Interviews



Interview with Ian Bell

Published in Domination #13
Performed by Raver


R)
This time I will start it unusual way: do you know that old eight bitters like c=64 and speccy are still alive? What do you think of these computers (& other eight bit machines) and which was the first computer you ever used?

I) I was not aware that these machines still generated any interest. The first computer I used was, IIRC, a Radio Shack TRS-80. The first I owned was the excellent BBC Micro (B). I quite liked the C64.


R)
Are these of any interest for you? Or do you completely moved to modern technologies?

I) No. I'm interested in the current (and likely future) mass market machines, whatever they may be.


R)
Please tell us the story of Elite - how it started, what was the initial idea and why it became so successful multiplatform game?

I)
The idea of a first person wireframe 3D space combat game was obvious to us, and others, at that time. We just decided to do it. As I recall, the addition of trading as a rationale came later. Our main worry was that someone else would beat us to it. It was so successful because it was substantially unlike anything else at the time. It was the next step. Further, it was very skilfully packaged and marketed by Acornsoft and, on the BBC, was perhaps not competing with as many games as it would have been had it been first released on another platform. People who had BBC Micro home computers initially had them, by and large, to program on (in theory if not in practice). It was a smart audience that appreciated a challenging game. The reviewers almost all loved it and it just took off.


R)
Which one is the best Elite version in your opinion?

I)
NES.


R)
Are there any special differences?

I)
Pre-game practice combat sequence. Icon strip replacing keyboard controls. Pretty pictures and nice music.



R)
What secrets can be found in eight bit Elite versions? What are difference between them and does in any of these exist a planet named Raxxla?

I)
I don't know. The missions vary across the platforms. There is no Raxxla functionality in the 6502 versions AFAICR.


R)
What are you doing nowadays, any software making activities?

I)
I've been working on a new game for a long time now. Recently I have been developing various dynamic texture algorithms (fire, water, etc.) for PS Unreal.


R)
Can you tell a bit more about the game you're working on?

I)
Itís not a space sim. Itís a whole new genre AFAIK. Thatís all Iím saying.


R)
When I interviewed David Braben I asked what are doing his mate (you) at present time and he said he don't know. You are not keeping in touch anymore?

I)
No.


R)
Is there any particular reason for it and for the fact that David continued Elite with Frontier and you not?

I)
See http://www.gamesdomain.co.uk/gdreview/archive/iview003.html and http://www.ndirect.co.uk/~law/ispdefr.htm#innocent (ED - some copyrights disagreement and conflict in general between former partners)


R)
3D is the thing which invades every genre of games today, how do you like this trend?

I)
Itís to be expected. Games mimic life and life is perceived as 3D.


R)
But is it right to turn every genre into 3D? Everything we had before as 2D we now get in three dimensions. Where are the cute platformers, shoot'em up's and mazes, which originally was 2D only (no it's not only for the nostalgia)?

I)
I didn't say it was right. I said it was to be expected.


R)
Is PC the gaming future, or maybe it's up to consoles? What are your expectations on Amiga comeback?

I)
Amiga's chances are nil IMHO, though I wouldn't describe my opinion as "informed". PCs and consoles will meet in some sort of ungodly home info/game-station wired in to the Internet and most likely with state surveillance capabilities.



R)
If only companies will drop their egos and will sort out the business things.

I)
Companies exist to make money.


R)
What are the main things to create the right atmosphere in game?

I)
Consistency. Responsiveness. Aesthetics. Audio.


R)
What are your favourite games of all time then and on which platforms?

I)
Chuckie Egg (BBC). Elite (BBC/NES). Starship Command (BBC). Gauntlet (arcades).


R)
I've heard you are DJing now, what music do you like spinning and listening to?

I)
Psychedelic intelligent layered trance and mellow ambient.


R)
How do you think does coders nowadays use all available resources of machines? does they optimize they code to get best performance?

I)
I think few coders use all available resources optimally. Optimised INTEL assembly is an increasingly arcane and black art. With increased resources folk get away with greater wastage and inefficiencies. To a certain extent this is what increased resources are for.


R)
What are your opinion about software piracy and the "cracking scene", is it harming software market very much?

I)
I haven't kept up with events enough to have an informed opinion.

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