Kevin Edwards (Software Creations/Traveller’s Tales) – Interview

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He made his name at Software Creations with the excellent Plok on SNES and went on to create many 8-bit and 16-bit games based on Marvel franchises like Spider-Man and X-Men. LEGO (including the first two Star Wars) and SNES games like Ken Griffey Jr’s Major League Baseball have all benefitted from his expertise and wisdom. Here’s Adrian’s quick Q&A with Kevin Edwards! To keep up with his exploits you can follow Kevin on Twitter here.

 

You have worked on numerous superhero based games, including a number of Wolverine and Spider-Man titles. How did these opportunities arise and are you personally a big comic book fan?

I was working in-house at Software Creations, in Manchester, and they were approached by US publishers to create videogames based on various Marvel and Comic book titles. The timing meant I worked on 3 or 4 of these games. We weren’t given much time to create them – 5 to 8 months typically, with 3 to 4 people working full-time per game. Due to the short timelines we really had to work fast to get these out of the door with only limited resources. The artists and designers of the games were all big comic book fans and had huge personal collections. I wasn’t quite as enthusiastic as them, but was a big fan of Spider-Man and Wolverine!

 

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

‘Spider-Man and the X-Men in Arcade’s Revenge’ stands out. I liked the fact that we had many superheroes together in one game and there was plenty of variety in the gameplay. It also had some awesome music by Tim Follin which was really special, possibly the best SNES music he produced. However, the development was a bit of a nightmare. We had a very short amount of time to create the game so a much larger group of people jumped onto this project to get in done in time.

 

Are there any superheroes you haven’t made games for that you would love to work on in the future?

I probably wouldn’t pick just one. Superhero games are much more fun if you have a team of characters available to you so you can switch between them and pick the one with the abilities that let you progress through the game in the most effective way. Plenty of puzzle solving too, not just smash, smash, blast. It should also feature co-operative gameplay too.

 

 

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

Like many game developers in the early 1980s I was a bedroom coder working on little projects for fun in my spare time. In 1983 I was offered a job at Database publications during the summer holidays (I was still in sixth-form doing my A-Levels). They wanted some games writing for their new software company, Optima Software. I was keen to earn some money and get some of my work published and this is where I wrote Atomic Protector for the BBC Micro. My school friend, Martin Galway, was also offered the same summer job and he did the sound effects for the game. I think we were paid about £50 per week. Not a great deal of money really, but very useful when you’re a skint teenager!

 

Plok (John Pickford, Ste Pickford, Lyndon Brooke, John Buckley) garnered very positive reviews compared to a lot of other run of the mill platformers at the time. What was your exact role on this title and how do you personally reflect back on the both the game and the character?

I worked on data compression/decompression for Plok. This was used to squeeze as much artwork and data into the limited space we had on the cartridge. The game was created by a small, highly talented team of about 5 or 6 people – code, art, design and audio. Plok is a great character and his long range weapons help make the gameplay so much fun. It was a vast game with some seriously hard boss battles, watch out for the Bobbins brothers. Ste Pickford is still creating Plok comics books for any fans in need of more Plok.

 

Do you think there is room for a new Plok game, and if so, would this be something you would be interested in working on?

I am surprised a follow-up Plok game hasn’t been created. He’s a great character and needs bringing into the 3D world. A Banjo-Kazooie style Plok game sounds like a great idea to me! I’m sure John and Ste Pickford would be the best people to create a new Plok title should one begin development. Perhaps they already have plans for it? (not that we can see, someone get it started – Ed)

 

Is there more pressure and less freedom when working on really well known intellectual properties and how do these game differ from working on lesser known or more independent titles?

You do have quite a lot of freedom with most IPs. Make sure you don’t abuse the freedom by doing dumb things or anything that’s really out of character. Treat IPs with the respect that their fanbase (and owners) would expect and you’ll make a great game. Some IP owners can be more protective than others. I’ve heard from other developers who have been restricted quite extensively. One case was a racing game where the IP holder did not want their car to roll over or take major damage in anyway. All they could do was ‘scuff’ the cars when they crashed or took damage. Blowing up in ball of flames was certainly not allowed. When no IPs are involved then you can do what you like – just make sure you’ve got some great original ideas and art style to make it stand out from everything else (easier said than done). Indie developers rarely have the luxury of IPs to help get their games noticed. However, this freedom can be a blessing and gives you the opportunity to create your own IP!

 

If you could actually take the powers from any superhero, who would you choose and why?

The Hulk’s powers would be handy for those stressful days! However, mind-reading would be so useful and very practical, so I’d take that from Professor X.

 

 

How did you get the opportunity to work on so many classic LEGO titles and do you have a personal favourite LEGO game you worked on?

I joined Traveller’s Tales when they were just starting work on their very first LEGO game – LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game. This was a ground-breaking title that combined two of the biggest IPs in existence. It was an honour working on this game with so many awesome people. For these reasons I would select this game as my favourite LEGO title. The success of this game was responsible for starting one of the biggest gaming franchises available on virtually every console and gaming device during the last 15 years.

 

LEGO games always seem to get the playability and humour spot on while always being respectful to the characters and stories origins. Why do you personally think LEGO games have proved so popular?

Well your question provides most of the answers itself. Yes, humour, making great use of the IP and creating something that’s immersive and really fun to play are the most important elements in LEGO games. Making the LEGO characters come to life and giving them a personality is so satisfying. The games are also designed to appeal to the whole family, young and old!

 

Are you a fan of the actual LEGO bricks and are there any films, stories or characters you would love to be turned into a future LEGO game?

Yes, I have a house full of LEGO, most of it belongs to my children, but I do have a large personal collection. We get a staff discount which I take advantage of! I think most of the great family-friendly IPs have made it already into LEGO form. LEGO Dimensions featured so many great movie IPs from the 80s and 90s. I would love some LEGO Star Trek for my collection, but that hasn’t happened yet, or perhaps more LEGO Doctor Who Mini-figures – all the Doctors and creatures!

 

Are there any games you started work on but were never released, and if so, which unreleased game do you think would have been the most successful?

When I first started writing games I was constantly jumping from one idea to another. Either because I got bored with an idea or just wanted to do something new. Storky and Amnesia were two BBC Micro games that were in development for a few weeks before being shelved – they were both very incomplete. I did find the code and data for Amnesia, a sideways scrolling platform game, and released a version to the BBC Micro community. Storky has been lost. This was going to be a game similar to the arcade title Fast Freddie. The player controlled a stork that had a basketball than could be kicked at flying baddies and ground based enemies. A very odd concept looking back. For this game I had developed a cool sideways scrolling system and a way of decompressing graphics ‘on-the-fly’ for the landscape below – something similar made its way into Stryker’s Run. I would like to think that Storky could have been a fun game if it had been completed. However, I didn’t have the time to create the artwork and levels due to exams and other commitments. It would have needed a bigger team to do it justice. I also worked on a prototype Iron Man game for the original Xbox which was abandoned.

 

If you could be transported into any one of your video games, and live there for a day, which game would you choose and why?

Perhaps a visit to the Mos Eisley cantina bar with Chewie, Luke, Obi and Han would be fun, if a little dangerous! Blaster at the ready. (good call! – Ed)

 

 

What are your personal top three video and arcade games and why?

Favourite video games:-
Mario Kart Wii – possibly the best multiplayer, family friendly game ever created.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 – Mario action at its best!
LEGO Star Wars : The Complete Saga – All the early films rolled into one classic game. Should be in every video game collection.

Favourite arcade games:-
Defender – it’s fast, furious, fun and gets your heart racing.
Galaxians / Galaga – I love shoot-em-ups and these two were equally fun for me. Classic arcade action.
Pac-Man – I played this to death back in the day. Simple and very addictive!

 

What projects and games are you currently working on?

Sorry, TOP SECRET! However, now that it’s been publicly announced I can reveal that I’m working on LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga.

 

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

Kratos. I’d like to find out about his background and what makes him tick. Something tells me he might not be very cooperative though!

 

Adrian

 

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