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? Atomic Flash

by Richard Karsmakers

After we left Vektor Grafix, we were due to visit someone whom
we desperately wanted to meet: Pete Lyon, graphic artist
extraordinaire and member of what we'd like to call the "Dream
Team" - together with Steve Bak.
Whereas we hadn't had any difficulty with being nervous for a
couple of days now, our nerves' synapses were surely doing
overtime as the time of arrival at Pete's house in a suburb of
Leeds drew nearer. We knew that, within a short time, we would be
together with the two people that may indeed be held responsible
for a major part in the eventual success of the ST.
The "Dream Team"....Steve Bak and Pete Lyon. Two masters in
their field. And we, two lesser mortals, were allowed to meet
them both! I guess you could say that once again that we were
quite excited.

Pete also lived in just a very ordinary, semi-detached house.
Just the kind of place you and I would live in if we lived in a
nice suburb.
As Steve parked his car and we got out, we were welcomed by a
man of the approximate same age as Steve, who had entirely grey
hair and a shy smile in his face. He was casually dressed and
walked on brown mocassins. A guy whom you instantly knew to know
the little pleasures of life; a guy with such incredible talent
that his whole face and body constantly seemed to struggle
visibly to constrain violent outbursts of creativity and
eruptions of pride for his achievements.
Since we had once again experienced (and partly silenced) a
certain craving for a certain brown bubbly fluid - just before
entering Church Avenue in which Pete lives - we entered his house
whilst still holding half-filled Cola cans.

We were immediately admitted in his graphics lair - a small room
on the right front side of the house where he was proudly
cherishing an ST and an Amiga (though the ST was busted at the
time). This was the place where he had done all those fabulous
graphics for many a computer game.
We thought we could inhale the atmosphere of creativity that
seemed to hang in the air, seemed fall off the ceiling and seemed
to radiate from the very computer screens. We sought to capture
this atmosphere and made some pictures before we went to the
living room and interviewed Pete, at half past four.

What's your date and place of birth?
Pete: Liverpool, 31st of October 1950. On Halloween...a night of
How did you end up in the computer business?
Pete: Because I was always interested in science fiction and it
always seemed, when I was very young, that everyone in the future
would have computers. When computers came out, like the
Sinclairs, I set out to have one. I've always drawn and painted
so it seemed natural to try and do that on a computer.
Do you have any other interests?
Pete: Most of them are now taken over by computers. I used to
quite like hill walking, but again, I don't do as much of that as
I should - although we hope to this summer. But I am interested
in art and painting, and I do an awful lot of reading. Again: Not
as much as I used to, though. But none of the usual things. I
don't like sport for example - I hate sport. I am quite
interested in music, though I don't play very well. I don't play
at all. But I like an awful lot of different music, because I
used to be a roadie for a group, so I got kind of a vague
rock'n'roll background.
What do you dislike most about the software industry?
Pete: Oh, I think I have a political attitude towards that. I
think they're all a bunch of cutthroats, but on the other hand
that seems to be the nature of the game. It's its own fault.
There's too much of a cutthroat attitude there. I also hate the
usual things...excessive hype, the backbiting between companies,
the thing with journalists and reviewers. But it all pretty well
passes me by.
What do you consider to be the best game launched on the ST?
Pete: On the ST, I wouldn't really know. I used to play
"Arkanoid" a lot; you know, the basic simple game. If the game is
very good graphic-wise I get jealous of it. If the graphics are
bad I dismiss it. So I don't have a very objective view to games.
Graphically, I like a lot of the Psygnosis stuff. They try very
hard with the graphics. The Bitmap Brothers seem to try very
hard, too. Their games seem to be exceptionally well produced.
They have a feel of quality about them.
How about the worst game?
Pete: I have bivalent feelings against some of the violent
games. I can't get too precious about it, but I've got this vague
feeling. I don't worry about overt sexuality or even overt
violence in a game, but it has to be imaginary. It's when the
violence starts getting this sort of reference to the real world
I worry about it. Particularly with ordinary violence. I'm not
talking about killing people in the jungle, for example, but
killing people in the house or on the street. The more ordinary
the violence gets, the more uncomfortable I get. I wouldn't
censor them, though, even after having said this.
What have you done on various computer up to now?
Pete: I used to work largely on the ST - I haven't just
recently, though that's more because it happened rather than a
decision. The two games I am doing now happen to be for the
Amiga. One of them is converted to the ST and one of them is
almost impossible to do on the ST. Any computer that gives me
more graphics power I'll go for. In terms of computing I find the
ST easiest to use. It's the most sensible machine, and it's less
prone to errors. The latest ST game would be "Astaroth", and the
next to come out will be "Dynamic Debugger" (on the Amiga superb,
but on the ST extremely ordinary and boring) - that's for
Mirrorsoft. In total, I've done graphics for about twenty games
on the ST, and less than that on the Amiga.
What's your best achievement on the ST, you think?
Pete: I liked "Astaroth" because I was allowed much control over
the graphics - I laid out all of the graphics myself. I drew the
graphics and placed them myself (he did the maps, ED.). It's not
the best game, certainly, or the most popular. I just feel it's
one of my better jobs on the ST. I've done better on the Amiga.
What car do you drive?
Pete: It's the one in front of my house: A Vauxhall Astra (Opel
Kadett, ED.).
What tools do you use on the ST?
Pete: A variety of things. I wish "DPaint" was on the ST. I use
"N-Vision" a lot, but it doesn't have as much features as other
programs. But I ended up using it because it has a better screen
layout and a better zoom. So many art programs don't give you a
times two zoom; they give you times three or times four. Some art
programs don't. It's a reasonable system, anyway. Apart from
that, I use "Degas Elite" or the "OCP Art Studio". "Degas Elite"
doesn't have any screen coordinates but I've got a patch for that
now. I've got "Flair Paint" but I've really not bothered to try
it out. It's one of these tends to keep with a
program that one's rather familiar with.
Now the 'favourites'; what's your favourite book?
Pete: Eh...I like "Catch 22" by Joseph Heller. I was very
influenced by Tolkien when I was younger, so I always liked "Lord
of the Rings". I was also influenced by a cycle of books called
the "Gorvengast Trilogy" (spelling right?!) by Mervin Peake. More
recently, I've liked "The Name of the Rose" by Umberto Ecco - the
film is a very good version, but not as good as the book.
What's your favourite film?
Pete: I liked "Bladerunner", though I saw a longer version at a
specialist showing. It's much weirder. "Brazil" would also be one
of my favourites - would definitely be on my top 3.
What's your favourite food?
Pete: Chips.
Favourite drink?
Pete: Tea.
Favourite band?
Pete: Most recent bands are like Pixies. And Trash Metal I like,
and some of the African artists. All time bands....I used to be
obsessed with Pink Floyd before they made an album, but now I
hate them.
Trash Metal?
Pete: Only in small doses.
Who do you think is the most interesting person in the software

Pete: (Thinks a couple of seconds) Me.
What are your main sources of inspiration?
Pete: Flowers...trees...the birds...the bees (laughs)...nature.
What do you think of software piracy?
Pete: Everyone does it. So people in glass houses shouldn't
throw stones. If I have to draw the line, I'd say that people
shouldn't do it to make money. Even if you're make lots of copies
and don't sell them, you're in a way making money - like an ego
boost at the local club because you've got the latest. You're
making something and you're becoming a big fish in a small pond.
To some extend, everybody copies.
What's your worst habit?
Pete: Picking my nose.
Do you ever draw something just for the sake of drawing?
Pete: I wish I did. No. I used to draw for pleasure, but I don't
do it anymore. I haven't got time.
Which work do you find more rewarding; painting on paper or on
the computer screen?

Pete: I prefer to paint on paper but I'm very frustrated because
I'm so used to the computer. I absent-mindedly think that I have
computer techniques available that I haven't. So I would want to
drag a piece of the picture down - now way you can do that. The
effort of moving a little bird on a picture down an inch once
took me about a week of work. You have to repaint all the trees
behind it, and you have to mix up all the colours again instead
of just picking a color from the color palette and it's there. No
fun at all to patch it in.
When did you make your first professional drawing?
Pete: I was quite old. I've drawn all my life, but I was over
thirty when I did my first professional drawing. It was a book
cover. For quite a while I was exhibiting my paintings in
festivals, and I used to draw sort of comics and cartoons for
amateur publications - but I didn't get any money for it. And I
started exhibiting paintings and they started selling more and
more. I was approached by publishers and people who could bring
me into contact with publishers - to do the proper book covers. I
was commissioned earlier, by my aunties. Like "Would you do me a
picture of this for two quid", you know. Or for the outrageous
sum of 10 pounds.

When we concluded the interview (the 'hard bit'), we went to sit
behind another ST (one that wasn't busted) in a back room of the
The room was filled with books that Pete turned out to have done
the covers for (a couple of hundred, I'd estimate), and it
overlooked a nice and colourful garden.
He demonstrated the "Astaroth" map designer, which he used for
three weeks to achieve all maps after he had done the graphics.
All screens in the game are quite dissimilar, and they look very
good (review of "Astaroth" in the next issue of ST NEWS).
He also gave us an exclusive picture that was gonna be used in
"Fright Night" but that turned out not to be used at all. You
will find this piece of artwork in this issue of ST NEWS.
Next, we asked him if we could look at some of the artwork he
did. After a minute or so, he came down with some artwork that
was TRULY amazing. There was a beautiful science fiction drawing
as well as a drawn original for a book cover that was simply
smashing - a children's fantasy fiction book called "Mossflower".
He had worked about one and a half month on it.
The book was rather bad, though, he said.
He also told us some strange stories about publishers and the
way they want their covers to look like ("bigger tits", "more
blood", "larger swords"..."blood and sex always sells"). One
time, one of them asked him if he could do a cover a bit more
'juvenile' than it was as the moment.
"Well, how?" Pete asked.
"Well...put more violence in it!" the publisher replied.

In spite of the fact that someone (Pete's roommate or niece or
cousin or aunt or sister or maid or even girlfriend or wife - I
never did come around to asking him which) was preparing diner,
we succeeded in dragging Pete away from his house to a moderately
priced restaurant of his choice where the ST NEWS editorial staff
would treat him and Steve ("The Dream Team", thus) to a diner -
we felt that this was the least that we could do for them after
they had given us so much joy playing their games on the ST for a
couple of years - also because we had never actually bought any
of these games but had always got review copies.
It was one minute past six as we left Pete's house to downtown
Leeds. There, he told us, was a nice restaurant with good food of
various styles (though mainly Mexican), called "Mr. Natural's
Orient Express". It was located in the rather busy Otley Road, in
Headingley, Leeds.
But as we entered the establishment of supposed gastronomic
delights - which we did at a quarter past six - we immediately
lost track of time and the sounds outside as we scented the
delicious smells of food.
At the same instant, we realised that we had in fact not been
eating all day since Mrs. Bak's breakfast - and that we were
indeed desiring some food.

We ordered some drinks immediately and bent over the menu which
was presented on very creative cards that were designed by (is
this coincidence?!) a group of people calling themselves "The
Dream Team"! Everything surely sounded nice, and if we had only
had the money, the time, and the stomach space, we wouldn't have
minded to take it all. It was, thus, a very hard decision to
select a meal.
Eventually, Steve took a Chick Marechale with soup, Pete took
Beef Tampico with Home Made Falafel, Stefan had Tortilla Beef
Chili Crisp with Chilaquiles and I had a Beef Tampico with
Crispito for starter's.

When all food had been carefully worked away into the abyss of
our gullets, stomachs and guts to be processed further there, we
continue to talk about life, the universe and everything. Stefan
and myself used the occasion to get rid of some rather
unnecessary substances as well after this talking (which was kind
of a problem since there was a severe lack of toilet paper in the
restaurant's stores and we had to 'borrow' it from the ladies'
At half past seven, we left "Mr. Natural's Orient Express".
About a quarter of an hour later, we dropped off Pete at his
house again and left for South Normanton again.
At parting, Pete told us he felt like a "used fag end stubbed
out in the ashtray of life"...
Just after this historical occasion, Steve was to display his
stunning ability of superb multi-tasking I hinted at in an
earlier article where I described his wholly remarkable person.

The way back to Normanton took us through some rather pretty
scenery, and it also included almost being utterly and totally
being smashed off the road by a rather careless truckdriver on a
long and winding road through the country ("Let's take you for an
alternative route this time - also keeps me awake!" was Steve's
comment for his choice).
The way back also brought with it some quite interesting casual
conversations which ended up in Stefan being offered a full time
programming job at Steve's Vectordean and me being offered the
possibility to write a small background novel for Elite's "Dogs
of War". Stefan had to think about the offer, but I didn't. I
already felt the inspiration for a small novel throbbing through
my over-active brain coils and every single vein of my body, and
I told Steve I would do the novel "this evening".

At approximately nine in the evening, we arrived back at Steve's
place. To our surprise, the formerly dirty laundry was clean,
ironed and folded on our beds. Especially the ironing bit was
rather unexpected, since Mrs. Bak had told us earlier that she
simply hated ironing.
This all sums up to account for what a lovely woman she is. And
it also sums up to account for my ever increasing understanding
of Steve being a real family man.
We went to the former office of Steve's on the first floor of
his house (right above the alley that is very dark at night),
where he and Stefan talked on about work, programming and 3D
graphics, and I started typing a small novel for "Dogs of War" on
my Z88. That was at 21:13.
The story featured Cronos Warchild in a rather stupid but
extremely violent situation on the Vietnam mission you can
undertake in the game. Steve couldn't guarentee that Elite would
use it, but he would try his best. I surely hope he will succeed!
The story was finished at 22:10 and Steve found is very good and
amusing - "Just as tasteless as the game! Great!" was his
comment (which I suppose was a compliment).
At half past eleven we sought to replenish our energy and go to
bed. Within minutes, we must again have drifted off in deep
slumbers eventually resulting in the deepest of sleeps.
Today had been a great day. Maybe the "Dream Team" would appear
in our dreams...

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.