The Amstrad version was my very first "professional" work. I was only 15 and still at school at the time, and I think how it happened was that the programmer, Nigel Alderton (who had just finished the excellent Commando conversion for the Spectrum) needed an artist and got my name through his friend Mike Webb, who was my brother's boss at Binary Design.
Nigel lived locally near my home in Stockport, and came round to my house one evening in his flash Escort XR3i and offered me £50 to do all the graphics for the game. I probably would have paid him £50 for the privilege if I'd had the money, but although he was paying me absolutely peanuts, £50 was still more money than I'd ever had in my life at that time.
This was a freelance job of course, to work on at home, so there was no way I would have access to the coin-op machine itself.
He gave me a pile of photographs he'd taken of the game being played through as a starting point, and these gave me good enough images of the sprites and backgrounds to copy, but there was no way I could work out the layouts of the levels themselves. Taking my job ever-so-seriously I took a trip down to Stockport arcade one afternoon with a notepad and pencil with the intention of watching people play the game and drawing out the map layouts as they played. A couple of players were a bit puzzled by this, and I quietly (and proudly) explained I was making a computer game version of the game, but I think somebody must have complained because after about 20 minutes the owner of the arcade came over and threw me out for trying to rip off his machines!
I must have explained my problem to Nigel, because he arranged to take me to Elite's offices in Walsall one evening after school to play the coin-op they had there and work out the maps. My Mum was a bit worried about this I seem to remember, sending her son off with some flash stranger she didn't know, half way down the country to play seedy arcade games, but to her credit she trusted me enough to let me go.
I met the boss guy at Elite (whose name I've forgotten), then we were stationed in a tiny cupboard piled with boxes and a tatty coin-op cabinet with Ghosts n Goblins set to Free Play. FREE PLAY! We could play it as much as we liked and it wouldn't cost us a penny! Its hard to get across what a thrill that was in those days, when home computer games were just pale imitations of the real thing, and every go of an arcade game cost about 5 or 10 percent of my weekly pocket money.
The game was harder than I thought, and it was taking a while for us to get through to the later levels, even with infinite continues. I was pretty rubbish at it, so Nigel played mostly, while I stood by and sketched the map layout if it was a new bit. Eventually everyone else left the office as the night wore on. While Nigel was trying to get to new levels I had a bit of a wander around Elite's scruffy rooms. It was a computer game kid's wonderland - boxes and boxes of cassettes and posters of every Elite game piled everywhere. I asked Nigel if anyone would mind if I took a copy of a couple of games which I didn't already own, and he told me I couldn't - the miserable sod.
By the time we'd finished it was getting light again. I'd never stayed up all night before, but this wasn't just staying awake, this was burning the midnight oil - pulling out all the stops to meet a tough deadline. I felt like a real professional, the kinda guy who gets the job done no matter what it takes, screw the consequences! We stopped at a service station on the way home (another first for me!), and I ate the breakfast Nigel bought me glowing with pride and smug satisfaction.
Of course, it never occurred to me to phone my Mum up and explain that I wouldn't be home the night before. I was too caught up in self importance and the sheer white-hot excitement and of computer game creation. We got back to my house about 8 in the morning and my Mum was livid! She'd been up all night worried sick about me, wondering where I was, why I hadn't come home or rang, and just who these strange people were whom I'd gone off with. She must have known how dozy I was and thankfully was only just on the verge of phoning the police to report me missing.
I did all the Amstrad GnG graphics long before I started work at Binary Design, but it was while I was at there that I found out that my loading screen had been converted to work on the C64 by Mike Webb, one of the bosses at Binary, and used on the C64 version of the game.
Conversions like this were a little tricky as the Amstrad used a straight bitmap screen with 4 bits per pixel (16 colours), but the C64, while allowing a similar number of colours on screen, divided the screen into character blocks each of which could only use 4 colours. Mike wrote a program to convert the bitmap to character format, making the best guesses it could when too many colours existed in one place. The result was probably a screen which was a little bit more detailed and complex than I would have attempted if I was trying to draw with a character based screen in mind. Of course, it uses the awful, washed out C64 colour palette though...
Nobody ever paid me a penny for the C64 screen, although I got plenty of compliments for it at the time.
The ST version was a project that dragged on for years and years, like a kind of living nightmare.
This was a freelance job, and completely unconnected to the other version of Ghosts n Goblins I'd already done the graphics for years earlier, and completely unconnected to the other freelance work I'd done on Elite games. It was just a coincidence that I was back working on the same game in my spare time.
My friend Mike from Binary Design had got himself the gig to write the game freelance (while still in full time employment), and I readily agreed to do the graphics for him on a similar basis.
I think I did a reasonable job on the graphics, and in reasonable time, and the game started off looking pretty good. But it dragged on and on. I think MIke left Binary during this time, and was working full time on the game as a freelancer for a while, but the game looked like it would never come out at one point.
I was owed £500 for the longest time. I can't have done the graphics for nothing, so my fee must have been a bit more than this (although £1k sounds way too high for those days), and I must have got a bit of cash at the beginning. In fact, I have a vague recollection of Mike offering to double my fee if I could hang on a bit for the money, so maybe he paid me £250, out of a total fee of £500, then doubled the remainder he owed me at some point.
At first I was annoyed and tried to chase the money up all the time, but Mike was really hassled, and obviously didn't have it, and we fell out over this for a while. Then, later, it became a bit of a joke - every time I bumped into Mike I'd ask for my £500 and he'd laugh nervously. Still later, after Mike finally got the game finished, we used to see each other socially quite a lot and Mike was flush again, so I started asking for my money more seriously, but by then he'd just laugh at me without any nervousness at all.
When I ended up at Software Creations years later, Mike was working there, and I halfheartedly tried to get him to pay up again, without any luck.
In fact, before I wrote this I'd forgotten all about that money, but I'm a bit skint right now and I could really do with it. So Mike, if you're reading this, send me a cheque!