Paul Glancey (Issue's 35 to 46)

Paul joined the Zzap! team from issue 35 (March 1988) until issue 46 (February 1989). During which time he headed up the Tip's section (PG Tips!)

Here's a few questions I asked Paul in April 1999 and the answers (makes for better reading!)

Name : Paul Glancey

Age : 29

Present Occupation : Senior Product Evaluator for Eidos Interactive

What were you doing before Zzap and where did you go from it ?

I was driven out of school midway through 6th form by the insane tedium of 'A' Level courses in Maths, Physics and Economics. I briefly worked in the computer department of WH Smith (big UK High Street newsagent/stationer/bookseller/record/everything), then I was on the dole for a while until I worked in a Community Programme scheme preparing course materials for people who wanted to learn about computers and word processing. Which was fun. In between times I had had one interview for a staff writer's job at ZZAP! when Ciaran Brennan was the Editor. I think Nik Wilde (who worked in Newsfield's ad department at the time) got that job. When Dan Gilbert departed, Jaz gave me a call to see if I wanted his job. Guess what I said.

After about a year I left Newsfield to go and work at EMAP, as a staff writer on "Computer and Video Games" (C&VG). I ended up associate-editing it, before setting up a Megadrive magazine there called "MegaTech". I edited that for a couple of years, then went freelance, doing reviews and books. Then someone offered me a lot of money to work on a Macintosh games mag, which was fun for a while. Brief periods on a Star Trek mag and working on EMAP's "FHM", "Empire" and "Select", web sites followed, then a bit more freelancing for EMAP, and now I work at Eidos, looking over their games and the new titles that are submitted to them for publication.

No matter how hard I've tried I've never been able to get away from video games for very long. It could be worse, though.

How do you view your whole experience with Zzap, was it just another job or was there something special about it ?

It was really exciting to leave home at 18 and work in what was basically my dream job - the first week I was there Ocean took the whole office to an advance screening of Robocop in London. Of course, it wasn't all great. There were some long hours involved and some crazy things went on, but it wasn't like I was ever in a position of major responsibility so I got to play lots of games, spend ages writing daft reviews and generally enjoyed the ride.

What was the general atmosphere in the office, did everybody get on or was there any "disagreements" between the team?

Never among the team... Except when Gordon switched off my Amstrad word processor before he left for home, while I was halfway through a review. It wasn't so bad, though. It just meant he had to wait another few days to get the copy, which probably wasn't good for his ulcer. So he was the one who suffered in the end... BWA-HAHAHAA!

There were a few 'incidents' between the staff and the management which were quite exciting at the time. I think we all thought we were in a movie or something. I can't remember how most of these started... Oh wait a minute...

Generally, the atmosphere was one of the best I've ever worked in, though. Everyone lived in very close proximity and Ludlow isn't the sort of place where there's lots to do so we all spent a lot of time together, sitting on each other's floors, drinking tea, watching videos and playing games.

Was there ever any pressure from advertisers when you'd give one of their games a bad review and were you always allowed to give your honest opinion of a game?

Hmmm... Generally yes we were, and the editors I worked for were very staunch in their defence of their reviewers' opinions. Some companies did try that kind of thing on very occasionally ('but that bit wasn't finished,' was one of the things they would say), and some still do (and editors still say things like, 'But 79% IS a good mark!'). But I still see readers writing in to letters pages going on about, 'Pah! 90%? How much did they pay you for that?' and that kind of implies that brown envelopes are constantly being handed over, which isn't really the case.

There was, and is, sometimes an element of 'diplomacy' just as there is in all areas of the media, and all areas of business but I don't think I've ever personally known of machiavellian deals being done to give a terrible game a laudatory review or a super-high score. Journalists are aware that (the vast majority of) their readers aren't stupid and if this sort of thing went on they just wouldn't trust their opinions and wouldn't buy the mag.

I'm aware of the Katakis covertape back in October 1988 being responsible for delaying the distribution of Zzap for more than a week (due to the legalities of it looking a "tad" like R-Type), but in the current issue of Edge (May 1999) it mentions that an issue of Zzap was delayed due to an article which slammed a rival magazine, the rival got it's hands on the article before it was published fully and took out an injunction to have the article removed, thereby delaying the magazine again. Do you know anything of this or when it happened?

I think Edge have got a bit mixed up on this one, and I'm sure if they'd asked Steve Jarrett he would have put them straight (not because he was there at the time, but he did work at Newsfield and is now a respected Editor at Future). It was Crash that did a parody of its EMAP rival, Sinclair User, in the form of a fairly large feature entitled 'Unclear User'. This was in 1986, I think, which was some time before I started at Newsfield.

Anyway, as you say, somehow EMAP got wind of it and, I think, hit Newsfield with an injunction which forced them to hold back the magazine until the offending pages were sliced out of every issue. The mag finally made it to the newsstands with some page stumps in the middle and a sticker on the front cover saying something like 'Due to legal reasons pages whatever-to-whatever have been removed from this issue.' I did see an 'uncut' copy in the library at Newsfield, but I'm afraid I can't remember much about what was in it.

The Katakis thing was a bit of a nightmare, especially as it happened just after the issue had gone to bed and Gordon had gone on holiday, leaving me, a lowly staff writer, to run the ship. Unfortunately the best the management and US Gold could do was to put Time Tunnel on the front. Not surprisingly, there were quite a few complaints.

It's strange looking back on it, because it wasn't as if Katakis was identical to R-Type - it was obviously inspired by it, but it wasn't a total rip-off. Look how many very similar 3D fighting games are currently on the shelves. Or driving games. I guess most companies now realise that they can't get on their high horses about a bit of plagiarism when, strictly speaking, it's a feature of their own catalogues. Mind you, I think they probably all have better things to do now, and that Atari court case (in which, I believe, it was ruled that Atari invented most of the components of most video games) probably puts them off opening up that particular can of worms.

About Llyod, was he a real person or as has been suggested, was he just a front for whatever members of staff at the time were doing the letters page?

Lloyd... Lloyd... Do you know, I can't remember a thing about him...

I'm sure you've been asked this many times before, but off the top of your head, what C64 games were your favourites and would any of them make it to your favourite games list today?

In no particular order... OK, I'll name these because I enjoyed them at the time, not because I now look back at them and think of them as works of genius. I've got C64 emulators but I never play old Commodore games because, frankly, they're rubbish next to Half-Life or Zelda 64.

n.b. Rename the files you download to <file>.prg instead of <file>.zip, they aren't zipped! IB)
Wizball - Ocean (developed by Sensible Software)
Delta - Thalamus (the music, and the lights)
Buggy Boy - Elite (in spite of that defeat in the Challenge)
Ghosts 'n' Goblins - Elite (that drove me mad - I used to smash things up after losing lives)
Elite - Firebird (It did have quite a real feeling about it)
Up 'n' Down - US Gold (as I put in the ZZAP! profile, the music used to make me think happy thoughts)
Park Patrol - Activision/Firebird (for much the same reasons as Up 'n' Down)
The Sentinel - Firebird (now that WAS genius, and sometimes terrifying)
Thrust - Firebird (cool)
Warhawk - Firebird (I used to like the music, I think, and it was quite a good zappy kinda game)

I liked the look of Hunter's Moon, because Gordon was good at it and I used to watch him play it at lunchtimes, and it had those pseudo speech sound effects which were cool... 'Meanwhile!'. Impossible Mission was good. Spy vs Spy was good. I loved the music on Bionic Commandos. I can hear it playing in my head as I type this. I used to like, what was that Mastertronic game with Clumsy Colin collecting stuff on his motorbike in an isometric town, and the music by Rob Hubbard that was used by morris dancers? Action Biker, yeah. And Kentilla - the music in that was awesome and it was quite a gripping adventure. I was definitely gripped by it. That Activision game with the ball in the maze that we voted as the best puzzle game, that was excellent. Zenji, that was it. I used to quite like demos too, my favourites being Circlesque by... I'm ashamed to say I can't remember, but it had the Martin Galway music from Miami Vice in it which I loved, and there was a snowball fight demo by, I think, Ash+Dave, that made perfect use of Martin Galway's 'running about' music from Parallax. And Tau Ceti by John Twiddy, who is a nice bloke from round my way and still writes cool games. Oh, and Bubble Bobble (even though I played that more on the Atari ST), probably because it was by Software Creations and Tim Follin always did cool music. Interesting how a major part of my enjoyment of these games seems to have been down to their music.

Oh God, and Paradroid. How could I forget that? Actually, knock Warhawk out and put that in.

Back when I was a kid, I loved playing computer games, especially on my C64, but these days I rarely play any games at all, PC or console. It is all rose tinted nostaliga or were games really better back then or maybe it's just because I've grown up now!? I ask because you were an adult (sort of! :) ) back then, so you should have a more balanced recollection of how it really was.

There were probably more crap games out then than there are now because most of them were just programmed by one guy doing all his own music, graphics, game design and programming in his bedroom in the evenings and weekends. How many versions of Space Invaders, Galaxians, Moon Patrol, etc., did those guys do, and all of them featuring copyright free classical music (usually Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor), or Scott Joplin ragtime tunes!

At least though, when in the position of reviewing bad C64 games, you could have a laugh at them. They did have a charm. Now that games cost $1,000,000+ dollars to make and the publishers employ QA departments and people who can spot duds, today's bad games aren't necessarily buggy, just mediocre rehashes developed with quick profits in mind. They all use the standard techniques and the standard effects and possibly have a few too many cooks involved. There's nothing particularly bad about most of them... It's just that there's nothing particularly good about them either which is a bit of a let-down. It's almost refreshing to see something completely hopeless these days.

As I said above, I'm still well into games, and I play emulators occasionally but they haven't convinced me that games as a whole were better then. At the time the good ones were fantastic because we didn't know any better, and the really excellent ones would probably still stand up today because they were such great game concepts, but I wouldn't throw away my PC or consoles for their sake. I think it was just easier to get excited about video games back then. It's kind of a right time/right age thing, and that's the definition of nostalgia.

What are your opinions on emulation, do you see any harm in allowing people to play and read about games from up to 17 years ago?

Oh... I don't know. I guess if I was Capcom and I was planning to bring out a Ghouls 'n' Ghosts collection I wouldn't be too happy that my entire market had already downloaded the ROMs for free and there was no-one left to sell it to. That's where the copyright thing comes in, and, fair enough, the games are their property - they spent the dollars and hired the people who worked 80-hour weeks to get them finished. From that point of view, you're devaluing all of their efforts down to $0 (pretty much). But from another point of view, by reviving a forgotten game like this you might be turning it from something which frankly had no commercial value to the company - there were a few copies kicking around a store room somewhere - to something respected and remembered fondly, that makes people think, yeah, Atari (or whoever) did some classic games and that's got to have some benefits for Atari (or whoever), even if it isn't financial.

Exactly where this argument leaves everybody, except in a kind of warm, fuzzy place, I'm not sure. But if I WAS Capcom, I probably wouldn't even be considering bringing out a Ghouls 'n' Ghosts collection if some guys hadn't created emulators that made this whole retro thing so popular in the first

If you're talking about emulating new games, the argument is different but just as fuzzy, and I'm not going to go into that because you haven't asked me to. Thankfully.

Anything else you would like to add, about Zzap or the C64 in general?

It does seem to me that I was incredibly lucky to be involved in that. I mean, I could just as easily have ended up working in a bank or sweeping the streets or something, and I wouldn't be where I am now, which is still doing something I enjoy. It just goes to show that if you want something enough, and you're in the right place at the right time, things can turn out just the way you wanted them to. Which isn't what my careers teacher told me at all.

I'd like to thank you very much for taking the time to fill this out and contributing to the very important process of collecting and storing the history of Zzap! and the C64.

No problem. I look forward to seeing what dirt, if any, my former colleagues are willing to dish!

Be sure to also check out more facts on Gordon from issue 44 and "Ten things you didn't know about PG" over at ZZAP!Back

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