Martin Piper is well know in comp.sys.acorn.games as author of BHP and the soon-to-be TBA Quake conversion for the Acorn. Contact details for Martin and TBA software can be found at the base of this page.
Acorn Arcade: Many people have said that BHP was an excellent game. What inspired you to write the game and how long did it take you or your team to write it?
Martin Piper: Thanks. ;-) I even like playing it now, so it must be good. I haven't even got sick of it yet, which is a miracle after developing it for all this time.
A good question. I was at the Sega Dome Arcade in the Yohan Plaza in northwest London one day and was discussing with a friend how many StrongARM processors it would take to emulate the graphics of the arcade machine. This was before the StrongARM was available for people to buy. (I think we settled for 6 running at 200MHz in the end, each drawing part of the hires screen).
I then went home and started tinkering with the idea, at the time using an ARM 6. In fact the first demo, was running on an ARM 3 at just about usable framerate. But we, Alan and myself, decided it would not run at all well in the end so left the idea in the "nice but too slow directory".
Then the StrongARM came out, and suddenly all the "slow" ideas were horribly, stupidly, blindingly quick!! I pestered Mat to do some test graphics and then developed the idea some more. Then I persuaded Alan it was really going to be a great game and we both decided to work on it properly as our first StrongARM only game.
Well since we already have TAG, which is the core game engine, it didn't really take much of our time. It took Alan ( programmer ), Matt ( artist and designer ) and myself ( programmer ) just over a year of only working at weekends to get it done. All in all, about 100 days. Which is quite short if you think about it.
Acorn Arcade: TBA Quake must be nearly finished by now so the question every-one's lips is: What's coming next?
Martin Piper: "Life after Quake", ahh well. Its going to be another 3D game, surprise! We like 3D games here if you havn't guessed. Basically we are taking a little rest to add in another lot of features to TAG to make the rendering that little more photo-realistic. Yes that does mean the next game will be true colour, hires, with support for RPC2 and graphics accelerator cards.
Though it is rather secret at the moment, expect to be blown off your seats with the quality of the next title. It won't look out of place inside an Arcade cabinet that's for sure.
Acorn Arcade: How did TBA software come about?
Martin Piper: Enthusiasm really. We love making computer games, sad isn't it? ;-) We basically all met up at one computer show and said "hey lets make some great games".
Acorn Arcade: What would be your personal favourite game of all time? (it can even be one you've written!)
Martin Piper: My personal favourite game of all time is Turrican on the Commodore 64. This was THE most ground breaking technical game ever, from a programmers point of view. It took me months to reverse engineer it and figure out how Manfred Trenz ( the programmer ) got it working with so many sprites.
After that would be any Final Fantasy or Zelda type game. Simply because they are so deep and involved.
Acorn Arcade: Do you see yourself and TBA staying with the acorn market for the foreseeable future? Because, dare I say it, many of our best 'home bread' programmers/groups tend to leave to join the PC crowd.
Martin Piper: Yes TBA will stay with the Acorn market for a while yet. I infact also work writing games for other machines too as well. But at the end of a hard day trying to get Windows to work, or a Playstation to compute matrices properly its nice to sit down and code on the Acorn. It is after all the best machine I have used in a professional way.
Acorn Arcade: Your email header says 'Organisation: TBA software (London Office)' so how many offices do TBA have and how many people do they employ?
Martin Piper: Not really offices as such, more like houses. ;-) We all live scattered across the country in London, Timsbury and Kinver (!). Though the office at Timsbury is where the main core of TBA Soft is. I don't actually know how many people are working for TBA at the moment, it must be around 20 or so. We are always taking on new recruits and new ideas you see.
Acorn Arcade: And finally, any hint of a release date for TBA Quake yet then?
Martin Piper: Wakefield is the planned release date. I won't let TBA Quake be released with bugs in it, this annoys some people. But releasing something with bugs in annoys them more. I can't stand companies that release software and don't try to support it later on, which is why we are still improving BHP. ;-)
Acorn Arcade: Thankyou for doing this interview, I wish you and TBA all the best for the future!
Martin Piper: Thank you, I've enjoyed doing it. It has brought back plenty of memories for me.