"Do not meddle in the affairs of cats, for they are subtle and
will piss on your computer."
AN INTERVIEW WITH DAVE & ANDY (VOLUME 11)
by Richard Karsmakers
Not too long after the release of ST NEWS Volume 9 Issue 2, I
got my hands on a quite remarkable shareware pinball machine game
by the name of "Starball", a product into which it was evident
that a lot of effort and enthusiasm had been put. As I spent
night upon night playing the game I wondered who the wonderful
persons behind the game would be. When eventually it dawned upon
me that this might very well be one of the finest ever titles of
shareware software to be released on the ST/TT/Falcon range of
computers, I decided to register and make use of the opportunity
to interview both Dave Oldcorn and Andrew (Andy) Pomianowski,
Volume 11 programmer and programmer/graphics-person respectively.
The result of this - quite a verbose result, one might say (and
I like that!) - can be found below.
Can you give us a short biography of your life, education,
computers, work and social status?
Dave: Born 6th March 1972 in Preston, a fairly large town in
North West England. Usual UK education: 4-11 in primary, 11-16
secondary. Moved on to do Physics, Chemistry and Maths at A-level
at the local 6th-form college. Dithered a lot about degree
courses and chose to do Physics. Was turned down by Oxford
University, ended up at UMIST because I liked the look of
Manchester. Over the three years realised that my maths
fundamentally wasn't good enough to do physics - I'm great with
concepts, and solving problems, but can't remember the six
zillion equations you need. Graduated in July 1993 with a first,
and moved over to Manchester University to do an MSc in computer
science - mostly because although I knew lots about computers
potential employers don't believe you. I leave in October, and
will be moving back home to Preston to stay with my parents (i.e.
on the cheap) while I attempt to write computer games full time.
Andy: Born 31st August 1971 in London (a much bigger place than
Preston which I would regard as a small country village). Usual
UK education, much like Dave, even to the point of doing the same
A levels although he did a lot better than I did, unsurprisingly
enough. Took a year out working for a large telecommunications
company as a programmer before accepting a place at UMIST to
study software engineering. I met Dave down the bar in 1990 and
we've been working together since then. I also met Tim Moss from
The Lost Boys who shared many of the same lecture courses as
myself. Generally had a good time for 4 years without needing to
work too hard and graduated in 1994 with an MEng. Decided at this
point not to pursue work in telecoms in the hope of getting a job
in the games industry soon. Currently single and living with my
parents until I can make enough money to get my own place
(hopefully some time next year) - I'm too used to living in my
own place after four years at university to feel comfortable
living at home.
Can you give us a short description of the surroundings where
you live? Its nightlife, its people?
Dave: Heh, Manchester is well known for being either the best or
second best (Sheffield being the other main contender) place for
students to enjoy themselves in Britain. There are over 60
nightclubs in the city centre alone. It has a huge student
population (close to 50,000 I think) which definitely changes the
character of the place. However there are downsides: Manchester
is also known, in particular the infamous Moss Side district, as
the drugs and violence captial of the UK. Every student here is
supposed to get mugged once (and I'm no exception: Although it
was a fairly relaxed affair, I only had a handful of change on me
and he was happy with that). I have heard genuine gunshots whilst
lying in bed at night, and had my car broken into or damaged 5
times. It's not a place where it's easy to relax, but you can
have a very good time if you want to. Especially as a student. It
also, and most importantly, has some of the best beer in the UK,
with the Boddingtons brewery just outside the town centre.
Rusholme also has the most curry houses I've ever seen in one
Andy: Comparatively speaking the outskirts of North London is
not the entertainment capital of the world! Plenty of nightclubs
in the city centre, but they're generally not that good, and
incredibly expensive. Plenty of good pubs around where I live
though, with a low crime rate which comes as a welcome change
since I was mugged twice in Manchester and thrown into the
Manchester ship canal which is very unpleasant!
Can you give us a description of your home, most specifically
the room where you do your work or another room that you perhaps
think deserves to be known better?
Dave: I've worked on "Starball" in a total of about six
different rooms now, being a student and moving around a lot, and
they're always overcramped, fighting between bed and desk for
space, and covered in paper. I collect huge quantities of paper
and will probably need a filing cabinet soon. "Starball"
currently takes up at least two folders worth.... I'll be glad to
move back home, where I'll be taking over the larger room again
and will probably grab the front room as an office too.
Andy: I've worked on Starball in many different places, but the
majority of the graphics were produced in 1992 in a room in
Manchester that was so cold during the winter that I had to wear
gloves to type. I do most of my work these days in the attic at
my house which was originally refurbished as a room for myself
and my sister when we were kids, but over the years got so full
of junk it was useless. Since graduating I have cleared it out
and moved all my stuff up there since it's the largest room in
the house, and enables me to keep out of the way (or should that
be keep my parents out of the way?). It also enables me to play
my stereo very loud with a minimum of complaints which is very
important when I'm working on graphics.
What do you look like? Or, at least, how would you describe
Dave: Errr slightly too tall, slightly too fat, and effectively
blind without contact lenses. (that is, just under six foot four
and between 13 1/2 and 15 stone depending on my curry and
breakfast intake). Dark brown hair that is nearly under control,
a distinct lack of beard (I hate beards). If you've ever
encountered "Danger Theatre", then I have been compared to "The
Searcher". I'm very direct (unsubtle is another good word) and
tend to say exactly what I think unless I'm concentrating - which
I can do but is far too much effort on a regular basis. Because
of this I have a bit of a problem with trusting people a bit too
much because I find it difficult to believe people do that on a
regular basis. I am a great pessimist, and prefer to avoid
committing to anything if I can possibly avoid it. I have also
been described as 'a minefield of useless information'. And every
now and then I get really really depressed.
Andy: Errrr... I'm a bit over 6 feet in height and weigh about
12 stone, which I suppose makes me fairly thin. Light brown hair
that I usually keep shortish although it has been known to be
pretty long in the past. Blue eyes. I'm fairly introverted and
definitely a lot more subtle and easygoing than Dave! I have also
definitely never been compared to "The Searcher" in any way shape
or form...(Dave also fancies himself as a bit of an Arnie
lookalike when he's got his shades on, but he hasn't quite got
the physique for it (well, who has?). I'm generally optimistic
about things and am usually pretty friendly to people. I don't
have much of a temper to speak of and it takes a lot to get me to
blow my stack at somebody. I almost never get really really
What is (are) your worst habit(s)?
Dave: Err leaving the tissues I use to put my contacts in in big
piles which I then have to put up with all sorts of jokes over,
saying 'no worries' all the time, tapping my feet on the floor
until people scream at me to stop it, speaking my mind all the
time, a tendency towards being a manic self-publicist, and giving
long lectures and extending stories where not at all necessary.
This interview is a classic example of the last two. In fact my
brother has a habit of counting how much each of my stories cost
when he rings me from the payphone at his hall in Sheffield and
charging me later.
Andy: We were living in a shared house with two other students
last year, and towards the end when we had to show people around
for the flat agency it was always terribly embarrasing showing
them Dave's room with this HUGE pile of used tissues next to the
bed! Used to get some very strange looks out of people... I
myself have no bad habits at all, naturally. Oh, except for being
perfect, of course... Left to my own devices I won't do any
washing up until the dirty dish pile reaches the ceiling. I do
sometimes tend to be rather forgetful, or had I already said
that? I have been known to pick my nose on occasion. Look, what
do you want from me here? Blood?!
Do you have any pets?
Dave: I would probably think about having a cat if my brother
wasn't totally allergic to cat hair. My mother would also
appreciate it because she's terrified of mice and we always have
a few in our house over the summer.
Andy: I have a cat. She's a very friendly black cat who meows
constantly. She also, unusually for a cat, seems to want constant
attention and is not content to just go and sit looking out the
windows for hours.
If I were ever to visit you, where would you take me for a night
Dave: A good pub. Probably a couple of good pubs. Quality of
beer, less than brain-deafening jukebox, comfort of seating, lack
of smoky atmosphere and availability of KP roasted peanuts would
all be influencing factors, in that order of importance. After
that, we'd go for a curry, probably at the Islamabad in Rusholme,
which does about the best I've ever had.
Andy: If we were in London it would probably be to a pub since
my area is fairly short on other attractions. In Manchester it
would be a pub to start with and then probably on to a nightclub.
There are plenty of good nightclubs in Manchester for all tastes,
although as a bit of a rock fan myself Rockworld is generally a
Do you do any other work except for that through which most
people tend to know you?
Dave: I play around with everything. I'm a sound engineer, I've
been the house engineer at the UMIST student venue for the last
couple of years, I've carried guitars and said 'one, two' for all
sorts of interesting people. I once stopped Shaun Ryder of the
Happy Mondays going on stage because I didn't know who he was and
he wasn't wearing his pass. I want to carry this on when I start
a regular job if I can... I also write all sorts of computer
programs for my own amusement - the JPEG viewer started out as
one of those!
Andy: I have worked as a programmer in a telecoms company. On
occasion I have done some sound engineering (although nothing
like as much as Dave). I have also been a presenter and done
engineering work for MCR radio in Manchester and crewing work for
gigs at UMIST. I have been known to compete in eight ball pool
leagues in London, although I never play for money...well...
What is your local ST/TT/Falcon scene like?
Dave: I have no idea. I'm busy enough with what I do for myself
that I rarely need to go outside. For similar reasons I don't
know that much about the ST scene in general! The only thing I've
been following in detail is the games market, particularly the
console market, as research for starting my own company...
Andy: Pretty much non-existent. We're completely swamped by PC
owners down here. Sad really. I, unlike Dave, try to keep track
of the ST scene and watch developments but it seems that very
little goes on around here at all. Of course we have some active
Falcon people in the UK, but it's certainly not the Falcon
capital of the world.
Which book have you read recently that made most of an
impression on you?
Dave: I used to read a lot, but rarely 'literature'. The bits of
literature I've been forced to read I found mostly pompous and
boring - there is a tendency to write for writing's sake. I did
enjoy Shakespeare, though, because it's action stuff, at the time
it was the equivalent of the latest Arnold Schwarzenegger movie -
I think it shows through. I read bits now and again. The one that
made most impression ever is "Surely you're joking, Mr. Feynman"
and its sequel, which were written by the great American
physicist Richard Feynman before he died in 1988. They are
brilliant - a marvellous insight into how science SHOULD really
be, where it's all about fun, and jokes, and tricks, and in the
process you happen to figure out what Quantum Mechanics is. It's
not about science, it's about Feynman, a 'safe-cracking, mind-
reading and bongo-drumming physicist'. It's virtually impossible
to describe, but I would recommend these books to anyone.
Andy: Hmmmm... this is a tricky one. I'm a big fan of Tom Clancy
technothrillers and I recently read a book in the same genre by
Larry Bond called "Vortex" which I enjoyed a great deal. These
books are thought provoking because they are written with such
attention to detail and realism that you can almost see them
occurring in reality. "Men at Arms" by Terry Pratchett is also a
recent favourite, and I don't think that there are many humorists
in the world to match him, certainly none in the fantasy genre
who manage to probe as many real-life issues with such remarkable
subtlety. "Das Boot" by Lothar Gunther Buchheim which is a superb
novel about the war from the perspective of a German U boat crew,
based on real events. I've never heard of Shakespeare being
compared to Arnold Schwarzenegger before...
What's your favourite season?
Dave: The mind boggles. Probably Autumn, it's still fairly warm,
things are more interesting... I don't know it's hard to tell!
Andy: Autumn or Spring. I can't stand the heat and humidity of
nights during the middle of summer, and I like moderate
What's your favourite music for flipping out (if ever you do)?
Working? Making love?
Dave: When I need a real blast, I crank up things real loud and
put on successions of very loud tracks one at a time. Hopefully
this coincides with a gig at the Union cos I can then use our 4kW
PA to do the job, which has an amazing bass kick, and I can play
with it until I get exactly the sound I want - it's a great
feeling to have that sort of control over the sound. There's a
few particular tracks... "Ace of Spades" is a great one, "Back to
Shalla-Bal" by Joe Satriani, a couple of ZZ Top tracks - all
sorts of things. I can listen to anything at any time if I'm in
the right mood. When working I use similar stuff but at much
lower volume. I used to listen to Radio One a lot but they
rearranged the schedules and it's terrible nowadays. I found
while finishing Starball that the Steve Vai albums took some
pounding, and the ZZ Top collection (but more of the blues
Andy: Tangerine Dream ranging from stuff in the late 70s to
present day. I particularly like the more recent albums like
"Lily on the Beach" to work to. Also for working I will listen to
Chris Huelsbeck, Jean Michel Jarre, Joe Satriani, Clannad,
Kraftwerk and Dire Straits amongst others. Generally rock or
electronic stuff. I've always thought that Enya could be rather
good for making love (No double entendres intended).
What computer hardware do you have?
Dave: The whole list? Feel free to edit this even more than the
rest of the waffle (I never edit this stuff, it takes away
authenticism, ED.). Somewhere I have an old Atari VCS and
shedloads of carts, a few Spectrums (one of which is Andy's), one
of the first STFM's, one of the first STe's, and a 4M Falcon with
65M HD. There's also a MegaDrive with about 50 carts and a
Gameboy that are usually held by my brother - the two of us used
to work at a console store and therefore had lots of discounts! I
also used to have a ZX81, and we had a Game Gear until we swapped
it for a guitar. I hate the SNES so although we could have had
one for about 40 quid we thought better of it. I'm going to be
buying a PC soon to play "Doom", "UFO" and "X-Wing", and probably
to move onto if the ST/Falcon scene fails to make enough to live
Andy: A Falcon 4M 65 with an external 128M HD and Epson GT8000
scanner. A Jaguar with "Tempest 2000" in almost permanent
residence in the cartridge port. I also have a 520 STFM and 1040
STFM. Also kicking around somewhere I have an Atari VCS
(working!), Commodore 64 (bust) and a Spectrum 128 (missing,
presumed stolen by Dave).
What computer tools do you use for your work?
Dave: I do all my assembly work using K-SEKA, a 1986/87
integrated assembler and debugger package that takes a total of
about 60k in memory. I've made a few small changes to it, to give
it a few extra commands I use occasionally, and to fix some bugs
that meant it was a bit unstable running with the 030 for a
while. Most importantly it will assemble 250k of source in about
10 seconds on the Falcon, which suits the way I program. I've
seen Devpac, and I would have to change my debugging style
considerably... so although it's old, has a few bugs and is
missing all the fancy features, it has a top-notch editor and
debugger and I've never found a good reason to upgrade. I also
use the Atari DSP tools, and wish their debugger had been better
debugged! I've experimented with Lattice C on a friend's machine,
but so far haven't wanted to write in C because the ST and Falcon
really don't have the power.
Andy: Mostly "Degas" up until now for ST work. "GT Look 2"
scanning software. "TruePaint" occasionally for some image
retouching and recolouring work. I also use a custom true colour
art utility written for me by Dave which is basically just a true
colour version of "Degas" magnify mode. Prospero C originally for
programming, which works but isn't that brilliant and has some
interesting pointer problems. Devpac if I'm doing any assembler
What programs in your AUTO folder or ACC directory would you
rather not be without?
Dave: Nothing at all - I'm not a collector of shrapnel programs
and PD. I have a few installed things I use - Griff's DSP tracker
player, my own JPEG viewer, "ST Zip"...
Andy: Not many. I'm always concerned with ACCs on the Falcon
because they're not all totally stable, and I can't afford to
have 'em splattering my computer in the middle of a heavy duty
graphics editing session. About the only thing I normally have
installed are some Falcon OS patches. I would rather be _without_
Atari's HDX hard drive utilities since they recently splattered
three of my hard disk partitions while performing a 'Markbad' on
the other one. Griff's DSP track player is the best I've found,
Dave's JPEG/GIF/TGA viewer is excellent - get it NOW on Shareware
What is the latest program you've done? What was the first
program you ever wrote?
Dave: First? Well I typed in about 100 ZX81 programs, and wrote
all sorts of little things... First program I ever really
FINISHED was an ST version of Lords of Midnight... The latest is
"Starball", or "Starball SE" as it is by now, which is a pinball
Andy: My latest program? A very complex speech synthesis system
for the IBM PC which I worked on with three other guys. My first
program was a simple art program on the ZX81 in BASIC, as long as
you discount '10 PRINT "HELLO WORLD"' as a program...
What programs can we expect from you in the near future?
Dave: At the very least, a Falcon beat-em-up should be out
hopefully by the end of the year. Almost certainly there will be
an ST version too. After that - well I'd love to carry on working
on the Atari machines but I don't think it will pay, and after
next year it will have to pay. I'd like to work on consoles -
i.e. anything that uses a 68000-ish processor but have some ideas
that would go down very well on PC... A PC conversion of
"Starball SE" will probably be coming pretty soon.
Andy: I'll be working on the graphics for the beat-em-up which
is a truly hideous amount of work for me to have to attempt on my
own -there are so many animation frames necessary for each
character, and at some point I've got to find time to do the
backgrounds... This time, if the game takes two years to complete
it'll probably be my fault. I hope I can maintain a higher
standard on the gfx for the beat em up than those in "Starball",
but we'll have to see. Dave is threatening to do a PC "Starball",
in which case all the gfx will need to be redone - arrrgh! Any
other projects we might have on the back burner are highly
confidential - I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you,
straight after Dave killed me for letting the information out...
What do you like and dislike particularly about the computer
Dave: Shortsightedness and profiteering are the dislikes. There
are a lot of companies producing terrible software to make money.
I have no respect at all for this. Once you've made a certain
amount of money the rest really doesn't matter - I have more
admiration for people like Richard Branson who haven't just been
money mongers, they have attempted to provide a service too. I
also wish the console companies would put aside their differences
and produce a standard, but that's living in cloud cuckooland.
What I like is that anyone can do what they want with a computer
- I decided I needed a fast JPEG viewer so I wrote one. I wanted
a game of Lords of Midnight so I converted it... there's a
tremendous feeling of power there. And it is the world's greatest
form of entertainment because it is so flexible. I suppose the
industry itself... well mostly it stinks. I admire the few
companies - Bullfrog, the Bitmaps, TecnoSoft and Masiya in Japan
are names that spring to mind - who have always tried to produce
quality software (a few blips of course but you'd expect that)
above making money. I think the current rush towards 3d and FMV
is hasty - although I'm not complaining because it will make the
people who produce genuinely playable software stand out more!
And "Doom" is going to be the platform game of the late 1990's -
i.e. cloned to death.
Andy: (Feel really free to edit this bit as its a bit long!) My
pet hate in the computer industry has always been the IBM PC
domination of the market. There has always been a need for
standards in any industry, unfortunately we have the wrong one! I
will almost certainly be forced to buy a PC soon, despite the
fact that I cannot stand the machine, its processor or its
operating system! PC software also seems to be written in a way
that is incredibly wasteful of system resources - why the hell
should it be necessary to have a fast 486 and 8 Megs of memory to
get a damn word processor running at a reasonable speed? In
addition to this, there are so many different video cards, memory
configurations etc. flying around that the PC must now win the
award for "Least compatible supposedly compatible computer
platform." I have an intense dislike for the improper use of FMV
streamed off CD in current games. It's rubbish. If you are going
to do a 3D game it should be generated in real time by the
machine so that you can do things with it. Of course it won't
look as good (currently at least) but at least gameplay doesn't
then instantly go out the window. My biggest hates in the games
industry are Sega and Nintendo dirty tricks marketing inc. They
know that the kids will believe anything they tell them and so,
of course, they take advantage of them by making up huge steaming
lies about their new hardware and how it will give arcade quality
performance. As the new consoles are actually developed we begin
to see the truth - Saturn will not even do "Virtua Fighters"
arcade perfect, let alone "Daytona", as they claimed, but they
keep spouting this garbage and people keep believing them. Lies,
damn lies, and specifications...
What is the computer game you play most at the moment? What's
your all-time fave game?
Dave: I don't play much in the way of games any more. What I've
played recently is all on a friends PC - "Doom" is probably the
one, but "X-Wing" and "UFO" had me hooked too. All-time 1's? -
must be "Lords of Midnight". Even though I've completed it many
times, I still converted it to the ST (hand-compiling from a Z80
printout I extracted off the tape with a sampler) and still play
it every now and then. There are a lot of games I've played for
ages though - "Trashman" on the Spec. The most influential game
ever was "Nemesis" in the arcades, because the first time I
played that, when I was 13, I came home and started trying to
figure out how to write the game - and that set me off on a game-
writing career. I started it twice on the ST, and in fact met
Andy through a friend who I had shown my appalling test graphics,
and we started updating it... we moved onto a different shoot-em-
up but the data structures were a nightmare, so that was
abandoned too and eventually I started playing with the maths for
pinball... "Time Bandits" is the best ST game of all time,
followed a hair's breadth behind by "Dungeon Master". In the
early days of the MegaDrive there were some inspired games -
"ThunderForce III", "Columns" and "Devil Crash".
Andy: Currently "Tempest 2000". In terms of all time favourite
games there are many, dating back to "Manic Miner" on the
Spectrum and "Impossible Mission" on the C64 ("Crazy Comets" as
well, since it has the best music of all time). "Star Raiders" on
the Atari 800. On the ST, my favourite games would have to be
"Warhead" and "Stunt Car Racer" which are just superb. Both games
work on the Falcon as well and are even better on it - I still
sometimes play both games even today. The most influential game I
ever played was, of course, "Elite". In the arcades my favourite
game would have to be "Super Sprint" when played against other
humans - one of the best games ever made. It's a shame that Dave
and I never completed the ST shoot em up we started work on as I
think some of Dave's code for that might have turned a few heads
- impressive to say the least. Still, maybe for a future project.
More of this in Volume II of the Volume 11 interview...
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.