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An interview with Mike Lamb

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Here is an interview with legendary programmer Mike Lamb by one of our retromaniacs; Pablo Luis Del Rincón Ramos

Pablo
Batman The Movie, Renegade, Target Renegade, Robocop, Combat School… It’s clear you are an expert coder, but tell me, what was the hardest thing for you when coding the 8-bits? turning movies into games or porting arcade games to the limited 8-bit machines?

Mike
The movie titles were the more challenging because we had to come up with a game mechanic that suited the movie.

Pablo
Where is the spectrum version of Liverpool? You amazed us with pretty mockups but no game is available 🙁

Mike
I’m not sure I remember the Liverpool game. It was 25 years ago and there were quite a few outside contracters that we didn’t get to meet.

Pablo
Wec Le Mans, one of the all time best driving games on the Speccy. How did you get so much out of this machine? Who taught you how push the ZX Spectrum to the limits and present a product so faaaaaaaaast? Why didn’t you tell Probe about it and help them to boost “Out Run”, hehe…

Mike
I was very pleased with how Wec was going on the Spectrum. I had came up with some clever way to draw the road better than in other Spectrum games. Ocean took me off it to work on Batman (no it was Robocop?) but the guy replaced me with, Jon ‘O Brien was really good and did a fantastic job finishing it

Pablo
Let’s talk about the “Renegade universe”

First up, the port from TAITO’s arcade machine was brillant!!!! How could you put so much in only 48k? Most of the programmers of the 80’s were always blaming the short memory on their mediocre games. What’s the secret to reach such a success with a 48k machine?

Mike
Memory was really tight on that game. We reused the leg graphics for all the characters – including the hookers! I was pleased we got the full game in 48k though. I think the other versions needed a load between the levels. IMO that doesn’t really work when you have a tape drive and the levels are only 2 minutes.

Pablo
Have you ever seen Renegade 3? I know the group of programmers (sadly) were different but… what did you think when you saw that weird journey in time the game was.

Mike
To be honest, I’d rather not comment badly on someone else’s work. Often the developers didn’t get as long as they needed.

Pablo
Robocop the videogame was an arcade hit. On the 16 bits we could see a port of the arcade version but you and your partners developed an original game based on the movie. Why not try to convert the arcade machine to the Spectrum?

Mike
It was a timing issue. Ocean wanted Robocop for Christmas to coincide with the video release. Data East’s game was in development but not finished. We had to start right away because we only had 3 months.

Pablo
Apart from not being an arcade version, the game looked great and obviously a hit in sales so… what kept you away from the Robocop 2 project? Why didn’t you take part in the development team?

Mike
For about 2 years all I did was Robocop, Batman, Robocop, Batman. I didn’t really want to work on another Robocop game.

Pablo
Are you still in touch with your old colleagues? Do you arrange to meet them and play “Steve Davis snooker” for example, hehe 🙂

Mike
Yes I’m still in touch mostly on the internet and Facebook.

Pablo
Are you still in the games industry?

Mike
No. I left the games industry. I work at www.pokerscopesoftware.com now

Mike, it’s been a pleasure. Thanks for all the good times we spent playing your creations.

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