Shaun McClure (Atari) – Interview

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I think it’s safe to say that all of us here at Arcade Attack would love to go for a few beers with Shaun McClure! The former Atari/Infogrames stalwart shares some of his most entertaining thoughts and stories. Take it away chaps!

 

Can you remember your earliest memory of gaming and what was your favourite computer/console while growing up?

Well I remember Space Invaders entering pubs in 1977 – I was 8 but my dad used to sit me in the pub with pop and crisps when he got pissed – Space Invaders was obviously quite novel at the time. Then of course we had the TV games – variants of Pong basically.

 

How did you get the opportunity to enter the video game industry and can you remember the first ever video game you worked on??

Myself and a friend wrote an adventure game together – well – HE wrote it in machine code (not the Quill or anything like that), and I was roped in to do the graphics. I originally did them on graph paper – it was for the Spectrum. Eventually got Melbourne Draw – an art package – and figured out how to get really good images with no colour clash out of the speccy, and from there made a demo tape – sent it to loads of independent adventure companies and offered to do work for free in exchange for a credit – basically used the further work to get a full time job at a company called Wise Owl Software – they were crap – but so was I then…but that was how I started.

It was Excalibur, Sword of Kings for Alternative Software.

 

What was it like working on Tempest 2000 for the PC and did you get the chance to work with Jeff Minter?

It was a conversion so I never met Jeff – I was working freelance for Imagitec design, and they sent me the Jaguar art – I had to fit them into one 256 colour palette basically – quite an easy job for my experience levels at the time!

 

You worked at Atari during the Infogrames years. Can you describe this interesting point in gaming history and did it actually ever feel like you were working for the iconic Atari company?

I was literally only there for a month – I’d worked at Gremlin for many years – I was even head of art department there – but I had decided to move on when Infogrames bought out Gremlin – I was there long enough to get an Atari Pay cheque – it does look impressive on my Resume though!

 

Do you think Tempest 2000 is the best game on the Jaguar and do you think the game pushes the Jag to its limits?

Aliens Versus Predator is the best one (oooooooo – Ed) – but I think it comes down to preference – I’m not really into arcade blasters to be honest – it looked really nice though, I have to say.

 

You have worked on numerous games for Atari. What was it like working for the company and why do you think the company is now a shadow of its former self?

You have to remember that its not actually Atari – it was Infogrames with the Atari name attached. I think Infogrames were a decent company in their own right, and it was unfair to compare the two – actual real Atari died long ago.

 

I feel the Atari Jaguar was underappreciated and never really got the attention it deserved. What do you think are the main reasons the console was not a success?

I don’t think people wanted a computer to play games on – they wanted a console – and it was too expensive – also there were not enough AAA games out there for it – Atari should have gotten some big star names in the bag to make a few games for it. I love Jeff Minter to bits, but he specialises in remaking old arcade games – when you’re trying to sell a computer as the next big NEW thing – rehashing old arcade games isn’t the way to go. It also smacked of desperation. No offence to Jeff but when I saw the big announcement that he was involved and was their star name I was underwhelmed – I was expecting Matthew Smith to be the next one, with a new version of Manic Miner or something (interesting… – Ed).

 

You have worked for so many developers. Where did you most like to work and why?

Mostly been good across the board – Imagitec was great cos we got drunk a lot. Activision was ok too – Code Monkeys and Astraware are also up there – One Thumb Mobile were by far the worst! (duly noted! – Ed)

 

How has the role of a graphic artist evolved throughout your career and what advice would you give to anyone looking to enter this profession today?

Number of Colours – from 2, to 16 to 256 to true colour. And I really can’t give any advice other than just go for it – so many say they are going to but very few do.

 

Out of all the games you have worked on, which one are you most proud of and why?

Different ones have different reasons – some I’m absolutely ashamed of to be honest but not for the artwork (ok, maybe one or two). Mostly it’s the technical stuff that I was good at so Scrabble on Color GameBoy is technically very good, as is James Pond 2 on SNES. Still quite happy with most of my Spectrum games too.

 

Have you ever worked on any games that were never released, and if so, which unreleased games do you feel would have been the most successful?

Several. It’s more common than you think, and most of them got canned because they either overran the project length so that they were dated before they were released (so they weren’t released) or they were just rubbish. I can’t think of any that would have been a success.

 

What are your top 3 video games of all time and why?

Chaos, Rebelstar Raiders, and Laser Squad on Spectrum – I just like turned based stuff.

 

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m now retired from games, although I do still do artwork for amateur projects for friends. All have NDA’s so I can’t talk about them sadly!

 

If you could share a few drinks with a video game character who would you choose and why?

Pac-Man – he’s probably the only one that could drink as much as me to be honest.

Adrian

 

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