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Old 06 March 2015, 13:07   #1
mjnurney
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Interview with Alastair murray

i have recently conducted and interview with Alastair murray of Backbone fame and i will be writing it up later and publishing it.

stay tuned.

mike.
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Old 06 March 2015, 13:43   #2
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Great!, thanks Mike, I'm very interested.
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Old 06 March 2015, 15:35   #3
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Cool! Show him "Tales of Gorluth".
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Old 06 March 2015, 22:04   #4
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will do :-)
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Old 06 March 2015, 22:59   #5
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Is this the same Alastair Murray as Hanger 18: http://www.lemonamiga.com/games/details.php?id=2216

And what does he have to do with Backbone?

That Hanger 18 is a game I have always wanted to have finished. If i recall right, it either ended without actually ending, or then there was some very quick ending in way of "Im too tired to get this finished, lets just kill the main character and call it game complete"

He should have released that game as shareware instead of freeware when he made that. I think that game was and still is definetily worthy of receiving shareware payment to have it properly finished. It is one of the best freeware games i have played on Amiga.

Perhaps mention him in interview if there is possiblity to raise his inerest to finish that game properly? I would be willing to pay something to get to play it.


edit: just googled and found out that Alastair Murray made the backbone. Very interesting if this the same guy who made the hanger 18 as well.
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Old 14 March 2015, 14:18   #6
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interview:

And here is the interview (part one)

thanks
mike.



Hi there,

Sorry it's taken a while, I was away for a few days, and then was busy with work, but here are my replies.


I've also attached a photo - me relaxing on a boat in vietnam


If you have any further queries about my answers, please let me know!




1) When did you first see or start using the Amiga and which model was it?


I started on an A500 in 1990 and a few years later upgraded to an A1200.


2) How and when did you decide to create software for the Amiga


Previous to the Amiga, I'd been making simple games for the ZX Spectrum and so it was a natural progression to continue making games for the Amiga as soon as a I got one, and it was nice to be able to do more with my games with the improved Amiga CPU and graphics capabilities.
One of my primary motivations was that myself and four friends would regularly play games together but there were very few 5 player games available. Most were 2 player, with the occasional game supporting 4 players via a parallel port joystick adapter. I eventually figured out how to program for the adapter, and I then made several five player games (four on joystick, one played on keyboard). They were all very amateurish games, but they were fun and we played them a lot. Unfortunately all this was before the internet, so I was not able to share them with any wider audience.


3) From the software of your that i can see, it is OCS/ECS compatible, did you ever try AGA updates or AGA specific software.


Most of the games that I wrote used AMOS Professional which did not support AGA. This was very frustrating to me and I did at one point try to contact the makers of AMOS to see if they would support AGA in the future. They had moved away from the Amiga to PC development and so there were no more updates. I did experiment with making software using other packages, but time was an issue (I could create games quickly in AMOS that would take a lot longer otherwise) and eventually I moved away from the Amiga altogether.


4) Backbone has and is still being used to make games , when did you decide to start backbone and why?


I'd created many games over the years, many of which were never finished, but I was learning and experimenting all the time. One day I was starting work on a new game idea and I had the realisation that the game was essentially just a remix of other games I'd already created, as many games are even today. So I experimented with the idea of creating snippets of game code that could be combined in different ways and with different properties.
For example, I'd create some code to handle a monster that moved around on platforms. I'd done this a hundred times before for different games. But instead of programming the monster for one specific game, I programmed it so it had lots of different options with different animations attached to it.
Nowadays in games we would call this 'data-driven' and it is very commonly used. But back then, I was a teenager experimenting with my own ideas, and this was new to me.


5) The last backbone update was in the late 90s , would you consider returning to it for updates.


I have occasionally considered returning to making 'game-maker' software over the years. I've learnt a lot since then, so I would never re-use anything from Backbone, but instead write a much superior version from scratch.
However, I don't program for the Amiga any more, and the PC has several high quality game making packages already such as Unreal and Unity, so unless I did something quite different, it would not be worth it.


6) What are the best achievements of backbone and why did you stop development.


For me, it's biggest achievement is that to this day I still get the occasional person contacting me about it. Even though it's something I worked on in the 90s for only a year or so.
I stopped development for several reasons. I was a teenager when I made it and the Amiga was already considered to be 'dead' by many. A few years later I went through University and then went to work at a professional games developer company. From then on, all my work went in to games for the PC and consoles.


7) Backbone still has a few bugs like ,scores will not reset , collision detection , no AGA. did you plan to address any of these later.


I tried to fix any bugs that were reported to me whilst I was still developing Backbone, but I don't think many people used it, and it was only the early days of the internet so contacting me wasn't always easy.
A few years later I no longer even had my Amiga any more, so sadly it became impossible.


Do you still use an Amiga or keep up to date with developments?


I threw away my Amiga many years ago. I wish I hadn't, but the reality was that I lived in a small apartment with little space. I've also moved from the UK to Australia since then and anything that was not essential has been disposed of.
I didn't keep up with developments for some time until a friend pointed out to me that some of my old games were being discussed on an Amiga forum. It was fun to read about some of that.
I've backed two Amiga kickstarters recently. 'Commodore Amiga: a visual Commpendium' is a cool book illustrating all the classic games, and 'From Bedrooms to Billions: The Amiga Years!' is a movie about game development for the Amiga.
I occasionally read up about Amiga developments, but those seem to be few and far between.


9) New game making tools are being made for OS3x which are similar to backbone is principle, could we coax you back to the Amiga scene.


I'd be interested in seeing what these projects are, but I'm unlikely to return to the Amiga. I would if I had the time, but commercial reality means I have to spend my time developing for platforms such as Windows, iOS and Android where I have a larger audience.


10) What are you doing these days and did the Amiga influence any part of your current work, life?


For the last 15 years I've been in commercial games development. I've made games for the PC, all the Playstations, all the Xbox's, as well as mobile games for iOS and Android.
I recently became disillusioned with working on AAA games, and I've gone back to my roots, making small games for the PC and mobile devices.
The Amiga days have certainly had a great influence on my work. I learnt a great many things making those early games, and even though many of them were quite amateurish, some of the techniques I used then, I still use today in some evolved form.
People starting to program games today have a very different experience. The internet allows you to find solutions to problems immediately and to find like-minded people to collaborate with. There are many free game making platforms available. Programming languages are more powerful and easier to get started with. For my Amiga games, I did almost everything myself and I have found that it provided a very solid ground work for my career. So I regard my Amiga experience as being invaluable.
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Old 14 March 2015, 18:32   #7
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Nice one...can´t wait for the second part.
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Old 14 March 2015, 20:23   #8
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Nice one. If i remember well he stated some years ago that he dropped backbone due to some hackers cracked it and released a key for the program in the net plus it had a very small following.
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Old 28 March 2015, 14:52   #9
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Quote:
5) The last backbone update was in the late 90s , would you consider returning to it for updates.

I have occasionally considered returning to making 'game-maker' software over the years. I've learnt a lot since then, so I would never re-use anything from Backbone, but instead write a much superior version from scratch.
However, I don't program for the Amiga any more, and the PC has several high quality game making packages already such as Unreal and Unity, so unless I did something quite different, it would not be worth it.
I think he underestimates how different backbone is from Unity and the likes. There are so many people out there who are good at level editing but are not good at programming. Even in the simpler game-maker programs that I came across you still need to setup every little thing like movement, collision, health, behaviour, etc. which takes a long time (if you succeed) before you can actually start with level editing. If Alastair would make a Backbone for PC with more options and no bugs it will be gold. Unless a program like that already exists ofcourse.

Also it's very cool to hear he's been working in the game industry for so long. Something I can only be jealous of. To me that's the life of a rockstar! If I'm correct he worked on games like Test Drive and Need for Speed (link). I wonder which other games he worked on. Would be cool to see in part 2 of the interview.
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Old 28 March 2015, 23:10   #10
mjnurney
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Hi

Part 2 has now been written up, sadly it's pretty short. I was hoping for details of his other games and details of any lost amiga games and maybe the sorce data for backbone. However it's all lost now , given or thrown away.

Amiga future magazine will hopefully have a full version in print next issue
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Old 29 March 2015, 15:39   #11
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Great interview, thanks for tracking Alistair down. I'm curious if he has seen or played any of the many Backbone games people have been releasing in recent years.
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Old 19 April 2015, 21:29   #12
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When can we expect part two?
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Old 19 April 2015, 21:35   #13
mjnurney
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part 2 never really happened , i asked lots of questions about his software on the amiga but sadly its all lost now. he has no lost software or unfinished games at all and his Amigas where given away when he moved to Australia.

He went in to a little detail about a few games he made but thats about it.

The notes i had went to Amiga future magazine and they are writing it up for the next issue i believe.
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Old 19 April 2015, 21:52   #14
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Thanks for the information.
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