Interview with Mike Halsall

I learned programming in general whilst on a Youth Training Scheme after leaving school at a company called Icon Design/M.C. Lothlorien. This was on the Spectrum but I bought an Amiga and a few books and tinkered around at home. I was given a bunch of helpful tips and advice at the time from the company’s resident Amiga programmer (and world’s tallest man) Laurence Vanhelsuwe.

I loved it. The pay wasn’t too great and Widnes didn’t smell very nice but there was just myself and the artist (and company director) Jon Law working developing the game and it was just a nice working atmosphere.

After about 18 months at DMS they closed down, largely due to unpaid invoices I think, so I sent a letter and Colditz disk to Lorraine Starr, who was Gary Bracey’s number 2, and got an interview with the great man sometime later (to which I typically arrived about 3 hours late). On the strength of the demo I sent, which may actually have been Bod the Alien - a DMS platformer that had been in development, I was offered a job and started a few days later. I was told immediately that I would be probably be working on Universal Monsters as it was a licence that Gary had recently picked up one of his many jaunts to Hollywood. I had to wait for a week after starting for the artist Simon Butler to return from holiday so we could thrash out a game design.

I didn’t know there was an ST version.

A few, but Colditz was really 2D and occluding walls weren’t drawn whereas Universal Monsters had vertical movement and the resulting issues you get with isometric sorting so they weren’t too similar.

Colditz was initially done on an Amiga 500 with extended memory and a second floppy drive using the HiSoft DevPac assembler. Later on Jules Burt (company director and former programmer) rigged up a parallel cable and hacked some transmit code into DevPac so I was able to assemble on one Amiga and run the game on a second one.

Universal Monsters was developed on an Gateway 386sx PC with a SNasm development system and Amiga 500 with extended RAM.

Sorry - I have no recollection of the contents of the cover disk demo or even level maps in the game.

The tech I wrote was quite nice - the compositing of layered tiles built on the fly and scrolled on at the edges and the isometric sorting worked perfectly.

Lack of proper story and related level design.

I don’t remember Gibson being involved at all in the development. I think them screaming for their royalties may have been a contributing factor in the eventual demise of the company though.

There was a bunch of bugs that I was unable to fix due to inexperience/tiredness/incompetence/etc. Back then there was no project management at all, at least not on that project, that would have recognised such issues and taken steps to mitigate them and see the project through to a successful conclusion.

95% less the bugs that would have needed fixing - of which there were many.

I have no idea I’m afraid.

Bod the Alien for DMS that was unfinished.

I only had one copy of Bod that I gave to a C64 artist and programmer that worked at DMS for a while on the promise of some publisher releasing it. Of course I never heard anything back from them so it’s gone forever. I believe they finished a C64 version and it was released on budget with someone – it may have been just called Bod.

Beijing 2008 (PC/Xbox 360/PS3)

Ice Age 2 : The Meltdown (PC/Xbox/Gamecube)

Predator Concrete Jungle (Xbox/PS2)

James Bond Nightfire (Xbox/PS2/Gamecube)

And before that about 5 years of various Fifa iterations at Software Creations.