Interviews



Interview with Ash

Published in Vandalism News #38
Performed by Jazzcat



Welcome to a chapter containing an interview with Ash from the Compunet fame and duo-label 'Ash & Dave'.


J)
Welcome! I must say I am rather excited to be doing this, I simply enjoyed your great works on C64. Could you please introduce yourselves to the readers.

A)
We’ve worked in the games industry for fourteen years. Ash was programmer and artist for the first seven years, then artist and Art Director. Dave has always programmed, and is now Technical Director. We both work at Smartdog developing games for PS2 and Gamecube.



J)
I remember watching the old Compunet Demos and I came across stuff like Electric Cafe and Egyptian Gliders. These seem like an eternity ago but are still quite vivid in my mind. Is it possible you could tell us when you first started on computers, demos you made, the games and companies you were involved with up until the present day?

A)
We started writing games and demos in 1987. Became Known as 'Ash&Dave' in the C64 demo scene and together wrote over 25 games (1987-1995) including Gaplus, Hotrod, Dragon Breed, Slicks, Micro Machines and Pete Sampras Tennis. Publishers were Alternative Software, Ariolasoft, Mastertronic, Hi-Tec, Activision, Virgin and Codemasters. In 1995 we joined Smartdog and have been working on the latest Sony, Sega and Nintendo games consoles since!


J)
What was it like to be a part of the Compunet-Era?

A)
It was great! We didn’t really work for a living just wrote games and demos for fun. We hadn’t realised our demos were getting such a wide audience at the time. I think most people who were writing demo’s back then think of it as the "good old days" - including us!



J)
Together with Frank Gasking, I am working on a website that is called 'Games That Weren't', this site concentrates on games that were never finished or released on the C64. I heard both of you may have had involvement in the unreleased c64 title 'Daffy Duck' by Hi-Tec. The game is rumoured to be fully completed and we have been trying to obtain the game for some time now. Also another one called 'Alloy Run'. Were there any games which you worked on which never saw the light of day? or do you still have them?

A)
Yes, we wrote both games. They were both completely finished, but were never released due to publishers going bankrupt. We’d been paid, so they never saw the light of day. I think we probably have Alloyrun somewhere, but Daffy Duck may have been lost forever. I think Dave threw a lot of old floppy disks away. (Doh!). Alloyrun was a pretty good game. But Daffy Duck was one of our best c64 games - It had a brilliant review in Zzap64. It’s a shame it’s been lost.


J)
Another nice car game called 'Slicks', was it originally planned to be 'Micro Machines' or was there any intention for it to be similar in gameplay?

A)
I think Slicks was written before Micro Machines, so no. Although we did go on to write Micro Machines 1 and 2 for the Sega Game Gear.



J)
Dragon Breed had some great routines. I especially recall the dragon with that strange shade of blue/cyan. Out of every project on the C64 you ever were part of, which was the most challenging and which was your favourite? (and for what reasons)

A)
Dragon Breed and Hotrod were the most challenging. Activision treated us really well and these were both high-profile arcade conversions - so a lot of effort went into reproducing impossible things on the C64. I think Gaplus was our favourite because of the technical achievement. Another company had already tried and given up writing it, saying it was impossible to re-create on the C64, we had to use a lot of sprite / character mixing tricks to get the 35 moving aliens with an independent starfield behind! It was our highest ever review score too. 97% Game of the month in C+VG! (We used to love arcade conversions, as we’d get the arcade machines! When we made Hotrod, they sent us the whole three-player cabinet with steering wheels!!)



J)
During the time that you were working on the C64, who's work did you most admire?

A)
Rob Hubbard, Bob & Doug, Charles Deenen, Jeroen Tel, Johannes Bjerregard, Sensible Software, Andrew Braybrook... there must be so many more.


J)
What impressed you most about the C64 at the time and for what reasons?

A)
The way almost everything about it could be pushed much further than it’s originally designed limits. Clever use of colours on bitmaps (by changing the colour-per-character), even going as far as overlaying multiplexed sprites to get a hi-res black overlay on the whole bitmap (we even started to write an art package like this). Little bugs in the hardware that allowed the borders to be opened. The incredible sound chip. Originally it must have been the games like Paradroid, Bounder and Uridium.


J)
Was the C64 was just a step in your gaming life or was it a major inspiration?

A)
We were already interested in video games before the C64, so you could say it was a step. But all our first major achievements were on the C64 so it was a pretty big one!



J)
Do you still own a C64 today?

A)
Yes


J)
What was the main reason for you both leaving the c64 behind in the end?

A)
We held on to the C64 for longer than most people, jumping directly into console development in 1992. The main reason was financial - games companies were offering less money for C64 games and more for the latest games consoles.


J)
Ever have any disagreements with any individuals or software houses?

A)
Yes, usually over money not being paid. I remember once we stormed up to Mastertronic demanding our cheque. Years later we found out the person who dealt with us is CEO of a major (MAJOR) publisher! I won’t mention names. I think we earned a little respect by being so bold, although we didn’t realise it at the time.


J)
For what specific reason(s) do you think that you are remembered and respected in the c64 circles?

A)
Hopefully for making good original demos.


J)
What would you like to be remembered for?

A)
The best of the many demos and games we created - We made quite a few... Slicks, Dragon Breed and Hotrod were our favourites.


J)
Thinking back on the good old days, is there anything you regret?

A)
We were very isolated back then. I think we could have been more successful if we had marketed ourselves properly (We didn’t like using the phone or speaking to magazines!). My biggest regret is spending too much time making budget games to keep our finances going, instead of concentrating on high quality games that pushed the boundaries of the machine, like Hotrod and Dragon Breed.



J)
What are your current activities these days?

A)
I’m head of the art department at Smartdog; Dave is head of programming making PS2, Gamecube and X-Box games. We’ve just finished Downforce for PlayStation2, which we’re quite proud of. It’s our first PS2 game, and we’re looking forward to making the next game using the knowledge we’ve gained - it’s always a big learning curve working on a new machine.


J)
Any hints or tips for the new game designers still out there?

A)
Quite a few people come from university these days, so studying is important. Maths and Physics are the subjects to go for if you want to get into programming games for artists it’s important to be able to create 3d models to a high standard (in packages like 3d Studio MAX or MAYA) and be able to draw detailed 2d textures and images (usually in Photoshop). Most artists are self-taught to an extent, having a passion for 3d artwork - even if they’re at university studying art.


J)
Thanks for your time, any last words to leave a final impression on the audience?

A)
Thanks to all the other demo-makers from the c64 days, and the people who were interested in the whole scene. They were great days.




ASH AND DAVE 1987-1992

Pirates in Hyperspace - Alternative Software
Alloyrun - Starlight (Ariolasoft)
Gaplus - Mastertronic
Dynamix - Mastertronic
Kamikaze - Codemasters
Supernudge 2000 - Mastertronic (Daring Dots is hidden in this game)
Hotrod - Activision
Dragon Breed - Activision
Johnny Quest - Hi-Tec
Poseidon - Hi-Tec
Augie Doggie - Hi-Tec
Bugs Bunny - Hi-Tec
Super Seymour - Codemasters
Mean Machines - Codemasters
Wacky Darts - Codemasters
Insektor Hekti - Hi-Tec
Yogi Bear - Hi-Tec
Daffy Duck - Hi-Tec
Slicks - Codemasters
Robin Hood - Codemasters

Oh, I should have mentioned these websites...

http://www.down-force.com Our latest game for PlayStation2 and http://www.smartdog.co.uk Our company website, although it's a bit out of date at the moment.

Best Regards,

Ash.

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