Monday 28 October 2013

Exclusive Andrew Hewson Kickstarter Interview

Andrew Hewson - 1980s illustration
GamesYouLoved spoke to Andrew Hewson, from
legendary games publisher Hewson Consultants about his memories of the 80s and 90s and his new live Kickstarter

The Book and Kickstarter 

GamesYouLoved. With this Kickstarter why now is the time to launch a book apart from just Rob persuading you!?

Hints and tips for Videogame Pioneers
Andrew Hewson
Rob is a games designer in his own right and he has been bending my ear about writing a book for at least two years. I spent a long time thinking that nobody would be interested but he gradually introduced me to enough of his friends and contacts and in the end I changed my mind. It was a rollercoaster ride in the games business in the 1980s and early 90s for me and for many other people. I've been out of the business for fifteen years or so and so I've had time to let it all settle in my mind. I think there are definitely lessons for the present day developers and also for anyone who is creating a technology business. Hence the name of the book - Hints and Tips for Videogame Pioneers.

GamesYouLoved. Do you think people have forgotten about the way games were developed during the 1980s? 

Andrew Hewson I'm not sure "forgotten" is the right word. Today there are sophisticated tools and equipment to help with the process. Back in the 1980s everything was built from scratch. People wrote their own assemblers. Steve Turner was a dab hand at writing code in Z80 machine code. Chris Hinsley built an art package from scratch and eventually it had evolved to the point that it went on the market. We wrote and released a Z80 assembler for the Amstrad. 

GamesYouLoved. Tell us about the book and and what things you have planned for its content 

Andrew Hewson The book is partly a memoire of course, explaining how things came about, how certain relationships and certain products were developed. It is about some of the personalities such as Steve Turner, Mike Male and Ref Cecco with contributions from some of them. But it is also about what it's like to be part of an industry which explodes into being out of nowhere - about the highs and the lows, the hard work and the heartache. And there are lessons for anyone who is looking to set up in business on their own account. 

GamesYouLoved. How does the community play its part in your plans for the Kickstarter and book going forward? 

Andrew Hewson I've been surprised and pleased by the reaction both before and during the kickstarter campaign. It may seem strange to say so but I hadn't realised how much of what did had a big effect on other people. At the time of course we were just going about doing what we were doing, creating books and games and selling them.  

GamesYouLoved. What are your top 5 games of all time and why - they can be Hewson ones!? 

Andrew Hewson. I really don't have a top five of my own. I'm interested in originality and so I
look back on Gribbleys Day Out with particular fondness, but in truth there are so many great games out there that I don't like to try and pick and choose. 

GamesYouLoved. How do you think the UK games market became so popular during the 80s? 

Andrew Hewson. Oh, that's easy. It's the effect of "I've never seen anything like that before." We are all gripped by novelty. Mass market computing was new and games were many people's path into the market. 

What kind of great memories of playing games growing up do you have? 

Andrew Hewson. Ooherr. I can remember playing Avalon from beginning to end on the off-chance a couple of years after it was released and thinking it was an even better game than thought at the time.

Thanks to Andrew for taking the time out to speak to GamesYouLoved.

Back the Kickstarter here

Watch the Kickstarter video below:

Sunday 27 October 2013

RETRO: A New RETRO Gaming Magazine - Interview

With 7 days to go GamesYouLoved spoke to Mike Kennedy about the new RETRO Magazine and Kickstarter

The Magazine and Kickstarter
GamesYouLoved. So Mike, You have been in the games business for some time. Why now is the time to launch a Retro magazine?

Mike Kennedy. With the demise of Nintendo Power there really are no great gaming magazines here in the USA.  And, certainly none dedicated to RETRO gaming.  I think there is always room for a quality print magazine and our older demographic is kind of used to print so I think it will sit well with them.  The trick is to fill it with material that isn’t so readily available online and that is our plan; to include in depth features, historical retrospectives, roundtable discussions with an all-star writing team and more.  We will talk about the past, present and future of RETRO.

GamesYouLoved. Do you think people love the idea of a printed magazine as well as the digital version you guys have?  

Mike Kennedy. Definitely, and since all print subs will also receive the digital for free I think it will sit very well with our subscribers.  In the first three weeks of our campaign the print options are the clear winner.  There is something about holding a magazine and flipping through the pages as you check out the vibrant images and creative layouts.  Nothing beats it!

GamesYouLoved. Tell us about the magazine and what exciting things you have planned.

Mike Kennedy. I am just as excited to read is as I am to publish it.  I think the combination of journalists that go back three decades will really add to the collage of material and perspectives that will fill the pages.  Also exciting to me is no one is out of reach to our team.  Between all of us we will be able to nab exclusive interviews with anyone from Cliff Bleszinski to Nolan Bushnell and everyone in between.  And to have all new original columns from some of the best writers in the history of gaming all in the pages of one magazine should be very compelling to our subscribers.  Finally, we have had tons of outreach from other writers from around the world since launching our campaign, and a few from Europe and Japan.  We want RETRO to really encompass the entire world of RETRO gaming and I think we will have a writing team to pull it off. 
How does the community play its part in your plans for the Kickstarter and magazine going forward?  

Mike Kennedy. Community will play a huge roll in this post Kickstarter campaign.  Once it ends successfully, we will finish out the website with ways for others to purchase the print OR digital subscriptions.  Then we tare going to ramp up the online content offerings and then integrate it all with GameGavel so gamers will have a convenient means for buying and selling the games, consoles and memorabilia they are reading about across our various media plays.  It all ties together nicely and will create a unique all-inclusive gaming destination that promotes commerce+content+community.

About you?

GamesYouLoved. What are your top 5 games of all time and why?

Mike Kennedy. Tough question for sure!

KABOOM on the Atari 2600 is my favourite game of all time because it was the first game cartridge that I my parents bought for me.  And it’s just such a phenomenal twitch game.  Next I would have to go with Pac Man because it was the first arcade I mastered on my own.  I can still routinely get to the 9th key.  Moving back to consoles I have an affinity with the Sega Master System and the Wonderboy Series, my favorite being Wonderboy In Monster Land.  I probably logged more hours on that game than any else from that era in gaming.  Tetris on the Gameboy would have to be in this list for sure.  It was a new addiction on a new handheld format and me and “girlfriend” at the time, now my wife, played it for hours when we were dating and still play it at least every month to this very day.  Finally, I have to go with Donkey Kong Country on SNES.  Those pre-rendered 3D graphics took my breath away and I still am amazed every time I play that game on original hardware. 

GamesYouLoved. Do you still own many retro games - name a few for us?

Mike Kennedy.Yes, I have consoles in every room in the house and countless games to with them.  In our living room I have a PS3, Dreamcast, Gamecube and OUYA hooked up.  In my office on another big screen I have an Atari 2600, Intellivision, Colecovision, Sega Genesis/Master System, SNES, N64 and Jaguar set up.  I have made it a point though to only collect games that I will actually play on some regular basis so that has trimmed my collection down quite a bit and I have enjoyed the hobby much more since doing that.  I also have an Apple IIc, a Commodore 64 with tons of games each also hooked up in my office along with some arcade games including a cocktail Missile Command, Super Moon Cresta, a Mame Cabinet and Midway Touchmaster.

GamesYouLoved. Whats the RETRO scene like in the USA for our International followers to understand?

Mike Kennedy. RETRO is huge right now and I think will continue to be huge as the industry forces us more and more to the darkside, downloadable game and non-ownership.  There is simply nothing like owning a game cartridge or disk and playing it the original hardware.  That will never change.  Add to that all the new games being rebooted on Steam, the XBOX and PSN online stores, Nintendo’s eShop and it’s just a great time to be a retro gamer!  You guys have a great magazine dedicated to retro collecting with Retro Gamer.  We need something like that here in the USA and we hope RETRO can fill that need for retro gamers over here. 

GamesYouLoved. What kind of great memories to playing games in the 70s, 80s and 90s do you have?

Mike Kennedy. There are so many but a few rise to the top.  Playing Kaboom and Asteroids for the first time on a friends Atari back in the day; a friend who since past away not too long after.  Sitting in my “wife’s” dorm room back in the late 80’s and playing Alex Kid In Miracle World on the Genesis on a big screen TV in their commons area was tons of fun and of course being scarred out of our pants when a friend and I were romping through the first Resident Evil when the devil dogs busted into the hallway.  Those are some memories I will always cherish.  So many more I could write a book.

and finally....

GamesYouLoved. These are great memories and it's fantastic that RETRO magazine offers a new opportunity to celebrate the massive back catalogue of games and memories that they unlock. Thanks again for taking time out with your Kickstarter to talk to GamesYouLoved!

Mike Kennedy. 
No problem. Great to catch up and talk retrogaming of course!

Support the Kickstarter here  and watch Kickstarter video below:

Friday 25 October 2013

Ninja Boxing - a BLOG of a few parts....

With the new Ninja Boxing game in our hands at GamesYouLoved we thought it only right to get under the heart of the inspiration behind the game and why videogames mean so much to the inventor and inspiration
Richard Pearson.

This was a in depth interview with some really interesting retro gaming insights as well as the development detail behind the game... so we are publishing this in several parts


My earliest memories of gaming probably go back to the age of 4: playing Ozma Wars on an Arcade
 table top somewhere in an Australian outback. Friday night dinner at the Boat club in Hervey Bay playing Space Invaders, Galaxian and bootleg Donkey Kong (Crazy Kong). We used to get a lot of bootleg arcade games down-under. We moved around a lot when I was a kid, so I got to see lots of different arcade games & pinball machines in Bowling Alleys & fish 'n chip shops - games were everywhere back then. Williams Flash pinball was definitely my favorite (that thing always seemed to give you replays!) & Moon Patrol and Asteroids were a big deal. 

My Auntie used to give the greatest christmas gifts - this is how I got into handheld gaming - perhaps when I was 8? It started with a little LCD game called Space Shuttle (at least I think that's what it was called) - for the life of me I can't find this game on google or anywhere! Controlling that little spaceman and running the gauntlet until you clocked Game A... well there was nothing quite like it. I was hooked. I also had a handheld called Alien Invaders & a random Tennis game (VFD’s); but these paled next to Game & Watch fire: and my absolute favorite - the Casio BG-15 boxing calculator!

From handhelds I graduated to home computers. A birthday gift from my parents started the real trouble: the Tandy TRS-80 Colour Computer 2 when I turned 10. The trash-80 as it was called was where I started programming in Basic; typing games out of magazines and the like. I loved Canyon Climber from James Garon. I imported BIG-K magazine (and Whizzer & Chips) from the UK & learned the hard way that C64 type-in programs weren’t compatible with the TRS-80. BIG-k gave me Spectrum & C64 lust big time, but also established role models for me: I wanted to be like the rockstars of the era: Tony Crowther, Jeff Minter, Archer Maclean, Andrew Hewson and Matthew Smith. So I threw myself into making games on the trash-80.

It didn't take long & I complained enough to my folks to get me a C64. So it was only logical that they gave me a Amstrad CPC-464 (yes, the green-screen version to boot). It wasn’t all bad news though: this is when my love for fighting games really took off. Way of the Exploding fist  blew my mind & in the Arcades Yie-Ar Kung Fu and Karate champ set the standard! I wanted so much to write fighting games, but at that age I lacked pretty much every skill required. At the time I remember trying my hardest to write ghosts & goblins! I'd go to the arcade & record the music on my micro cassette recorder, study the game play and come home and code something that didn't resemble it at all. I actually submitted my Ghosts & Goblins clone to an advertisement for the Cascade Cassette 50. It was so bad they scribbled a rejection note on the same letter I wrote to them.

Following the Amstrad my parents finally listened to me & opened the door to the Amiga platform. I remember that Christmas day so clearly. The Amiga 500 was in another league - it had arcade quality potential! So many amazing games - so much power! I started making stuff in  AMOS, doing graphics in Deluxe Paint & actually doing stuff that was 1/2 decent (according to my friends). Panza Kickboxing was revolutionary! My bedroom walls were covered in ads I'd cut from magazines. I got heavily into the Demo scene & collected demos from all the big groups (Northstar / Fairlight etc.). My teenage years were I was basically concerned about two things as a teenager - martial arts & computers (if you don’t count girls!). I got my black belt in TKD about the same time I wrote my first demo for the A500. Looking back, all these things were connected.

The Amiga died about the same time the real world dictated I needed to get a real job (I left home at 15) & I did my own thing making display systems for real-estate. I remember Doom & Wolfenstein when I finally got my life organised enough to get into University. I was heavily involved in my own startups in the dot com book & this took a toll on gaming except for PS1 & Soul Blade. I moved to Silicon Valley & the Dreamcast & Gamecube rocked my world amidst all the start-up pressure: PowerStone, Rogue Squadron and Dead or Alive stand out in my memory. Did I mention mortal combat & street fighter? So many games… so little memory of it all!

I remember about this time the emulation scene took off and the world of retro exploded underground - these were such amazing times for retro gaming! This is when I really started writing games, because I had some references to study. I chose 80 of my favourite arcade games - starting with Pong - and ending with Capcom Commando & started to write them. I figured that I'd learn the black art by rewriting them in Chronological order. I released Retro Power Pack and about 10 other games on the net back then. I also wrote a 3D multi-user arcade which emulated Donkey Kong, Space Invaders and a few other games running on similar hardware. I had big plans to release this & I even had some support from the emulation community but then the dot-com crash happened and I had to focus on survival. 

Years later I revisited game coding & released a few shareware games, before I realised that there was something missing in my path. Somehow I’d missed some crucial point. I wanted to truly understand what makes great games - not just clone stuff all the time. I realised that in order to really understand what worked, I needed to take a step back. I remembered how much I used to love handhelds & how addictive they were. At this stage my girlfriend told me she thought I’d only be happy in life if I had the courage to follow my dreams. She assured me that she was 100% behind me - and that I needed to give it everything I had. So with her support the daily cheerleading began. I thought the best place to start was in handhelds.If I could truly understand the gameplay dynamics I could abstract and make something original, or at least something that isn’t just a clone. So this is basically how we ended up with Ninja Boxing Calculator. It’s based on the solid work that Casio did on the BG-15, however I’ve focused on not cloning - but advancing this genre. I’ve started on something simple I can manage as in individual developer. Gaming history is filled with advancements built upon previous work (e.g. Street fighter built on Karate Champ, which built on Yie Ar Kung Fu etc.) - I’m doing the same thing, but in a realm I can manage. 

Next we talk to Richard Pearson about why boxing..Ninja Boxing! and his martial arts inspirations..

Check out some cool video previews here:

GamesYouLoved Preview

Ninja Boxing! Preview video - 'Trouble Brewing'

Friday 4 October 2013

GYL at Eurogamer - and the lead up to Play Expo 2013 with Replay Events

GamesYouLoved went and conquered the Eurogamer Expo this year. We reflect on what it was all about, how vibrant and extensive the gaming landscape is and just how much relevance and interest there is in retro, despite the the imminent launch of the 8th generation of consoles. 

Established in 1999, is a focal point for game news and reviews and one of the largest gaming resources in the UK. Since the first Eurogamer Expo event in 2008, attendance has grown year on year exponentially, as hordes of gamers clamber to get their peek at upcoming titles.

The expo was held at Earl’s Court in London, which aptly accommodates the crowds and the huge developer exhibits and enclosures. As we arrived we couldn’t help but notice the promotion of current game franchises, from billboards and hoardings outside the venue entrance through to banners and posters in the foyer, through to the main hall. This all added to the buzz and air of geek excitement. 

There was plenty of audio-visual to absorb, as exhibitors clambered for attention, as expected for an expo featuring the industry’s leaders. The main hall was broken into zones; from the current and next -gen, merchandise, through to an indie area, retro-arcade (we’ll come to that), tournament and cosplay stages, and even a nice relaxed boardgame area.

It was great to see a large indie developer contingent present, offering a blend of current innovation with classic and modern game styles (great to see Fist of Awesome’s ‘I Fight Bears’, Big Robot’s ‘Sir, You Are Being Hunted’ and Mastertronic’s ‘Chaos Engine’ remake). And with developer sessions and cosplay shows (and a couple of bars!) there was more than enough to absorb.

So opportunity to get along to the Eurogamer Expo may not seem overly relevant for GamesYouloved (GYL) with a retrogaming focus. Sure, it might be one of the UK’s biggest games shows, but it’s emphasis is obviously more towards the current and upcoming rather than the nostalgic and retro.

Or so we thought. Certainly one of the most thriving and popular areas was the Retro-arcade all organised by our friends at Replay Events. Regulars of the retro game circuit will know Replay Events as a predominant computer and video game event organiser, supplying their experience and expertise at countless shows.

This was focus of the event as largest retro area at Eurogamer yet, with a plethora of systems on show providing an awesome overview of all things retro and to remind us all what it was about back in the day. Offering something for everyone Replay Events had gone to town to showcase as much as possible, from the earliest micro-computers to bespoke built arcade emulators to 3rd to 6th generation consoles. There was a real great vibe here though. Whether a retro-head or not, people could get down to some proper sociable gaming action, with consoles linked for multi-player action on the likes of Golden-Eye (N64) and Mario Kart (SNES). Even Sami Cetin (World Record Holder for SNES Super Marion Kart was there)

The GYL team spent some time (maybe too much) moving from machine to machine, interacting, talking to people about retrogaming and getting their thoughts on the event. It wasn’t just older gamers either - seeing kids with their dads getting excited about the retro machines was what it was all about. We saw the younger generation really getting into oldksool and seeing who got a go next on an arcade cocktail table to play Pac Man next. That instant accessibility and appeal is what gaming should be about.

We had a blast though, and the grandness of the occasion reminded us of how big retro gaming actually is. And what better pre-cursor to the upcoming ‘Play Expo’ where we’ll have our own stand space alongside our good friends and will be providing video coverage throughout the event too. Bring it on!

For more info on Play Expo: