born in 1983 in Hull, Humberside, England
What have you created with ZZT, or related to ZZT?
A whole mess of crap! It's insane! It would take at least half an hour to list all of it, so I'll just go a little in-depth with what I consider to be the most noteworthy of my old ZZT projects.
The Kave: First game. I was heavily influnced by Ned the Knight, Chrono Wars and AKWare games when I made this one. I later did a remake of this one shortly after psyche (see below) which took out some of the lame. Not all of it though (barney bashing xd)!
ChickenWire: So after making Dragon Woods I tried making another RPG kind of game, which I got sick of after about five boards. I realised that I was really tired of making badly written plot-based games, and so I decided to go the other way and make a game that was totally weirded out and random. I had a habit of doodling in classes at the time (give me a pencil and paper and a dull situation to wait out even today and I'll come up with some cool stuff without trying real hard), and ChickenWire basically reflected that. It was most obviously influenced by the MZX game Rangest, which wasn't all that great really but at the time it was something completely different, and I liked that.
Lebensraum: I'd had a good idea for an engine, and I wanted to make a game using it (ie. using black on black objects to conceal the contents of rooms; I'd been playing MegaZeux games and had admired the overlay effect, and wanted to emulate it in ZZT), and I'd been playing Wolfenstein 3D a lot at the time, so I heavily based it off that. People seem to like this one a lot, even though I pretty much lost interest three levels in and called it quits after that. It probably would have been better if I'd put Hitler's robot suit from Wolfenstein in at the end.
Dizzy ZZT: Well, these were actually three games (Fantasy World, Magicland and Treasure Island). I grew up on the Dizzy games, and I don't regret a second of it. These are my homage to the games, they're not perfect but I'm proud of them. Going off on a tangent, It's kind of funny how I mentally associate the Dizzy games with hats, even though the only game where he's actually wearing one is Fantasy World. Specifically:
Treasure Island Dizzy: Pirate's bandana
Fantasy World Dizzy: Indiana Jones hat
Magicland Dizzy: Robin Hood hat
Spellbound Dizzy: Wizard hat
Dizzy, Prince of the Yolkfolk: Visor/crown thing
Bubble Dizzy: Snorkel
Crystal Caves Dizzy: Mining hat
I think it's something to do with the box art on each game. Yeah like I said, I went off on a tangent. Sorry about that.
psyche: As I've said before, this was my own personal equivilent of writing goth poetry. In my defence, I was 17 and I'd just had my major exam year when I made this, and I guess that was reason enough to be angsty.
Frost 1: Power: Mixed feelings about this one now. The graphics are pretty nice, sure, but I got a little way into programming the second part ("Ice") before just kind of hitting a wall, then deciding that ZZT isn't a wonderful medium for telling stories anyway. Also, the writing is just plain terrible in parts (two words: fox tampons. WHAT WAS I THINKING?????!!!), but you can't blame a guy for trying I guess. I've not abandoned the project completely though!
Z-Files: Well, this wasn't me at all, although it did contain my toolkit. Toolkits are a lost art these days, what with all these kids and their "KevEdit" and "ZZTAE". I've always admired the economical design sense that goes into a lot of the better ones.
...Listing all that still took too long. Oh well.
When you think about ZZT, what games come to your mind and why?
The games I always liked best are the ones I originally learned the ZZT-OOP language by editing, so Overflow, "Chrono Wars", "Ned the Knight" and "Warlord's Temple" always come to mind immediately. Other games I like a lot include "Demon Pogie in the Forest of Blegh" by Agent Orange, Blood Oath by Nivek (graphics weren't the best, but it had scads of atmosphere regardless) "Asmodeus" by BlueMagus (the influence on psyche is plain) and what was done of "Root the Sensitive Poet Aardvark" by tucan (it's a crying shame that game never got finished; only now do I realise that it was informed by a combination of Vaughn Bode, Jeff Smith's "Bone" comics and the Moomin cartoons. It would have seriously ruled). Oh, and am I allowed to say I really liked Kudzu? Especially the second version where you find out what exactly is going down and you fight the dream leech. At the risk of sounding like a total suck-up, I must say I really liked how all the questions that had been posed two years previously were all acknowledged and answered in that. It was clever!
Have you created any games outside of ZZT?
When I was like 11, I made a couple of games using that old Klik 'n' Play package, wherein I used a load of sprites from the "Hungry Hedgehogs" game that came packaged with it to make a couple of platform games. They turned out pretty good, I wish I still had them; however, this was before I knew how to use the internet properly so I gave them to a couple of kids at school, lost it in a hard drive crash, and that was the end of that. Too bad =(
I've not made any games outside of ZZT. It's funny, I used to want to make games something awful when I was a kid, but I guess ZZT scratched that particular itch.
Do you have any artistic pursuits other than making games?
Haha, oh man. I have a long running pipe-dream that I'll one day start making a comic book series based on what, but I'm far too neurotic to actually write it yet. Oh sure, I talk a big game sometimes but I'm quite a cautious person really, and even though it'll be quite cartoony I feel I probably need to take a formal art class before I make any real attempt at it. Anyway, it may be unrealistic but it's something to work towards, so I do draw pictures of the characters sometimes, if anyone cares they're welcome to look at the scan archive I keep at http://zzt.belsambar.net/nadir/scans. Most of the stuff there that isn't in the /old directory is fairly recent.
Yes, I know it's pretty furry. No, I'm not a horrible internet pervert, I swear! Yes, I can draw actual people! Honest! There are a few pictures like that in that directory if you look hard enough!!!!!!! (methinks he doth protest too much)
What are you up to, lately (in life, generally)?
A year ago, I would have replied "oh god i have no idea and i'm going to die alone" and then broken down in tears or something, but thankfully that's not the case anymore. Since graduating University with a not particularly great degree pass June 2005 (should have taken a gap year instead of going straight on to further ed, but hindsight is 20/20) I've been doing a combination of making money (it's nice to have a little disposable income after three years of being a student) and working on "improving" myself. I also took an internet course and have recently applied for a teaching placement in Poland, so hopefully I'll be scooting my buns off to Poland to annoy students with English sometime in September.
I've also been playing golf a bit recently. I needed special clubs because I'm left-handed, but it's much more entertaining to play than watch. I'm not very good at it though, but that may be because I've only played about eight games of it so far!
Has your experience with ZZT or the ZZT scene made any sort of lasting impact on your life?
To be honest, I've probably done a lot of the influencing in these parts (Hey, I'm allowed to have a little ego about these things, right?). In terms of the ZZT scene, well, let's just say that it has pretty majorly informed my evil sense of humour.
Seriously though, the ZZT Community was, and still is, full of some of the most unique and interesting people I've met on or off the internet, which is why I've stuck around it so long. This is a "shoutout" to all my "peeps". "Word", "homies".
What works of non-ZZT art have inspired you the most?
Books? I love comic books of all shapes and sizes. And I love music! Video games are cool, too, but I don't think I've ever paid more than £10 for one, and I have some sort of irrational aversion to games that are less than five years old (unless they're freeware).
Where the comic books are concerned, I like the indies best. Black and white ones are good, but DC Vertigo and the old Epic Illustrated stuff Marvel used to put out in the 80's are pretty spiffy too- Ted McKeever's Plastic Forks and Bill Sienkiewicz's Stray Toasters are two of the best series ever for real, and you can't go wrong with anything written by Grant Morrison. Manga is pretty great too, I especially like Junko Mizuno (Pure Trance) and Taiyo Matsumoto (Black and White). While not, strictly speaking, a manga artist, I love Range Murata's artwork and have a couple of books of it. Moebius is pretty amazing too, I love "The Incal". He is FRENCH! There is a whole lot more comics-related stuff I love to bits, but listing it all would take way too long.
Recently, I stumbled across the Eboy website. Those guys are excellent. Seriously, if you have an affinity for pixels you should go here right now: http://hello.eboy.com/eboy/index.php. Then buy their book, it rules.
In terms of books that don't have pictures, the last one I read was House of Leaves, because Eurakarte told me to. It was really good, but I couldn't possibly tell you what it was about in a way that wasn't hopelessly oblique.
Music? Well, I used to be a huge Tool fanboy, but while I still like them and I think the new album is pretty good I'm not quite as obsessive as I was. I really like Devin Townsend, KMFDM, VNV Nation, ...And Oceans, Ladytron and Korova. The two genres I like best are electronica and black metal, which are pretty far apart as genres go I guess (feel free to find any significance in that particular taste combination, I don't mind). I'm open to others too though. Punk is cool once in a while but I'd lose my mind if it was all I listened to! Oh, and while it's not "real" music and it may be pretty nerdy to, I sure do like chiptunes. There's just something about that oscillating bleeping that gets me every time.
Games? Well, anyone with sense knows the best generation of gaming was with the 16-bit era with the SNES and Mega Drive, where a perfect balance between graphics and gameplay was reached. I love Chrono Trigger, too bad it was never released in Europe though. Super Metroid is also really good, and Sonic 3 & Knuckles is awesome.
Actually that game is weird, since it's two games really, one of which is mediocre and one which is pretty good, but when they fuse together they're like some kind of giant robot that levels entire cities in terms of awesomeness.
There are others, but as with the comics, let's keep this short. Of course, anyone who knows me will tell you that I'm passionate about Cave Story even though I've played through it at least six times now. That game is just SO GOOD.
Oh, and while you didn't ask about it, I guess I should mention that I do like some anime, though I don't tend to go for the moe/bishounen nonsense that tends to get popular with otaku types. Serial Experiments Lain blew my mind in the best way, and anything by Studio Ghibli is awesome. I enjoyed Azumanga Daioh more than I should have done too (No, not like that. It was sweet and fun, and I enjoyed it). Last Exile, where I first stumbled across the aforementioned Range Murata, was really good too. Oh yeah, and FLCL had a great European vibe to it that I dug a lot.
Do you have any interesting stories to relate about ZZT or the ZZT scene?
An awful lot, but I'm sure many of the ones that immediately come to mind would probably get censored for being naughty. Interested parties can view the best bits on ircman (http://crankgod.rocketjump.org/ircman).
Do you plan to create any games in the future, with or without ZZT?
Not really! Sorry about that.
Anything else you'd like to add?
I've already said too much. Your life may be in danger.
- May 2006