Now that Psychedelia is out of his system, Jeff can return to the game he abandoned. It is called Mama Llama, and the stars are three llamas, a mother and two youngsters. It is much more in the tradition of Minter games - smooth scroll, excellent animation, bullets, aliens, and of course llamas. It is clear, however, that Jeff feels the time for such games is passing. A lot of the innovations he began everybody has now copied. Smooth scrolling, for example. He was the first on the C64. He had seen it on the Atari and then he "sussed it out from the Commodore manual." He feels that Mama Llama is his last game to use the technique. It has been done to death and he is very scathing of programmers like Tony Crowther whom he feels use it for no other reason that it's there. It goes against his first principle of games writing: "Originality is where it's at," he said.

Ballblazer - Lucasfilm - Activision
Lucasfilm Ballblazer Cover
So whose games does he like? Taskset was a name which came in for a lot of praise. And he also showed me two imported games for the Atari, developed by Lucasfilms, called Behind Jaggi Lines (aka Rescue on Fractalus) and Ballblazer. They're good, very good. Fingers crossed that they come out for the Commodore.

Mama Llama may not be as great a departure as Psychedelia, but it has all the quirkiness that sets a Minter game apart from the rest. As Jeff said, "It takes a certain type of mind to develop games - freaky". He certainly has that. Our family of Llamas travel through Peru to Egypt (got to get the camels in somewhere) and to the moon. On the way, look out for references to Jeff's favourite radio station KMEL 106FM from Los Angeles (symbol: a camel) and to his favourite drink, Inca Kola, a yellow, Peruvian version of the more famous original.

He discovered Inca Kola on his trip to Peru last year. (For a full report, read The Nature of the Beast 3).

While I was with him, he showed me his photos. And if I can't yet share his fascination for Llamas (every pic had at least one in it) I can certainly see why he would want to visit their homeland. he travelled all round the country, to Lima the capital, on a railway at 14,000 feet above sea level, to the mountains surrounding the great Inca ruin of Machu Picchu. Jeff is not a programmer who is manacled to the computer. Like a good write or musician he is open to all sorts of influences and they are reflected in his work.

His energy is limitless; he goes running every day and he also skis. If there's one word which sums up his attitude, it's enthusiasm. A lot of people enjoy his games because they realise his is a programmer who likes playing games himself - and his own games are the ones he most likes playing. he likes to hear from people about what they think of his games (and other people's) and, above all, he likes going to shows to meet the people who share his interest. I saw him at the last PCW show, not selling like everyone else, but completely engrossed in a two-handed game of Ancipital with a fellow enthusiast.

"It takes a certain type of mind to develop games - freaky."
"I work whenever I feel like it."

Jeff Minter - Llama
Jeff Minter

He is not commercially minded and doesn't like the new atmosphere. He is prepared to put free programs up on Compunet, for example, and nearly did so with Psychedelia until persuaded by his mother that it might not be a wise decision. He liked the early days when everyone was an enthusiast and understands the tragedy of good programmers being hyped out of the market nowadays. But I cannot share his belief that the old days will return, "Maybe this summer will sort out the sheep from the goats," he said somewhat ironically.

Jeff Minter is the best known programmer in this country. A superstar? I asked him. "I don't really think of myself as a superstar," he said. "My idea of being a superstar is to play a light synthesiser at a concert." I hope it happens. He is a very modest superstar, the best kind to be.

Article reproduced from Your Commodore magazine March 1985 edition.
Although all text appears unchanged, some photographs or images have been added or modified for aesthetic purposes.

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Thank you to the following websites which were used for sourcing some images that appear in this article:
The International Arcade Museum and the KLOV, Stadium 64.