did you actually get involved with Magnetic Scrolls?
I was sleeping with the boss. No; literally. I was going
out with Anita Sinclair who I'd met at CES in Las Vegas in,
I think, early 1987. She was one of the most fascinating and
brilliant women I've ever met and you'd have gone out with her
too if you'd had the chance. She dumped me in the end, of course,
but I'd have dumped me too. Wise woman.
comes to mind when you think about your time at Magnetic Scrolls?
My main memories are of course of Anita. And her bull terrier,
Murdoch. And of the chaotic offices in the ancient and haunted
part of London called The Borough, a warren of streets and alleys
on the south side of London Bridge. I remember Ken Gordon very
well, and Rob Steggles and Hugh Steers less well. It was an
odd time of my life.
specific memories of Ken Gordon?
My main memory of Ken was his car. I mean I'm not sure whether
his car was his avatar or vice-versa. But he was an absolute
lynchpin of Magnetic Scrolls and an extraordinarily pragmatic
and calming influence. Whatever was going on, Ken would sort
your first job was to write the goodies for "Guild of Thieves".
How did that fall into place?
That was a bit of fun. It wasn't a "job" in the
sense that I applied for it or was asked to do it or was a paid
gig or anything. I just thought, hey, we could do some amusing
stuff here, and Anita agreed. It was really an excuse to play
with an early version of Aldus PageMaker, a page layout program
for the Mac which was (along with the, actually far better,
MacPublisher) the beginning of desktop publishing.
much of a free hand were you given in the writing process?
Total free hand. I was the writer. How it works is, you write
the stuff, then the other guys read it and say "That's
funny" or alternatively "That's not funny" and
you change it.
you work hand in hand together with Rob Steggles or did you
write on your own?
As I remember, Rob gave me the game outline and the characters
and I just made it up from there. It's a very different thing.
The game is more like a logical axiomatic system where you're
trying to move the player through the process, giving them enough
room to get into perplexing difficulties but never enough so
they get completely snookered and stuck and dead, and so just
the supporting material is much easier. I just thought "What
would a guild of thieves look like?" and went from there.
It was the time of the breakdown of trades unionism in Britain
and there were all these terrible dinosaurs representing The
Working Man and in reality just buggering up The Working Man's
life with rules and restrictions and terrible tortured constipated
bureaucratic language and all the rest of it... and I thought
it would be fun to apply that mindset -- of truculent respectability
-- to something which wasn't in the slightest bit respectable.
And it just went from there.