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CREATION INFORMATION
CREATED XXX.XX.XXXX
UPDATED DEC.01.2007
STEVE HUGHES INTERVIEW
PROFILE
Name Steve Hughes
Profession Programmer, Producer
NES Reference Zippo Games (Rare)

Welcome to NES WORLD's third interview. One day I was looking for some information on Zedtwo's N64 game called Wetrix, I ended up on their "pre" zedtwo page. It turns out that the people at Zedtwo, back then called Zippo games, made a great NES classic which sold very well here in europe and every magazine had it on their top-choice charts, but the game somehow didnt get the same success un the US.

The game i'm talking about is Solar Jetman, and the programmer was Steve Hughes. I asked him a few questions, and here's what he said (wrote). I'm mentioning "ste Pickfors" in some of the questions. He drew some of the graphics for Solar Jetman and made the pre-zedtwo page.

Zedtwo no longer exist, it was sold off in 2002 to Warthog, who later became Gizmondo. A few years later in 2004 the Zed Two studio came to an end.

INTERVIEW
NES WORLD:
Who came up with the idea for Solar Jetman?

STEVE HUGHES:
Me - ("Lets do Thrust and Oids on the NES...")

NES WORLD:
Was the game made while Zippo Games existed or after Zippo was bought by Rare?

STEVE HUGHES:
I think the first 2/3 was written at Zippo, it was finished off as 'Rare'.

NES WORLD:
What made you start programming NES games?

STEVE HUGHES:
Meeting the Stampers.

NES WORLD:
Did NES programming have limitations which were hard to work under? (graphics?)

STEVE HUGHES:
Slow processor, limited number of sprites, the usual 8 bit limitations. Nothing special.

NES WORLD:
Which other games, besides Solar Jetman, did you make? (help making)

STEVE HUGHES:
Ironsword
Cabal (50%)
Wizards and Warriors 3. (%80ish)

NES WORLD:
Since Zippo Games didnt have a license(?) from Nintendo to make games for the NES, you could'nt have had an original NES development kid, so what did you use?

STEVE HUGHES:
Rare provided us with a kit. It seemed to be a sort of Rare/PDS hybrid.

NES WORLD:
Ste Pickford wrote on the ZedTwo history page "It wasn't perfect but it was a really fun game to play", do you know what he ment by this?

STEVE HUGHES:
He's off sick today but I can guess...

I think that the map design and enemies were pretty much just thrown together. More importantly, the rate at which you amassed money, and the places where you were given opportunities to buy stuff was badly thought out. The very last scrolling level was a piece of crap as well!

Compared to the polish and design of Mario 3, the game doesn't really stand up. But I do think that that the gameplay, and the sense of exploration were very well executed. The gameplay had a lot of depth and I really feel that the player was rewarded well for his persistance and skill. (BTW did you work out the significance of the planet names?)

NES WORLD:
Cant say that I did, I just remember the names as being kinda weird. Could you tell me about those names?

STEVE HUGHES:
Just that at least the last half are mangled English pub phrases. 'Last orders' and so on.

NES WORLD:
He also writes that the game design was changed to make it look like Rare's spectrum game Lunar Jetman. Are there any pictures (screenshots) around of the "original" zippo design?

STEVE HUGHES:
In my recollection the gameplay wasn't changed at all. We were only a couple of months in when we started to use the Rare stuff. Clearly we tried to move to the 'Jetman' style graphically.

NES WORLD:
The original name for Solar Jetman was "Iota", umm what kind of name is that? :)

STEVE HUGHES:
An early idea of John's was that your pod would be really small. The worlds would seem strange because of scale. Predating Micro Machines by a few years I guess.

NES WORLD:
Was it the people at Rare who came up with the name, Solar Jetman?

STEVE HUGHES:
Yup!

NES WORLD:
I know Solar Jetman was a great success here in Europe, was a sequel ever planned (being worked on)?

STEVE HUGHES:
Tim Stamper started asking me about gameboy versions pretty much as soon as the NES version was finished, but the Title's extremely poor performance in the States killed that off. (Not that I really wanted to program a Gameboy version at that time).

I understand that Trade West made far more carts than they could sell. So that European sales probably didn't come close to covering their losses.

Right now, I would love to write a similar game on, say, the colour gameboy using a battery backup for an instantaneous save/resume function but I doubt that any publisher would pay for it...

NES WORLD:
I think I bought my copy of Solar Jetman in 1993 and at first I did'nt like the game. A couple of months after I bought it I finally gave the game one more try and I became a Solar Jetman-coholic :)

It kept me busy for hours every day in a month until I had assembled the golden warship and was ready to fly it. The stage where you fly the warship was so hard I could'nt complete it, and I still have'nt completed the game :-/

STEVE HUGHES:
Don't worry the ending sequence crashed half the time anyhow ;-]

NES WORLD:
Yeah? (heh) because the game was finished in a hurry or you just didnt bother fixing it (no offence)? :)

STEVE HUGHES:
Just that testing and debugging right to the end of the game was very tedious, and we simply didn't find that bug before the game was shipped.

NES WORLD:
I remember finding a special planet with no name, just some weird sprites where the name was supposed to be and the sequence where the aircraft lands is black and white. You only have one life, quite weird. (password is BKKBKKHMBHMB).

STEVE HUGHES:
Hmm. Well the password checking routine was not one of my great coding moments. Apart from frequently allowing illegal passwords, there was only rudimentary range checking on some of the values so that it was perfectly possible to fly around a map created from some random area of memory. Ho hum.

NES WORLD:
Remember how long it took to code Solar Jetman?

STEVE HUGHES:
Over a year - I had to rescue the appalling Cabal in the middle, as well as run the company.

NES WORLD:
Were there any bug fixes between the European and US releases?

STEVE HUGHES:
About 6 or 7. There was a bug in the sound in the US vesion, and a few collision glitches. Probably some other stuff but I don't remember.

NES WORLD:
Thats it, hope you enjoyed this little interview. Many thanks to Steve Hughes for taking the time to answer my questions.