Martin Hooley - Imagitec Design Jul 16, 2015 10:31:50 GMT
Post by The Laird on Jul 16, 2015 10:31:50 GMT
How did you first come to work with Atari?
I was introduced in the late 80’s to Jack Tramiel by Robert Stein of Andromeda Software and it kind of went from there really. Once he saw what we could do/had done he was very interested in working with us and gave us loads of support in terms of giving us development machines and hardware to work with. The first title we did for Atari was to license to them, and develop, Viking Child on the Lynx. We ending up working on games for the Atari 7800. ST, Falcon, Jaguar, Jaguar CD and Lynx.
You got an early reputation as a go to place for porting jobs from other systems, something that continued with the Jaguar and games like Pitfall and Dino Dudes, can you elaborate on how this came about?
In the early days I recruited and imported a number of crack hacking teams – such as The Judges, legendary Dutch Hackers, and Our porting skills grew quickly. We also built our own development solution (after using PDS from Cross Systems) based on the Atari ST (Joolz wrote most of the tools) and this helped a lot. We were the first UK developer to work for EA, the first job we took from them was the port of the Amiga Ferrari Formula One to every other format!
Some of the more difficult ports we did were Ultima to the CBM 64 from Apple II (the code base was then used by Origin for the NES version), Times Of Lore (Chris “Wing Commader” Robert’s first commercial game) from the C64 to almost every other format and we also did a lot of work for Apple direct, converting a lot of the Gremlin titles to their Macs. For this we used Power VR graphic boards (called the Gazelle) – same chipset as the iPhone. We even worked on their failed Pippin console!
How did you get on with the Tramiels and Atari, as they were notoriously hard to work with?
The head of development at Atari was John Skruch and his assistant was Julie Long – they were bloody fantastic folk. Imagitec had a great relationship with them. As you know, the effective boss of Atari was Sam – who was a really good bloke. The CTO was his brother Leonard – he was a different matter. He would hear no wrong to their hardware, if you got into it about problems with the hardware his standard answer was that “maybe it is your skill/aptitude at fault – not our hardware”
From what I understand you also worked in a kind of “advisory role” for Atari and their Jaguar development. Can you expand on this?
Yes, we also did quite a bit of freelance music for Atari and their 3rd party developers – the most notable was the audio for Minter’s Tempest 2000 – which Atari actual released as an audio CD. The same was planned for Defender 2000 but I don’t believe that was released. I think I still have the original studio CD of that around here somewhere.
Almost overnight Imagitec put their new Jaguar projects on hold and ended the relationship with Atari, why was this?
At the peak of the Jaguar, Atari decide, for the first time to create an in-house team in Sunnyvale. The people they hired were pretty shit. Turned out to be real backstabbing folks. Totally turned on the old guard of Skruch and Long. That was the beginning of the end. At this point we had already decided that we did not want to work with the new Atari folks. We called it a day on Freelance and Space Junk as it was obvious that the Jaguar CD was going to flop its arse off and we had zero chance of recovering our investment, those games were very costly to produce.
I don’t suppose you have prototypes of these games kicking around somewhere do you?
No sorry and I have no idea what happened to them, you could try tracking down the original coders but I doubt they would have anything either. We started porting Freelancer to the PS1 but it didn’t get that far by the time Gremlin cancelled it. We had a working version of Space Junk on the Falcon that was shown off at some shows in Europe, this was before it was cancelled on that format and we began porting all the code over to the Jaguar CD. The main coder then took it over to Rebellion with him and tried to get it resurrected there I believe.
Were there any other Jaguar games that never saw the light of day?
We did have another game in production called Cyber Knights, but that didn’t get very far at all, I don’t really remember what happened with it. We also did Rampart for the 7800, that was cancelled as it was pretty much completed, never understood that one. Oh and we did a version of Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure for the Lynx that looked really nice, but at the time Atari were cancelling all Lynx stuff to concentrate on the Jaguar.
Not long after this you purchased by Gremlin and I guess that was the end of your work for Atari systems?
Imagitec was one of the best trans-coding shops that there was – we could port anything to anything – which is why we were bought by Gremlin – Imagitec actually completed the first PSOne version of GTA (after DMA had struggled to get it done as a port from the PC – Gremlin were the owners of DMA and subsequently the GTA IP). The company had its hayday in 1995, turning over more than $5M. In 1996 it was sold to Gremlin, prior to their floatation (at the same time they bought DMA Design) and yes, that was the end of it.
This interview was conducted by Kieren Hawken and is not to be shared elsewhere without strict permission.