CONSULTING THE FIRST NON-LONDON COMPANY - HEWSON
by Richard Karsmakers
Monday, July 10th 1989
We awake, and are again confronted with the general difficulties
of life and similar difficulties attached to the bringing into
gear of the metabolic system
Today we will leave London for the rest of this holiday. We will
leave the oppressive heat, the damp smog and the filthy smell of
We will visit Hewson Consultants and after that we will go and
visit the man who we all admire: Steve Bak.
Stefan is in the shower and I have difficulty getting myself in
a vertical position.
I don't want to get up. I want to stay here and sleep the whole
I am sick and tired of all this travelling...
We just left Stuart's, where we parted with lots of emotions
("glad you went" and stuff like that). We are at the moment in
the Tube from Caledonian Road to King's Cross/St. Pancras, where
we will have to switch and take the Metropolitan line to
Paddington Railway Station.
Sitting in the train at Paddington Station. I have no reason
whatsoever to complain about the quality of the British trains.
The second class actually looks like the Dutch first class:
And there's also this neat little table that now functions to
support the Z88 on which I am typing. It really is nice to be
able to type comfortably again after all that chatting in the
real time tape that I have been doing quite a lot in recent days.
This train trip should take about 1-1.5 hours, after which we
will get out to visit Hewson (getting out at Didcot Parkway).
That heavy backpack actually seems to have a way of blocking
some veins in one of my shoulders so that I fear that the left
part of my brain now has an oxygen deficiency - which
establishes itself through a little headache that will probably
be gone in a couple of minutes.
Boy - am I glad we could dump those packs in the luggage
We arrived at King's Cross/St. Pancras at 10:55, and we didn't
have to wait long for the Tube to Paddington. We arrived there
not much later, so that we could have our breakfast (again, some
sandwiches) at 11:10.
After that, we started questing for a place where we could
withdraw money from the bank - for that we would surely need. We
found a Post Office at 11:25, which occasion we both used
extensively to fill our wallets, whereas I also bought some 19 P
At 11:47 we got back at Paddington, supplied with four cans of
Coke as well. Waiting for the train to arrive.
Thank God....we're out of London. I look outside and all I
see is cosy little farms, wide fields with long grass and wheat,
flocks of sheep peacefully grazing. The countryside slopes in
various directions to various heights and lowths.
When I look to where the train is coming from, I see a distant
grey haze that is slowly diminishing into the blue of the summer
Out of London. Fresh air. Great.
We've arrived at Didcot Station.
It's a very small Railway Station - hardly any different from
any other railway stop in a 5,000 people's village. Maybe the
fact that the major westbound line meets the line to Oxford here
has something to do with the fact that the Intercity train
bothered to stop here at all.
In a Taxi towards Hewson.
Ms. Toni Waknell of Hewson had told me to contact her by phone,
and that's precisely what we did.
"She's not in," a secretary told us, "but you can take a cab on
So that's precisely what we did.
Didcot is hardly the place where you'd expect a software
company, nor is Milton, where we're heading for now.
At approximately a quarter to two, we arrived at the place where
Hewson resides. It turned out to be a flat building with just
one floor, and it didn't look much like a software company's
office. It looked kinda like the kind of buildings you see where
people live whose houses just burned down - only a bit better and
A somewhat corpulent receptionist told us to sit down and wait
while she fetched us some Orange Squash - which we drank with the
She told us that Toni and 'the programmers' were out for lunch
and that we shouldn't be surprised if we would have to wait to a
bit beyond two o'clock.
So we weren't surprised when they indeed turned up at a quarter
past two - thereby almost wrecking the building by hitting it
with the bumper of their car (no casualties nor damaged done,
Out of the car stepped Toni Waknell, John Phillips and Tony
Cooper. Toni was a rather tiny girl wearing high heels (maybe to
compensate her size), who had long curling hair; John was a very
long dude indeed (at least, so I remember), with large eyes and
an overdose of shyness (which would disappear later) - the man
responsible for e.g. "Nebulus". Tony was a cosy type of guy one'd
like to get drunk with - with lots of humour in his voice and
manners. He's done both "Cybernoid" versions, and has a massively
solid handshake. He collects bootsectors - though I haven't
received a disk filled with some of 'em, which he promised me to
do (hint, hint, Tony!).
Quite a nice bunch, one'd have to admit.
Toni led us to the interview room of Hewson's. We sat down and
plugged our walkman into a main socket; Toni sat down with a
notebook and both programmers sat down bashfully, talking softly.
The initial uneasiness of their ways led me to believe they
hadn't been interviewed much - maybe they were plain nervous?
Within a minute, we were ready. So we aimed carefully and shot
our questions at them with awesome, relentless precision.
Let's start with your dates and places of birth, shall we?
John: Seventeenth of October 1962, London.
Tony: Seventeenth of the third, 1966 - in Worthing, in Sussex.
How did you get into computers?
Tony: From school, really. From school. Programming the
Commodore PET. And I'm still around. I wandered around for a
while and then went to Hewson.
John: I started about fifteen years ago, when the hobbyist thing
was supposed to be starting.
What are your other interests besides computers?
John: Music. Playing music - all sorts.
Tony: Track racing; building cars; listening to music very loud;
and satellite TV.
What do you dislike most about the software industry?
John: Programs that are hyped up, I guess.
What do you consider to be the best game on the ST?
John: Excluding our stuff.....(laughs)....."Virus".
Tony: I don't know, really. There hasn't been much that sort of
blew my mind away as it were. Your thing was quite nice (looking
at John). What was it called? The thing you're working on now?
John: Oh, that one. "Scavenger".
Tony: That's pretty nice. It's looking good.
What's the lousiest game?
Tony: "Chuckie Egg".
John takes a very long time to think. Tony remarks that, if he
mentions "Cybernoid", he'll kill him.
John: I don't know.
What's your best achievement on the ST?
John: My best achievement is the one that I will show you in a
moment: "Scavenger"; I've got 8-channel digitized music on the
ST - not using samples.
Tony: "Cybernoid II" is better than "Cybernoid", but my greatest
achievement was getting "Cybernoid" to run.
What do you think of ST NEWS?
Tony: I've never seen it.
John: I did. I liked it. I thought it covered many areas. I have
seen some other disk magazines but they tend to stick to demos,
not much else. The occasional demo isn't bad.
Please tell us a nice joke?
Tony: Something clean, for a magazine? That's a difficult one,
John: How large is your circulation?
About thirty-thousand, plus some tens of thousands for the other
magazines we're working for now.
Tony: Oh. How many folk singers does it take to change a light
bulb? Twenty - one to change the light bulb and the others to
sing about how good the previous one was. That's about the
cleanest one I know.
John: I don't know a joke.
What car do you drive?
John: I don't.
Tony: I've got two; one I'm building and one I use just to drive
around in. That's a 1600 Escort estate - of all things. The one
I'm building is another Escort, Mark I, with 3.5 litre turbo-
Which tools do you use to program?
John: Well, I am currently changing over to a new system. For
"Nebulus" and "Eliminator" I just used an ordinary ST - I am just
switching over to "Devpac Professional", so that you can up-and
download programs to another machine. I've got a MEGA 4 and a 60
Meg hard drive.
Tony: "PDS" (Program Development System on MS-DOS machines, ED.)
- I write everything on the PC and then upload it to another
machine and run it.
John: Also, I use Rainbird's "OCP Art Studio", since I do my own
graphics as well. I also wrote some tools myself.
OK. Favourite book.
John: "Stranger in a Strange Land", by Robert Heinlein.
Tony: The "Dragonlance" series, I must admit, written by Tracy
Hickman and someone else (Margaret Weis, ED.). Those are about
four books, I think.
Tony: "Aliens", because of the pretty wicked stereo sound in it.
When you put it on a HiFi it blows your head off.
Tony: It used to be McDonalds, but I stopped with that. Anything
John: Water. And black coffee.
Tony: Anything with soda stream.
John: The The.
Tony: (Stefan: "Don't say 'anything that makes music'!") I
haven't got one, really, but I did like "War of the Worlds" of
Who do you consider to be the most interesting person in the
John: Difficult question.
Tony: No particular persons I know.
What are your main sources of inspiration?
Tony: Living. Just everyday life. You see something and think of
how you can build that in a computer...and off you go. Another
idea springs to life.
John: You've got some really difficult questions, you know that?
I suppose it's books.
What program are you working on at the moment?
John: "Scavenger". Only on the ST.
Tony: A game called "Veux" for ST and Amiga. It's for a French
company called LMA.
What do you think of software piracy?
John: I suppose in some countries it's justified because of high
prices - also because it might be the only way to get it. It
could be prevented by breaking the visual circle, which the
software houses can do - and the distributors. The latter can
have a smaller cut - their cut is now enormous.
Tony: There's so much crap around on the market.
Have you ever seen some of the hacker's demos?
John: I actually see quite a few. Especially the "Union Demo".
Tony: I haven't seen it. I want to see it.
What's your worst habit?
Tony: Smoking. And getting up.
John: Working too many hours every day.
After the interview, we went to have a look at some of the
forthcoming Hewson stuff - a habit that we had caught at the
other software houses and that we were pretty pleased with. John
also showed us his new game, "Scavenger", for the first time
ever to the press. It looked just as promising and original as
"Nebulus" - at the least. Toni, although clearly not the most
experienced game player around, succeeded in demonstrating some
of the other forthcoming games as well.
John had also brought some of his recent programming experiments
with him, that we could also have a look at. There was a game he
provisionally called "Nebulus II", for example: A horizontal
version of "Nebulus" that also rotated smoothly. There was also a
playable demo of "Enigma" - a shoot-'em-up around a cylinder
(EXCLUSIVE COPY OF THIS PLAYABLE PRE-BETA-FLØPPØ-DEMO ON THIS
VERY ST NEWS DISK!). John had also experimented a bit with
opening the left and right border, and he displayed us a small
scrolling demo with that as well. Finally, he also made an
exclusive version of his four-voice synthesiser that you will
also find elsewhere in this issue of ST NEWS (ANOTHER EXCLUSIVE
COPY OF A SPLENDID DEMO!!). He did that on 15:25.
John is surely a very talented programmer - but, then again,
people who'd seen "Nebulus" probably already knew that.
In the game testing room where we beheld all this amazing
stuff, soon the smell of smoke hung like a penetrating layer of
clouds. John is heavily into Benson & Hedges (more programmers
smoke that), and Tony generally smokes everything he can put in
his mouth ("pot!", John quote). But if he buys, he buys "Raffles"
(not the game...the cigarettes).
Just past four, we bade farewell to the programmers and Toni,
and took a cab back to Didcot Station.
Heading for Steve Bak!
Astaroth - Angel of Death
This game has already stirred quite something in the software
world - which led to a compulsory re-design of the package
because of censorship. The original design, featuring a mostly
nude picture of Astaroth, the Angel of Death, was found to be
'not quite it' and the packaging is now plain black with a logo
on it - at least in England.
"Astaroth" is a platform game with many rooms, with splendid
graphics by the master himself - Pete Lyon. The animation is very
smooth. You have to go down the caves, trying not to get killed
along the eight levels, and you have to collect several things
(bonuses, that give you extra power, or levitation, or the means
of throwing fireballs) that are necessary for you to get past the
end of the game - the ultimate meeting with Astaroth, the Angel
There are about 240 screens (though you don't actually have to
visit them all), and the game is accompanied by sound effects and
excellent music by Jochen Hippel (yeah!). Each level has totally
"Astaroth" looks impressive and highly playable in spite of its
difficulty. It should be available as you read this, at £24.99.
Written by Keith McMurtrie, with graphics by Mark K. Jones - the
person also responsible for the simply mindblowing graphics in
Tony's "Cybernoid II" - "Stormlord" is set to stun. It's a
horizontally scrolling "Ghost'n'Goblins"-type game, in which you
have to collect things, kill creatures, and jump on/over things.
It surely looks impressive - graphics, sound, play...the whole
An excellent game, as far as we could see. Due for release in
November of this year, priced at £19.99 (!).
The title of this game excellently reveals what you have to do:
Kill everything that moves - and even lots of things that don't
move at all!
The game can be compared a bit with Firebird's "Black Lamp"; it
has the same type of graphics that also use an unparalleled
colour abundance. There are rasters and there are MANY shapes on
The game is set a couple of centuries back, judging by the
arrows, stones and cannon balls you get thrown at you. The game
is not only violent, but also very humorous: When the enemy fires
a cannon, for example, they cover their ears with their hands.
Sounds are digitized; the music is regular soundchip stuff of
quality well above average.
"Onslaught" is programmed by the same people who did
"Custodian" and "Verminator" (Chris Hinsley and Nigel Brownjohn).
It can safely be said to be massive: There are 10 Kingdoms to
conquer, and each Kingdom is 256 locations in size!
It is set to be released in November of this year.
Or: John Phillips' new 'child'.
As we already expected, the game is original - just as original
as "Nebulus", but totally different. John also implemented some
nice subtle things in the game that are hardly noticeable but
truly mindimploding when you actually behold them and start to
think what is needed to do them.
The screen scrolls smoothly up and down as the leading character
is moved across the screen in this vertically scrolling platform
game (I wouldn't know what else to call it).
One of those astounding effects I mentioned is the shadow: Each
character in the game has a REAL shadow! This might not strike
you as being particularly odd, but all objects have a shadow as
well. So if you walk on a wall, you will notice your OWN shadow
walking on top of the shadow of the wall. When you walk on
stairs, your shadow is properly placed on those stairs as well.
So I mean a REAL SHADOW. And every standing object and every
person has one!
I suppose John spent quite some evening thinking that out. It's
truly unique and not ever before done on the ST - or on any other
computer, for that matter. This version only had an 'on the
ground' platform, but the finished game should have a dungeon
platform downstairs as well. There will be sixteen levels, each
with different maps, different graphics and different sprites -
John is thinking about including 300 sprites in the game, which
will all come on ONE disk because of a good compression routine
he wrote (which compresses EACH level - all graphics, maps, etc.
- into 75 Kb in memory).
It is set for approximate release in January, and will include
some pretty GOOD music as well as the rumoured eight-voice
digital synthesizer without samples.
It's highly original and superbly playable. When this one's
ready: Go and BUY IT!
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.