Issue 150 of Retro Gamer magazine has six pages devoted to Matthew Smith and his classic Spectrum games Manic Miner and Jet Set Willy.
“Matthew Smith’s Greatest Achievement” is a two-page article about Manic Miner, featuring a short but glowing review of “one of the greatest games of the 8-bit era”, and quotes from:
- Derrick Rowson (coder of MM, JSW and JSW II for the Amstrad CPC with Steve Wetherill);
- Chris Lancaster (coder of MM for the Commodore 64);
- Roy Coates (coder of MM and JSW for the Dragon 32/64).
Derrick Rowson said, “Matthew could code as the normal person talked”, i.e. he could write code very quickly, and it would usually work at the first attempt.
There is also a four-page article, “The Making of: Jet Set Willy”, written by Martyn Carroll, based on an interview with Matthew Smith.
Matthew wrote JSW in eight months in 1983/1984, while he was one of the directors of Software Projects, along with Alan Maton and Tommy Barton. He worked from home, and admitted that he might never have finished JSW without Alan frequently coming over and breathing down his neck. It sounds like it was a very difficult time for him. Sadly, he has never finished either of the two sequels that he started: The MegaTree, and Miner Willy Meets The Tax Man.
Matthew started work on JSW by creating the swinging ropes, which are what he likes most about JSW. The first rooms that he wrote were “The Bathroom” and “Master Bedroom”. With the ending in place, he then expanded the map without any predefined plan, “based on what I thought a country house would look like... I spent a lot of time designing the rooms, trying to think up new ways of challenging players.”
He actually wrote 64 rooms for JSW, typing in the data on his Tandy TRS-80 Model 4, but unfortunately, it kept overwriting four rooms with its hard-disk driver, and with time being tight, he ended up ditching them. “The lost rooms were above The MegaTree. It was supposed to be taller and have more branches.”
He admitted that he didn’t have time for a complete playtest, hence the bugs that would necessitate the four official Software Projects POKEs. He did know about the infinite-death scenarios, but thought, “Well, it doesn’t matter.”
Software Projects refused to pay £36,000 to the copyright holders of the in-game tune, “If I Were A Rich Man”, but changed it to “In the Hall of the Mountain King” for later versions.
Matthew never got any royalties from JSW at the time, but has finally earned some through his partnership with Elite Systems.
Matthew always preferred MM to JSW, because of the quality of the rooms. He talks highly of Jet Set Willy II (which was originally written for the Amstrad CPC by Derrick Rowson and Steve Wetherill, and then converted to the Spectrum by Derrick), because it has twice as many rooms, some of which are set in outer space. However, he is proud of the “nice clean design” of the original MM and JSW.
Personally, I love MM and JSW almost equally, but I have to give the edge to JSW, because it allows free exploration, and is more atmospheric. JSW II may be faster and have twice as many rooms, but its game mechanics aren’t quite as exquisite as the original MM/JSW, and it lacks my most beloved quirky features.
The article has a sidebar titled “Nightmare Rooms”, with tips on “The Banyan Tree”, “The Wine Cellar”, “The Nightmare Room”, “The Forgotten Abbey”, “Priests' Hole” and “Under the Drive”.
The article has another sidebar titled “Conversion Capers”, with brief reviews of the official JSW conversions released at the time:
- Amstrad CPC (74 extra rooms);
- Atari 8-bit;
- BBC Micro;
- Commodore 16 (replaces “The Nightmare Room” with “The Pantry”);
- Commodore 64;
- Commodore Plus/4;
- Dragon 32 (fifteen extra rooms; has been converted to the Spectrum and Archimedes);
- Memotech MTX (two extra rooms: “The Courtyard” and “The Front Lawn”);
- MSX (the Tatung Einstein version is identical);
- MSX (Bee Card) (released in Japan by Hudson Soft).
Edited by andrewbroad, 09 January 2016 - 11:58 PM.