Long-time friend of the show/blog Darren Doyle is making lots of moves with his ‘Greyfox Books’ publishing house. Having already released the successful ‘Atari: a Visual History’ he’s now moved on to something that will satisfy the needs of arcade fans. I caught up with him to chat about the exciting ‘Coin Op: The Arcade Guide’.
You’ve finally launched the ‘Coin-Op: The Arcade Guide’ on Kickstarter, congratulations! Tell us a bit about the project and how it came about.
Thanks, I am very excited about bringing the Coin-Op: The Arcade Guide book to everyone that loves classic arcade games in a heavy rich visual form that has never been done before by any other publisher or author. The guide started as a bi-monthly feature that was to feature in an A5 magazine called ‘Pixel Nation’ that was been produced by a guy by the name of Steven Gauntly and later on be taken over by Keith Lutener with each issue featuring a visual flashback of a classic arcade title with memoirs of the game with a screenshot and composite made from the visual presentation from the arcade machine. But after the initial mock-up was done which turned out to be Namco’s ‘Galaga’, I thought wow! this deserves to be its own thing based on the feedback from Pixel Nation and brainstormed to form a name for such a book? At the time it was suggested that it be A5 in size which I thought was a crazy idea. Arcade games like this in a booklet form stylebook? But based on printing costs at the time it was a huge expense, there was no Kickstarter back then.
So I began working on the ‘Coin-Op: The Arcade Guide’ back in 2012 as an A5 book with a page count of about 160 pages across 5 genres at the time which eventually expanded into 8 and upgraded to full-size A4 annual size it is today. The name of the book came from the idea of a small selection of genre with some of the best of the best and prolific games as a visual guide in helping people new to the arcades or simply wasn’t around when they existed in arcades to experience themselves. As a beginners guide as well as for die-hard arcade fans for when they are not playing them could have this book in their hands, but as it evolved it became big and bigger, but decided about a year ago I had to bring this project to a close after 8 years on and off working on it. Something like this could go on forever, due to the sheer amount of sprite extraction, composite work, layout, writing it myself, flyer artwork remastering etc. It is now ready for its close-up.
Why should every retro gaming aficionado have this book on their shelves?
This is an easy question to answer. The sheer amount of content goes beyond the norm of what you would expect for a book like this as I designed beyond the rules of graphic design theories with the amount of imagery found across the two-page spread of each game covered, a nice and even amount of writing not to impact on the presentation of the game. There is so much content in this book. I myself even find it astonishing given the outrageous amount of time and effort I put into it, it really goes beyond the time others would invest due to the payload of content to make it look like it does now.
As it stands at the 300 pages mark, I had to pull back as it would have been logistically impossible to expand on what I wanted to cover in one book. It would have taken another 3-4 years to expand it. So this has been created foremost for arcade fans all around the world by an arcade fan and is so bespoke you will not see or find anything like this from another publisher. Once the book is out and copies are gone it’s due to extremely limited numbers coming back from the printers. I simply can’t wait to have this in my hands as well for all the amazing backers that have helped make this book become a reality it for you, them and everyone. Also, I took a big gamble in the pricing of the book as it should be retailing at about £25-27 due to its size and weight but decided to take the hit of reducing it to about £23-£24 per book enabling everyone to get it while they can, purely for the reason of love of the games within the book and the communities of video game fans.
Of the Kickstarter rewards you offer, which one’s your favourite?
It has to be the ‘Coin-Op: Ulitmate Arcaders’ pledge for the amount of content you get for realistically less than what you would pay for a Playstation 4 or Xbox special collector addition game bundle. It has the book with an exclusive 3mm thick hardback slipcase specially designed for just this pledge, my bespoke wallet, bespoke cushion, bespoke arcade coaster set, bespoke Coin-Op T-shirt, A2 exclusive poster created by video game artist legend Simon Phipps who created the famous imagery for the Amiga/Atari ST Core Design classic ‘Rick Dangerous’ and the ‘Harry Potter’ games. Your name’s in the book with each copy being signed by me with a very limited amount of just 50 due to the cost of the slipcases. These are extremely expensive to get made but feel it is so worth it to get them.
If you could go for a drink with any video game character, who would you choose and why?
Now, this is a good one. It has to be the cyborg ninja Gray Fox (from the PS1 MGS game, also spelt Grey Fox in the MSX2 games – Ed) from where I took my forum handle name and sysops used on the internet. It was the easy choice to form the book label from him, it’s certainly not because people may think I have grey hair…lol. It would be Grey Fox I would love to have a drink with and make sure I have a quick an escape route in case I piss him off. He would be that guy!
What are your top five arcade games?
Damn this is a tough question to answer. That’s like asking me who my favourite child is? Lol! Well, with being around the arcades throughout the 1980s and 1990s I’ve seen a lot of machines and played a lot of them. I hate questions like this as I will be continuously deciding on the game and then changing it. But here goes:
Atari’s ‘Paper Boy’
Taito’s ‘Chase H.Q.’
I made at least 4 changes there, damn you! These would be my desert island arcade games.
What’s the future look like for Greyfox and what other projects do you have in the pipeline?
I’m in the concept phase for roughly another three books that I’d love to publish in the next two years or so. Hopefully, if ‘Coin-Op: The Arcade Guide’ funds this will enable me to begin work on those projects, one of which will focus on a legendary console I haven’t seen covered in a way I’d like to see in a book based around it. The other two books are secret for now, but believe me you’ll love what I have planned in store for them and will be another pick up nostalgic hit book presentation.
What computers/consoles inspired you as a kid?
I grew up with the majority of Atari machines from the wonderful Atari VCS, the Atari 8-bit computer range followed by its big brother the Atari ST computer line which probably holds the most memorable memories for me. I then defected to the Amiga which again was something of a phenomenal computer you won’t see the likes of again. In regards to consoles, it has to be the Super Nintendo, although I loved the Mega Drive this was again bringing arcade experiences into the home and had fantastic memories of that machine. Amazing stuff.
What inspired you to start Greyfox Books?
The inspiration to create the Greyfox Books model was based on the work I had been doing back in 2012 starting as a fan project creating digital magazines.
The first, ‘Nes-Bit’ with Keith Lutener, was a 34 paged Nintendo fanzine with an attempt to capture the flair and work of ‘Nintendo Magazine’ that had since stopped covering the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). I wasn’t even a fan of the NES as I never owned one, but Keith convinced me to create it as he had attempted to start a European community for the NES under the same name (‘Nes-Bit’) and was very proud of what we had done.
It was followed up by a community-driven digital magazine called ‘Homebrew Heroes’ with the members of RVG (Retro Video Gamer) a forum which is thriving today and covered a selection of systems from the Vectrex to the Super Nintendo homebrew gaming scene and was responsible for all the design aspects of the magazine and promotional work which was incredibly well received by the retro gaming communities back in 2013.
But I wanted to now start on my own exclusive work based on those experiences and focused on my favourite home computer of all time the ‘Atari 8-bit line’ called ‘Atari Gamer Magazine’, a 74-page digital magazine any A8 fan could only dream of. I knew this was it and thanks to reviews of a selection of Atari 8-bit titles that were gathering dust on the RVG review section I contacted the reviewer and made a proposal to take them and turn it into something that all Atari fans have been dying to see after 25 years. It had interviews, special features etc. and was released under the name of ‘Greyfox Digital Productions’.
It was then time to move into the 16-bit Atari era with my next two digital magazines, the ‘ST Gamer’ series spanning two digital issues produced in 2014 and 2015. I had tapped yet again into something that people had been crying out for, so I decided now would be the best time to start looking at this seriously and came up with the name ‘Greyfox Books’.
But my love for the Atari 8-bit was still a burning passion of mine after the magazine and I decided to begin work over the next 11 months in 2017 to produce a visual history book on the system called ‘Atari: a Visual History’ that was successfully funded in May of 2019 by 665 backers on Kickstarter. So it was set in stone that I have to continue my journey in producing very bespoke and out of the box designed books which I’m very proud to be doing. I hate rules and guidelines I want to create something I would love to see myself. This is the ethos of ‘Greyfox Books’ – a visual publisher with you in mind.
Now go check out the Kickstarter!