RVG Interviews - Jon Ritman.
Jon is a software developer, notable for his work on major 1980s video games. Working primarily on games for the ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC home computer range. His first experience with a computer was at the age of 13, and first computer was a Sinclair ZX81 that he bought in 1981.
Jon was voted Best Programmer Of The Year at the Golden Joystick Awards.
Namtir Raiders, Artic
Cosmic Debris, Artic
3D Combat Zone, Artic
Dimension Destructors, Artic
Bear Bovver, Artic
Match Day series, Ocean
Head Over Heels, Ocean
Monster Max, Rare/Titus
Super Match Soccer, Cranberry Source. 1998
Tell us a little about you an how you got into the gaming industry?
When the gaming industry started in the early 80s I was in my mid 20s working as a TV engineer for Radio Rentals. The company decided it was going to rent out computers as well and I figured they would need specialist engineers (for which they would pay extra) so I bought a ZX81 to start learning about them. I went through the excellent manual in about a week, learning the basics of programming and then went and got myself a book on machine code. A couple of months later I finished my first game and the rights were bought by Artic.
What was your first game you ever wrote? Was it ever released or can we get hold of it?
It was Namtir Raiders and was released by Artic Computing for the ZX81, I believe it’s no longer on the shelves of retailers so you might have to look around a bit if you want a copy.
What can you tell us about 'Jon Ritmans Soccerama'? i'd be interested to hear why the arcade game was never released and just how much of a 'game-breaker' the SNES bug was.
Soccerama had, as you know, a bug we never found – one that occurred about once every 3 days of solid playing but since it was a complete crash bug it was never released. We tried very hard to find it and I’m one of the best bug hunters I’ve ever met but I can only assume it was a hardware problem and the only way I could have found it was with a hardware emulator but the development house only managed to get a me a NTSC version which was of no use on a PAL game. The game was similar to the Match Day games but the screen was drawn with mode 7 graphics so it could rotate – if I say so myself it looked damn good and played well.
Q.A.D on PC, recal preview of, never saw any reviews. Did it get a release? and what were your thoughts on it? seemed a break from your normal games.
QAD was reviewed and released – it was not the game I was most happy with.
Matchday 3:PC+Playstation, was that ever going to happen? i.e had worked started and were you involved? If so, how did it 'differ' to the originals.
Super Match Soccer was Match Day 3 and had that name for most of its development until the publisher changed (due to the initial publisher withdrawing from the market) and they got cold feet over the name because of its slight similarity to ‘Match of the Day’, the TV program. I was fully involved with the design and played it for hours every day during development – I like the game but the reviewers mostly didn’t. I feel the reason was that most soccer games use ‘Pass’ and ‘Shoot’ buttons where I had ‘Kick’ buttons. This meant the game was played with the camera much further from the players because you had to see a lot of players so you could decide where to kick the ball – it also had a much longer learning curve which I believe gave greater satisfaction than being able to score with your eyes shut (yes I have done this on FIFA) but most reviewers wanted to score with overhead kicks in their first match L
Any (other) unreleased games on any platforms you'd like to share with us?
Yes but I’m not sharing at the moment
CPC/Speccy Batman-I looked at with sheer envy in my eyes as a C64 owner, any idea why it was'nt converted, unlike the superb Head Over Heels (which i'd love to see a modern version of appear on something like XBL/PSN).
As much as anything HoH was converted because an Ocean programmer thought he could do it with a line by line translation (and he did, superbly, it even had the same bug), I’m guessing he wasn’t there when I did Batman.
How does it feel to be known as an industry legend?
Tell us who is an industry Legend to you?
Chris and Tim Stamper.
Were you ever tempted into programming console games?
I did write Monster Max for the first Game Boy and it got 98% in one review
How come you never really moved up to the 16-bit computers?
It was a period where I was experimenting with arcade games (not successfully)
What do you think was the best game you programmed and why?
I’ve no idea, how do I judge this? Number of sales? Programming skill? Popularity?
What was the first game you wrote and can you tell us a little about it?
Namtir Raiders was a poor version of a game I dimly remembered playing in a pub, I hadn’t got very far so I had to make later levels up. I guess the simple description would be a flashed up space invaders.
Which is your favourite game that you have written and why?
I’ve probably had the most fun with Super Match Soccer and that’s simply because I could play another human and have a challenge, there is little challenge in playing a puzzle game such as HoH when you made all the puzzles.
What was it like working for a large software house like Ocean back in those days?
I didn’t, I was freelance and worked from home – they just supplied me with kit when I asked and then promoted and published.
Are you aware of the large homebrew scene? And like the previous question if you have any unreleased games would you consider releasing them?
Not taken much notice and no, I still may use my unpublished games.
Did you ever do any programming for the Konix Multisystem?
RVG would once again like to thank Jon for taking the time to talk to us!
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