Matt Chat 308-311
Caulfied Interview Transcript
Matt: All right folks I am here today with Anthony and Nicola Caulfield the husband and wife team behind the documentary From Bedrooms To Billions. Which I happen to have a copy of right here. Really nice cover on this. Now this covers the British side of the video game industry. Throughout I’d say the eight bit, before and up to the I guess everything up to the sixteen bit era?
Anthony: It actually goes all the way through to the present day. It speeds up a little bit through the sixteen bit era. There’s a reason for that.
Nicola: The film would have been about ten hours long.
M: You’re in the process of making another one about the Amiga years.
A: That’s right.
N: That’s right. That’s kind of where, this, the idea of the Amiga Years is where in From Bedrooms where we couldn’t go into depth on the sixteen bit that’s where we’ve kind of picked up and gone off on that tangent for us, isn’t it.
A: That’s right. And I think the other thing about the first film talks about the from our point of view you see what we grew up with through the 1980’s and experienced like many other children across the U.K. Growing from the late seventies and through the eighties the computer revolution, the microchip revolution, all of it. Ad somebody actually said while we were making the film it was, It was for us it was our rock’n’roll. You know you tend to find the baby boomers born in the 1940’s and early 50s who talk about rock’n’roll thorugh the late 50s and 60s and say you know, it was our rock’n’roll.
A: Well, the videogame revolution was our rock’n’roll and it wasn’t, we felt from a U.K. Perspective, It wasn’t being recognized in any way and a huge, you know we’re talking millions of children across the U.K. During the 1980’s were playing, consuming, writing games and contributing to the industry. And by the late 1990s we didn’t see, when Nicola and I actually started working in this industry, certainly not doing what we’re doing now but getting in at sort of the lowest rung one of the things we talked about was we’d love for, whatever happened to some of those British companies and British developers. And so eventually many years later when we had the opportunity we started to research where the British industry came from. So we were already looking at it from a British perspective. And it took a lot of work because nobody actually really knew, everybody had a different opinion, no one had written a book about it before there was magazines by Retro Gamer but they do sort of, obviously articles that are sort of spread out whereas no had actually tried to bring all the story together.
A: So reason that the film’s got nearly a hundred interviews in it is simply because we had to continually keep shooting and shooting and shooting until we found out exactly how it came about and also what happened to it because it seemed to go through a nose dive in the early 1990s. A lot of people lost their jobs and all sorts of other things and the industry in the U.K. Melted down.
A: Whereas with the the Amiga Years the film we’re working on at the moment we’ve opened it up so we are just covering how the Commodore Amiga, how it changed it created one of those major chapters in this forty year story of the video games industry. And we’re talking the whole video games industry in this instance the Amiga is a major part of that story. So we thought well for the follow up we can’t just do from the U.K. Perspective, it would just be a complete waste. So for the Amiga Years it’s basically global.
N: It’s global, yeah.
A: Well as global as we can be because obviously with the greatest of respect to the Japanese who let’s be honest have certainly contributed lots to the worldwide games industry, the Amiga was not something necessarily that they had a major grip on in that respect, it was very much U.S. And Europe with some other countries dotted about as well before anybody starts tearing their hair out so and saying what about the Aussies and everything else. But the point is that we thought we can’t ignore the other developers all over the world so if we’re going to do it, we need to interview everybody or certainly as many people as we can. And that’s what we’ve been doing. I’m going to stop and have a sip of coffee now.
M: To me the Japanese guys, they’ve got, I mean they’ve gotten lots of coverage right, I mean they’re well known it’s the Amiga that nobody’s heard of you know, I’m glad that you’re covering that. I’ll just say you know I’ve seen this documentary, you know anybody that watches Matt Chat, this show, you know I can’t recommend– it’s a no brainer you know, go watch this. You know I wonder if you have any favorites from a favorite guests or favorite interviewees. I really like the John Harris part on here.
A & N: Yeah.
M: I liked, well Matthew Smith was pretty interesting. I think you had Rob Hubbard on here. Jeff Minter, I kind of lost track after a while they seem like everybody I’ve ever heard of is on here or at least gets mentioned.
N: Whoa that’s a tough question.
A: I think. I think Matthew Smith was good. It has to be a favorite because
M: Jetset Willie and Manic Miner.
A: Yeah and it also took a year to get him. It genuinely took from about January 2012 until December 2012 I remember it took a year of
N: And going through other people as well wasn’t it.
M: I gotta say he looked like he was in pretty bad shape. I don’t know what he has a medical condition or what’s what’s going on with him?
A: I think probably the easiest way to sum it up is life. Sometimes life and certain people just they just have a rougher time. And I think the problem I think they as it said in the film itself he had a huge amount of success and money come to him at a very early age at the age of sixteen, and let’s not forget that he was creating games before Jetset Willie certainly with Manic Miner he was creating games simply for fun. So no you know it wasn’t necessarily commercial gain he was doing it because it was fun. And as soon as it didn’t become fun and it became there was pressure to deliver Jetset Willie. Manic Miner was a huge hit you need to do a follow up and there was publishers involved. And we’re not criticizing the publishers because they were doing what they were trying to do best which is get a product and get it out and make as much money as possible for it. And Matt was going to share in that so we’re not saying that he was being sort of screwed over or anything but he started to buckle under the pressure of Jetset Willie and the game effectively was released effectively unfinished there was some quite severe bugs in it. It was still playable but technically it had some major problems which Matt knows about and then it just fell apart from there. So he found talking about Jetset Willie extremely difficult because Jetset Willie is where started to go wrong for him whereas Manic Miner was a great experience for him. So I think that when we did his interview the interview lasted nearly three hours because we got his whole life story. But we had to be extremely delicate with how we actually edited it in the film.
A: And funny enough Matt was not the only person that actually got extremely emotional on camera because if you think about it an awful lot of certainly from the British games industry’s point of view it was a lot of children that found success early. There’s a lot of fifteen year olds sixteen year olds that simply wrote games for the fun of it because these early microcomputers Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, RX all these by today’s standards primitive boxes effectively they were. We were trying to understand what the obsession was, why they wanted to work on them so badly. I mean we I used to sit and do type in listings, Nicola used to
N: Yes, all day. Typing.
A: So we were just as sad but what we were tying to understand what the passion was where it came from and what drove these children. And of course when these some of these children got success early some of them adapted very well and they’ve gone on to forge multi-million dollar businesses. Others they maybe just had one hit and then it just didn’t materialize after that and for others they broke under the pressure. So we were coming across all the stories because effectively there’s people’s lives.
N: I mean we there’s quite a few people that hadn’t talked about it for years you know what they’d gone through so we’d go there and sit with them spend two three hours and it would just be getting everything off their chest about the whole thing. And like Anthony said it did start off with a lot of them like it was fun very cottage industry and then as that grew quite a few of them found it really difficult to adjust to that whole business side. So you know it’s great making the games but then having to adapt to that business side as well.
M: There’s a lot of similarities to the early days of rock’n’roll maybe even the modern. You know the Matt Smith thing to me that that part of the documentary really sort of punched me in the in the heart when I saw that because you had the pictures of him before during the Manic Miner looks like a very happy go lucky cheerful guy and you play those games and just kind of imagine what whoever made this must be you know extremely cheerful and kind of a silly guy and then you see those sort of modern like here he is today and you’re like wow man this is yeah I don’t know it’s really kind of got to me that whole segment.
N: I think as well when we spent the day with him as he started talking that sadness was there but as it went on I think he got more and more comfortable with that side of him did come out didn’t it the silly side the fun side we did start to see that as well.
A: The funniest thing for me was that to put him at ease we said to him that where would he feel most comfortable doing the interview because he lives with his his mother looks after him basically. Don’t get me wrong he’s not he’s quite lucid and you know and everything else but he’s got a great relationship with his mum his mum looks out for him and he’s got a good home life in that respect but she didn’t want any filming at the house and she didn’t want really anything to remind her of those video game early video game days because that’s the period that hurt her son .You know so we can understand that so we what we said was was there somewhere that he would feel at ease so he just said the old video arcade that I used to go to back in the early 1980s. So we thought it’s never going to be there now when did you last go to it Matt and he said you know thirty years ago was it oh ok you know it’s in Liverpool. So by a complete miracle the place is still there. And the guy that runs it is now in his late sixties and used to actually be there when he was like a teenager because his dad used to run it. So he was actually the same guy behind the counter thirty years ago when Matt used to come in so I rang him up and just said we’ve got Matt Smith thinking because I’m thinking from a video game world that everybody you know most know who Matthew Smith is. So this guy said yeah can’t wait fantastic bring him in I’ll shut the place for you amazing. So we brought him in and he thought he was going to meet Doctor Who.
M: I was just thinking that.
A: But he did close the place and we got a wonderful interview. But the funny thing is about that particular segment in the film growing up in the 1980s and reading the video game magazines. We had computer and video games over here Zap 64 for the Commodore 64 fans, Crash for the Spectrum and there were many many other magazines as well. But they did because so many of those games developers were actually effectively one person one single person they used to effectively make them appear to almost be superstars. So you you started to hear these names like Archer MacLean, Jeff Cremen, Andrew Braybrook. All these names were being used all the time in the magazine so as a kid reading this you start to sort of idolize them and they become a superstars. So there were these actual true stories of these large exhibitions at the Personal Computer World Show at Olympia which is a massive massive great show. And these program is turning up you know and that’s they are just a programmer who basically spends most of their time in dark room with a computer. And a huge line of kids holding cassette tapes or disks wanting their games signed.
M: And see that’s a huge difference there between the the U.K. Or the British side of the industry and America. You know because growing up I was just as much in to games as anybody and I couldn’t name a single designer developer anybody anybody by name that came much later but it seems like you look at those magazines and you had the shots of the magazines throughout the the documentary. And it really seemed like you know we keep coming back to this music scene and the rock scene but really seems more like the sort of rock’n’roll magazine would have all the pictures of the performers on it and everything. You know how do you account for that discrepancy?
A: That’s very very interesting because we’ve actually talked about while we’ve been making the Amiga Years we’ve actually been talking to a lot of U.S. Developers and just just for the hell of it we’ve actually been asking them the same sort of early questions that we asked a lot of British developers while making From Bedrooms to Billions to try and understand that. And what we found was that it seemed to be that the early U.S. Industry, bearing in mind we haven’t done all our research yet. So
N: We could be wrong.
A: We are prepared to be completely wrong so we are still collating is probably the word but it seems to be that it was far more fragmented and even more certainly when you take companies like the Carver brothers who were doing you know Beachhead and that sort of thing they actually as you notice there was that clip in the film where a British distributor went over to the U.S. From the U.K. And it was a very fledgling industry in the U.K. But it actually seem to be more of an industry in the U.K. At that point went to the U.S. And the Carver brothers were shocked that actually there was anybody else in the entire world playing computer games. Because there wasn’t an internet in that respect then so they were just selling games in magazines so that the mail order industry in the U.S. Was even more popular but still very small when compared to the population of the U.S.
N: But also I think in this country and I could be completely wrong but the magazines that we had really did hone in on different on more the people as a opposed I think to the game. They wanted to know who was behind that game and there’d be all these video all these diaries not video diaries all these diaries in the magazines talking about and getting them to write how they developed that game. So I think out magazines really pushed that.
A: Yeah that’s a really good point actually.
N: And so that’s how I think and you know a lot of the exhibitions that we had here they were very very small just little table top affairs where people could turn up and meet them people and I think it was just very intimate if you like with the people I think it was all about the people here I can’t say so much for America.
M: Would you say that was mostly focused on the city of London?
N: It was London, Liverpool, Manchester
A: It was more the North. You’d actually be doing a disservice to say that. It actually less development going on in London than anywhere else in the country predominantly. We wanted to try and understand why it seemed to be that it was going on up North and you know what I have to be very careful when I say this because this is what we were told. We’d ask all these northern developers why do you think so much more development’s going on up North than say down south in London. And they’d say because there’s too much excitement down in London. That’s their words not mine. We heard that a lot where they said that there’s just not enough to do up North so we would sit and play our computers. You know that was quite a few people said that. And I’m not saying that’s our opinion. We didn’t put it in the film because it just didn’t seem to be that relevant. At the end of the day it was a thriving industry.
N: It was in the major cities across the U.K. You had Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield.
N: Yeah, Hull. But I do think it was also the trade shows that grew and grew and grew.
A: I mean you obviously in the U.S. You had the exhibitions as well but I think there’s also that island mentality. You know the U.K. When you compare it to the U.S. It’s very small. And there is that sort of and also I think as Nicola said it’s interesting actually because we’ve not really sort of processed it we’ve not really thought about it in the way that because you’re asking us these questions it’s made us sort of it’s sort of challenged us a little bit which is great. And I think that from what we’re aware of you didn’t have the same sort of magazine or such a large number of magazines aimed at children.
N: We had like your Zaps and Crash.
A: We had a huge number of magazines that were selling I mean hundreds of thousands of issues a month. So what was happening was you were finding that you got yourself a Commodore 64 you’re finding that a lot of people in the school playground had Commodores or they had Spectrum or whatever so you tended to group with those. And then you go and buy a magazine about the Commodore and that was written for it was written almost by children for children. So it might be sort of teenagers writing it with that sort of kiddy mentality. You know that slightly risky sort of humor which in itself fueled the industry as well and really sort of focused all the energy.
N: And then get like the Commodore and the Spectrum there was all this rivalry in the playground as well. So I think we just really embraced that and maybe that’s the reason.
M: It’s a true subculture sounds like.
N: And it was very much a cottage industry and then obviously as the industry grew that with another challenge is that as people had to try and get their products out of England and get over to America and that and I think that was another challenge as well.
A: And bring in American products over to the U.K. Because obviously U.S. Gold that was a major the CentreSoft Group to the US and buying up some of the U.S. Some fantastic stunning U.S. Games which weren’t selling that well in the U.S. I mean give you an example Jim Sachs the artist from Defender of the Crown. Now amazing story you know we interviewed him a couple of weeks ago for the Amiga Years. You know effectively he was was in the U.S. Air Force flying huge great cargo planes for years leaves the the Air Force and then buys a Commoder 64. You know it’s almost like the two things don’t and with the greatest respect to Jim he was more he wasn’t a kid he was more mature you know he was in his early thirties by that point. And then he just suddenly decided that he wanted to start programming. But there was no and creating and the easies thing to do would be to create a game. So it’s quite a logical progression if you think about it. You want to learn to program and you see an arcade game or something like that you’re going to try and to learn to program you’re going to try and replicate that game.
A: So often you tend to find that so many developer’s first game is an arcade imitation simply because it’s easier to learn oh okay well I’ll copy that sprite and I’ll copy this and I’ll get that right. And then by the end of it you’ve learnt a lot of the fundamental basics of how to program. And then your next couple of games are going to be original IP original ideas. So we tended to find a lot of developers their first game would be some form of rip off. What they would know you know that to try and learn that. And Jim Sachs was telling us that when he came up with this sort of basic shoot em up thing once he’d done it he had nowhere to sell it. Because there wasn’t any sort of there was no retail for games in the U.S. Just like in the U.K. At the very beginning there was no retail industry. There were isolated computer shops throughout the U.S. So literally he’d run off fifty cassette tapes and he’d put them in a suitcase get in a car and he’d drive around the computer shops in the US. Selling them out of suitcase. This is the artist that went on to do Defender of the Crown and you know that this esteemed pioneering artist. But that story’s quite similar there was quite a few U.S. Developers that were doing the same. And then on the other side of the pond that was going on in the U.K.
A: I think all of it comes down to we were trying to understand what was the driving force what was the motivating force because there was no industry.
N: I think it was just fun though.
A: And we have thought about going back and for a future project telling the same story in the U.S. And we’d need to interview a lot of people. And we’d need to really understand how the industry got going. Because we are talking about the biggest entertainment industry on the planet Earth now. And it’s wonderful to start you know documenting its roots and understanding where it came from and what drove it and how little commercial thinking there was. Not including Atari in that because if you take Nolan Bushnell for example right from the start I’m building a piece of hardware to make money. So there was commercial
M: And that’s when it all started to go wrong right there.
M: You know one thing that occurred to me I was going to run this past you two and so what you thought about this. But as I’m watching From Bedrooms to Billions I started to think well it seems like there was a bit of a lag you know technologically speaking that like the tape drive for example stayed relevant for a lot longer. At least that’s the impression I got from the documentary right. And I was thinking on the one hand that’s kind of bad you know wouldn’t it have been great to have the latest always have the latest hardware available. But on the other hand you know like the tape drive for example that loading as it loaded that was an opportunity for music right for people to put their chip tunes in there and that whole scene flourished on account of that. And also with the as long as it was the 8-bit era there were you could just type in games from magazines right. So it seems like that would have lasted a lot longer than the U.S. Where everything sort of moved so much faster into an era where you couldn’t you didn’t really have those loans long loads anymore and you know how the code in the magazines. You see you see what I’m sort of playing here? Do you think I’m on to something here or is this am I completely off base.
A: Not at all I think I think it’s that what’s that somebody said it’s that budget type attitude of let’s try that whey are you taking that apart I dunno I want to see how it works.
N: In magazines I think with the type in listings like very often they wouldn’t work you’d spend hours doing them. But then you’d think well what’s gone wrong so then you’d sit there and go through it all and I think that’s what got people into it I think they’re a really important part of the industry I think pretty much everyone at some point has sat there trying to do that and then you hit the wrong button and it don’t work.
A: So many of the sort of what you would consider the pioneers across the world started off with some form of type in listing.
N: And then adjusting it right yeah.
A: And it looked like jargon it looked like you know a double dutch it just make no sense. And then they worked out if I adjust that that makes the the color flash a different color and then I wonder what happens of a do that oh it’s crashed. And this constant sort of almost like almost constant sort of almost like constant ongoing learning process. And then it just oh I wonder if I can get my code more functional I wonder if I can make it more streamlined I wonder if…
N: How can I get more and more out of the machine how can I do this how can I do that.
M: How can I cheat. How can I give my character infinite lives. Come on we all did that.
A: And I think it’s also it’s why people do word searches and things like that. It’s that constant some people thrive on constantly having to solve problems and code in itself by the name code sort of almost means that it’s always a problem it’s always something that you can improve or perfect so maybe it’s that quest the perfection of something. I don’t know some programmers said that you know they’d work non stop on a piece of code have a day off and on that day off in the back their brain their churning through and then the next day the answer comes out. They never really they never really switch off. There was a section in the film actually which we cut quite late which will hopefully find someplace for it was actually programming techniques. Which was where what we actually nicknamed it the descent into code which is where you can’t just go oh I’ll just do two minutes of coding and then zip off and have a coffee. It’s this slow hour maybe two slow drop into that sort of almost zombie like state where you sort of you’re then aware of everything within the codes and then a ringing phone ruins everything. You know a phone goes off or something you know someone knocks at the door for a package or something it’s just you know you’ve then got to descend back into it all over again. And we had a whole chapter which was about a lot of these early stories about how people started to learn to create and everything else but put the problem was it was too long and you needed to watch so much of it to understand so we cut it in the end. I think it was about thirty five minutes.
N: Every section that we put together from Bedrooms ran about an hour. As we were doing it it’s like oh my God it’s like literally was I think the first timeline was about probably abouttwenty hours and I was like how are we going to get this down to ninety minutes.
A: Yeah. And we didn’t.
N: We didn’t, no.
M: As somebody who’s done some interviews you know before I mean I have a lot of appreciation for this because I know people that watch this they probably don’t really you know realize how much work had to go into each and every just doing the interviews much less all the editing and deciding what to keep. Did you keep a running tally of how long you actually spent working on this?
A: Do you know what I wish we had but we didn’t. I mean I can honestly tell you that some interviews would take three to fours to research to get ready. We’re interviewing Gary Whitta tomorrow and it took me four hours today to get his questions written, ready. Because there was so much because he started out before he started well he’s not working on the new Star Wars film now but he was a very esteemed video games journalist for the Amiga many years before he came out to the U.S. So there’s a lot we want to talk to him about because he wrote a lot of articles at the time and we want to make it a good interview. So you don’t just want to ask just stock questions. So you tend to find that you want people to open up and throw the corporate answers out and we’ve got a couple of techniques we’ve learned over the years to to do that.
N: From Bedrooms we always wanted it to be the people telling the story. Very early on we did talk about putting a voiceover in but then we were like well no because that’s kind of our opinion that’s us driving it and we didn’t feel that that that would work. So and again with the Amiga Years we’re looking to hopefully not have a voiceover and then have it told by the people but of course doing that sort of the approach the editing is incredibly difficult because you have to make sure it’s all making sense as it’s telling that story. So certainly with the questions that we put together for people they have to be [word? ] don’t they it has to be really well researched and it does take a lot longer.
A: We quite like the idea that the viewer it feels unbiased it feels like the viewer is taken on a journey by only the people that were in there that only the people that lived through it and then at the end of it you know that’s it they’re carried through it’s almost like hands carrying you along. Sorry that sounds a bit arty doesn’t it.
M: You need a beret.
A: And we never sat down and thought that from the start. It really was we were thinking voice over driven twenty interviews. The problem was we ran a small IndieGoGo campaign back in 2012 which was very tough but we did it literally with about two days to go. And then we started making the film and it was going to be about eighty ninety minutes long. And then as we start shooting interviews some of those people that we interviewed started tweeting about it and going on Facebook and saying oh I’ve just met these two people that are doing a film about British games industry and then it started to sort of snowball out and a lot of people started and then Retro Gamer emailed us and said we’d like to do an interview with you about it and it all started to escalate. And then we started getting a lot of e-mails from people saying can we buy a copy we missed the campaign can we do it and everything else. And then as it went on we thought well you know maybe we should do another campaign but rather than raise money to finish the film because we have to commit to finishing the film because otherwise we’ll be short changing the original IndieGoGo backers let’s see if we can raise some money for some archive because the archive is very expensive it’s thousands of pounds a minute. So we thought we can then go to ITV and BBC’s video archive and actually research it properly and actually license some complementary visual footage over it. So we ran a Kickstarter campaign in 2013 which went really well and raised more money than we actually asked for. I think it hit the target in five days out of thirty. So what we then did is I think it finished around sixty sixty five something like that. K, thousand, sorry. And we then basically decided to then open the film out and use the extra money to shoot more interviews. So the film actually was delivered over a let me get this right about fifteen months later than we originally said it was going to be, but we did tell our backers that we were going to actually shoot more. So they signed up for a ninety minute film and they all got a two and a half hour film. So they got an extra hour for no extra money basically.
M: I don’t think anybody complained.
A: No one did actually, no no one. I think they would have done if we said a two and a half our film and they got ninety minutes. You know so we sort of felt that and we really did try to get it under two we didn’t want it to be over two hours.
N: We gave up in the end, though.
A: And the film the film was continually nine hours long eight hours long seven hours long and we were gradually honing it down over the over the months. Which is not actually the right way it’s not really technically the right way to do it funny enough. It’s a sort of a backwards way. But the problem was it was just trying to find the story, we had so many conflicting opinions and everything else. And gradually it came down came down and we got it to about two hours forty five. And we couldn’t get it down anymore. And then we then decided to cut a couple of sections out. And then we got it down to two hours twenty five and that was it.
A: And I think the end credits with all the backer names on the end pushed it back to two hours
N: The end credits were about forty minutes.
A: I think we upped the speed on it just a little bit, didn’t we?
N: We were just going to go zoom.
M: What about all the unused footage, is that going to be online somewhere or maybe on a special super edition set of discs.
A: It’s funny you should say that because, this looks so set up doesn’t it. Because what you have there Matt is the Kickstarter version of From Bedrooms to Billions. This, if the light doesn’t like shine, yes that’s right let’s hold it, there.
M: That’s looks like a Blu Ray version there, isn’t it?
A: Well there’s Blu Ray and this is a DVD. But the cover is different. This was designed by Paul Carr who does of all people Quentin Tarantino’s artwork. He did Kill Bill, and he wrote to us because he’s a huge fan of Rob Hubbard and Commodore 64 and he said can I do anything on the film? And what we’d always said to our backers was that once the film they’ll all get the special Oliver Frey version. The chap that designed the cover that you have if you’d like to hold it up one more time is designed by the magazine artist Oliver Frey who drew all the Zap and Crash covers throughout the 1980s. Very very popular magazines. You’ll see his little signature down on the down on the left hand side, bottom left that’s it. Oliver Frey. And he basically designed that cover for us and it was only going to be for the Kickstarter backers and then obviously once the film was released to all the Kickstarter backers we needed to make it commercially available to anybody else that wants it. And then Mr. Carr, Paul Carr came in and designed this cover for us. It’s sort of Close Encounters slightly Close Encounters but there’s a boy, that’s actually our son, our son Thomas, in front of Matthew Smith’s ZX Spectrum.
A: And then some fancy effects and everything else. But that’s the commercial cover if you go on Amazon or anywhere else to buy the film.
M: So people can just buy this from Amazon. Does it have to be Amazon UK or is on Amazon.com?
A: Should be Amazon all over actually, Amazon.com or you can also order from our web site web site www.frombedroomstobillons.com.
M: You guys get more money when people buy it from your web site?
A: I don’t think so.
N: No it’s the same.
A: It’s exactly the same, isn’t it?
N: We try to keep the costs universal.
A: It goes through the same fulfillment house anyway.
N: But we do have hours and hours of footage and we are I think trying to work out what’s the best way of getting it out at the moment. We thought we’re going to shoot the Amiga Years, see what we have left from that because we’re going to hours there as well and maybe look at trying to do some sort of special release a little but we’re not quite sure yet how to do that are we?
A: We’re tempted by the idea of you see one thing we don’t want to do is ever short change the original From Bedrooms to Billions backers and do like a sort of From Bedrooms to Billions directors’s cut or something because that would cheapen the whole thing. But one thing we thought about possibly is like some sort of like almost like episodic version so we can open it out and really expand on the chapters and a lot of people have asked us about that and said look said because we have the material to do it.
M: Like a TV series.
N: I mean like the magazines alone could probably be an hour and a half. Early development on the Spectrum could be another hour and a half.
A: The music on the Commodore 64. And the thing is by doing the Amiga Years is we’re now getting a huge number of overseas developers who are also sharing their childhood development stories as well right the way through before the Amiga.
N: Éric Chahi, we did Éric Chahi.
A: Exactly we’ve just literally have just interviewed Éric Chahi who did Another World which I believe is called
M: Out of this World.
A: Out of this World in the US. And also Paul Cuisset who did Flashback which I think is called Quest for Identity in the US as well. Flashback, Quest for Identity.
M: I’m pretty sure I have the European version of that.
A: Famous [word? ] [word? ] quick drawing gun action. Which is the yeah.
N: They were quite long interviews as well.
M: You’re doing the whole thing on the Video Toaster, right?
A: We’re going to be talking about the Video Toaster. Oh are we editing it on the Video Toaster? We have used Video Toaster. We have used Video Toaster, actually yeah, and Lightwave. Actually one of our earlier edit machines over ten years ago it was a Video Toaster. I had a couple of Video Toasters, didn’t we? Brilliant machine, yeah fantastic.
M: I’ve got to get to the bottom of this whole Babylon 5, you know because I keep hearing that it was used for that and then I hear it wasn’t used for that. And I’m like whaa was it or was it not?
A & N: It was.
A: And also it appeared in Star Trek Voyager as well. Some of the special effects on that were created CGI was created on Amigas.
A: Amiga 4000s and also SeaQuest which actually funny enough actually.
N: It might not have been on SeaQuest.
A: Did anybody actually know what the submarine on
M: SeaQuest was another one. I keep hearing that that was a Video Toaster Lightwave as well. It looks like it.
A: Pioneering. It was very pioneering. You know it was because it effectively brought almost like a cheaper solution. I mean also you know that’s the another thing that people forget about the Toaster is a lot of Toasters running with Amigas were selling in other countries as a effectively television studios in a box. They were able to do multiple camera feeds and multiple OB broadcasts and other things and nothing else could do it certainly not on a portable computer.
N: We used them, we did a couple of events many years ago and we used Video Toasters for that as well.
A: Do you know I forgot that.
N: Ah, there you go.
M: There’s a book I think it’s called The Future Was Here, have you seen that one? I’m pretty sure that’s the title, I can’t remember the author’s name but I remember he’s got a chapter in there about Video Toaster. It’s all about the Amiga. He’s got a chapter in there about the Video Toaster. Apparently there was something about the design of the hardware that made it sort of uniquely suited for something like the Toaster. I don’t know enough about the technical stuff to give you that part of it.
A: We’re in that at the moment we’re actually we’ve just done we’ve just interviewed half of the original hardware and software team for the Amiga and that was the difference you see between the Amiga and the Atari ST. The Atari ST was effectively off the shelf components.
M: I noticed it wasn’t called the Atari ST years so I assume you have a preference for the Amiga?
A: Yeah well that’s the thing the Amiga is the what we were finding was when we were shooting the original movie we were finding that developer after developer after developer was saying the same thing. Saying oh they were saying that they felt held back by the ST. I know there’s a lot of Atari fans out there, but what they don’t what a lot of Atari fans don’t
M: Probably firing off comments right now.
A: Exactly. What they don’t realize is that the, well, this is straight, the Commodore Amiga, take the Commodore away from it completely, the Amiga was an independent design project predominantly led and originally created by the original Atari hardware team that were frustrated with the way Atari were running things sorry were frustrated with the way Warner were running Atari. And once the Atari 800 was finished they wanted to work on a new multitasking computer that will be a fantastic games machine that will work with the new 68000 chip. And they were told no so they went fine and they left. And these were the guys that basically created that worked that created the TIA and the graphics some of the graphics hardware and all these amazing things on the Atari2600, the Atari 400 and 800 that allowed games like Star Raiders and other things to come around. So we’re talking hardcore Atari engineers created the Amiga. Whereas the Atari ST was a reaction to the Amiga and was put together in less than a year using off the shelf components whereas the Amiga custom built custom designed and built chips. They were specifically created to go in the Amiga. There is a gulf of difference between ST and the Amiga.
N: There’s quite a few of the developers that we’ve interviewed saying they were quite frustrated by the fact that when they were with the publisher the publisher said you have to do the game for the Atari ST as well and they were like argh that we it can’t be as good as on the Amiga weren’t they, so they were getting quite frustrated because that would then get ported to the Amiga and it wasn’t quite as good as they wanted.
A: So we didn’t call it the 16-bit years this new film because we didn’t want to cover the consoles because the consoles are quite heavily covered in the first film. And also the Amiga, the ST and the Amiga came out around the same time so of course they are 16-bit programmable computers. I had an Atari ST and I loved it but but the Amiga was the pioneering machine because often we’ve found somebody who got an ST first as soon as they got Amiga they just left the ST behind.
N: I mean we will be covering the Atari as well, it will be in there.
A: Yeah and we’re not saying the Atari ST is a bad machine or a rubbish machine but what we’re basically saying is we’re telling the story of how the Amiga came about. That’s a great story, how the Amiga was created. Why these guys left Atari and there’s a little bit of Apple in there as well, you’ll find out, which we didn’t realize until we discovered it, a little bit of the Mac in there. Just a just a snifter of the Apple.
M: A snifter of Mac.
A: Steve Jobs had a rant didn’t he a huge rant punching the desk and said I don’t want any color in the Mac it’s going to be monochrome I don’t want any games I don’t want anything else. So they so everyone went fine I’ll take these and take these other projects over here they are much more exciting. There you go. Sorry, we got carried away there.
M: Well it looks like the film is doing really great publicity there I saw that you had a clip or an interview I guess on what was it on BBC Breakfast or some show like that?
A & N: Yes.
M: And that was a I don’t know anything about that show but I noticed right after you guys were off they said they were bringing on Peter Davidson. I mean this must be a huge show I mean what a great break. And you know what was really impressive too was those hosts and the hostess on that show they knew like she picked up I think a ZX 81 and she knew what it was or no a Commodore 64.
A: That’s it.
M: She picked up the Commodore 64 and she knew all about it. And I that just blew my mind I can’t imagine in America having a you know breakfast show like that they would be like computer what’s a computer?
N: They were very, very good weren’t they.
A: And they were geeky and they were really into it. They were you know because they do that thing where they we were on twice we were the last slot before the sort of main hard core news so you know getting on breakfast television is a big big break and certainly with the film coming out. And they when they you know they wheel you in the lights are low while the newsreader’s reading and both presenters were like wow it’s Commodore 64 and they were literally like twelve years old or whatever again suddenly it was like five four three two one and then they had to be all serious. But yeah it was it was quite amazing but we find it really interesting that so many people in British broadcast they just don’t recognize it’s not just about the British games industry but they just don’t realize how tiny broadcast is when compared to the video games industry they genuinely just think that video games are still played by a couple of a couple of hippies in the back of the room you know a couple of niche geeks or something and they don’t realize how big it is.
M: Long haired guys in basements with a bookshelf full of old games. What a cliche!
A: But it’s true it’s true that’s a stereotype it seems to be more of a UK problem that they we have we went through this whole thing about all kinds are violent. We need to ban we need to ban video games because they’re violent well ban magazines because magazines have violent there’s some you know there’s magazines with guns in so.
N: I think you know if any thing happens it’s always like they played violent video games it’s like yeah but they could have been reading like Guns and Ammo or something it’s not all down to games.
M: You don’t have as many guns there I don’t think is that I’m pretty sure that’s true right.
N: We don’t, no.
M: It’s not like here where everybody’s got at least two shotguns or you know AK-47 in their truck.
M: I just had to sell my bazooka I was really sad. It’s a good home defense weapon a bazooka.
A: No they’ve got some strange views over here about video games. They’re trying to there’s a lot of people working hard trying to change those attitudes it’s just that. We always find it where a broadcaster will say oh you know we don’t like games because people are not watching television when they’re playing games. But you produce a lot of documentaries about music and books and you can’t read a book and watch television at the same time so it’s a silly argument. I think it’s probably just there’s a there’s an element of shock when you sort of say to them you know do you know that the games industry turned over a hundred billion dollars last year broke a hundred billion.
N: Another thing in this country as well that’s happening at the moment is the government really trying to push youngsters back into programming. So that’s a big drive so I do think that media has to pick up on that it is getting covered more in the news now because it’s quite a big thing that children are programming again. I mean our son is at school he loves it he comes home and goes I’ve done this this is moving across the screen and everything and I think it’s great for kids, that.
M: And he’s eight years old so that’s about the right age too, right?
N: And he loves it. It might just be one little thing moving across the screen and he’s just so excited.
A: Do you know what one of the things we found when we were making the movie the original From Bedrooms to Billions was that a lot of the developers were got obsessed with the idea of programming because the television you know our age group was this mystical box that you had no control over. You know programs were broadcast into it and you sat and watched it maybe you had a choice of changing a few channels but effectively you couldn’t manipulate it or do anything other than turn it off. And suddenly you had this little keyboard this little computer that you could plug into it and with a little bit of skill you could suddenly project things up onto the screen. And I think that was a really fundamental moment. I think a lot of kids got obsessed with that idea and I mean obsessed in a good way because it channeled their focus massively and helped kick start an entire generation. And that was going on in other countries as well I know From Bedrooms just deals with the UK industry but you know it’s a rise and fall story but it was going on.
M: The same thing I was just interviewing Alexey Pajitnov of Tetris in the Soviet Union. And it was the same exact story you know about he described out when he first did his program and how he’s you know I can control this thing and that was so exciting. Yeah so I think that’s great I hope we can have some similar government I guess it’s a government initiative there to get more kids [words? ] something similar and then the U.S. I had Jon Hareon my show not too long ago I guess it was back in 2011. I remember one one of the things that he got on this spiel or rant or whatever you want to call it about how I’m kind of put words in his mouth here. But he was talking about how the consoles kind of dumbed down everything and console gamers just were never as smart as the computer gamers were and they you know weren’t ready for more you know they basically everybody everything had to get simpler to sort of cater to them. You know and I noticed in From Bedrooms to Billions there was I sensed a little negativity when these folks were talking about you know the Sega and the Nintendo and it brought some changes but not necessarily changes they liked to the industry.
A: That’s right.
M: I wonder if you could sort of do you agree with that idea about I call it the endumbening effect but do you see anything like that or is that just sort of Jon.
A: Well it’s very if you think about it when the we’re not saying that the consoles this is pre Playstation by the way we’re talking the SNES and the Megadrive the Genesis sorry as you know it in the US. What you effectively had was you had a whole generation growing up through the 80’s that had programmable computers whether they be Commodore 64, Amiga, Atari ST, BBC Micro whatever they were. You were able to buy a box for a couple of hundred pounds for you know three or four hundred dollars, take it home learn to program and technically with a bit of luck release a game find a publisher and get it out there. The problem with the consoles was several issues. One is that they were closed which meant you couldn’t go and buy a console and start programming on it. You had to get a development system which means you had to suddenly the barriers of entry went very very high.
N: You needed money.
A: So you couldn’t have a sixteen like for example like Matthew Smith that we were talking about earlier could go down to the local high street the computer shop buy a computer come home and in a few weeks write a game. With the consoles that changed. Because it was you had to register as a developer and you also had to submit your game. Once you were registered you then had to get a development kit which you had to pay for which is thousands of thousands of dollars. So of course that meant that if you’re a new newcomer to the industry forget it because you didn’t have that sort of money. And you had no track record to get that so immediately that cut off the new blood coming in. The second thing that happened was once you did get that registration your game then had to be approved by Nintendo by the actual manufacturer themselves. And of course at any point they could refuse it which meant that you could have spent six months a year funding yourself to make that game so the risks are continually going up if you think about it. So you would then be looking for a publisher to fund you to make that game so if you could find a publisher that perhaps believed in your idea that was happy to fund you and of course maybe a couple of different a couple of people in your team for maybe a year’s development.
N: And then you had the [words? ] on top of it.
A: That’s one issue but the other thing is the cartridge manufacturing had to be ordered in advance. And if you’ve got the numbers wrong so let’s say completely hypothetical situation Batman Returns is coming out in 1992. It’s going to be you predict you buy the rights to it six months or a year before the film comes out so you’re thinking well I expect this to be a big hit because Warner Brothers are going to do a big marketing campaign it’s Tim Burton it’s going to be a big thing. So we’re going to need to get this right so you’ve spent maybe a million dollars on the on the Batman license. So you’ve done that and then you’re going to have to hire the development team that’s another million plus. So you’ve got all this risk. When the game is nearing completion you’re not going to want to take too many chances with the game because you don’t want to do anything too risky case people don’t like it so you tend to just keep the don’t be too innovative keep it sort of relatively safe. And then six months sorry four or five months before the game is due to to come out you’ve got to pre-order the cartridges. Now if you get the number wrong and you order say a hundred thousand cartridges and they’re pretty expensive you know we’re talking maybe fifteen dollars a cartridges you didn’t get many discounts it was expensive to make them. If you got that number wrong and you ordered a hundred thousand and those hundred thousand sold out in three days because the game is brilliant and the magazines review it it will take you three months to restore those carts and order another batch. So you’d over order you’d say well just in case it’s a hit I’ll better order a million cartridges. So you suddenly started to find that
N: Where you had to go and hedge your bets.
A: Hedge the bets don’t take too many chances. So you saw of huge number of licenses. And this is I’m talking from a European predominantly a UK perspective here. And we’re not saying there weren’t great games we’re not saying the consoles were bad or anything else like that but what did happen was you suddenly had these a lot of these talented programmers just think oh and get out because it just was too risky. And the publishers were going for safe bets and not going for original ideas and that all changed when the Playstation came out.
N: I think even at that time the publishers were suffering well certainly in this country there was no investment our banks wouldn’t invest in that because they never saw it as a very you know they looked in and thought that’s too risky to put millions into a games company.
A: But the US did invest, actually.
N: Different in America. And that really changed the things.
A: To their credit to their credit they saw.
N: And they saw a business there.
A: The UK the British can be very risk averse sometimes and when it got to the point in the early 1990s when the money needed to get put down where OK this games industry is going to be big you know this really starting to see some money when we’re seeing games like Sonic the Hedgehog coming out which is selling millions of units and that’s where really the British publishers needed to put the serious money down and say right. And there were a couple don’t get me wrong there were a couple of companies like Ocean and a few others that really did get some big titles out there and released. But you started seeing a large number of other British publishers just fall away.
N: And also were getting bought up by big American publishers because they had the money and they saw the talent and thought right OK well we’ll have that talent you know it’s good business but yeah it did change the industry.
A: So it was a combination of things the cartridges meant that you had to put a lot of money down up front a lot more risk which means you’re not going to be so take so many chances and also the more difficult development systems to work with and to get licenses for however.
M: Commodore definitely didn’t help the situation.
A: Not at all not at all. If they if they had actually come out with if the CD32 or their next machine had come out as it should have done some people will say that actually would have actually got there it was way ahead of the PC and it would have just been this and another thing that we’ve actually recently discovered as well. Now if anybody watches this program in six months we might have changed our opinion on this bu we we don’t think so.
N: Put a warning out there.
A: What happened in the US is the Amiga sold quite badly In the US Whereas in Europe it was a completely different story it sold really well. One of the problems in the US was that the Commodore 64 had sold incredibly well and the Commodore sales team got a little bit lazy and they started doing deals with with organizations such as Toys R Us and what was the other one we’ve only just discovered this.
N: Not K-Mart. Walmart?
A: Walmart? Well basically it irritated the computer shops because the computer shops were the heart of the business. And some of the Commodore marketing team saying look we’ve got to get the we did really well with the Commodore 64 because we engaged the computer stores and the computer stores want to sell it for two hundred you know for three hundred dollars. Where is what happened was Commodore did deal with Toys R Us where they said where the Commodore 64 suddenly was available for 99 dollars and Toys R Us were making one dollar. It was being sold to Toys R Us at 98 dollars a unit and Toys R Us would just simply put one dollar on top.
N: Yeah because they were making money out of the software.
A: Yeah just to sell the software. So what it did was it frustrated it infuriated the by that point the thousands of successful computer stores independent computer stores all over the US and they started to refuse to take Commodore products. And that included the Amiga and then they refused to to really engage with the Amiga.
N: Well but also Commodore tried to wanted the Amiga to be sold as a cheaper product as well you know. They got it wrong
A: And do you know who stepped into the gap in the market. Do you know who took advantage of this massive series of [word? ] goals that Commodore did? Nintendo. They suddenly saw ah there’s a gap. Where the Commodore 64 was reaching the end of its life and it was dropping away suddenly there was a gap for an 8-bit machine that if it was well priced could just get in there with some good and of course Nintendo had some great games and suddenly the NES took off in the US and then anything that does well in the US will then eventually come over to Europe. And they bang into the US got a thriving thing going and then gradually came over and pretty much took over Europe as well. So there was some really fundamentally but Commodore unfortunately.
N: They could have been really fantastic yeah.
A: They could of have had it all. They had the technology. They had the product they had the technology they made some serious mistakes actually and we’ve got some interviews coming up in the next few weeks.
M: I think out of one of the you know as as one of the maybe a dozen or so Amiga owners in the US and it was so frustrating you know to have this machine and be playing games like Defender of the Crown or whatever and then all my friends would have the Nintento or maybe the Sega system and you’d be like it’s a joke right. You know pretty soon it got to be where if I wanted any new games they had to come from you know the UK or Germany. Seemed to be the only places where you can buy these things and I always wondered why that was so you’re saying it was just some bad you know piss poor deals I guess.
N: Commodore UK thrived you know. They only closed about eighteen months after Commodore US filed for bankruptcy.
A: Yeah and in fact the UK was doing so well that right at the end Commodore US brought over the UK sales manager and put him in a position in the US to try and save the US business but it was too late we’ve already interviewed him.
N: But they were Commodore UK were buying up all the stock so they managed to keep going but of course then they ran out and there was no manufacturing going on.
A: In Europe we couldn’t sell enough Amigas we couldn’t get enough we it was so successful. And let’s not forget that the there were some very clever things that Commodore did don’t get me wrong first of all remember the Amiga was an independent project Commodore just bought it it was pretty much finished and they bought the product because they needed a new a new product to follow on from the Commodore 64. But the Amiga 1000 was too expensive to truly to replace the Commodore 64 when it first came out it was you know we’re talking two thousand dollars. It was a wonderful machine and it was a PC light years ahead of a PC if you know what I mean a multitasking computer with a mouse and a keyboard and it looks it fantastic and everything else. But the key machine was actually the Amiga 500. The A500 was closer to the replacement of the Commodore 64 because let’s not forget the Commodore 64 was massive it was absolutely massive. So that’s why Commodore got a bit lazy because they thought they could just have a ready made replacement. What they should have done was they should have engaged the computer stores all over the US gone to them with the A1000 and explained exactly what it was and you did have people at Commodore in the sales trying to do this but they were always outnumbered and they were always told just get it out there let’s do some deals with Toys R Us. So of course if you’ve got Toys R Us all they want to do is is literally ring it up at the checkout and away you go. They’re not going to do a demonstration if somebody walks up to an A1000 in Toys R Us and it’s just sitting there looking pretty there’s no one trained up in Toys R Us to say this is how it works it’s multi what and and answer questions on what multitasking is or the copper or the blitter or all sorts of other things it’s not possible they don’t know. Whereas in a computer so they’re happy to talk about it. But the computer stores weren’t interested well they some where but it just didn’t take off in that respect if they’d engaged them and used them as they should have done as they did in the original days with the VIC-20 and then the Commodore 64 and got them on side it probably would have been a very different story because by the time that the A500 came out then it could have then skyrocketed because you would have already done the ground work with the A1000.
N: In another universe they got it right in a parallel universe.
A: In a parallel universe there is no Windows [words? ] there’s no Windows XP or the awful 8 that I try to yeah we’re all using Amigas and sort of with A’s on our…
M: I remember it got so bad I remember the as the Amiga magazines finally started to dry up there was actually a movement for a while where they were encouraging the readers to buy up stock you know trying to get up enough control I guess to actually fire these you know idiots and get somebody in there that would you know have half a brain it just it’s amazing they couldn’t sell this thing.
A: We did discover that very very right at the end after the US Commodore had gone bust in the US. A couple of the European guys including David Pleasance the head of the Commodore UK they actually put together a business plan to carry on carry Commodore on. And it’s quite interesting what happened because they were three days away from signing the deal.
N: And we’ll reveal it in the film.
A: And we’ll reveal it in the film. Some dirty corporate tricks got involved and scuppered the whole thing. And that killed it. And then within the and you can probably work out what happened from that because you’ll see who did take over Commodore.
M: Well if you guys suddenly disappear we’ll know who to blame.
A: Yes exactly exactly. But yeah it’s I think that’s the thing I don’t there was ever a question on the product itself sometimes it’s all about how you actually package it and sell it and certain divisions of Commodore got it absolutely right hence the fact that it sold so well but if it should have sold brilliantly in the it didn’t even sell a million units in the US. It was something like seven hundred and.
N: It is a really is an interesting story. Quite sad.
M: You know it’s worthy of a documentary really.
N: Let’s hope someone does it.
M: Need to find some who would be crazy enough to embark on a project like that. Well I guess that’s about all I’ve got for you today. I do have sort of a personal fun question I guess is you know in that little BBC Breakfast thing I notice you had all these computers that were signed by people. And I was wondering if you had a favorite one or are there signatures out that you still are trying to collect?
A: Hm. That’s a good one actually.
N: I think that again it all goes back to Matthew Smith I think.
A: I think I’d probably like Andrew Baybrook to sign my Commodore 64. I think that would be nice. I think he’s a real hero of ours but he’s he was quite camera shy and he sent us a lovely couple of e-mails he really enjoyed the film.
N: Yeah he really supported the film,
A: Very supportive but not everybody’s comfortable in front of camera. Probably the Stamper twins, twins? The Stamper brothers signing our ZX Spectrum would be nice but they the funny.
N: I think we were really happy to get Matthew Smith. That was yeah we really wanted that one.
A: And we’re really glad because there was a there was a documentary in the UK where somebody tried to sort of do a quick sort of thing about the games industry. And he declined them. But he said yes to us and we were really chuffed about that because we couldn’t get anybody inbroadcast to support our project or anything and we didn’t want anyone coming in at the last minute and trying to do their own version or something and he just said no he preferred working with us which we were quite chuffed we thought that was really sweet. Because I think I think the thing is if we found that it was almost like a counseling session so many of the interviews that we did.
M: Counseling sessions?
A: Yeah. They were unloading. You know certainly when you’re speaking to developer that had a wonderful period of say four or five years and then risked everything in the early 90s and then lost their house or something like that they bet the farm and lost. And then now they work in insurance or they you know they work in a different sector altogether and then we’ve come up out of the blue and say can we talk to you about your career from twenty five years ago. So when you get to that part the story they start they break down.
N: Yeah quite emotional.
A: Yeah so it was quite a few of those so I would say there was about maybe fifteen about fifteen people that probably broke down on camera where we had to stop for a moment and just you know because for them it was something that was you know we’re talking part of their life. You know for them it was a major deal it wasn’t just a bit of fun. Well it was a bit of fun at the start but as soon as it became something they were doing.
A: Yeah and then now they’re not doing it anymore and in certain cases they’re very very sad. And we have to be respectful of that and you know be very careful in how we represent people in the film.
M: Well is there anything else that you want to add or talk about that we haven’t covered? Have you thought about what you might do after you’re finished with the Amiga Years? What comes after?
A: There’s the the episodic version which is more it would allow us to find a home for all the extra material that’s an obvious because there’s so much extra material. There is another platform that we’re kind of interested in that we think that we could do a good job on. It’s quite a big one. We’ll have to see that will have to see if we we can do that at some point.
N: So much to think about yeah yeah. But we’re not sure yet.
N: I think with the Amiga Years I think once we started putting From Bedrooms together we kind of then felt we can’t cover the Amiga in the depth that we want to so we kind of halfway through editing the film realized I think we’re going to be looking at another film to cover that. So we kind of identified that and so you never know we might end up when we’re editing the Amiga Years think oh well we can’t really go into too much detail with that that will become our next film. I mean we’ve got a couple of ideas.
A: You’ve got to really immerse yourselves in it to make it. It’s really it’s all consuming it’s all consuming to create it it’s I would probably somebody actually said to me when I said that to them before actually a developer said it’s more like making a game because it becomes your life and you want to do the very best you can. So and we’re very lucky to be able thanks to Kickstarter crowdfunding which is a you know it’s been a godsend for us to be able to do that and I think the thing is it’s really important to us that we like the whole crowd funding mechanism. Because we really like the idea that people want to see what we’re doing. So we find that you know while it’s a pressure it’s a good pressure because we don’t want to let them down and we sort of think if it’s something we’re proud of then they’ll hopefully like it.
N: From Bedrooms we did take that to broadcasters and we just couldn’t get anyone to pick it up and that was over about three five years we keep going in with this idea tweaking it and everything no one was interested and then when we discovered Kickstarter we were like OK well maybe we can go that route. So it has been very good for us it gives us complete control you know when you do anything for broadcast and that you don’t always have complete control it has to you have to go by certain things that they want so yeah that’s why we really like Kickstarter and we do really like engaging our backers that’s great. And we get so many lovely comments because the thing is once you start filming and that it literally is just me and Anthony so you’re kind of so isolated from it all that when we do get these comments saying you know we really like what you’re doing we love your last film and saying oh are you going to cover this in the film we love that because it’s like oh people are thinking about us and what we’re doing. So we enjoy it don’t we yeah.
A: Yeah I think you know you really feel that you feel it’s meaningful and people want to see it and I think personally I think the video games industry needs more people you know to really you know Éric Chahi said to me yesterday you know I said to him with Another World I consider it art and he said he in his mind it is art completely. And you don’t use the word retro about old paintings you just say a wonderful painting wonderful piece of art.
M: Right. You wouldn’t think of a painting as being obsolete.
A: Yeah you don’t say oh there’s a retro I’m going to go and listen to some retro records I’m going to listen to the Beatles you just listen to a Beatles album. I don’t quite see why that’s so. However, I’ll tell you one thing you were saying about Jon Hare we will go in a minute I promise you were saying about John Hare.
M: He’s quite a character.
A: He made a very interesting point when we interviewed him the other week for this film. He said if you produce a piece of music like the Beatles or you produce a work of art he said that there’s no issue with formats. Because music will just be converted to whatever format it’s available to be sold on whether it be vinyl, cassette tape, CD, mp3 all of that. He said whereas with video games once our format dies off he was talking about Sensible World of Soccer for example. Once the Amiga died out and then the Mega Drive he said basically that was the end we didn’t get any more royalties the game stopped selling. Whereas if you release a successful album you’ll pretty much continually get royalties pretty much for the rest of your life providing the album has got that sort of longevity. And I thought that was an interesting point so we are at an interesting time now where you’re starting to get Valve and GOG and other platforms that are actually cultivating classic games and allowing them to be available and allow royalties.
M: [word? ] [word? ] Did you talk to those guys at all?
A: Not yet and and that’s the thing I mean we could we could do a whole film on on that on about the way that. So there’s a lot of ideas that we’ve got there’s a lot of ideas actually and we think that this industry needs people to start really doing proper content about it and respect it because it employs a lot of people and it creates a lot of fun and it’s you know like any industry it’s got its ups and downs but you know it can be a lot worse. It’s a really it’s a positive vibrant great industry with a rich history and I think that it needs to be told.
M: History is definitely the word for it. I mean if it weren’t for for projects like yours these people would just die off and we just wouldn’t have their stories period.
A: Yeah. Funny enough that was that was one of the things that we used to say on From Bedrooms. We want to we want to catalog these stories while the main protagonists is still around to tell the tale. You know that’s sort of a nicer way than saying before they die.
M: Well it’s inevitable. You know Ralph Baer passed away not too long ago that was just managed to get him maybe a couple of years before that.
A: Would you like to hear one quick anecdote that didn’t go in the film.
A: Which I think epitomizes those early programming days and this will be in the US as well as the UK.
M: This is a pretty good buildup here I’m listening.
A: Sure. Well there’s a computer that was very UK based called the ZX 81 and it did OK in Europe. But it was one K of memory and it had a membrane keyboard it’s in the film and it had a RAM pack on the back that if you even touch the computer even slightly the RAM pack would wobble because it had absolutely no support and the computer would restart.
N: And the screen would flash.
A: Yeah that was the ZX 80 if you pressed the keyboard it couldn’t maintain video memory so one keyboard press meant the processor accept it and then the screen would roll but it was a way around that but. Anyhow ZX 81 there was a chap called Malcolm Evans right he now programs trajectory systems for satellites so he’s quite he’s quite.
M: That’s probably a lot easier.
A: He’s got a very huge IQ and brain there. But even making a cup of coffee he takes it as as solving a problem right I must unscrew the lid and you know put the spoon in and all of that stuff. So in 1981 he created a game called 3D Monster Maze.
M: Oh yeah I remember that.
A: Check out on YouTube because it’s technically it’s sixteen [word? ] you need the.
M: Roll up. Roll up.
A: Exactly but it’s effectively 3D he was able to create a sort of a faux 3D on a 1K machine which he then ended up using the 16K RAM pack but I won’t I won’t [word? ] that through. Anyway to cut a long story short he wrote the game he imagined himself walking through a maze first person game and about released it and everybody went wow it’s a you know first person perspective game arguably the first time seen on a home computer certainly something with only 1K on a membrane keyboard. Anyway Clive Sinclair who created the ZX 81 met him at a show or something about a year or so later. And came up to him and said Malcolm how did you create a 3D game on the ZX 81 it’s impossible it can’t be done I can’t work out how you did it it’s impossible. And Malcolm just turned and looked at him and sort of said well what it is is my brother lent me the ZX 81 but he didn’t give me a manual so I didn’t know it was impossible. And that just to me.
A: That just to me symbolizes it he just thought I wonder if would be possible to do such and such oh I know I’ll try and see. And then next thing a game is created. And that problem solving element epitomizes so many developers. They’ve got a problem in their mind and in their solving it they’ve got a game idea.