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Five-Minute Interview with the Chiefs of Game Developers
—by Jade Dragon

Have you ever wondered about who the people are behind the games you love? What they look like? What they eat? Well, I came up with 5 questions for my five-minute interview with the leaders of popular game software companies. We will feature one Chief each week. And I've also got a photo of each Chief I've interviewed, so that you can see what they look like. As for what they eat, that's highly classified information.


 

This week we have two Chiefs, Howard Tomlinson and David Oakley of Astraware. If you haven't played Bejeweled on your Palm or Diamond Mine on your Pocket PC, you need to take a crash course at the PDA school nearest you. These are only the most addictive and most popular games on PDAs! Not to mention Zap!2000, Alchemy, Mummy Maze, and the latest games Elixier, Abysma and Glinx.
Howard Tomlinson - age 29 - Graduate in Physics from Keele University, UK. Howard became a teacher, working in a school in Rugby for three years, and then lecturing in computer programming at Rugby College. Howard started full time for Astraware in July 2002, and splits his time between managing licensing and distribution, and developing and programming new game ideas. Howard likes to practice longbow archery on Sundays and on days off. Howard is married, and has a 2 year old daughter who also enjoys Bejeweling.

David Oakley - age 29 - Graduate in Software Engineering from Birmingham University, UK. David worked for several years at ICL in their Internet solutions department, and rapidly became an expert as a web designer and consultant. David works on the low level code for Astraware, implementing new slick code so that the rest of us can just get on with writing games and trust that it will be fast and work across lots of devices! David has learnt the art of micro-management, and has entries in his Palm for such exciting things as "get up" and "water plants".

Interview:
Jade Dragon: What is the mission of Astraware in 5 sentences?

Howard and David: "To Bring The World Economy To Its Knees By Destroying Global Productivity Through The Use Of Addictive Handheld Games" (cue evil laugh and stroking of white cat).

Our mission at Astraware is really:
1) To create new and original games
2) To bring popular titles and legitimate licenses to handhelds
3) To continue to push the limits of what can be done on the devices, and create software that people love to play, and love to show off to their friends!

Jade Dragon: What will be the exciting things coming out this year from Astraware?

Howard and David: We've had a lot of fun and success with puzzle games recently, but in the near future we've got quite a few more action titles lined up. We made our name with Zap!2000, and we want to keep our original fans happy too!

We're making use of the enhanced features on the latest devices in our upcoming games - in particular the better sound and graphics.

Javier Davalos

David Oakely and Howard Tomlinson

Top Row:
Sarah (our main customer support), Haemish (programmer - wrote Atomica, Mars Needs Cows, Bounce Out, and several more), Stov (our artist), Ray (programmer - wrote Abysma and Elixir), Iain (programmer - is currently writing 'Rook's Revenge').

Bottom Row: Graham (keeps our computers and licenses in order), David (The CTO!), Kirk (payroll and tax and stuff), Howard (The CEO!).

We've been adding sound to some of our existing titles - Bejeweled, Alchemy, and Zap!2000 and the effect it makes is brilliant, so you can expect that to be a regular feature!

We're also targeting some games at the more powerful devices that ARM and OS5 will make possible!

We've got another 5 games ready for release in just a couple of weeks, so it's busy as ever here!

Jade Dragon: What do you have to say to the Astraware fans out there?

Howard and David: "Coooeee! Thanks for all your support"
Our fans enabled us to take this from just being a hobby that we love, into being a full time business. There aren't many companies that have managed this based on the shareware model, so we're really grateful for the support!

Jade Dragon: What is your number one favorite game?

Howard: On the Palm, it would be Text Twist for me. On the PC, it probably falls between Civ3 and Return To Castle Wolfenstein.
David: Strangely I keep getting dragged back to Bejeweled on the Palm (usually when I'm trying to demonstrate it to someone). On the PC, my long-time favourite is Age of Empires II: Age of Kings.

When you look at what we like on the PC versus what we like on the Palm it gives you a good idea of quite how different the platforms are for gaming. PC games are immersive, you play them for hours and hours, but Palm games have to play well when you only have a few minutes spare.

Jade Dragon: How often do you play games?

Howard and David: Every day! You can't expect to write good games unless you play them lots too! Writing a game that people like gives much better satisfaction than just playing them though. These days we tend to play games to find out what makes them tick and what makes them fun, as much as just to enjoy playing them.

 

 

 

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