Authors and Interviews

Gaz Murfin Interview: February 2010

Brought up as a native of Newcastle, Gareth 'Gaz' Murfin has been a game developer for over ten years, releasing titles for the Amiga followed by a spell at the renowned Rockstar Studios, and is now freelancing - specialising in applications for mobile platforms. In 2009, Gaz took on the task of porting Elite System's J2ME version of Chuckie Egg to Google's open Android 1.5 (Cupcake) platform.
Now that the dust has settled and the game has reached the Android Market, Gaz has kindly agreed to let us in on all the behind-the-scenes info ...
=== Part I: Coder ===
Would you like to start by giving us a bit of background on where you hail from, and how you got into the software development business (companies/people worked with etc.)?

Sure, I'm known as Gaz to my friends and family and I am from Cramlington, 7 miles north of Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK, I'm 29 years old right now and work as a freelance mobile games/app developer for all mobile platforms (including J2ME, Android, Blackberry, iPhone, Sidekick etc).

I spent my childhood like many mesmerised by computer screens, mostly displaying games. As the youngest brother I already had access to a lot of the old machines which I might not otherwise have seen, Atari 2600, Spectrum 48k being the most prominent in the early days and later of course Atari ST, Amiga 500 and all the Nintendo + Sega machines + more.

I remember before I had managed to make a game work I used to draw endless games on paper (I still do) some up to 18 pages long (my design for the running man game) and some plain ridiculous - a game where you can do anything, you start as a man in the street, you can go into manholes and emerge in the middle of a football pitch and become one of the players, you can run off the pitch and start working in the bar, you can go into the street and drive anywhere etc, whatever. A bit like Grand Theft Auto but more advanced :) I used to hand these designs to my friend's dad who was a programmer and ask him to code them, and come back the next day eager and excited to play my newly finished game. Of course he wouldn't have even looked at it, and simply laughed when I asked for it. This led to me feeling highly unempowered, all of these ideas and really no way to express them.

Learning to make games was the most difficult thing I've ever done, and still is, I'm not finished learning, not nearly finished, I doubt when I die I will be even near to being finished either. I assumed as a child I was not clever enough to be able to do it, given that I could never get any code to work out of the back of magazines, and had fundamental issues with understanding even the most basic lines of code to make a pixel move across the screen for instance. I tried my hand at being the artist instead but realised I was even worse at that, possibly because I was using the Datel light pen to do my drawing :-)

My first code would have been written in Spectrum basic on a 16k Spectrum, my oldest brother had been tinkering a bit and showed me a few tricks that probably got me hooked. He showed me how to adjust the characters so that I could draw a little man etc instead of a letter by pressing a key, I guess looking back you could define an array of 1 and 0 values and overwrite the array holding the character information, neat trick! He showed me how to draw shapes, so I sat for weeks doing that watching my endless circles draw out and spiral around the screen in different colours. He also showed me how to make a password program which went something like this:

print "what is the name of your cat?"

if (input="BUBBLES")
print "OK"
print "WRONG"

This fascinated the hell out of me. Later for xmas (he must have spotted my urge to create games, which I'm thankful for) he bought me a copy of HURG - High level User friendly Real time Games designer - for the 48K ZX Spectrum. Painful as it was I managed to design some sort of flashy sprite that chases another flashy sprite, and some bullets that flashed around awkwardly but could make a sprite explode in flashiness, my first game, I dont remember the name. As you can no doubt imagine, it was flashy :) in a bad way, but for a small child of perhaps 10 maximum, very good. I recently tried to use HURG and found it too hard to use. The cover image alone had me hooked as a kid, as you can see its really inspiring, I still look at it now and again! :-)

We of course used to enter PEEKs and POKEs into games and regularly BREAK the game so we could devise our own cheats. I remember clearly me and my brothers had pages of cheats we invented for "Journey's End", where we would get to the rat race and break it and just type them in to give ourselves cash and possessions. They were classic days of "silly you banged your head" and "oops you drank gold dust", 2 of the things I remember from that game :-) Finally, we never did get any of our spectrum code to "auto boot" ie load when you typed load "". That's a mystery even to this day, we wanted to be able to bring a tape to our mates and just load it up to show them.

So that's how I got into it. After that I tinkered technically as best I could - ripping apart amiga games, putting my own images in, swapping music etc. Finally I got Blitz Basic and started to be able to churn out free apps and games for the Aminet, much to the delight of the Amiga owners :-) Yes I produced some real shit, but I also made some good things too.

My first commercial game was Ultimate Gloom which I released when I was 17 years old onto the AMIGA in 1997, for £14.99. The box bore the Black Magic name, but the game itself said "Gareth Murfin presents". The Amiga was dying badly, and I had just begun to get to the point where I could do things 'nicely', but only on Amiga. I was obsessed with Gloom/Gloom Deluxe and decided it would be nice to tear it apart and make my own version, which I did, a 5 level game created using the gloom tools and some of my own I had made, mostly coded I must admit by Dave Newton, a good friend who was still coding on Amigas back then. I had the bright spark to send this pretty awful demo to Amiga publishers who all rejected it. Apart from Guildhall Leisure who already owned the rights to Gloom and obviously thought what the hell we can re-release our gloom games and tack this in as new content. I was ecstatic, they said go ahead and make the game, so I did so over a period of about a year. The game got finished and released, into shops worldwide, you could go into Electronics Boutique in the UK and pick it up. A muck up at the publisher meant that they left out the original games (even though the box claimed they were on the disk), so in fact it wasn't the gloom series with my game tacked on at all, it was just my game which I had named perhaps erroneously "Gloom 3 Zombie Edition" (well the Gloom Deluxe exe was called gloom2, seemed logical :)). So Gloom 3 became known as Ultimate Gloom.

I received some pretty pitiful cheques for my royalties but I was happy (and bought a CD writer), and I received some not so bad reviews - yes it got torn apart but most magazines missed the fact that the other Glooms weren't in fact included so it scored highly hehe. I must say for the record though, I still think it's a good game, and I know of at least a few big fans of it, although parts of it are laughably bad, often the graphics done by me. Armed with my new found confidence I released Zombie Massacre onto Amiga, under the name of my new label Alpha Software (we are still alive see, another re-hash using the Gloom engine with various tweaks. This was released for £19.99 and sold badly. It was completed and sent to the publisher only days before I started my University Computing Science course at Stirling University in Central Scotland.

Those next 4 years were hugely educational, mostly I learned about alcoholic binges, living like a student and sleeping in and missing most lectures. As I say they were influential times :-) I must admit I wrote absolutely nothing during that time and enhanced my career not at all, I mostly used my Amiga for making graphics and surfing the web (on the phone line I had installed into my room against the university's permission, and which caused a flood in the halls during installation). The only Amiga code I wrote between those years was a strobe, to go black and white fast so we could have a strobe in my bedroom.

The course itself did teach me a lot, and was very enjoyable. Ultimately it forced me to learn Java and leave behind Blitz Basic, and for my honours project I made a MMORPG called VARS which was a huge bulk of work and the biggest piece of code I'd ever written, it was a damn good excuse to work very hard on my dissertation, since it was basically an online game I had no issues at all working flat out on it say 10 hours a day for 3 months. After university this demo got me into Rockstar Studios (then named DMA Design, and later renamed Rockstar North). This was the biggest and best dream job I could possibly land at that age, 21, only days after I left university, and at a time when they were developing the sequel to GTA3 on PS2, Vice City as well as Manhunt (Both big faves of mine). Unfortunately my university lifestyle or more truthfully my bedroom coder lifestyle was completely at odds with the mandatory 10am-6pm at Rockstar North. I was constantly tired, unable to produce any decent code and found myself desperately living for the weekend. I went back to university and did a Masters degree in technology and innovation management. And afterwards began working 3 to 4 days a week as a mobile games programmer for DC Studios in Glasgow. Where I eventually designed my old titles, and worked on some great licenses. The days I had deliberately left spare were for coding my own personal projects.

After that in about 2004 I went truly freelance and began working from home where I am today, and work on around 8 to 10 different and exciting contracts per year for various clients in various industries, and often still the games industry. It's nice this way, it's like being the boss of a small software company, and the people you work for are your clients. No set hours and no one standing over your shoulder, and absolutely no slumping in front of the computer in the office thinking "how do I get out of here?". I work highly productively this way, and am not a great office employee. I'm sure if I own my own software company, which is my ultimate aim in life, I will be a mad workaholic in my own office, so long as it's my office :-)
Are you a big gamer? If so, have you always been? What machines have you most experience with; any particular favourite games on those platforms?

Yes a huge gamer. Always have been. Started with Spectrum (many faves: manic miner, jet set willy, saboteur 1 & 2, bak to skool, skool daze, quazatron, brucelee, starquake, underwurlde, sabrewulf aticatak, ant attack etc etc), I hold a real passion for the SNES (Street Fighter 2 turbo, Mario Kart, Prince of Persia, Lemmings, Shadowrun, Ultraman(!), Goeman oh the list goes on). I also enjoyed Lynx (Todds adventures in Slime world, Xenophobe, Electro Cop, California Games, Scrapyard dog etc) and of course N64 (Golden eye Perfect Dark Mario Kart) Gamecube (Mario Kart, Super Monkey Ball, Killer Instinct), Dreamcast (Rez, Chu Chu Rocket) and many more!

My top 5 games are currently as follows in order (and the platform I played them on):
Call of duty 4 Modern Warfare (PS3)
Call of Duty 6 Modern Warfare 2 (PS3)
Super Mario World (Snes)
Street Fighter 2 Turbo (Snes)
Quake (Power Amiga)

I currently do my gaming on a PS3 (well I would do if it didn't die and show me a yellow light only grr), although will need an XBOX360 when my XNA games are nearing completion (one zombie title one Rez-alike). I dislike the Wii for its gimmickiness and the fact that it might have set Nintendo right back (the hardware in it is not exactly far advanced on a gamecube, compare that to PS3/360) and therefore they wont be able to compete with the next gen consoles, it's one of the very few Nintendo consoles I haven't bought yet. But I am glad Nintendo have found themselves a cash cow to milk and stay afloat.

Best gaming console ever? Still the SNES in my books, damn nice pad too. As a huge Amiga fan people will think I would say that, and of course Amiga had its classics that I adored, Gloom, Super Cars, Cannon Fodder, Simon the Sorceror, Beneath A Steel Sky, Worms/DC and a trillian good PD games like Airtaxi, Carnage, scorched tanx, Bratwurst etc. I dont think Amiga did big games well though, look at Zool, nasty horrible game, not even comparable in feel to Super Mario World. Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter etc all lacked the correct feel, and joystick prevalence on Amigas did nothing to help. Amiga had the best pinball games though, I don't think they've been surpassed yet.
Presumably, you played the original Chuckie Egg when it was released. Which versions did you grow up with?

I played it on Spectrum 48k only, I can still picture the tape and the handwriting on it perfectly, yes it was a copied tape, I don't even think I had any concept that this was wrong at the time, most of my box of tapes were copies! Should I be saying that :-) I played it only a little bit to be honest, I wasn't a huge fan really, but it did get put into the tape deck every now and again, I remember the sound and the colour clashing well (something I nearly implemented in the android version as an easter egg).
=== Part II: Chuckie Egg Developer ===
How did you end up working with Elite? Have you worked on any other projects with them?

Elite watched a video I made on youtube and got in touch, its amazing to think that the video got me this far. Here's the video:

Yes for Elite I have worked on Chuckie Egg (Android), Paperboy 2 (J2ME), Paperboy (Android) WIP, Bust-a-move/Puzzle Bobble (Sidekick / Hiptop).
How did you end up being chosen as the developer for the Android port? Was there any competition for the contract?

I was interested in Android mostly because of its Java-ness, they asked about a port and I decided I would do it, a good excuse to learn Android and a great license to talk about. They have a few decent guys but no one who can do Android, I'd just finished porting Paperboy 2 so they must have assumed this was a possibility. I said send a G1 and we'll start.
What experience did you have with the Android platform before the CE project? Had you released any other Android apps?

I dont think I had any experience, they sent me a G1 and I began to learn, by the time Chuckie Egg was out though I had released LapseDROID (a timelapse app for android) and Sonorox (A music app for Android) onto the Google Market. Chuckie Egg took a long time to finalise as all commercial things do, but my other apps I whipped out relatively faster as they weren't anywhere near as complex and therefore had less bugs.

My app Sonorox was designed for the Android Developer Competition 2 (ADC2) I actually got into the finals with it and ultimately ended up 8th in the Entertainment category (see here: I was extremely proud of this, possibly my greatest achievement considering it was global. This one and my other app are now free on the Android market as I try to push up my profile on there for the release of my next Android game which I won't mention yet (I have at least 5 in production in my spare time). Altogether on apps under my own name (Alpha Software) I have around 8000 downloads so far from Android, with about 170 of them being paid ones, until I set them to free due to low sales.

Here's the trailer for Sonorox:
Whose idea was it to port the game to Android. Did you approach Elite or vice versa?

They approached me.
When did development start on the Android port and how long did it take?

Must have started sometime in early 2009 and took about 3 or 4 months in total.
What was the Android game development process like, and who was involved? What was your experience of working with Elite as a publisher? Was there any rush to get the game out, or was there time to allow the project to be released when everyone considered it ready?

Elite were very good, I would send them builds and Matt (their producer) would painstakingly test and send back videos if necessary to show glitches etc. We definitely had enough time to perfect it, considering Steve is a big fan of the game he wanted no bugs and the right feel.

I was the only developer but I also consulted one of the coders involved with some of the ports of the J2ME version, Antonio Vera of Psytronic. Since I was simply porting that, he helped me with quite a few bugs in fact and was very good about it. It got up and running pretty fast but implementing the rotation and touchscreen joypad etc was quite nasty (Android sends too many touch responses and slows everything down, so you need a separate thread with a wait in it etc, gets a bit weird). Also my lack of experience with the Google APIs and Android OS did lead to a few things taking a while and perhaps not being implemented as well as they could be.
Who else had a hand in the development and what were their contributions?

Matt Hyden helped with some of the graphics as well as tons of testing and production decisions, the J2ME coder helped with some of the bugs, Steve Wilcox did a lot of perfectionist playtesting, and I did the rest (I even did the original trailer, which still has parts in the current trailer).
For the techies, what tools, languages and technologies did you make use of? Do you recall any issues with the development or testing?

I used Eclipse and the Android SDK, Eclipse is lovely for Android development and has a specific plugin which makes life simple. The Android tools are absolutely awesome letting you see system.out messages instantly on your pc via usb when testing (not common on mobile dev). They have a hell of a lot of good tools for debugging and optimising and this generally speeds up development no end. Understanding exactly how Android apps work can be a pain but it gets clearer. Major issues were the app freezing up on first touch, can't remember how that was fixed now, and the touchscreen one was a hell of a lot slower and harder to play/develop.
At the time of the game's launch, there were three Android phones available - the G1, the HTC Magic and the HTC Hero. Which of these was used in testing, or was that all done in software with the SDK?

Actually only the G1 was available at that time, that is all we tested on and designed for, the emulator is great but very slow due to it being more like a VM than an emulator. I tried to avoid using this as its slow and cumbersome compared to the real device, so I'd say almost all testing was done on the real device, with the sound down since the intro tune began to make me physically ill after hearing it a few thousand times.

Later Google invited me to some Android Developer Lab sessions in Taipei City, Taiwan, where I tested my apps on many handsets, it appeared all my apps worked more or less fine on every device which was great.
The Elite Chuckie Egg subsite lists multiplayer as one of the features of the J2ME port, though we haven't found it in the version we bought for the Nokia 7250. Was this feature ever considered for the Android port?

Yes it was in and working but we culled it, it seemed pointless I guess.
It's pretty well-known in the Chuckie Egg world that the original Spectrum and BBC micro versions play very differently, due mainly to the distinct, contrasting physics engines. The Android version of Chuckie Egg, like the J2ME version before it, faithfully implements the original Spectrum release both in graphics and physics. Was there ever any consideration given as to whether to offer a BBC micro-style mode?

I had no choice, since I was porting the J2ME version. In porting something it can be quite easy if you simply move over the hardware specific bits and move the logic over in its entirety without changing it or caring about what it does. Considering I didn't write the initial code, it would have been very confusing, and extraordinarily difficult to start adjusting the physics and make sure it worked in all cases. I personally didn't realise there was such a difference in the way they played on BBC Micro and Spectrum having never played the micro one (I did look at it on youtube sometimes during dev) and no one really mentioned the BBC Micro feel, so it got ported however the original coder had written it, in the speccy feel physics world :)
What were your thoughts on the completed version of Android Chuckie Egg, given you were working with such a classic license? Did you at any point want to enhance the classic game and extend the game to make use of some of the modern features available on Android devices, or to make use of the internet capabilities of the device?

Well I loved the idea of using the original graphics, so I didn't mind that. I like a bit of retro. We did enhance it for touchscreen and rotation and add some extra features for the android one, although most of these got removed. I did have a little moving hen house harry next to the options on the mainscreen for the non touch screen android one but he got removed, or did he? I don't remember lol. I also built in a level editor which is still sitting in the code it's just deactivated in the release version (in fact if you unzip the game file you'll see evidence of the editor graphics still in there, which I designed to look like a spectrum game tape front cover + even instructions on how to use the editor). The editor which is not fully complete can design new levels (and submit/download to an online server for sharing). We did talk about including it, but it was going to take more time to perfect, so it only got used once or twice I think to tweak a level, the rest were taken from the J2ME one. We have joked about future versions built using this in some way, or whatever, but I don't think anything is on the cards - we're all too busy - there's probably no financial reward, and we'd have to ask Steve if we could mess with his precious favourite. :-)

As for the completed version, I'm happy with it, despite what critics have said about it. I enjoy both touchscreen and keyboard one, but I do prefer the speed of keyboard play, we implemented the classic speccy keys Q,A,O,P for up, down, left, right. I play it now and again (and show it as an example of my Android work) and I hand my phone around for others too, girls seem to like it more than boys. Sometimes at interviews people will go "OH I remember Chuckie Egg!!" excitedly other times just blank looks.
Was there anything to be learned from the older J2ME ports, or was the intention a straightforward case of porting the J2ME app to the new plaform and simply updating things like the control system to fit the new devices?

Yes it was more a task of moving it over, the black art of porting :-) Given a new coder too there was no knowledge of the J2ME version passed on, and few comments. I really didn't spend the time to understand a lot of the code and I still don't really know how much of it works now. I did of course get to know some parts well as I dabbled and fixed bugs and adjusted things. So given this situation there was no mentality of "OK this time I'm gonna do this better", this existed in my porting efforts only.
During development and testing, were there any relationships built up with retro gaming or CE fans? Any gameplay beta testing with gamers from the community or anything like that?

Not really, we should have sent it to you! We did use your site often to look at things and the tools in the past and various level formats. so thanks for that. I did have some personal testers (mostly people who come to my house and annoy me when I'm trying to work!) most of whom hadn't even heard of Chuckie Egg and probably wondered why I was making such a game. A few people who tested did know and enjoy Chuckie Egg and were happy to play it a bit, but most testing was done by myself and Matt, with milestone testing by Steve Wilcox, CEO at Elite who is a huge fan.
On the scoreboard of the Android version, who are Gaz and Coopersmith? Were they involved with development?

Gaz is me, I love adding myself to score boards in games. Coopersmith is the main character from the 1981 horror movie Evilspeak who taps into a way to summon demons and cast spells on his tormentors through his computer (coincidentally he also sits in front of a screen and looks similar to the HURG front cover) but also happens to just be an in joke between myself and my friend. I try to sneak things into games for a laugh (there's a lot of funny examples in various games that I probably shouldn't mention), I'm starting to get beyond simply references to Dawn of the Dead. Amiga is in a lot of my games too, in fact every game I release has a cheat in it activated by the word amiga in some form or another, I've done far too many to remember but I think in CE it might be that you can enter your name as amiga or atari and something happens, I'm not sure if its exciting or not or if I should be telling you this. :)
Now the Android version has finally hit the Market what has been your view of the public reaction to the game? Has the Android launch gone as well as you'd hoped? Have you received any feedback or heard about any bugs?

People have generally not been so happy so far, people have pointed out bugs I've yet to recreate, and I'm not sure sales are doing well at all. It's not a game known by many outside of the UK, and the Android market is very small and unforgiving, combined with the fact that people don't quite get why it has such bad graphics and limited gameplay. It has impacted our Android strategy, as have all of my personal experiences on Android. I'm still actively developing for Android, but only because I know it's growing every day (+ using OS X and XCode is no fun:)).
If you have been aware of feedback, do you think there would have been any difference to the reaction if you had implemented the option of a BBC micro mode?

I'm not qualified to answer that, but I'm guessing no. But then again CE purists might well be our only audience, and we may well have upset half of them, blimey fragmentation even in the Chuckie Egg fan base. If it makes you feel any better if I ever write (not port) another Chuckie Egg game I promise to put in SPECCY / BBC-MICRO modes. :)
Judging from the comments in the Android Market, there unfortunately appears to be some initial negativity. There are complaints of bugs, the music / sound effects do not respect a device's silent mode and, from our own experience, there is no choice at all with regards to customising the game controls as compared to other titles on the Market, such as Mole Miner - a free game which boasts over 100 different configurations for similar control options. Was this reaction a surprise? Do you think this is a reflection on the quality of the product released, a result of the challenges that come of porting CE to a new, mobile platform with its own unique limitations (e.g. some Android devices are keyboard-less) and/or today's gamers simply not "getting" the original game?

The game works pretty well for me, it probably is possible to make it go mad by flipping apps repeatedly or messing with sound and stuff, and yes I don't remember coding anything to respect silenced mode, oops :-) But on the whole if you simply load it up and play, it works well, even adjusting to screen rotation etc and keyboard. I found the game controls fine, and didn't consider making them customisable. The touchscreen one is slower than I'd like and single touch only but I couldn't make it work any better. As I say I'm very happy with the end product as are we all otherwise it wouldn't have got released. There is definitely a higher expectation for Android than on J2ME, and me not being the super Android whizz yet at that time could have made some things not quite work as well as expected in some cases. Also remember a lot of these people on the Android Market making comments are notoriously cruel, insulting and idiotic, most developers on Android will agree with that. I had one girl email me every day for weeks telling me I "stink" and that I should remove all my apps because people will find out how bad they are, one of these was Sonorox, which became a finalist in Android Developer Challenge 2 (ADC2).
For devices without keyboards, such as the HTC Magic it can be frustrating that Chuckie Egg does not allow you to press two on-screen buttons at once, such as pressing jump whilst running to the left or right. This is not a limitation of the Chuckie Egg game, but actually a feature called multi-touch which is specifically disabled in the current versions of the Android operating system. Hackers have managed to enable it on the G1 by recompiling and flashing the firmware, though it doesn't live up to the same functionality on the iPhone. What are your thoughts on this, and any other, limitations of the Android OS? Was there anything else you would have liked to have been able to implement, but couldn't?

Yes the touchscreen one annoyed me, but I couldn't get around it on a standard G1. I'd loved to have made it work like the keyboard one. It's certainly limiting Android severely and making them look somewhat lame compared to the iPhone in many ways. I love Android but it is a show stopper when someone does something very cool with both fingers on their iPhone and then on Android the equivalent is not so nice. Hopefully they will allow multitouch soon because if you imagine an Android tablet pc trying to compete with the iPad it could get very nasty indeed. Even the virtual keyboard will not work if you cannot hold Shift for example to capitalise another key. My guess is Android will overcome this very soon but only on newer devices with better touchscreens, that may drive cost up. I'm still not 100% clear on the reasons for it not being included, but I get the general drift that if it was it wouldn't work as good as iPhone so they need to wait until it does.
Many apps on the android market push out bug fixes and new features with regular updates. Is there any intention to release any further updates to the Android release in the future to either address known issues or extend the functionality? If so, is there any preferred mechanism for players to provide feedback?

We have no plans for this, I'd be happy to do it if I have the time and I can get paid for the fixes.
=== Part III: Final Thoughts ===
Have you ever come across Chuckie Egg 2 or, even, Chuckie Apple? Do you have any thoughts on those? Perhaps on whether you thought either would lend themselves well to being a mobile title?

Yes during the development of this I studied the Chuckie Egg history meticulously and have read almost everything out there, including most of your site. :) It's very interesting to read about the development of various Chuckie Eggs too and see how they did stuff, my map formats for the editor were inspired by some ones I found on your site. Not played Choccy Egg yet though. :-)
As the latest official CE developer, what do you think makes Chuckie Egg such an addictive game and still a popular title 25 years on?

Oh what a title, The latest official Chuckie Egg developer, it's like being Dr. Who!

Why do some people still like it? It's that music isn't it!? Actually I think it's due to the AI in the yellow birds, at the beginning they seem random but after a while you realise they're powered by something of a higher nature, they're vastly intelligent evil menaces, who can predict the future.

I think it's fun because it's basically very simple and casual, avoid this pick up that, jump here - this could also be the reason girls like it more now when I hand it around, often guys crave a bit more depth in their games - it's also kind of cute in a strange way, that brings girls in. But it also has some nice nuances of gameplay that can excite almost as much as modern day games, leaping from a platform onto some ladders is satisfying, leaping from a moving platform to another and off again feels like you have pulled off a cool move, doing a leap of faith and bouncing off a ton of walls and landing safely is exhilarating (almost). It's still tough too, that keeps you playing and there's an optimal way to do the level really if you're good and lucky (i.e. get all the seed too - this takes some strategy), again the AI of them evil-genius birds adds a lot to the mixture. Points add a lot too, replay value for the high score is always good, to knock off Coopersmith is always fun.
Do you have any thoughts on the new mobile platforms like Android / iPhone and what they might mean both for smaller developers and also older classic game licenses like Chuckie Egg?

Yes they've opened it all up for independent game developers, hobbyists and freelancers, as well as any entrepreneur with a bit of cash who is willing to custom order something and perhaps pay for an old license (what's the cost I really don't know). This means we will see a ton of remakes on these platforms from all sorts of cool old licenses. We will see a glut of titles coming out through emulation too, I think this week I saw Elite (the C64 game) for the iPhone in this format, and Elite Systems themselves have released a 3D Paperboy for iPhone which looks awesome. These are exciting times to not be in a 'proper' (i.e. huge clout) games company, finally.
Do you have a view on the suggestion that the latest digital distribution methods employed by the latest platforms like Android could result in the demise of games as soon as they become unprofitable, denying retro gamers the opportunity to enjoy them later down the line? Do you think developers and publishers should give any consideration to such things, or are they right to focus on protecting initial sales and fighting the piracy of their releases, even if it means the games themselves will eventually drop out of public life?

Well they will always be doing it purely for the money, anything that isn't going to profit won't come out. We are lucky to have companies like Elite passionate enough to take risks on profitability for the sake of retro remakes. They can only sustain it I guess from the success of some of their more mainstream titles. However with emulation and a demand for retro games they'll continue to be around, and re-made, particularly since these devices still lend themselves highly to 2D games as much as 3D games. Unprofitable titles will still sit in the market forever I presume, so they shouldn't be going anywhere.

Ed: Unfortunately, but noticably relevant to this question, Chuckie Egg for Android was withdrawn from the Market before this interview was published and now appears to be unavailable for the forseeable future.
Have you any plans to revisit any Chuckie Egg related projects at any point in the future?

If I'm asked I'll happily don my Hen House Harry Hat and walk awkwardly around my room eating seed in celebration. But if not, I will equally be happy with just bragging about having worked on it once when I'm down the pub.
... and, finally - is there anything you'd like to leave us with? Shameless promotion on future projects can go here. :)

Excellent, firstly I'm available for hire to develop J2ME, JAVA, Android etc please see for apps and games. I also have a portfolio here (Chuckie Egg and more will be added soon): I also have many games which should be completed soon, offers that beat the app stores would be welcomed. :-) Or just anything which can get my games out there and promote them, half of the problem is they end up in a sea of other apps and games without anyway for people to even know they exist. People who can't pay for advertising are still going to lose out to the big boys on that side, unless the app stores make an innovative way of advertising all our apps for us..

I have many projects on, I'm not sure which to promote :-) Maybe I will use this opportunity to do something weird and promote my other career. I am a also a freelance VJ, Visual Artist, Music Video Producer. My latest "movie" is called Abaddon, and is produced by 'the corrupted' a label which consists of myself and my friend (Paul Kemp). It would be great for me if anyone who is interested in mad special effects and crazy horror visuals, would watch this creation and let me know what you think. Chuckie Egg gets no reference, but other retro technologies like the Amiga do. :-) The URL is:

It's a big file, but bare with it, its worth it.
Thanks for your time, Gareth!

Thank you, its been enjoyable.