Interview with Allan Findlay

The LSCM spoke with Allan Findlay, one of Tiertex' programmers for Strider Returns, from January 20-26 of 2010. The following exclusive interview has been culled from those emails with his permission.

What was your official title at Tiertex, Allan?
My title was "Senior Programmer", I'd had plenty of programming experience in non-games related fields and I was actually older than all the other programmers too!

What was your role in the development of Strider Returns?
I was the sole programmer on the title. The only thing I didn't write on the game was the audio player and the sprite drawer (both were in-house code that was reused on different projects).

As far as anyone knows, only the Amiga port of Strider Returns had a credit screen. Why were none of the other staff credited?
I did actually write a credit screen for the Megadrive version, nothing too much, just a starry background with our names scrolling up, but the boss of the company had decided that he wanted just the company logo with no individual names shown so I had to take it back out.

Do you remember who worked with you on the Genesis/MegaDrive port and what their roles were?
There were a few artists, I remember Steve Watson and Dave Price doing art for me. From what I remember, most of the sprites were grabbed from the original version and touched up. My development kit was actually a very nice hardware 68000 emulator so I could freeze the original game as it ran and examine the Megadrive's memory and get the sprites out.

Strider was a Capcom property, which was produced as a collaborative effort with a Japanese production company, Moto Kikaku. How on earth did Tiertex wind up with the rights to make a sequel?
From what I remember, somehow US Gold got the rights to produce quite a few Capcom games. And Tiertex was friendly with US Gold (and possibly offered cheap conversions). I think they had done a few arcade conversions before I arrived there.

The manual refers to the main character as "Hinjo" in the story section, while the gameplay directions describe him as "Hiryu", the character from the Capcom original. Is Strider Returns even supposed to be a direct sequel?
I do vaguely remember something about that but no details. I have a feeling we'd been told we couldn't use the actual Strider character (which is possibly why he was coloured slightly differently too). I'm afraid it's too long ago!

On the topic of Strider Returns' manual, many fans of the Capcom game were put off by its tone (myself included). It's quite tongue-in-cheek, even compared to its accompanying game. What led to the decision to take that approach?
I don't remember the manual at all I'm afraid.

I can't really say I blame you, there.

*shows Findlay a copy of the story from the US localization*

I'm curious if any of the above seems familiar to you, mostly because the other versions [of Strider Returns] had a different story. Was the above an American localization done by U.S. Gold, separate from Tiertex?
(laughs) Now I've read that, I do remember cringing when I read it. The manual was done externally and we only ever saw it when we had a boxed copy of the game. I have no idea who actually did that.

Over on Tiertex' Facebook group, I noticed you'd said that Strider Returns was the first thing you ever programmed and that it could have been done better. Was there anything in particular you were thinking of when you made that statement?
I had programmed for a few years before doing Strider Returns but this was my first game and my first complete thing written in 68000 assembly. I had written various subroutines to optimise my C code but never an entire program. At the time I was mainly a C programmer.

The main thing I was thinking of with that statement was speed, the game didn't run as fast as it should have. Given the type of game it is I should have had it running in a single frame (50Hz/60Hz) but it was running in 2 frames (25Hz/30Hz).

The "design" of the Megadrive version was literally "This is the Amiga version, you need to make it better than that, no bar at the bottom, full screen."

Amazing. They had no real idea how they wanted to upscale it?
They just wanted it written and out as quickly as possible.

There is one minor (possibly interesting) thing I was going to mention.

On the Megadrive version the high score screen has 9 letters for the name entry (rather than the usual 3 or 8), the only reason I made it that long is because my daugher is called Katherine so I wanted it to fit! And, the cheat unlock is her name backwards, then in game you can press some button combination (I can't remember what it is) and you can get things like extra health/lives/power ups (can't remember exactly).

Also, on the high score screen, putting the cursor on certain letters and pressing the right button combination will give you some automatic names.

The ones I can remember are:
A - Allan (me)
C - Curley (Danny Curley the tester)
D - Danny (Danny Whelan, the Master System programmer)
G - Gary (Gary Vine, he was on the opposite desk to me)
I - Iain (my son)
K - Katherine (my eldest daughter)

That bit about the cheat unlock is great. I don't think anyone knows about that, honestly. What other games have you worked on?

It's nice to get it all written down before it's totally forgotten.


Strider 2 for Megadrive at Tiertex
Indiana Jones 4 - Fate of Atlantis for Megadrive at Tiertex. Unreleased.
Flashback for CDI at Tiertex. Unreleased.

I took a break from games at this point and moved to tools programming:-

"Nintendo 64 Sound Tools" developed for PC at Software Creations.

Then back to games again when they needed a programmer!

Hexen 64 for Nintendo 64 at Software Creations.
Wayne Gretzky's 3D Hockey '98 for Nintendo 64 at Software Creations.
Fifa: Road to the World Cup for Nintendo 64 at Software Creations.
Fifa '98 for Nintendo 64 at Software Creations.
Carmageddon 64 developed for Nintendo 64 at Software Creations.
Nicktoons Racing for PC and Playstation at Software Creations.
Nascar Racers for PC at Software Creation.

More tools programming and the development of a front end engine for the next two games.

ET's Cosmic Garden for PC/PS2/Gamecube at Zedtwo. Unreleased.
Worms Blast for Gamecube at Zedtwo.
Future Tactics for PC/PS2/XBox/Gamecube at Zedtwo.

Another break from games after lots of companies went bankrupt around this time.
Motion detection stuff for Windows/Linux based PCs.

Back to games about 18 months ago.

Imagine Beauty Salon for Nintendo DS at Playbox.

It always seems like a lot when I list them like that!

Indy Jones 4 and Flashback? I thought Flashback was Delphine? Were you just handling a port?
We were just doing a port of Flashback, one of the bosses at Tiertex (Donald Campbell) had done the Jaguar version (I think). The CDI one I worked on was never released, the machine was just too slow, all the sprites had to be drawn manually in the code, there was no hardware to render them.

Indy Jones 3 (The Last Crusade) had been done by Tiertex at the same time as I did Strider 2. They wanted a more adventure-like game for the 4th, I had to play the PC point-and-click version a fair bit to get some idea what they wanted. It was going to be platform-y, a bit like Indy 3 but bigger levels and you could collect items and combine them on a pop up menu system. There was also an isometric level where you were searching through a desert town, going into buildings etc.

It was looking pretty nice but they weren't happy and it got shelved and as far as I am aware it was never released.

Which [of your games] are you proudest of?
I think the best one is Future Tactics, it was enjoyable to play and felt most like a "proper" game. It was a fun game in the end.

The LSCM thanks Mr. Findlay for taking the time to answer our questions and wishes him the best of luck in all his future projects.