Mark R Jones
Mark R Jones worked as a graphics artist on the ZX Spectrum for Ocean Software during the 1980's.
He worked on many prominent titles on our favourite 8-bit machine providing various graphics and loading screens to the likes of the classic arcade conversions of Arkanoid and Arkanoid: Revenge Of Doh, the shoot em up game Mag Max, the Your Sinclair covertape game Road Race and the excellent trade em up game, Tai Pan.
He also provided graphics and the loading screen to the classic game Wizball which holds fond memories for many gamers.
|Mark R Jones 1990|
1: Hello Mark. What was the first computer you used and how old where you at the time?
The VERY first computer I ever used would have to be those old beige coloured PC things they had in schools in the early 80s. This would have been about 1983.
We didn’t have computers in middle school, so it would have been that year when I started at my upper school, I would have been 13. You’d type in some basic program that would tell you something enthralling, like the percentage of people living in 3 bedroom houses under 35 years of age which you’d then print out on that old printer paper with blue lines and perforated edges.
The first games I ever played though would have to be “Mazogs” or “3D Monster Maze” on my cousin’s ZX-81. I remember him turning off the TV half way through a game of “Mazogs” and I thought then that the game was gone and that we’d have to reload it, didn’t realise that you only had to turn the TV back on again and it was still there.
|Classic ZX81 game Mazogs|
I used to go round his house every other Saturday for a good few years and we’d wander round shopping centres, watch “The Tripods”, buy Beatles 7 inch singles & and get mucky playing in forests in the rain and, eventually, progressed to going in arcades at Billing Aquadrome (I remember them just being sheds!).
I’d watch him and his brother playing “Space Invaders”, “Boothill”, “Mr Do” & “PacMan”, the first generation of arcade games.
Wow! I had no idea what I was witnessing. Just before all this happened we’d just end up in WHSmiths looking at pencil cases and pens in our free time!
|Crash magazine rave about the loading screen|
|The not quite finished loading screen to Mag Max|
|The finalised loading screen that was rightly raved about by Crash|
The first full game I worked on where I produced all the graphics and got a credit for was the half assed conversion of “Wizball” on the Spectrum. Not that I was half assed about it, it was the damn programmer! Ugh!
|An incomplete version of the Wizball loading screen|
For the sprites we used an amended version of Melbourne Draw, renamed Ocean Draw, that had animation features added by Paul Owens, if memory serves me correctly. It was real easy to use.
I'm not sure if this version has actually been archived yet. I do still have my microdrive cartridge with it on. Maybe I should lend it someone to see if it can be salvaged before it disapears forever.
For loading screens I used 3 different packages, the one I just mentioned, and Artist 2 and Art Studio.
They ALL had things that worked better on each version so it would just be a question of using all 3 priograms still you got something jolly! I had bought Art Studio and The Artist 2 with money from my school job at Co-Op. Money well spent I think!
Plus I was working with people who had written some of the games I had been playing myself at school, I KNEW them, I went to arcades with them at dinner time to nick ideas!
|The Ocean Software crew|
Bo Jangeborg, for “Fairlight” which I spent many hours on, again, not really getting anywhere. Wasn’t too keen on the follow up though, that annoying slow down when you had too many things on the screen had got a bit too much for me on that one.
|An unused montage screen created for Total Recall|
|Another unused screen for the Arnie game Total Recall|
|The excellent title screen for Total Recall|
|The Tai-Pan screen in development|
|The final loading screen for Tai-Pan|
|A selection of sprites from Wizball|
|More sprites and graphics from the classic game Wizball|
|Those famous Wizball Yin-Yangs!|
I know on the C64 it was a more subtle shading in of different parts of the background, which you couldn't do on a Speccy. The only problems with attributes was from when different baddies passed over each other. Wasn't down to me anyway, that was up to the programmer.
I gave him white graphics, I didn't get any say in what colour they were, Wizball had to be green obviously but everything else was up to Mr Maths.
|Mark with his old boss Gary and top Ocean programmer Jim Bagley in 2010|
Many thanks go to Mark for taking the time to discuss his days at Ocean and for supplying so much information. Brilliant.
Classic Games, Arcade Games and ZX Spectrum Games