FROM HUNGRY HORACES TO EXPLODING FISTS
When Greg Barnett joined Melbourne House he was still learning about
the 64. Since the release of his first game, HUNGRY HORACE, he has gone
from strength to strength and has been the force behind many legendary programs, such as THE hobbit and WAY OF THE EXPLODING FIST.
Now, after six months in the making, FIST II Is about to hit the software
scene — and it looks as thought Melbourne House are going to have yet
another smash hit on their hands. Gary Perm got up bright and early to
talk to Greg, who had just finished eating his tea in sunny Australia. . .
How near to completion is Fist II?
It's virtually complete — we're just adding the
Is it a true follow up to Fist?
Not really — Fist II is more of a role playing
game with karate combat. There are around
600 screens spread over caves, a town—and
so on. You meet various different characters
on your travels: Ninjas, Shoguns and animals
—panthers and snakes. You can either fight
them or run away, or even walk straight past
Are there fewer moves available than in Fist?
Well, no—there are in fact more moves; there
are less fighting moves than in Fist, but more
moves in total. Certain moves are affected by
your surroundings — for example, If you're in
water you can't somersault.
Where does the game take place?
Ah, Fist II is set a fair few centuries later than
Fist. You start as a disciple outside a volcano
and have to pass through the jungle, leap or
swim waterfalls, explore underwater caverns
— that sort of thing. There are eight scrolls —
Trigrams—to be located and eight temples.
Yes—the scroll system is based on I Ching,
the art of ancient Chinese fortune telling. You
have to find the Trigram associated with each
temple and then meditate — there's a meditation sequence. Each trigram has a different
property—for example, if you find the Trigram
of light and meditate at a temple you are given
the power to see in the dark caverns. It is possible to get through the game without the aid of
certain Trigrams — but it's not easy.
How does the fighting work?
Similar to Fist but with a continuous energy
system. You lose energy when fighting and
energy is replenished when you're not fighting.
But if you get poisoned — by a snake, say —
you don't get energy back, so you have to
meditate. Meditating builds up the potential for
All this in one load?
Yes, it's a single load. There's continuous
scrolling — we've used two scrolling
techniques depending upon whether you're
walking or fighting. When you're walking it's
better if the player is central and the screen
scrolls with you. The screen scrolls less during
fighting so you can move across the screen
and fight as in Fist I. Even though Fist II has
karate combat, it's not just another karate
game, there's a lot more to it. We'll be giving
away an enhanced copy of Fist I on the flip side
—the graphics are better and there's a continuous energy system.
Have you seen any other karate games —
International Karate, for example?
Yes, but they've been a long time coming —
Fist was released over a year ago now. I notice
the graphics in International Karate are very
similar to those in Fist—especially certain
moves. They seem like the Fist graphics with
Were you aware of the leg sweep cheat in
I was aware that some of the guys in-house
could do very well by leg sweeping. I notice in
your magazine there are high scores of a million and so on — I can't imagine people bothering to sit down for hours on end, pulling down
on the joystick and pressing the fire button.
That's a boring way of playing a game. We hear
of people who are still playing Fist properly and
enjoying it. You can come home from work,
load up Fist and relieve the day's frustration.
Rock 'n' Wrestle was a big disappointment
Well yes. that seems to be what the British
press thought — Rock 'n' Wrestle went
reasonably well in Britain, though, and it's gone
down really well in Australia and the States. I
suppose it may have been the graphic representation that put most people off. We had
to fit a lot of graphics in Rock 'n' Wrestle, more
than in Fist, so we had to cut down somewhere.
A lot more effort went into Rock 'n'
Wrestle—perhaps we tried to be too innovative, what with all the moves and 3D movement
in and out of the ring. Some people can't get
into the game, others persevere and find it
great. I suppose some people were disappointed with Rock 'n' Wrestle because they
were expecting something more impressive
than, and similar to, Fist. I think it went down
better in Australia and the States because
wrestling is more commercial — Rock 'n'
Wrestle is actually based on that sort of commercial wrestling which doesn't seem to be so
popular in Britain. There was a campaign to get
Rock 'n' Wrestle endorsed by a professional
British wrestler but we didn't want that.
How many people are working on Fist II?
There are two graphic artists, three guys
arranging the graphics screens, and a musician. We had to write our own special utilities
to handle the new scrolling routines, we don't
exploit previous routines, we always try to
create something new — like in Fist there are
the sprites and in Fist II there's the scrolling.
I program on a development system for the
BBC and download from BBC to Commodore.
I need the full 64K to download into, so there's
no way I can program on the Commodore
straight. I'll soon be upgrading to an IBM system.
Do you consider yourself a competent
The whole team consists of reasonably competent programmers producing reasonably
Have you become limited by the 64?
It's not been pushed to its limits. I think most
games in Britain today are exploiting old
techniques. At the time. Fist was using 75% of
the machine. Fist II is getting there. Sound
techniques have improved — the music in
Thing on a Spring was good when it first came
out — Rob Hubbard gets good sounds but
he's becoming repetitive.
Are you going to continue programming on
We're not going to discard the 64 for a while
yet. The Commodore and Spectrum will last for
quite a while, they certainly won't be dropped
overnight. I doubt that people will stop buying
games if they stop selling the machines.
Any English programmers you admire?
I thought you might ask me that—yes and no.
I admire Minter for attempting things that aren't
commercial — I admire someone who sits
down and tries something new. Andrew Braybrook is professionally competent — Uridium
only uses 40 to 50 percent of the 64's
capabilities but it is well put together. I admire
that. But I've seen few improvements. I admire
any programmer who sits down and tries to be
What about musicians?
We hear a lot of Rub Hubbard. He's very popular but I can't understand why — yes, he used
nice instruments at first but his music hasn't
improved. The music on International Karate
sounds like the music from Thing on a Spring
slowed down — and I'm not the only one who
has this opinion over here. Rob Hubbard's
tunes are very jolly but what about atmospheric music in games. Sound effects have
been neglected too. Music is a harder thing to
appreciate than games since each individual
has his or her own tastes. There's still room for
Have you any favourite games?
There's one game I didn't like but it set a trend
so I admire it for that—Manic Miner, it certainly
started a new wave of platform games with its
use of a cute character and so on. Some
American software is good. Archon was good
for its time—a sort of Dungeons and Dragons
game on a chess board, the Ultima series...
you certainly get your money's worth. I don't
really like any particular game — I find a few
things I like about a game, like a nice scroll
routine, that sort of thing. The people buying
games now aren't hackers or programmers,
they're more objective and stand back and
look at the game as a whole. I wouldn't mind
seeing Leader Board— I'd like to see a good
Are you releasing any more adventures in
the near future?
Yes, there's the sequel to Lord of the Rings.
But I' m not involved in writing adventures, they
take a lot longer to write and require substantially more effort. I quite enjoy creating
scenarios involved with adventure games,
though. We've got lots of good programs coming out in the near future — five or six major
releases out before this Christmas, including
Fist II. You may not have seen many Melbourne
House games in the charts recently, but the
situation is about to change...
This feature was typed in/OCRed by Iain