The Minter Interview - SLAY IT WITH FLOWERS
(N.B. The terrible spelling and grammer are as it was in the original article. IB)
As the nearest thing to an impartial interviewer under the circumstances of our verbal differences with the arcade maestro, we sent GARY LIDDON to talk to the Hairy Hippy Himself at the Yaklab in Tadley, near Basingstoke. The resulting interview is written down as it came off the cassette recorder used. Jeff Minter speaks his mind in his own inimitable manner, answering back for the flak he feels he's received from ZZAP! and talking about lots of other things too.
Why did you agree to do the interview?
It doesn't really bother me, just because I don't agree with someone it doesn't mean I'll act hostile. Unlike some people I don't get agressive, I mean the criticisms I actually made of you lot weren't actually hostile. I've never been into CRASH a lot and you lot were just getting too much like CRASH.
I still think it was very irresponsible for one magazine to have so much of a go at one person.
Didn't Gary Penn used to write letters saying how much he liked your work and was looking forward to Mama Llama?
Yeah. I still haven't put those letters upon Compunet. I'm saving them for when I really need them. That upset me. This guy, as far as I could see, was well into my stuff and was really looking forward to Mama Llama then he really sticks the knife in with the rest of them.
What was your objective with Mama Llama?
I achieved everything I set out to achieve. I had an idea for a game that I wanted to do, I wanted to get some scrolling in there but I wanted it to be a bit different, not just the normal type. I liked the idea of lots of Llamas on the screen sort of following one another. I designed most of it while I was in
Peru on a holiday. The Killdroid idea just developed and we decided it was better than bullets. We tried it out on loads of people and they liked it. I like it and that's all that counts, everyone else can go screw themselves. I'll put something out and I like it then that's enough for me because I know that the guys that are really into my games are gonna like it as well because I know where their heads are at. I've never, ever, ever had a single letter from anyone who's been disappointed with Mama Llama and I've had hundreds of letters in support, so I think that I was right.
Did the ZZAP! review of Mama Llama affect you in any way?
I just did not like the way it came across. They were just trying to put down something that I figured they didn't really have a right too. Okay, they weren't into the game but it's not so much that, they didn't actually say they weren't into it, they actually tried to drag it down. I get very attached to my games. it's a part of me. I take three or four months creating a game and if somebocfy goes for my game, they go for me. I can't be objective, I'm not like a lot of people who are just writing commercially and they're producing a marketable game. If it gets stagged off then that's that, it's not so much part of them, it's just an exercise in value marketing. When I sit down and do a game, it's part of me and three or four months of my solid work in there, so when people start going for my game they're going for me and I get upset about it.
What do you think about reviews in general?
The way I do reviews in my my news letter, more or less, is that if I like something I'll mention it but if I don't like it I just don't mention it. I don't go out of my way to say this is really bad. I think that's a much nicer way because then nobody gets upset. What really used to upset me was I used to get letters from people and they'd say, 'I've just bought Mama Llama after it's been out for six months. I really liked it and ZZAP! said it was crap!'
To think that those people had been put off by what these blimming kids sitting in this office had said after
taking slight dislike to my game is wrong. There's no way that should happen. No way at all.
Don't you think it's better to have a constructive bad review than none at all? A lot of kids would otherwise decide on the glossy packaging rather than the game.
That's another thing I think these magazines have got a lot to answer for. I've seen letters in ZZAP! from the sort of kid that just buys the magazine, opens up the pages and just looks down at those stupid liitte cartoons and the expressions of the reviewers and buys this game based on that! There's no way that sort of thing should be encouraged. You should encourage people to go out there, have a look at what they're going to buy first and make their own decIsions. I don't like anything that tries to make people's decisions for them. Imagine what it'd be like if I were reading a music magazine and I just looked through, saw what other people thought of these albums and I was reading something written by a real funk guy. Now if I went out and bought a load of albums on that premise I'd end up with a load of funk albums and I wouldn't like that at all because I'm a rocker! You should encourage people to actively make their own decislons and not try and make decisions for them.
Now people want it handed to them on a plate, with all these ratings and that sort of thing, they just look
down and look at the overall rating and think right, I'll buy this one - overall rating's such and such, or I'll
buy that one. People are going to get bored of games if they end up doing that, no one will be settling into any
style, you,ll be getting a mish mash of this and that.
Ariolasoft: what were your reasons behind your decision to have them market some of your stuff?
It was just an experimental deal, to see if they can market our stuff better than we can. At the moment they've
only only got the one title. I'm seeing how they do with that, they've got no rights as such to anything else I
It seemed to read in the trade press that Ariolasoft had brought the Llamasoft label.
No. At the moment they're doing Batalyx, we,re seeing how they do on that. If they do Batalyx well then I might
give them the next one. That's the way it stands and we'll have to see how they do but they've got nothing do with
my Colourspace projects, nothing to do with Yak's Progress, nothing to do with BBC Colourspace coming out. We've
got loads of stuff running independently from them.
What are your feelings on the distribution methods of software?
My major beef with distributors is that they don't really look at the games themselves, they look at the advertising
budget and we don't place a lot of advertising. I don't feel that we need it, the sort of people who buy my garnes
know who I am and that I exist anyway. Ariola do look at the game. With distributors, you guys can do a hell of
a lot of damage. Mama Llama probably didn't get sold as well as it should have done. I mean if you do that
twice to a small company, you can put them out, as simple as that. I don't know if you want to do that, if you
want to be left with all the Oceans and Activisions and nobody else but there's always going to be guys who are
going to experiment, guys who are willing to take risks and I take risks and I experiment and if I get shit get
kicked out of me for doing that then I'll move onto another machine and do it there. I not going to hang around
in any sort of market that's going to treat me like that.
I understand you're performing light shows as a hobby now. You're doing a show at Cardiff University aren't
Oh the Cardiff light show, yeah. That looks like it's going ahead on February fourteenth of next year, they
rang me a couple of days ago. Last night I was asked to do one at Greenham Common air base, and I've this party
I went to last night with my ST and ST Colourspace. The words gotten round in this pub I go into and when I go
in it's 'wow do you want to come back to my place?' So I'm always guaranteed of going to a party if I go into this
How do want to progress with the Colourspace idea?
Well, I'm just going to develop it. I going to put it on the Amiga next. It's already getting to commercial
quality now, we could probably go on stage gIven all the right projection gear.
You seem to use Compunet quite a lot.
I like Compunet, it's good. I like the people on Compunet. They all supported me as well, during my time of
hassle from you guys. I was really pleased with the amount of support I had. The Net's good. I really dig it, getting
into Chatline every night, Partyline's okay but the trouble is it's exclusive, you can only have maybe eight people
on it. I like it to be open to everybody. I don't like to think that I'm shutting myself away with a bunch of mates
and every one else can bugger off. I don't want that at all. I never use any of these closed usergroups, or stuff
like that. I don't like the ideas of anything being closed.
Have you used Micronet?
I must admit I haven't done much on Micronet. I've just been on Celebrity Chatline. I don't really know much
about it, not enough to give any objective criticism of it anyway. I think there's a lot more Spectrum and BBC
owners on it. I like Compunet because you can have demos all over the system and you know it'll work for everyone
because all the subscribers have got the same machine.
Now you've got an Amiga doesn't the 64 and ST pall a little?
Understandably now I just want to sit down and play with Amiga but I want to finish Colourspace on the ST, it's
just sitting there begging to have yet more put on to it. At the PCW show it was a bit weak, it was just doing
vectors. That was literally the first week I'd ever written 68000 machine code and it was damn lucky it was that
far advanced. The main breakthrough that made it far more agressive came the day after I came back from the show
and I sat down and hooked up the mouse to it. The moment that mouse was on, I thought 'Hey, this is going to be
good'. You can use it to do proper curves. That was when I went out and started doing demos.
Do you enjoy computer shows?
Oh yeah, I like doing shows. They're a good opportunity to meet people. We don't go to shows to sell, we just
go to shows to let people know what we're doing. I might run a prototype of a new game or give little demos hear
and there. That's what I like about shows. People can come along and they can have a good old go at a garne before
they commit themselves to buying it. It's great, it's the way it should be all the time.
Don't your think that know it's becoming impossible for people to try a game before they buy because of retailers
unwillingness to demo new software?
Then obviously they're goi ng to the wrong sort of retailers. Back in the early days I used to go up to the
Vic Centre in London. lt's closed now but it was great, I'd go along try out the latest stuff.
But don't you think the multiples give little or no chance to test a game before purchase?
Well that's bad! It's the sort of thing that'll force the industry into decline. The choice of software in Smiths
is rubbish. The other day I went in and it was really bad. The people who buy software for Boots don't know what
they're talking about most of the time. I'd rather buy my games from the specialist computer shop and the reason
they're closing down is because they're being forced out by chain stores. They've got a lot to answer for, you
know. When they first came in I thought Great. Now we can sell our games in Boots then after a while the smaller
shops start disappearing and the chain stores get worse as they shut you out. If the chain store doesn't buy your
game what can you do? There's no independents to sell it to anymore, they've all been shut out by the chain store.
It's all pretty dire. Where money is the sole motivation, things always go bad. This seems to be the general rule
to anything. The main interest of someone buying a piece of software is that they get a game, not just give a load
of money to the people who are selling it.
Are you doing another 64 title in the near future?
I'm quite looking forwrad to the next Commodore game. It's just getting the time. There's people saying. 'Do
something for the Amiga, for the ST, for the Atari.' but I can't leave the Commodore though. I like the Commodore.
I like the sort of people who like my games. They're the guys I'm really writing for in the end. I'm not writing
for the mass market.
I think there's enough on there now, click, should make an interesting read anyway.