Sockmonsters

The collected Internet-visible works of Andy Krouwel, Oxfordshire based Software Engineer, Games Developer and Freelance Writer.

andy@sockmonsters.com

Software

Like many UK developers, I've been writing code since I was at primary school. Unlikely as it sounds now, the in the 1980s the Tory Thatcher government teamed up with the BBC to provide schools with cheap micro computers for no particular reason, thus kickstarting a programming revolution (particularly in games) they've subsequently done their best to ignore.

Most of that early work is now mercifully forgotten, written as it was in a mismash of ZX, BBC and Commodore BASICs, but it boosted me onto 6809 assembler, and when the 16-bit era arrived, STOS 680x0, Blitz and finally C/C++.  Then, having been a software developer for about a decade, and with a Computer Science degree under my belt, I was finally old enough to have an actual job. 

Articles

When my first son was born I suddenly had so little free time that it made me question why I'd frittered it so badly before? Auspiciously I picked up a copy of Retro Gamer #1 in Chipping Norton WHSmith during the time when fathers are chucked out of the maternity unit to amuse themselves for an hour or so, and in a fit of motivation decided that I should use what little time remained to fulfill that ambition of becoming a proper freelance games magazine writer. 

And I did, writing first for Develop, then Retro Gamer, and finally the lofty heights of Edge.

Then my second son was born and I suddenly had no free time at all, so I stopped. 

Oh well, fun while it lasted.

 

The Making of...Grand Theft Auto

Edge #164. 

Extra special six whole pages on the creation of one of the most influential, polished and fun games of, um, ever. Ended up with comments from six people involved in this one, which was a lot of interviewing, so I must remember to stick to 8-bit games in future. Unfortunately this one's a special bonus mystery appearance, as due to an oversight I didn't get listed as a contributor. Doh.

Of course it's gone on to bigger and better things, reprinted in a C&VG adverpuff special when GTA IV came out and appearing in bits and pieces in the relevant chapter of Tristan Donovan's excellent Replay: The History of Video Games.

The Making of...3D Monster Maze 

Edge #161. 

Hurrah! The world's most futurophilic magazine covers a silent, black and white ZX81 game, albeit one that richly deserves the remembering. For some reason I arrived early for the interfview and while killing time browsing Bath's charity shops I found a copy of the boardgame  Dizzy, Dizzy Dinosaur. This let me leave Malcom Evans a baffling gift of an incredibly un-terrifying plastic clockwork dinosaur. I'm sure that made it all seem worth it.

The Making of...Alter Ego

Edge #158

The result of a fascinating chat with the game's author Dr Peter Favaro. A unique, timeless classic that combines the flexibility of textual descriptions without forcing the user to type. Should be compulsory for all new parents, to see life again through the eyes of a baby. You can play an Intenettified version right here.  The Alter Ego 2 mentioned in the article seems sadly to have been somewhat hopeful.

The Making of...Zarch

Edge #155

Three pages about this highly regarded, but now almost forgotten, David Braben arcade classic. Currently has a grand total of zero Internet fan pages, which must be a first for any game at all. Personally I played more of ST interpretation Virus which for some baffling reason we called Viroose.

The Making of...Mercenary

Edge #153

One of the most influential and criminally forgotten games in UK development history, with a particular place in my heart as I'm part Brummie. Mercenary introduced in-engine cutscenes, open-world gaming and plenty of jokes. It's modern influence is most felt in the mighty GTA series. ABC figures place Edge as one of the very few computer games magazines to have increased its circulation the month this was published. COINCIDENCE? Yes. Had a very pleasant lunch with Novagen director and co-developer Bruce Jordan, since sadly passed away. Unfortunately couldn't get to speak to main developer Paul Woakes before deadline as he was receiving too many spam mailing calls at the time and ignoring his phone. 

Retrovision Report

Retro Gamer #14,

Two page article on the Retrovision 5 games convention.

Exciting Trivia Fact #1 : I didn't actually go to the show, due to a bad case of Winter Vomiting disease. I cunningly stitched the report together by sub-contracting the leg work to Mat 'Mayhem' Allen and Andrew 'Merman' Fisher, then blended the results into my background research (regular curries with organiser Mark Rayson). The result was then spat back onto the editorial table as a delicious blend of words and images. With stitches.

Exciting Trivia Fact #2 : This was the last issue of Retro Gamer that any Freelances, including me, actually got paid for. Which was a damn good job and makes me exceptionally relieved as I had reimbursed my co-authors before receiving my own cheque.

Clearly Minter

Retro Gamer #12

Cover article! Bonus! (Not cash or anything). A history of Llamasoft, which is a tricky thing to write or say anything new about as its a subject so exhaustively covered elsewhere. This was designed as part history, part introduction to the modern world of Llamasoft. Very nearly looked like a complete fool when Jeff's latest game (Unity) was cancelled mere days before deadline.

BASIC Instinct

Retro Gamer #5

Back in 'the day' we were all quite, quite, mad. That's the only reason I can think why we'd spend days typing in listings from magazines. This article chronicles some of those heady times, and mourns the lack of online coverage of Our Games Heritage. Features the BASIC game 'Sticky', for Spectrum emulators. Not Spectrums, unless you really, really like 'bullet time'.

Get On Board! 

Develop #33

Encourages computer game designers to think about board games, what they should consider and why they're a good idea. This was before the great boardgame renaissance of the 201Xes which I'd like to think this kicked off, eventhough it clearly didn't. 

Player Power : I am the Designer, You are the Player. I Outrank You!

Develop #27

Appeared under the title 'Player Power'. Short rant asking designers to think about players and how they'd like to control their experience of a game.