Our next guest loves stockings... hmm what ? Oh sorry I think I went a bit
too far. Indeed I'm going to interview Andrew Whittaker who is mostly known to
us Atarians as being one of the guys hiding behind AvP, understand Alien
Versus Predator ! To be honest, I've never been convinced by the JAGUAR tho a
single game sent waves of thrills thru my body : hey you ever been facing an
Alien when your ammo is down to zero ? Not to mention the awful mouth smell of
the creature :p
NOTE of STS : questions #3, 5,6 and 7 were added by Andrew who rightfully
thought he had more to say. I intentionnally preceded them by my name to
make sure questions and answers could be spotted without problem.
STS : Hi Andrew, erm what's your name ? Oki let's be serious and rather focus
on your status, like age, current job and ATARI background.
ANDREW : Age, well thats an easy one to start with, a grand old age of 35. I'm
currently working on projects for film, tv and some computer game work too.
I'm involved in creative design, scriptwriting and also a director of a company
that does special effects work for various major Hollywood movies.
I made my first game at the tender age of 13 and realised that it was the
career for me. I had been messing around with a Sinclair ZX81 computer, taught
myself BASIC and assembler and decided to create a few games to amuse myself
and the family. What I didnt realise at the time, of course, was that he games
would ultimately be successful and lead me to a career in the games industry.
STS : As you and I have already spent some time chatting, I know most of the
story of your life but I'm sure our readers would also be interested in
knowing the hard times you've gone thru.
ANDREW :I dont know as it would be called hard times. I just made a conscious
effort at 16 that I would have a career in the games software industry. Like a
lot of fledgling software authors I ended up in a situation where I was in a
small appartment with zero money working hard on games and hoping and praying
that someone would buy them. I had to survive on welfare payments for a couple
of years, even down to clothing handouts to survive. Quite often meals were
simply a loaf of bread. But in the end I sold my work and the rest is history
as they always say in these sort of interviews.
What is my abiding memory of those times ? The delight when the game I was
making took off and began to sell of the shelves and the sheer gratitude I
felt to everyone who bought my work. I still have that gratitude to this day
whenever people compliment my work and enjoy what I do. I am immensely
grateful for the people buying my work who have given me the chance of a
career I wanted to pursue.
STS : Was the Atari your first computer system you worked on commercially ?
ANDREW : No, I did games for the Spectrum, Commodore 64 and Amstrad computers
as part of a team. We had major successes on those machines. My first
involvement with Atari was with the release of the Atari ST. I remember we had
one delivered into the office on the first day they were available to
developers. I suddenly found myself having to learn 68000 and (for that day) a
complex operating system. I loved the machine and never looked back. I
continued with the 68000 working with both the ST and Commodore Amiga for some
time in the transition days to 16 bit computing.
STS : I guess you must be tired with explaining the same things again but
please once again, would you be kind enough to tell us how you came to work
for ATARI on AvP ?
ANDREW : Immediately before AvP I had worked on a project called Darkseed
which did very well, especially in the USA. That involved me working alongside
the designer of the "Alien" HR Giger to bring his work to the computer screen.
When AvP came along, because of the success of that I was asked to design and
develop the AvP experience. Giger obviously remembered me as when the Alien
licence was taken by Atari I was approached by Giger, Atari and Fox to develop
that licence for the Jaguar launch. It was a great opportunity to develop on an
exciting new machine with movies that I really loved. I studied the movies
solid for many months before coming up with a game design. My aim was simple,
to recreate the feeling and atmosphere of the "Alien" movie. I wanted people
jumping, feeling claustrophobic and have the fear of being hunted in an unknown
STS : Would you describe AvP as being a shoot-em-up forerunner to Doom and
ANDREW : Definately not, Doom and Quake are very much shooting gallery games
whereby you are the hunter. I think and hope that AvP turns that on its head
where the player feels that he is the hunted rather than hunter. As such, to
play the game properly, AvP forces careful actions and stealth on the part of
the player in order to survive. I deliberately had the Predator taunting the
player at regular intervals to remind the player that they are the prey
fighting for their survival rather than a gung-ho hero with guns blazing.
STS : I have heard a lot about the AI in the game, can you tell me more?
ANDREW : Again, to compare to Doom and Quake, they are proximity triggered
artificial intelligence games. What that means is that the creatures come
alive when you get close to them. In Avp the creatures are alive all the time
and tracking you throughout the maze, working solely and cooperatively.
There is a lot of cooperative actions with the creatures that you do not see
in other games. Even so called "dumb" aliens in certain rooms are usually
there to lure you into a trap where there may be a pack lurking nearby. They
use many many tricks to try and bring you to an early demise, in fact over 256
strategies for each type of creature in the game!
STS : What did you do after AvP ?
ANDREW : I went on to MGM studios in Los Angeles to continue the theme of
working with movie licences. The biggest licences being the James Bond games
(released through Electronic Arts), Stargate and others. I had a blast working
with those properties, again with some success luckily for my career. I left
there to work fulltime with Electronic Arts and spent a lot of time at
Bullfrog studios in the UK working on their strategy line-up.
STS : Was it your first and last experience with ATARI ? How did it work out
and did you have other projects for ATARI machines ?
ANDREW : No not my first by any means, the team I belonged to at the start of
my career was Graftgold and we had developed a number of ST games including
Ranarama and Rainbow Islands to name but two. AvP was certainly my favourite
project for the Atari and favourite project that I have ever done. I made a
great deal of friends on that project and loved the material that I was given
to work with. It was ultimately due to the demise of Atari my last Atari
project but at the time of course, I never realised that would be the case and
I had no idea this would be my only forray into working with the Jaguar console
which I enjoyed very much.
STS : Some time ago, we were given a prototype of AvP on the LYNX. Tho nothing
more than a pseudo 3D engine, it already looked promising. Were you also
involved in this game ? How did things turn out in the end ?
ANDREW : No, I had no involvement with it at all although I was shown some
early development ideas, but in all honesty it was nothing to do with me and
was completely separate to anything that I was doing.
STS : It is quite odd to see you hang around on IRC and be such a nice chap
while you're a god to anyone who's played AvP ! When and why did you decide to
give a look at the brave fellows on #atariscne ?
ANDREW : Hardly a god, but thank you for the compliment. I've visited Atari IRC
for many many years as I always think of the Atari family as a group of people
where I feel comfortable and have been made welcome. I think I first visited as
part of the research for AvP to garner information on what people would like to
see in the game. I just never left :)
STS : Do you still have and/or use original ATARI machines ? Are you drawn to
old school computers or swallowed by the powerful dark side of business, erm
sorry I meant computing :)
ANDREW : I've still got various versions of the Jaguar, various versions of
the ST, a couple of TT machines and the do get warmed up and used, although
these days I tend to favour playing Tempest2000 as my favourite Jaguar game
which means I criminally neglect other Atari titles and activities to feed
STS : oki then, if you're still here, you must have shown that you still feel
something for the good old ST but what do you think of the Falcon ? Ever owned
or played around with one ?
ANDREW : I used falcons at Atari Sunnyvale, there were some in my office there
although I never owned one personally, but come to think of it, I've never
bought a computer in my life, so I guess the answer is that I never took one
home but used them around the office.
STS : Tho I have no idea about the answers you're already given, now I feel
that somehow your experience with ATARI has brought you something that maybe
our community still keeps alive ? Do you happen to read the latest news on DHS
and/or download the latest demos ?
ANDREW : I should really be politically correct here and say "yes" to those
questions, but the answer in truth is "no" to both, simply because of work
pressures and time commitments. My source of Atari information comes directly
from the IRC community I have to admit. I wish I had the time for that to be
different but I spend a great deal of my life travelling between continents and
rarely have more than 48 hours at home. Quite often I may be in a hotel
everyday apart from a couple of days a month that I take off work.
STS : WE WANT TO SEE YOUR STOCKINGS ! Erm sorry, I lost control once again and
surely you thought that some spam had invaded the interview :) More seriously
since you seem to show some interest to the ATARI community, then why not walk
another step forward and meet us at the next party ? Ever been to one btw ?
ANDREW : Yes I've been to Atari events and thoroughly enjoy them. I have
particular memories of one in Helsinki. I was hoping to return again last year,
had plans to do so, but ended up very ill with a kidney infection that stopped
me travelling at the last minute. I enjoy the events and being with the Atari
gang. And, Im not sure if anyone wants to see my stockings, but they are very
welcome to do so :)
STS : Time to release our volunteer prisonner at last :) Thanks a lot for the
time you've spent with us Andrew ! Any last words you want to tell the world
out there ?
ANDREW : It sounds cheesy I know, but I simply wanted to thank the Atari
community for all the support and friendship that has been shown to me over
the years. It is great to feel part of the group and I will stick around for
as long as I am wanted, which hopefully is a long time!