Mark Hooley (Atari/Imagitec) – Interview

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Adrian and Roberth tracked down Imagitec/Atari QA Manager Mark Hooley for another fascinating insight as to how both companies worked and produced classics like Raiden and Bubsy…

 

How exactly did you get the opportunity to enter the video game industry and what was the first game you ever worked on?

I first got into working in the video game industry when my brother Martin had Imagitec Design.
After getting out of the hardware side, I started working with Imagitec and the first game I believe I worked on was a port of the arcade version of Raiden. For this, I had to learn to play the arcade version from start to finish then video it all the way through. Then I had the fun task of typing in all the attack waves.

 

What exactly does the role of a quality assurance (QA) manager involve? Can you run us through a typical day?

My main roles where setting up the bug databases for the testers to input there data. Assigning testers to various games, depending on the testers (some were better at playing games, while others tried break them. Both as important)

Sending bug reports to our producers and to the publishers

Checking all the manuals, covers and the game itself adhered to the consoles manufactures submission lists, As well as signing the game off for submission.

 

You also helped create maps and levels for a number of respect Jaguar games. How did these roles present themselves and did you relish these opportunities?

I had the opportunity early on to work on quite a few games, doing the level designs using our in house level editors. I believe I did some of the Bubsy levels for the Jaguar. I enjoyed working on level design although some of the in house editors were very painful to work with especially putting all the floor and wall collision in block by block.

 

Raiden is a quality Jaguar title. What was your exact role on this game and are you a fan of the Raiden series of games?

As above, it was one of the first games I worked on. I enjoyed playing the arcade version from start to finish. It even won me a few gallon of beer a few years later when one of the pubs I frequented got the arcade version in and offered a gallon of beer to the highest scorer of the week, of course won it until they replaced it with some other arcade machine.

I actually found a helicopter arcade machine made by the same company that seemed to have the same attack waves, but just different graphics.

 

The aforementioned Bubsy and Zool certainly divide opinion with the AA crew (you’re not wrong Adrian – Ed). You had the pleasure of working on these titles. Which character do you personally prefer and do you think there is now room for a new Zool game after Bubsy was recently rebooted?

I enjoyed working on both games and both were very playable at the time. I believe Zool would still make a great game if it was updated and maybe made 3D. As for which preferred I believe Bubsy was more enjoyable to play.

 

 

As a quality assurance manager and tester, I assume honesty is really important when discussing your views on different games. Have you ever been involved in any heated conversations between yourself and a programmer before?

I cannot remember having arguments with the programmers, a lot I had worked with on various games. I had more arguments with producers who insisted the games would be ready by a certain date when I had a huge list of bugs that needed fixing.

 

You have helped quality assure a huge array of Atari Jaguar games. Which games did you have the most fun working on and were there any games you never enjoyed playing?

I enjoyed working on most of the games we did on the Jaguar. The most fun one was probably Tempest as it was fast paced. Cannot really think of any I disliked playing, but it has been a while since I tested them.

 

What was it like working with Atari and why do you think the company is now a shadow of its former self?

I never really had much dealing with the company itself, that was left to the producers. As for the company being a shadow of its former self. Taken off the internet.

Early last year, the company filed for bankruptcy protection, with the goal of selling off its portfolio of games in auction. Atari parted with a few of the games through that process, but most of them did not attract high enough bids. So the company held on to them. It emerged from bankruptcy protection in December and since then has been piecing together a plan to resuscitate its business.

 

Were there any games on the Atari Jaguar or other consoles you game tested but were never released?

I don’t remember any from the Jaguar as most of them were ports from other console or PC. There were quite a few games that were never released or finished. Again it has been a long time so don’t remember them all. I do remember doing levels for a Zorro game that never got finished.

 

Which video game are you most proud of and can you explain why?

I don’t think there is any one game I am most proud of I worked on a lot of great games for some big publishers, it was always nice to see any game you had done some work on released and on the shelves, knowing you had a hand in making that game.

 

If you could travel back in time and work on any video game, which game would you have loved to be involved in?

Probably some of the Tomb Raider or Prince of Persia. There are so many great games out there now.

 

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

Maybe Earthworm Jim he was a fun character and could whip people with his head.

 

What projects are you currently working on?

I am not working in the games industry any more. Things got too unstable after 2005.

 

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

Probably Homer Simpson, the Guy likes a beer or two and would be a great drinking pal

I enjoyed the many years working in the games industry on some great titles in all my various roles and worked with some very talented and strange people in their own ways along the way (not that I am any different).

 

Adrian & Roberth

 

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