Pet Person Interview Julian Rignall

Following on from last month's Exclusive review of Pet Person we now present an interview with Pet Person creator, DAVID CRANE. Quite unusual really, because David prefers to stay away from the limelight and the computer press in general. JULIAN RIGNALL, never one to turn down an opportunity to use the phone, rigged up a tape recorder and dialled the USA. It was 5.30 in the afternoon, and Julian was thinking of home. David, on the other hand, had not long arrived at work. It was 9.30am over in the States...

Science and technology have always fascinated Mr Crane: 'My first encounter with science goes way back,' he explained. 'When I was a child I played with chemistry sets, microscopes and that sort of thing and really got interested in the sciences. I then began to become interested in electronics too and began picking apart televisions and wiring their controls across the room so I wouldn't have to get out of bed to change the channel.'

An interest in computing came naturally-'After all, with an interest in science and mathematics and having learned electronics, computers seemed the natural progression', said David. And his first computer was one he built himself!

Soon it became clear that a living could be made from computing, and David's first commercial move was to start developing programs for the Atari 2600 VCS including Dragsters and the much acclaimed Pitfall and Pitfall II. Did he sit down and plan out a game right from scratch? 'No, not at all. My ideas don't stay long on paper. I try to get onto a computer as soon as possible - Pitfall was started with my drawings of a little man. I wanted him to run across the screen so I immediately went over to a computer and carried on from there.'

In those days it took a couple of months to develop a game, but David can spend upto a year on a project now. 'I modify the program many times a day, testing it out to see if it's right, and after a year I usually have the finished product.'

Ghostbusters, of course, is a absolutely massive success and one of the biggest selling computer games ever. Did the fact that he had to work around a film limit the game at all?

Pitfall Atari 2600 VCS
Pitfall (Atari 2600 VCS) by Activision

'The design of Ghostbusters was no different from any other entertainment product. I set out to design an original computer game within certain limits. I always set out to design a game within certain limits- usually my limits are these: what is the machine capable of, how much memory does it have, and what type of controller- stick, keyboard or whatever- is to be used. Each one of those things is a constraint, or limit that I have to design within. When doing Ghostbusters I simply included into my constraints that it had to feel like the motion picture and it should probably contain aspects of the motion picture. So starting with that I got a piece of paper and a pencil and started to design a game just as original as any other game but containing those elements. So it's not a different process, it was just designing with a set of different constraints'.

Are other game-of-the-film projects in the pipeline? 'We never know from day to day. When Ghostbusters came about I'd only seen the movie a couple of days before, and film people had been approaching Activision asking whether we'd be able to do a game based on the film. Three days after seeing the film I was walking in the door and I was asked if I'd beinterested in doing a game based on Ghostbusters. I said 'let me sleep on it' and eventually thought it would be a good idea. When another film comes along that would make a game as good as Ghostbusters, then we'll certainly be considering the idea.'