How long have/did you work in the videogames industry?
Which companies did you work with? Any titles we'd know?
I have worked in Publishing for Grandslam, Warner Interactive, GT, Infogrames and Eon. I've worked in development at Codemasters, Angel Studios, Rockstar, High Moon Studios and Appy Entertainment. I worked on a lot of titles in in publishing and was producer on a most versions of Sensible World of Soccer which is probably the most famous / beloved thing I've worked on I think ;) More recently I worked on Darkwatch at High Moon and all the Appy games like FaceFighter, which has been downloaded about 25 million times now.
How did your name end up in Damocles and Mercenary III?
Basically I got friendly with Bruce Jordan (such a great guy) after Mercenary came out. I'd call him up and ask him questions about the game and about Damocles when it was in development.
I called him so much they ended up putting my name into the in-game Novagen office in Damocles. I think it's in the filing cabinet object. (Note from webmaster: actual item's name is Novagen Cabinet) There are a couple of other people in there who must of done a similar thing (like Stewart Gilray - who I ended up working with at some point in time). So, the answer is I just bugged him so much that he remembered my name and put it in the game :)
After Damocles came out and Mercenary III was in development Bruce asked me if I had any design ideas for stuff in the game. Being a game-mad teenager I had a load of (mostly) bad ideas. I used to type these up on an Atari ST and send the disk to Bruce who'd filter through them. In the end, most of my stuff that ended up being in the game was objects. Apparently, it was kind of tricky to keep coming up with unique objects for the player to pick up. The Pot Plant (;)) was one of mine, as was the Lectern. I sent hundreds of ideas through - I can't remember any more of mine that got used but I'm sure some of them did. I wish I'd kept the disc!
At this point I travelled up from London to Birmingham one weekend to stay with Bruce and go drinking. I got to hang out in the Novagen office, talk to Paul Woakes on the phone and had a really great night out in Birmingham with Bruce and his friends.
I got a free copy of Mercenary III, the expansion packs and 16 bit Encounter! And I got to be in Mercenary III as one of the pilots... This was a big thrill at the time.
I have to say that doing this little bit of work helped me decide to work in games full time. I also remember how patient Bruce used to be with me on the 'phone and I've always tried to be the same with young, enthusiastic people who call me up from time to time :)
That's it really!
Oh yes, why didn't you keep those Atari disks holding the objects you designed? ;)
I didn't keep the Atari disks because Bruce never sent them back to me ;) The real issue is why didn't I make a backup... I guess I am an idiot! Actually, if I look back through my career and make a list of all the things I wish I'd kept that I never did I'd probably cry :))
Did you know your name was to be included, or did you discover it by playing?
In Damocles, I discovered it by playing.
And in Mercenary III, Bruce told me I was in there somewhere but I had to find me (he liked puzzles). It took me a few hours to find me ;))
Do you know why were there spelling mistakes in your name?
Spelling - yes, I know. The spelling of my last name is not the usual way of spelling Sargent so it confuses people.
In Mercenary III I am "Stevie B" (my middle name is "Brian") probably making fun of the mistake in the first game by not including my last name at ALL in the second... Or maybe Bruce was in a hurry and couldn't remember how to spell Sargent again :) The guys in the game looks and talks a bit like me at the time as well, which I like. The small touches make these games :) (note from webmaster: actually, the pilot in Mercenary III introduces himself as Steven Sargent on the 1st flight, but as Steven B indeed on the way back and further flights!)
How did you meet Stewart Girlay? Did you guys know the other also had his name in the Novagen Cabinet?
Stewart did some programming work on a project when I worked at Grandslam. It never came out, I hope he got paid ;)) He's a nice guy, He knew my boss at the time from the days when Stewart worked with Hewson Consultants. We kept in touch after that occasionally... Mainly talking about the band Rush. I'm a fan but he's a Rush nut! He's doing the new Oddworld games now I believe.
I believe we talked about the Novagen Cabinet at one point but I honestly can't remember the details. We were probably just talking about cool games we liked and Damocles came up and it was like, hang on a minute... ;)
Did you know Stewart tried to resume the work on Damocles for PC long ago, with Paul and Bruce?
I did not know that he tried to. He's probably not the only one. I wouldn't be surprised if it never sees the light of day. Bruce told me the legal situation was really messy but he couldn't be more specific about it at the time.
Are you still in contact with any other Novageners?
Nope, because the only one I knew was Bruce. I kept in contact with him on and off until he retired. Then pretty quickly after that he died.
What's your all-time favourite computer or console?
Computer: Atari 8 Bit.
What's your all-time favourite game?
I can't pick one. I can pick three ;)
1. Tetris (Gameboy) - A timeless game that will never get boring.
2. Dropzone (Atari 8 Bit) - I love shooters. This is the best Defender type shooter. I still play it today. I now have a PAL machine here in the US dedicated to it ;)
3. Legend of Zelda - Ocarina of TIme (N64) - It's like a fairytale come to life. I've just played through this (again) on the 3Ds with my son and and it's still fantastic.
Is there a particular developer (code, gfx, whatever) whom you consider as a genius / pioneer / extra-talented?
Too many to mention! There are lots of people from the old days who got stuff out of those old machines that seemed barely possible like Paul Woakes, David Crane (Pitfall) and the Stampers (Ultimate Play the Game / Rare). I really respect Eugene Jarvis (Defender) and David Theurer (Tempest). Miyamoto obviously. I used to love Richard Garriot's games (Ultima). I've worked with some very clever people like John Phillips (Nebulous) and Nick Pelling (Frak!) who I would consider borderline geniuses. John Carmack probably fits that mould. Jon Hare is another guy that I respect for his insane creativity and just being a great guy to have a beer with. My old boss Graeme Boxall. The guys at Appy, especially Marc-Antoine and Chris Ulm, Farzad and Em are super talented developers and artists.
How do you feel about people considering the '80s as the videogaming golden age, and the associated hero-worship?
It's like anything that's truly new (like video games were back in the late 70's / early 80's) the first few years see an explosion of creativity as artists explore the possibilities of the form. In that sense it was a golden age of discovery and excitement. But memory is selective and spectacles can be rose tinted and if you actually go back and play a lot of those old games that you once thought were great a lot of them do not stack up so well today. They are very much products of their time. Some of them transcend their time - but most of them don't. It's a bit like movies... How many movies from the 1920's are watchable now? Today, I don't play very many truly bad games but it's rare to find something truly exciting either... I really miss the kind of excitement I used to get waiting for the next big game to come out... Maybe that's just part of getting old too?
As for hero worship - these days, as I get older, I think any kind of hero worship is intrinsically silly ;) Working in the games industry I met a lot of my heroes I had growing up and most of turned out to be really, really nice and talented normal, but slightly geeky, blokes :)
Have you visited The Mercenary Site? If so, any feedback ?
Yes, it's excellent! I wish someone could answer my question in the forum about how to use the Pyramid in Mercenary correctly ;) Bruce would never tell me how it worked and now he can't :( (Note from webmaster: in Mercenary, the mobile pyramid allows you to drop objects while in flight)
Have you tried the MDDClone?
I've never used MDDClone... I can't play those games any more as they are a bit slow for me now (and I know how to do them ;)). I still love Encounter! though, I play that now and again.
What is your occupation nowadays, still games industry?
I'm still in the industry. I am working in California now!
Anything else to say?
Thanks to all the people at Novagen I don't know for making such great software. It meant a lot to me growing up!
13th - 19th July 2014
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