Interview with Jo Walker

Palace was my first job on leaving Art College. I had never really touched a computer before I got the job. Mac’s were just starting to come in when I finished my HND but I used to steer well clear of them. I remember having a lecture on sprites and creating an animated firework…I wasn’t overly impressed by what you could create on a BBC micro! I studied Graphics but concentrated on Illustration and my love of comics. It was the comic art that got me the job at Palace, as unbeknown to me all the art crew there were heavily into it.

Barbarian was the first title I worked on. The C64, Spectrum and Amstrad versions were all finished and that just left the Atari and Amiga versions to do. That’s where I came in. They just plonked me down in front of the computer and said get on with it...

I did most of the graphics on all the versions of Barbarian 2, Steve did his share and Rob even did a few bits if I remember correctly! Rob was trying to get us to graphics properly and we weren’t listening.

I think we only saw him once during the whole process. The programming was being done out of house by Chris (R.I.P) so I think they had a fair bit of communication. When he came into the office I was completely fazed. “Alan Grant…coming here... Oh f*@k!” He wanted to look at more of my artwork but I was embarrassed to show him! The guy was working with all the 2000AD greats of the time, so I felt a little out gunned to say the least.

Yeh...pretty different. I was just told what story lines required graphics then let loose on it. I had to create the look of all the characters first then create the various scenes. Just like illustrating a book I presume. Nice little job really, but just a bit too much text for my liking!

Can’t quite remember how I got dragged into this one. The Sensible boys were working with Outlaw (part of Palace) at the time. I’m sure I only did one screen for them…my memory is not what it used to be!

Ah…my "Marmite" artwork style. People either really liked my stuff or really hated it! The look probably came about from having no experience with computers what so ever. So trying to blend limited palettes introduced the stippling effect, but I enjoyed the process so I made it a feature. The square look was just the way I drew things. My paper art was just as square so I can’t blame the pixels for that.

Not really! Organic stuff was always harder to create than metallics say. I used to love doing pipe-work...nice and easy! Combining the metal with the plant life etc did work well though...I seem to remember being pretty pleased with the graphics in Hostile Breed. It will be interesting to see what it looks like after all these years...

Rob came up with the concept of Hostile Breed and the idea of playing all levels at once instead of playing one level at a time. The look of it was down to me. Looking at the long linear levels and having a control centre, the shape of the base was a pretty logical outcome I think.

Coming up with ideas for crazy creatures has never been a problem for me.

The bigger the better. It’s nice to be able to put some detail into the graphics. Most sprites are a challenge because they’re so small. Animation was always a bit trickier on the larger stuff due to the limitations of the machines we worked on...never enough memory to really go to town on things.

Good question!...I can’t really remember. We always used in house editors to create the sprites. I presume Rob will have written one for the game or it could have been another version of "Schem-Edit", an animation package used by all the Palace artists created by the late Stan Schembri-RIP.

I really liked the playing all levels at once idea. It was something new. Whether it made the game just that bit too hard I don’t know? Working with Rob was good, I think we made a pretty good team. Also, graphically, on Hostile Breed I did pretty much what I wanted to do, so that was good. What I was least happy with that the bloody thing never came out! It’s pretty soul destroying pouring everything into a project and it never seeing the light of day…though in the games industry, it's something you have to get used too.

To be honest I don’t remember too much about the death throws of Palace. Just that Palace Software itself was doing just fine, then the film arm went bust and the debts landed on the soul remaining part of the Palace group…us!...End of Story. I remember the Titus guys being around but no, I didn’t go and work with them.

Phil Thornton, the designer of Putty was working at Palace at the time. When he came up with the concept he asked me to work on the character. So we came up with the blob and his moves. I think that was the limit of my involvement with it. I may have done a few enemies...We touted the idea around a bit but by the time Phil had got the idea accepted by System 3 I'd moved on somewhere else. But after a while I went to work at System 3 with Phil on the Constructor series of games.

No...I think I would have gone crazy by now! I do miss the creativity of the job but there are so many aspects of game creation and the games industry as a whole that are just BAD! I think I worked in the industry at a great time. We had maximum creative input and being able to work in such small teams was great. Creating every bit of graphics that appeared in the game was very satisfying. I started pushing pixels around aged 20 and quit when I hit 40. I'm still working at System 3 but as a graphic designer, working on the packaging. Nice to be still involved with games but leaving the hard work and late nights to some one else!