Big K - Jeff Minter - Goatbuster


The JEFF MINTER interview

JEFF "Animal" MINTER is by any standards a

Name of Power in the games designing field.

Hit after hit has poured from his keyboard -

latterly with a decidedly zoological theme.

Camels, dromedaries, sheep, llamas -

there's no end to Minter's creative obsession.

And seemingly no end to the hits, either.

TONY TAKOUSHI talks to the Oldest Hippie of All...

Can you tell us a little bit about your new game?
It's called Mama Llama.
What does it involve? And will you be following Tony Crowther's example of a smooth-scrolling game?
Well, not so slavishly. It's going to be a strange game ...
Why ARE your games so strange?
Probably because I'm so weird! I've had some superb music especially written for the game by James Lisney (the Baughurst piano wizard).
That sounds like hype ...
Well, it sounds like hype, yes - but I won't be selling it on the strength of the music. I'm not going to be mentioning it in the adverts and I'm not going to say, Hey, this has got eight billion screens!, I'm not going to do that.
Why did you mention eight billion screens!
Because of the current 'mega-game' trend, I can translate these terms. For 'mega-game' read 'game with lots of screens' and for 'cartoon style animation' read 'sprites with little lines around them'.
They are fashionable things; everybody is bringing out games with loads of playing area but never mind if they don't play well.
Does that matter at the end of the day? Technically they are doing what they set out to do. What does it matter if cartoon-style graphics are two sprites?
A game as a whole is not sold on the basis of graphics but some companies do take this line. A game is a synergistic combination of many parts - graphics are just one part of it - they can be used as part of a style.
You yourself have a style of using sheep and llamas...
That's exactly it. What I dislike at the moment in the industry are ads that say, This game is better than Jet Set Willy, or This game is the best. You can't say 'the best' anymore. We've all reached a certain technical level.
What do you mean THE BEST? Because it's subjective, everybody has their own tastes.
All the programmers have reached a standard where they can produce games that look nice and are 'polished', but the thing is you can't say your game is any better than someone else's because people who like my games might not like someone else's games and vice versa.
I write games for people who like my style; if people don't like my style I'm not that bothered.
Aren't you producing games to make a living?
I'm producing games because that's what I like doing, because I'm a video games artiste. I get lots of letters from people saying they really like Ancipital, or they didn't like Ancipital as much as Revenge. I like to hear what people like and dislike about my games.

Big K - Jeff Minter - Llama
"You can't say 'The Best' anymore 
... we've all reached a certain 
technical level"

On Compunet I get a big kick from putting up a game called Synchro and have people take it for free. I really enjoyed writing it, there was no pressure to produce a particularly marketable game.
Aren't you creating your own pressure by saying 'marketable', Why not do your own thing, why worry about it?
Well that's what I do now, but at the moment there's so much heavy commercialism in the whole scene that it does tend to leak over no matter how much I try and negate it. Perhaps I should take a course in Zen and meditation!
What's the response been like to Ancipital?
The people who have bought it like it a lot, there haven't been any letters saying it's disliked. In fact there's been loads and loads of letters saying Ancipital is driving people crazy. They love it.

Again, like most of my games it tends to suffer at the hands of casual reviewers.
What do you mean by casual reviewers?
Guys who are given thirty tapes to review in an afternoon, so they try and play each game in five minutes - and for one of my games that's a pretty damn stupid way to try and play.
By your own admission a lot of your games are shoot-'em-ups so why shouldn't they be able to review it in five minutes?
Well, look at Ancipital. It's a shoot-'em-up but with that bit more. Stuff like Matrix and Gridrunner admittedly could be reviewed in five minutes, but take Revenge. If you played it for five minutes you'd only see the first two or three screens, out of a total of 42. Some reviewers of Ancipital don't even bother to read the instructions, they don't know what they're doing. The first time Help screens have been introduced into an arcade game and they don't mention them! I saw a review where it said here were 81 screens in Ancipital... where it says at least four times in the instructions there are 100 screens.
Let's move on a little, what is it about sheep and llamas you like so much?
I like them because they're so hairy.
You like hairy things...
Plenty to grab hold of ... 
What do you see in the future?
I hope there's a big crash in the market ... I really hope the big heavy commercial outfits crash.
But they're the ones taking over now?
They are taking over and it's all so cynical.
In what way is it corrupt?
There is corruption - you get chart hyping.
Isn't it a relatively new thing for software?
It is, it's all going the wrong way.
So it's a young industry that's going full circle like the video and record industries?
It's not even like the record industry. People aren't being encouraged to develop their own styles.