect. Was it difficult to do?
No. Proving my point. Creativity from a technical point of view. The animation work was minimal and it was technically quite simple. The idea of how it worked was the key.
If you take a look on the Lemon64 websites you'll see all your games are highly praised by the C64 gamers. How does it feel to see your creations are still entertaining people after more than 10 years? :)
I get a warm feeling inside ;]
Did you play other people's games too? What were your all time favorite C64 games?
Hard to pick a favorite, but here are games I have very fond memories of and played for hours (in no particular order)…
Chuckie Egg, Scramble64, Zylagon, Blagger, Boulder Dash, Staff of Karneth, Tales of the Arabian Knights, Wizardry, BC's Quest for Tyres, Uridium, Paradroid, Ghostbusters, Forbidden Forest, Antiriad, Loadrunner, Bubble Bobble, New Zealand Story, Wizball...
Who inspired you the most? Both in graphics design and music.
Can't think of anyone… Arcade games.
How much did you contribute to the tape/disk cover design of your games?
We had everything to do with Mayhem, nothing to do with the others (we weren't asked for input).
What is your best memory of the C64 days?
The Creatures 'bug frenzies' at the launch of the game during the Computer Entertainment Show. I even got to sign somebody's broken arm (I wonder if they kept the cast?). And of course, crashing all the after show parties and drinking their bars dry...fun times.
What is your worst memory of the C64 days?
Getting ripped off by Thalamus/Newsfield when they went under owing us lots of cash.
Is there anything about those days that you would change, had you the opportunity?
Re:Thalamus/Newsfield. Not trusted them at all. Got a solicitor to dig up all the dirt on them and to get our royalties (of which we got none, never even had a statement)
As Isaac Asimov would say, how do you currently justify your existence?
None of us really exist. We are all part of some crazy computer program?!?
What about John?
You'd have to ask him…if he existed.
Hahaha…Do you still play computer games? Any favorites?
MOHAA (PC with KEYBOARD & MOUSE!) - and not so recently… Counter Strike, Soldier of fortune and Quake 2(my first FPS). Tekken 1,2,3 (fave fighters - Xaou, Jun, Paul), Sega Knights (Saturn), Samurai Showdown and X-Men (Neo Geo), Power Stone (dreamcast)
How do you compare the games released these days to the ones released back in the old days?
Without getting into specific cases, lots seem to prioritize look over feel. Licenses tend get away with being a bit rubbish but sell because of their title, but I guess that's always been the way. The bottom line is playability. I think because it's something you cant 'see' it gets forgotten about, especially now with the multi-million dollar price tag on many games. Where the developer used to have full control over smaller projects, now the people who pay call the shots, with shortsighted regard for the developer. Of course, I can only speak from experience. But don't get me wrong, there are a lot of quality titles around especially from the Asian territory.
Any Steve Rowlands shrines on the web you can point us to?
None that I know of for me only. C64animation.com has a lot of my stuff. Maybe you could point me to any you know of?
Well, thanks for your time! Any last words?
May as well plug my latest project… Mayhem's Magic Dust, coming soon to a mobile phone near you!
And please don't forget to do a snow effect for it! Thanks Steve…goodbye!
My pleasure ;]
Friends: Password Generator, Onlinespel