Interview with Ian G. Harling Part1 - Part2|Chris Glaister

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Check out the highlight of this website! I had the opportunity to interview two of the persons behind The Lost Patrol: IAN G. HARLING (graphics & design) and CHRIS GLAISTER (music & FX, Amiga).

 

There`s more to come soon!

|Ian G Harling (part 1)|

Q: Ian, I`m glad you offer your time for an interview, that`s very kind ;-) Here we go! Tell us, when was 'Shadow Development' born and who came up with the idea. How did the team come together?

A: Shadow Development was just Simon Cooke (coder) and myself working from home. We'd met through working on a job together and decided that working for ourselves was the way to go. Unfortunately we lived over a couple of hundred miles apart, so rarely saw each other for the few years we were in business, but it rarely seemed to be a barrier. This must sound like very low-key production, but you have to remember that this was in the early days of games computing when it was still possible for development teams to be doing everything from their bedrooms. It was also a time when teams were regularly being ripped off by publishers, so we wanted to stay in control of our own projects as much as possible.

Prior to this I'd pretty much just been a home enthusiast until I managed to get a job in-house at a company in Bristol called 'Arcana', who created a few games for the Amiga and Atari. Possibly the most well known of these was a trivia game called 'Powerplay', which sold very well.

Simon was amongst the first people I'd met who really explored the Amiga's capabilities. He'd been involved in conversion work, but he too wanted to do games based on his own ideas. Simon's really great, very funny and with a pronounced hatred of software industry bullshit similar to mine.

 

Q: Was there any special reason you did a game settled in an historical context. Were you interested in creating a correct portrait of this time. How could you, as an artist, prepare yourself for your work?

A: At the time we were looking for ideas, Cinemaware games were very popular - 'Defender of the Crown', 'Rocketeer', etc. The trouble with them was that although the graphics were far better than anything else on the market at the time, the games themselves were a bit thin on gameplay. We could never understand how the American development team that created them was (from memory) at least 40 strong - and still not coming up with the goods. All the games seemed like missed opportunities. We were sure that we could give them a run for their money and thinking (hoping) we could compete with them was a real buzz!

We'd talked about doing a game that had the same presentation as Cinemaware for a long time and toyed with the idea of doing a historical recreation of the English Civil War. In the end, once I'd realised the wealth of material available on the Vietnam war it seemed the wisest choice of theme. It also leant itself very much to creating a strong feeling of tension and fear as the player moved throught the terrain. Booby traps, locals who may have been friends or foes (and never knowing which), enemy ambush and even the terrain itself - every soldier there had to cope with tremendous pressure.

I learned a lot about the war as I was researching ideas for Lost Patrol, most of it I wish I hadn't. It was a grim, pointless war that has many similarities to the war in Iraq now.

 

Q: How was it like working with the other guys. Who was in control? The coder, you, anyone else? Who had the idea of mixing different genres together? Can you give us an impression of how your daily work looked like, any events you remember? How much time did you spent on the project?

AWorking with Simon was great. I had a lot of ideas that just weren't feasible, but he did his best to bring them to life. Neither of us was in control really, we just got on with doing things, there were never any conflicts. In terms of mixing genres, that was again down to taking the Cinemaware format and trying to broaden it. The original version we had planned was to have had much broader and more detailed sub-games, but we were restricted by the amount of discs that Ocean would let us release on, so a lot of ideas we wanted to use had to go, I think to the game's detriment. We were so restricted on size for some sections that it's a wonder they made it in at all.

Development took over a year, but the main stumbling block was Ocean themselves. The problem was that they were bringing out games like Batman that were strongly arcade titles and trying to get us to mould Lost Patrol to that kind of arcade structure. We on the other hand wanted a deep, realistic game that echoed some aspects of early text-based adventures and required that you interact constantly with your team and those you met. It was always a struggle and we came in months late on completion because of trying to resolve the way we saw the game and the way that Ocean did.

A day in my life at the time was split between going to the library, watching war films and buying research books and doing the actual drawing. Each screen took about 3 days to complete, 12 - 14 hours a day a pixel at a time. Some of the pictures are imaginary, some montages of various war photo's. We also had restrictions on the palette we could use, so many of the pictures are done in a range of 32 green-ish reds!

 

Q: What equippment did you use for your work? Where there any plans to convert the game to more plattforms right from the beginning. Who converted the game to Atari ST and PC?

A: We did the Atari version ourselves. To create the screens I used - as now - DPaint2 Animate for all the screens on an Amiga 500 - no amazing technical equipment at my end! I love it as a package. It's very instinctive to use and the only software I know that allows the kind of pixel work I need to do.

We wanted to bring the game out just on Amiga and ST, but Ocean insisted that we also do a PC version. They sourced a great team to do the conversion, but I think it was in 4 screen colours and we hardly ever heard from them as they did their version. No requests for our control stat's for the game, its structure or how and why we structured the game as it was. I think they were just given an Amiga game and told to go and convert it by play alone! Ocean were interested only in getting titles out onto as many formats as possible, with little caring about gameplay.

 

Q: How, when and why did you team up with 'Ocean Software Limited'? Can you tell us some advantages/disadvantages of working with Ocean. Some words about about restrictions, deadlines, payment ;-), help?

A: Christ . . . Okay. It was hell. They were unsupportive and downright obstructive at times. We'd taken the game idea and some screens to a couple of smaller companies, and thought we'd got it made when Ocean signed us up. How wrong we were! They were determined it was going to be an arcade game, we were determined that it wasn't - it was bound to go wrong at some point. But we also got to know other teams who were also working for them and discovered that Ocean was (alledgedly) known for not paying scheduled advances on time and being less than truthful when it came to paying royalties. Nobody stood a chance. They told you what sales had been like and you just had to suck it up. I still to this day believe that the game sold far in excess of what they told us.

They still owe us over 5,000 (which was a hell of a lot of money back then), held back they said 'just in case there were returns'. We tried to take them to court to get the money, but of course, they had more cash for lawyers than us, so after a costly battle we just had to let it go. My wish for many years was that upon my death my ashes would be scattered over the head of Gary Bracey, the then boss of development at Ocean :-)