Friday, November 6, 2009

Bernie Drummond interview

Today, Bernie Drummond, the graphics designer of such brilliant games as Matchday 2, Batman and Head over Heels answers a few questions about what it was like working with/for Jon Ritman (just kidding, he answers all kinds of questions).

Q: How did you get into the game making business?

I'd been friends with Jon for a few years and he knew I had a talent for drawing. I used to sit drawing cartoons of people at parties. Jon had done a couple of games for a company called ARTIC in which he'd done his own graphics. While travelling to Manchester to negotiate with the company, he met a guy called Chris Clarke, the two of them collaborated on Matchday 1.

Then Ultimate released Knight Lore. On seeing that he knew the basic graphics he'd been doing wouldn't be exciting enough, so the next time we spoke he invited me round to see if I had what it took to produce some funky graphics. If you look at BATMAN on the Spectrum you'll see a main monster with spikey hair and black eyes, he was the first graphic I created.

Q: We know you mostly as the graphics designer on titles such as Matchday 2, Batman and Head over Heels, all collaborations with Jon Ritman, but what else were you involved in?

I mainly worked with Jon as his personal artist, but I did make a game with a guy called Paul Mashacek (don't trust that spelling) called Superhero, which was styled after Batman and came out on Codemasters.

Apart from graphics, my contribution was to implant in Jon a unique vision of how to confound the opposition in a game. You know the way the ball sticks to your foot when you get possession, well I beat Jon for the first time by refusing to accept sticky foot, every goal I scored (4-0) came from an unusual part of the player's body including the first time Jon had seen somebody play a 1-2 pass sequence using only the chest. When we came to work together on MD2, Jon consulted me closely on things like the stocky shape of the players (tightly fitting the collision box) and the power bar which at the lowest power allowed you to 'push and run' rather than holding the ball with 'sticky foot'. My favorite part of that was being able to hold the fire button down when the bar reached your chosen strength, enabling you to play 'first time touches'.

After some snooping around, I did find out that the correct spelling is Paul Machacek. Yeah, the power bar (kickometer) could be locked on for first-touch plays and devastating volleys or headers.

Q: What kind of tools were you using for the graphics? I know Jon Ritman wrote a tool to do graphics on the Spectrum but what else?

Jon's purpose made program was created in response to my complaints about Melbourne Draw which worked with a 'Graphpad' (a device which used a pen to write on a board). Zooming in and out was so distracting that it was impossible to remember what pixel you wanted to change. Jon's program had a large drawing window where the pixels were 2 or 3 millimetres in size right next to an actual size window, so I could see both versions at the same time. Later when designing games for the PC and Playstation, I used 3D Studio and made everything as 3D objects.

Q: Take us through the typical tasks of a graphic artist when working on a game? For example, Matchday 2 and Batman. I assume you had to do the sprites and the backgrounds, anything else?

When working with Jon we used to meet up a few weeks before starting and brainstorm ideas, then I would sit and draw anything that came to mind for a while. After I had a dozen or so graphics, I'd give them to Jon and he'd put some together and show me. Suddenly we would see a pattern. Then an overall game style would materialise. Occasionally a graphic would inspire a game feature, like the bunny rabbits in Head over Heels or the teleport pad in Batman.

Apart from sprites and background features I sometimes created a character set to use as a font.

Q: What did you think of the original Matchday?

The first time I played MatchDay 1 it beat me 14-nil, 3 games later I won 3-nil and never looked back. Jon used to love the way I broke the rules, he was quite shocked the first time I headed the ball over his player or chested it down.

Q: What were your final thoughts on MatchDay 2? Anything you didn't like?

I loved MatchDay 2 because Jon really took my football advice while programming. The stocking look of the players was mainly so the 'collision box' match the graphics. One of the things that really bugged me about other football games was the way the ball would bounce off a player without seeming to touch him.

Oh yeah, that makes sense, the blocky graphics for players.

Q: How come both Jon Ritman and John Darnell (the C64 programmer) have teams bearing their names but you don't?

Don't know who Mr. Darnell is (must be c64 programmer). If a team called Soccerama turns up that me. That was the name of my local amateur team, I was player/manager.

Indeed, the default 2 teams are Ritman United and Soccerama. Nice!

Q: How come there was no Matchday 3? A 16 bit version would have been nice on the Amiga, perhaps. I know that a pc version came out much later and under a different name (Super Match Soccer) but what about in between the release of Matchday 2 and the pc title?

MatchDay 3 was made for an arcade machine but never finished production. The greatest football game I've ever played without exception.

I don't doubt that as MatchDay 2 was already nearing perfection in terms of game play.

Well, there you have it. A big giant thanks to Bernie who took the time to answer questions from a total stranger (me).


  1. Congratulations, great interview.

    Mr Drummond, you're one of the greatest!

  2. Batman and Head over Heels had so good graphics for the time.. I loved every pixel!Bernie was a hero of mine in the eighties.

    I still wolud like to know what does he do now ,and if he still makes graphics for games. But anyway, great interview!

    Best wishes to Mr. Drummond.