Author Topic: Interview with Graeme Cowie  (Read 3560 times)

Offline 4pLaY

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Interview with Graeme Cowie
« on: March 05, 2019, 08:25:45 PM »
Hello Graeme Cowie, could you please do a small introduction of yourself to our readers?

First off, thanks for interviewing me. I guess I would say that i'm an Amiga game coder who is responsible for coding Bomb Jack Beer Edition and now Rygar, I am 43 and I live in North East England with my wife and little boy, day to day I work in Cyber Security, I guess you could say my passion is all stuff Amiga.

When did you get interested in computers, and what was your first computer?

I was first interested in computers from around the age of 7. My uncle had a ZX Spectrum and I was just blown away by it, so I asked my Mom and Dad to get me one at Christmas, I absolutely loved it, playing games like Jetpac and TransAm.

What Amiga(s) did you have in the past, and if you remember, what were the(ir) configuration(s)?

I must have got my first Amiga in roughly 1991 (maybe 1992), it was a standard A500 with the white case.  About a year later I got various upgrades. I think it had 1mb chip and 1mb fast, and I remember having a 2nd floppy drive. The best bit of kit I had was the Action Replay 3 cart. Later on I got an A1200, must have been 1994, that wasn't upgraded though.

What is your current Amiga setup?

I currently have my original A500 still in working order, but I also have an A1200 now, with an accelerator card which was donated to me. I couldn't tell you what type of card it is. In the A1200 I have a compact flash card, Gotek drive and internal 4gb hard drive.

Can you tell us how you got started programming on the Amiga?

Sure, before I had an Amiga I had an Atari STFM. My dad ended up taking me to a local computer club where there was a lot of disk swapping going on, I hadn't seen disk menu's before and I couldn't believe you could fit 3 or 4 games on 1 disk.  As I started to get to know people at the club there were a couple of programmers there who dabbled a little in assembler, so I started to do 68000 on the Atari ST. Later as time progressed there were guys coming in with Amigas, so you had at one of the halls, the ST guys and the other end the Amiga guys along with the great rival. Eventually after seeing the intro to Blood Money, I convinced my dad to buy me an Amiga, and after playing Hybris for a few weeks decided I'd start programming it too. I think I must have been about 15 at the time.

What is your current setup for developing for the Amiga?

I currently have a Windows 10 PC, and I run WinUAE, I use Notepad++ with VASM and cross assemble. To do real hardware tests, i'll put the ADF onto USB stick and run them from my Gotek drive on the A500 or A1200. I should add I use some Applications too, Paint.Net, Personal Paint, XvConvert and a few other apps.

Could you tell us a bit about which programs or games you have created in the past on the Amiga?

Heheheh, that's easy! None. Back in the day I did have strong aspirations of being a games programmer, but sadly I just wasn't good enough at it back then, and I was only able to do small intros that have never seen the light of day.

You are working on what seems to be an almost arcade perfect port of Rygar for the stock A1200, could you tell us what made you to start on this endeavour?

In the mid 80's when I used to visit my Grandparents, my uncle would take me to the arcades just about every weekend, so I kind of grew up around the arcades from about the age of 9-14.  I remember seeing a few games in the arcades, that I thought were game changers, games that just made my jaw drop. Rygar was one of them, and seeing the beautiful graphics in the game was like nothing else I had seen. Around the same time we had games like Nemesis, Side Arms, Bubble Bobble, Bomb Jack. Rygar I thought was better looking, and the game just played so fast and amazing it just stood out for me.

In mid 1995 I must have packed up my Amiga's, and then they pretty much stayed packed away until Halloween 2017, when I got my A500 from the attic and started looking through my source disks. I then got the bug back for programming and set about creating Bomb Jack Beer Edition. After that there was a huge thread on the English Amiga Board about creating Rygar for the A500, while I thought creating Rygar for the A500 would be a stretch, I thought that doing it for the A1200 was entirely doable, so I started coding it for the EAB game compo.

Supplementing the why not on A500 question, the machine in my eyes would simply not be up to the task to do the arcade game or the amiga community any justice.

How come you choose to target the stock A1200 for Rygar?

The A1200 has just about enough resources to match the arcade hardware. Where the number of hardware sprites (8), and the blitter on the A500 and A1200 are the same, there are some real key differences. The sprites can be 64 pixels wide, and the display can be drawn pretty much 4 times faster than on an A500. Essentially an A1200 gets you 12 free sprites on Rygar, where an A500 would get you maybe 6, that's a big difference. The other big difference is the number of bitplanes on the A1200, I was able to get 32 colours on the front playfield, and 8 on the back playfield, and an A500 would simply not be able to do that. Like I said, with a bit of manipulation, the A1200 can roughly push the same as the arcade, which can do 24 32x32 sprites at any one time.

Will there be a HD version of the game?

Yeah most definitely, jotd is going to be doing a WHD version of the game, so people with hard drives will be able to play too.

Is the development/porting of Rygar a team effort, Or are you doing this all by yourself?

Yeah this was an odd one. A guy called Sandruzzo attempted to make a port of the game a couple of years ago (2016), and as part of that effort a couple of guys created all of the level maps and extracted all of the sprites from the game. Sadly that project was abandoned, and so I asked the guys who done the tiles and sprite extractions (Invent and dlfrsilver), if they would send me their work which they happily did. Later on Simone Bernachia also provided some music and sound fx for the game, but sadly these were not to the quality that I was happy with, it was certainly no reflection on Simone, as the task was quite difficult. After that I had a conversation with DJ Metune, who had previously done some work on the Amiga, and he said he could produce something near to the arcade. I actually didn't believe him, but about 2 days later he did indeed produce the round music for the game in 3 channels, and I was simply blown away. All the game coding is typically done by me, now and again I enlist the help of Ross, who I consider like an Amiga technical consultant, the guy is a genius who pushes the Amiga technically to its limits.  Ross helped massively with the disk loading routines.

You have released several beta versions so far, have you set any date for yourself to have a 100% port?

Yes, I release beta versions as a kind of way to get people to test the game for me. In general I don't like coding in the summer, so I would say I would need to finish the game by end of April as I have family holidays coming and beer to drink :). If the game isn't finished by then, then I'll probably start again in October, but I hope I will have a new project to work on in October.

Where can people download the latest beta version of the game, and do you have any videos of the game?

People can generally grab the latest downloads of the game at my webpage I do have a YouTube channel as well, generally people will be able to find me over at the EAB, in the coders sections discussing new projects and the like.

Do you have any plans for further ports, Or perhaps a new original game? if yes, anything you can tell us at this point?

I sort of have a few ideas or projects I want to do. I'm really keen on doing some game coding tutorial videos, to help others get into making games. When I say this I don't mean like just learning how to code on the Amiga, but the actual techniques used to make the game too, physicls, dev environment, that sort of thing. As for other ports, I have a few I have my eye on, Rolling Thunder is one I really want to do, Wonder Boy is another one, or Kung Fu Master as a nice smaller project. As for my own game, I now know a really good graphic artist to work with, so maybe my next project will be my own game. I really am keen on doing like a Hotline Miami game for the A1200, so I guess watch this space.

To anyone else that might be dreaming of creating their own games, do you have any suggestions for them?

Sure, I would say just make sure you have a lot of patience, game coding is really fun but it's also frustrating (especially coding assembler). I would also say write games in what you are comfortable with, obviously, if you want to create a game like what was produced back in the day. then you'll need to learn a bit of assembler and/or C. If you just want to make games for the fun of it, then there are some great high level languages available, Amos and Blitz Basic spring to mind.

The other suggestion I would say, is that you should make a kind of project plan and put into time slices. Having a family and a full time job, you need to find the right balance so pick your projects around that.

What do you think the state of the Amiga community is in these days?

I think the Amiga community certainly seems to be geared more to hardware enthusiasts, as opposed to creating games, but I think that is beginning to change.  There's been quite a few good games come out of late, that really match what was released back in the day, Worthy/Trap runner spring to mind. I think what is difficult though, is that us 40 something retro gamers always expect to have the quality that was released from back in the day, and that's very hard for the hobbyist programmer.

Do you have some last words?

Ok, cool, last words, i'd just like to say thanks for the interview, and keep an eye out for me over at the English Amiga Board where I tend to hang out. I am super pleased to be part of the Amiga community, and i'll do my best to bring some really nice games to the Amiga, because it and the community deserves it.

That is the end of this interview, thanks for taking the time to do it Graeme, I am sure our readers will appreciate it :).
« Last Edit: March 10, 2019, 12:35:21 AM by 4pLaY »