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INTERVIEW: JONATHON WILD

Please provide a one-liner introduction
My name is Jonathon Wild, I'm 27 and from Liverpool in the UK and have worked for Sony (ex Psygnosis for over 10 years in the Quality Assurance Department.

Which companies did you work with? Any titles we'd know?
While I've been contracted to work with Sony/Psygnosis only, I have had the privilege of visiting external companies which we have published games for. These have been Bizarre Creations, Perfect Entertainment, Sega, and Reflections.
Titles produced from these companies through Sony have been - Destruction Derby, Discworld, and Formula 1 2001

How were you told that you were going to test Damocles? Did you know that game at the time ?
While in the test department, there was a demo of Damocles in the 'system' and I opted to have a look at it to see what it was like as I'd heard there was a good deal of hype about this game. While I had heard of the title before, I have to admit not to playing any of the previous!

Do you have any document or piece of code left from the betatesting?
Unfortunately all documentation and code was copyright of Psygnosis at the time and therefore I couldn't keep anything for myself. I'm pretty sure that there is still artwork and a box design somewhere in the archives of Sony and I will try and uncover them! Certainly there was a manual draft but I cannot remember if this reached more than A4 paper.

Were you alone testing the game ? What was your role in detail?
For the start of the product, I was the only tester on the game, leading the product and submitting bug reports to both the Internal Producer and also directly to Novagen. I was in contact with Bruce Jordan on nearly a daily basis discussing new versions and current bugs found in the game.
My role was to beta test the latest version of the game. Completing the game and bug reporting on any issues such as graphical glitches, sound problems, spelling mistakes, game play issues and more seriously, any large Class A bugs such as crashes or hangs.
For the last part of the game, I had help in testing the product as the game was so large and everything needed to be explored on every planet!

What memories do you have of the game ? How would you rate this version?
I have very fond memories of the game as I still want my own copy!! Seriously though, I can remember the game looking very polished and very big in what you could explore. There was video sequences in parts of the game when you came to an end sequence and I remember seeing a few of the people that worked for Psygnosis appear in these short video's.
I would still love for this game to appear in the shops as a classic. I wouldn't want it brought up to date with current graphics or state of the art sound as it was fine the way it was. Believe me the game would sell!!

How long did you work with Novagen?
While working on the product I didn't actually visit the Novagen studio's but was in daily contact with Bruce and Paul at Psygnosis. I think I was on the product for about a year in total (although it could have been slightly less...I'm going back a good few years here!)

Do you know what happened to the game once dropped? Has Psygnosis trashed everything?
I completed all the endings in the game on the Master version and had to fill in a form saying this was a Master version and fully complete. However I do not know what the legal issue was with Psygnosis and Novagen as that was the Producer's job. I was the lowly tester! I think we were contracted to get the game to a Master version and then to inform all parties that this was done but I've no idea why it didn't hit the shops. It was a shame as it was a truly fantastic game and I still haven't got my own copy!!

What's your favourite anecdote of this time?
Totally unrelated to the product but Bruce Jordan had the most amazingly calm telephone voice! If anything would have happened to Novagen after Damocles, he would have certainly made it presenting Radio!!

Are you still in contact with any other Novageners?
I'm not. I have recently E-mailed Bruce Jordan and received a reply from him. Was nice to catch up on old times!

What's your all-time favourite computer or console?
Spectrum! Had the range from the 16k up to the +2. Couldn't beat the gameplay and the fact that everyone had one!

What's your all-time favourite game?
Favourite game in the Arcade's was Hard Drivin'. Amazingly good gameplay and dynamics for the time and it took too many of my pound coins!!
Console wise it would have to be Gran Turismo 3. I'm a huge racing games fan and the handling for the game is perfect! Once again too many hours lost driving around circuits!

How do you feel about people considering the '80s as the videogaming golden age, and the associated hero-worship of some of the people that were part of this?
I think the majority of games that were done in the 80's were true classics because they had gameplay. Nowadays, games seem to be 'lovely graphics' and no gameplay which is a shame. Years ago, these Gods were producing some fantastic games on little more than a few k of memory.
There wasn't the excuse of hiding a good looking game behind no gameplay so they had to make the gameplay stand out!

The controversial question - about emulation! Have you noticed the number of emulators on the net? Have you heard about MDDClone the PC version of Mercenary made by a fan? Does it bother you if such a clone is freely distributed? What do you think when you see some of the other games you may have worked on freely available on the net?
I myself have not heard of the MDDClone so I can't comment as I've not seen it, but I think that when someone tries to produce someone else's work it's not on, fan wise or not it's not going to be as good as the original. However if no financial gain is made from this then it's not 'all bad'. When I was working at Psygnosis, I'm sure there could have been ways around getting a copy of Damocles and making copies myself but I didn't. a, because it was more than my jobs worth, and b, why should I take the credit for someone else's game?

Have you visited The Mercenary Site? If so, any feedback?
I have and it brought back some amazing memories! I felt like I was given a real privilege in testing the game and seeing everything that the game could offer only for the general public not to see it for themselves. The site gave me some screen shots which were fantastic and I remember seeing from version to version in the game what would be added here and there.

What are you up to these days? What keeps you up at night?
I'm still working for Sony! 10 + years down the line and I'm still there. I'm applying for a Supervisor's job in the near future but still within the QA department. I'll grow old but never grow up! What keeps me up at night at the moment is Grand Theft Auto Vice City. It's a game that I've given so many hours to and I still end up just driving around the city annoying people and stealing cars. One day I'll give the missions a go!!

Jonathon
27th July 2004

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