Imagitec’s Kristi Louise Herd joined our Adrian for a lovely Q&A to discuss the titles she worked on in her long career in gaming, namely the underrated Fiendish Freddy’s Big Top ‘O Fun and the intriguing Atari Jaguar CD title Blue Lightning.
How did you first get the opportunity to enter the video game industry and do you remember the first ever game you worked on?
I fell into it really. I had been at College and I had dabbled with computer graphics and a bit of code, but nothing much. My tutor at College came up to me one day and said: “A mate of mine runs a small gaming company and he’s looking for artists. Give him a call.” That company was the legendary Imagitec Design and the rest is history as they say. I took my portfolio of work to an interview with Martin Hooley and Neil Young, was offered a job on the spot and I never looked back! I didn’t have a clue about the gaming industry or the company I was about to start working for. But I soon realised that I was in a very privileged position getting paid for something I loved doing. And as it turned out, we were treated like Rockstars!
I started working on a game using the Apple MAC, I can’t remember the name of it now but it featured monsters and was a fighting game. The first real game I worked on was Fiendish Freddy. I made a right hash of it when I first started the animations for the game. I’d never done anything like this before, I had no training on the software and spent most of the first few weeks trying to figure out what the hell I was doing. Turned out great in the end though!
I was a huge fan of Fiendish Freddy’s Big Top O’ Fun on the Amiga when I was a kid. I remember even back then how vibrant and colourful the graphics were. How do you reflect back on this particular title and how proud were you of this games overall look and feel?
I only worked on the C64 & Spectrum versions of the game. I redrew all the graphics and redid all the animations using a package called Neochrome on the Atari ST. I was immensely proud of this game, I still am. It looked great across all platforms and was a lot of fun to work on. There were some very difficult challenges in trying to make this game as look as good on the C64 as it was on the Amiga. I wanted to re-produce a version that was technically advanced and matched up to the Amiga version, and we did it well. It’s still amazing to think this was a cutting edge game at the time!
How did you recreate the cartoon like graphics and so you feel this game received enough critical attention when it was released?
Zzap! 64 awarded the game 91% for graphics and gave it 89% overall. It was a great game to work on. The humour was quite risqué at the time and the animations were a real challenge as the whole game was based on animation. I don’t think the game ever received the attention it deserved as the ground breaking game it was, can you imagine what you could do with it now for the consoles?
Fiendish Freddy seemed to be almost ahead of time with its large selection of mini games. Do you have a personal favourite circus event in the game and was a sequel ever in the works?
My favourite act was the juggler, it just worked so well and was so much fun not only to draw but to play. A sequel was never planned, it was one of those games that did what it set out to do in terms of creating a game with big graphics and mini games that hadn’t been done before.
The Humans was a colourful and (I feel) underappreciated puzzle game that was released across a number of platforms. What particular version of this game did you work on and why do you think this game never really gained the respect it may have deserved?
Humans was a great game, so much hard work went into creating this game and I think due to this it was delayed several times before finally getting released and a window of opportunity was lost as a few other games got released at the same time which just leap frogged Humans. It was also compared (unfairly) to Lemmings which hadn’t long been released.
I worked on the Amiga version doing some backgrounds and building up the level designs.
How did you get to work on one of the first ever Jag CD titles in Blue Lightning, and what was your exact role on this game?
After leaving Imagitec Design I headed down south and worked for Attention to Detail (ATD). I was hired to produce the graphics for this game. The Jaguar was had just been developed and ATD were the first gaming company to produce games for it.
Is it true that Blue Lightning was originally supposed to be Jaguar cart game and how easy was it to create artwork for the Jag CD?
Blue Lightning was designed just for the Jag CD. Having a game for a CD meant we could produce a much more graphic intense game, it also had a unique engine drawing the graphics as you played the game. Because we didn’t have to worry about fitting it on a cartridge, we had a mixture of rendered and drawn backgrounds. It was not an enjoyable experience working on this game. The game designers had a very fixed idea of how they wanted the game to look and we clashed quite a few times over the course of production. In the end it was very stressful producing the graphics for this game and I don’t think we achieved a great result.
The company had an idea that we would scan all the backgrounds in and produce 3D models for the sprites. It was such a naff idea. It just didn’t work and it caused me a lot of headaches and heartache as I was so unhappy not only with the game but with the company. The models looked great, but the scanned backgrounds looked awful. In the end, we had a mixture of drawn and scanned backgrounds. Needless to say, the game got slated and I left the company.
Mass Destruction was great PlayStation title. What was it like working on this game and how different was it working on 3D graphics compared to your earlier games?
I loved working on this game, it was so much fun creating different terrains and controlling a tank that you could just blast anything away with. The background graphics were done as 2D tiles and the tanks and objects in 3D. I found the transition from 2D pixel art to 3D quite hard. It didn’t have the same fluidness as drawing in 2D. Drawing in 3D was more technical than artistic. The game turned out great though, we had a brilliant programmer working on the graphics engine that really turned Mass Destruction into something special.
Out of all the artwork and graphics you have created for numerous video games over the years, which game and art are you most proud of?
Difficult question! If I had to choose, it would be a game called Daemonsgate which I did for Lynx and Game Boy which never saw the light of day which is a great shame, it was a seriously good game with beautiful graphics. Of the games that have been released, Mass Destruction is the one I am most proud of.
If you could be transported into any one of your video games, and live there for day, which game would you choose and why?
Combo Racer; I have always had a thing for motorbikes and to spend just one day racing and getting involved with the whole thing of pit stops, travelling, that would be pretty awesome!
If you could travel back in time and work on any video game, which game would you have loved to be involved in?
Duke Nukem – that was the first game I was really addicted to, I spent whole week playing this game until I completed it. The gameplay, the graphics, it would have been an awesome game to work on.
What are your personal favourite video games of all time?
Duke Nukem, Horace goes Skiing, Winter Games (C64), Wave Race on the N64, Brothers a Tale of Two Sons, Rayman, Call of Duty, Pole Position (C64), Curse of Enchantia and I really enjoy playing The Sims 3.
Are you still involved in the video gaming industry and what projects are your currently working on?
I haven’t been involved with the gaming industry since 2008. I still have many friends who have continued to make a living in the gaming industry. Do I miss it? I miss how it was in the old days when we didn’t have much money but we produced great games. I am still creative and dabble in graphic design from time to time.
If you could share a few drinks with a video game character who would you choose and why?
That is easy, Lara Croft. She was just to cool and so adventurous! Can you imagine the fun we’d have and the stories she could tell?!!!
All screenshots taken from Moby Games.