Looking through the archives of 80sNostalgia, I found an interview originally from about the year 2000 that, for some reason, hadn’t been copied across when I moved servers back in 2005. It was with Mark Jones, the graphics guy who worked on Wizball.
An exclusive interview with Mark Jones
The graphics guy behind Wizball on the Speccy
All sorts of people drop by this site, and one such person happened to mention that he was suprised to see a game that he had worked on featured here. To tell you the truth, the word he used was “Yick!”.
That person was Mark Jones, graphics designer for the classic Speccy game Wizball, and I couldn’t let him go without doing an interview first!
OK, let’s start with a hard question. What is your full name?
Mark Richard Jones
How old are you now?
29. I have approximately 1 month left of my 20’s! ARRRGGGGHH!!! (Well, that was as of 30th April, so he’s now officially old!).
What are you doing for a living now?
I work in a Mental Hospital and work with people who have had a brain injury. I love it!!
What was you involvement in Wizball?
I drew all the graphics.
Do you feel proud that your name is on the menu screen, but none of the programmers are?
No. That was because the programmer was crap and left before it was properly finished. Another programmer had to tweak this and that and because no one liked the original programmer only my name was put in.
How old were you when you worked on Wizball?
I was sweet 16
Can you remember how much you were paid for you efforts?
Yes, £90 a week after tax then, after I battled for a rise because I didn’t have enough to live on, a whopping £105 a week!!
What did your mates think about you working on the game?
Well it was the fact that I was working at THE Ocean Software that everyone was going on about. I’d get asked who I’d met and what I’d done and stuff all the time.
What did your parents think about you working on the game?
They were proud. They helped me a lot because I got very homesick and went home from Manchester to Northampton every week. They were cool about it all.
How many other people were working on the project?
Sensible Software were writing the 64 version at the same time, they’d come in and show us the latest version and we’d try and incorporate the new stuff.
On the Spectrum though was only me and Shaggy Lookalike Steve Watson who’s only other published work had been Psi Chess for The Edge.
Did you all get on well together?
I got on well with Jops & Chrix from Sensible, they were mad but I doubt they’ll even remember me now! As to the programmer Steve, sometimes, but as time went on and I saw how the Spectrum version was coming on along side the 64, no. He was so sllllooooooww and the amount of graphics I did, after he ASKED me to do them, that got left out peed me off slightly. It was obvious that the Speccy version would just pale in comparison the 64 version. I do remember periods of harmony though that was probably early on. I won’t mention the Amstrad version!!!!!
How long did Wizball take to make?
Took me about 2 and a half months to do the graphics. I can’t remember exactly but I recall twiddling my thumbs for 2 more months while the programmer finished off!
Did you enjoy your involvement in the project?
I had nothing to compare it to. It was my first game, I was still in awe at actually doing a game for Ocean that was going to published! So yeah I did at the time, but had it been by 3rd or 4th time I’d probably remember it as a nightmare.
How did you think the game turned out in the end? Were you pleased? Did you enjoy playing it afterwards?
I thought it was rubbish, it could’ve been so much better. So no I wasn’t pleased. I WAS pleased when it was awarded a Crash Smash though AND a Sinclair User Classic!! Maybe I was just being too critical. I can still see all the bits I never got right and remember all the stuff that GOT LEFT OUT!!!!!!
What do you think of the game now?
I think it’s the most wonderfullest thing ever and I bow in it’s presence and love it and cherish it and grant it the order of the holy cornflake.
What was the first thought that went through your mind when you first saw Wizball on 80sNostalgia.com?
I actually shouted, like someone had come up and jabbed me in the ribs from behind! “ARRRRRRRR”. I was pleased and IM’d my mates and gave them the address, got my house mates to have a look as well.
Did you play the game, or did you just want to run away as fast as possible?
No I didn’t play it as I have a Spectrum Emulator on my PC and indulge in looking at the ole classics. So I had seen it recently anyway.
How do you think the game could have been improved (in all areas, not just graphics)?
Dunno, the 64 version was brilliant and is still highly playable. I just wish the Speccy version had been more like that. To me my version looks like it was written in BASIC compared to the 64.
Have you had any involvement in the creation of other games?
Yes. I did the loading screens for MagMax, Tai Pan, Mutants, Arkanoid II. I did the music for Arkanoid on the Spectrum using Melbourne House’s Wham The Music Box and got Ocean into trouble. (I didn’t know, I was 16!). Did the graphics and loading screens for Gryzor and Vindicator and worked on some of the graphics of Dragonninja and did the loading screen also.
I worked on the scrapped version of Total Recall as well. That was a nightmare and another story all together. The only thing that remained of mine in the one that got released was the picture of Arnie and the TR logo that dissolved down on to the screen.
What was your favorite Speccy game?
Have to be Tir Na Nog. Or maybe Avalon, or Dragontorc, or Fairlight. Oh I dunno, one of them. Or maybe Trashman.
Who was your hero when you were a kid, and why?
John Lennon, because then I listened to nothing but Beatles and he had a great sense of humor as well!
If you could be an inanimate object, what object would you be and why?
Ermmm….I’ve always wanted to be a piece of paper. It would just be so sexy to be one of those. Yes.
Do you wish that you could have been Wizball and bounced everywhere?
I often used to strip off and roll up in a ball at Ocean in the toilets and pretend to bounce around. I remember my boss finding me and asking what the hell I was doing and I just meowed at him.
Was there any major problems during the project that you can remember?
Other than most of stuff I did didn’t get put in, (That still riles me!) no.
Have you been interviewed by anyone famous, and how did the interview go?
What a coincidence you asking me that! Well I never. I WAS interviewed by the great Cheggars while working on the Vindicator. It was in a kids program he was doing called Chegwin Checks It Out. It was a good laugh and we had an easy day at work at the time. He was really nice as well. I actually heard him swear, I was gobsmacked! I still have it on video, it’s really embarrassing now and I have an hour or so’s worth of the making of it. Paul Owens was filming what was going on with a video camera and I have the only copy I think.
What is your favorite TV program from the 80s?
Loads, Young Ones, it was so different back then, EVERYONE would be talking about the day after at school. Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn ( I want the theme tune!!!!), Battle Of The Planets, Red Hand Gang (that may’ve been 70’s but it was on here in the 80’s), Grange Hill.