Page last updated: 23/01/2009
If you don't know who Steve Ruddy is, then you must never have played some of the most stunning conversions ever seen on a C64. Creating such marvels such as "Bubble Bobble", "LED Storm", "Ghouls N Ghosts" and "Bionic Commando", Steve helped to build up a reputation for Software Creations to be one of the biggest names in the games industry.
Not only did Steve create these stunning games, but he helped build the awesome music editor which was used by a certain Tim Follin, thus helping us to also hear some of the best C64 sounds of all times (Ghouls and Ghosts in particular).
Now working for Acclaim Studios, creating gems for the X-Box and PS2 machines, Steve kindly agreed to be interviewed for GTW, talking about his past and present, and how much an influence the C64 was on his life...
1) Welcome to GTW Steve, please feel free to introduce yourself to anyone who may not know you?
Good morning, afternoon or evening … my full name is Stephen Ruddy (although I prefer Ste or Steve) and I’ve been programming games for a fair while now. I’m in my mid thirties and live in the north of England.
2) You have produced many classic C64 games in the past; entertaining many thousands of game players, how and what made you first get into programming?
Way back in the mists of time, well, when I was at school in the early 80’s anyway, I was introduced to a Commodore PET and was amazed! ;-) So basically wanting to make it do something funky and after writing a couple of BASIC based games and reading a few magazines … I found the inbuilt monitor program, borrowed a copy of Zak’s “Programming The 6502” and started coding 6502 in hex, and eventually got a wild and wacky sideways scrolling shoot-em-up going.
3) What were your first and last ever productions on the C64?
The first published C64 game I worked on was a game co-authored with a school friend and was called Saboteur (no not that one!), this was published by small publisher at the time called Cable Software. The last C64 game I worked on was Ghouls N Ghosts a conversion of a CapCom arcade machine, this was published by Go!/US Gold.
4) Which game are you most proud of working on, and why?
On the C64 I’d have to say Bubble Bobble, it was just such a fantastic arcade game that to get anywhere near the playability of the original would make a good C64 game. I was very happy that we managed to get all the levels in on the C64 … although we did have to lose some presentation content and some sprite images.
5) And also, which game were you most disappointed with and why?
Probably Black Lamp … it was a conversion of an extremely pretty Atari ST game but I wasn’t keen … although I do remember writing some insane sprite multiplexors - now that’s a word I haven’t typed in a while ;-) - for it, which were fun to do but I’m not sure any of these actually made it in the game
6) You are famous for creating possibly one of the best arcade conversions of all time with ‘Bubble Bobble’… What was it like to convert such a popular arcade, and how long did it take you to cram such an accurate conversion into the C64?
Thanks ;-) Whilst working on the conversion I didn’t realise the machine was popular (although having the arcade machine in the office soon made it apparent how playable it was). Typical of the time the conversion took around three months. Unusually though some time later I also got to do an NTSC version (the only NTSC C64 game I did) for Taito US, for this I got a week or so to do it.
7) Would you have liked to have written more original games in general instead of conversions?
I don’t think I actually did any original C64 games, I think they were all conversions of one sort or another! Converting games from other platforms wasn’t always challenging (thinking of Black Lamp again) … but I certainly enjoyed working on the various arcade conversions I did.
8) Where did you get the idea for Kinetik from?
Kinetik was a conversion from a ZX Spectrum/Amstrad game rather than an arcade game. The original was written by a German guy (Jasden Jorges I think) who at the time was living in Berlin - I remember calling him once to ask him a few questions and he was a pleasant enough chap.
9) Out of all the work you’ve ever done, which game caused the most late nights and headaches to create?
Of the C64 games I did, Ghouls N Ghosts cost me a night in Birmingham at US Gold and Bionic Commando was mastered late one night in Manchester (and I missed the last train home). But the biggy on the C64 for me was actually ending sequences for Aginas Prophecy and Chesterfield (two conversion from the NES for the American arm of a Japanese company called Vic Tokai, I was drafted in just to do the endings as the programmers didn’t have time to do them) … these games were very important for Creations at the time and I ended up working from Sunday through to Wednesday without sleep, after this I went home and slept for about 24 hours!
10) Did anyone’s work on the C64 ever inspire you with your own creations, or was it from other fields that inspired you?
On the C64 the games I worked on were conversions and so really these were directly inspired by the original versions of the game.
11) A section of your productive work occurred at the hugely successful ‘Software Creations’, producing a series of games… What was it like to work along with the likes of Andrew Threfall, Tim Follin and Martin Holland etc?
All of my C64 work was at Software Creations and all of it, I think, during the initial Software Creations period when the company was based in Oxford Road. I remember having some excellent times when developing C64 games cos of the people working there. Fortunately, it seems that most of the people involved in game development are there because they want to be, so now as then I still have a good time at work ;-)
12) Was the decision to work with Andrew and Tim at Software Creations just how it turned out due to them being the C64 graphics and musician people, or did you want to work with either of them on projects?
It was just how it turned out really, but I always enjoyed working with Andy and Tim their work was excellent and they were both easy to work with (and very entertaining ;-). Working with Tim was essential when working on the music driver as basically he told me what he wanted the driver to do and I made it do it!
13) Were there ever any disagreements or problems encountered when creating any games?
I don’t remember any disagreements or problems developing any of the C64 games I worked on, the arcade conversions in particular were excellent to work on … we were given the arcade machine and told to do a C64 version and that was practically all the direction we got!
14) Ghouls and Ghosts was another fine creation of yours in the late 80’s for US Gold, and also featured some incredible music by Tim Follin… When first hearing Tim’s music, what did you think and did you feel that the tunes would have such an effect on the game itself?
Tim’s music, as always, was astonishing for me … having programmed the music driver (with Tim’s design input) I had no idea how he made it do what it did! I remember the first time I heard the title tune for GnG and with Tim explaining and miming the story to go along with it … the rain, the dungeon, the screams, the heart beat and the last breath … it was quality.
15) On the subject of Ghouls and Ghosts.. did you know that when the knight loses his armour, if he gets turned into a duck, he reappears with his armour intact?… Was this intention, or myself being a pain for noticing? :-)
It was intended … honest! The fact I didn’t know it happened until you mentioned it is purely coincidental ;-)
16) Many of your games ended up getting very high scores, and Zzap 64 in particular merited your hard work by giving some of your games the coveted ‘Gold Medal’ award… What did it feel like to receive such praise about your work, and see it spread around the various magazines?
It was very nice ;-) It’s very hard to judge how a game has turned out at the end as you’re way to close to it to judge so having other peoples opinions is important to see if you’ve done a good job or not.
17) In your time on the C64, were there any games that you worked on, which sadly became scrapped or never quite made the light of day?
When working professionally, no. But whilst at school, I wrote a couple of games - one of which was published (Saboteur by Cable Software - not the best game ever ;-) - with a mate. The others are lost forever! … these included a maze game and a shoot-em-up called Atlantia or Atlantis, we offered this to Ocean (still called Spectrum Games at the time) and they were interested in it but eventually there interest petered out. On the SNES however, I do have probably the only two copies (one PAL, one NTSC) of a game I worked on called Moto-X.
18) Were there any C64 game that you saw and instantly thought that you could have done so much better, or just wish you had done?
All of mine when they were released! One of the problems being a programmer is that as soon as you’ve finished something you instantly realise how you could have done it better ;-)
19) Out of all the games you’ve played what was your favourite game on the C64 and on other systems?
Thrust on the C64 was a genius game and has stood the test of time well and if limited to a single game it’d be top of my list. Selecting a single game on the C64 is very hard though! On other platforms … Super Mario Brothers on the NES, Zelda on SNES, Wipeout on PS1, Super Mario 64 on N64.
20) Who are your favourite C64 coder/s, artist/s and musician/s?
This is way too hard! … after thinking of just one C64 game for (19) I think there’s just way too many to mention here … basically everyone involved in the many quality C64 games!
21) What would you say impressed you most about the C64, and for what reasons?
It was a simple, elegant and an exceptionally usable machine.
22) Was the C64 was just a step in your programming life or was it a major inspiration for the future?
It was just a small step … but also a giant leap as the saying goes. The C64 was responsible for giving me a rewarding, highly fulfilling and always enjoyable career … a big thank you to Commodore!
23) Do you still own a C64 today, and if so, do you still play it?
Yes and yes. I have a whole host of old machinery, so much so that I’m trying to thin it out a bit … my spare bed room is getting a tiny bit overcrowded … Ebay here I come!
24) What are your current activities these days? Are you working on systems of today for anyone?
Still writing games! I’m now working at Acclaim Studios Manchester as lead programmer on a game for PS2, Xbox and PC.
25) If I was to turn around and tell you that with a C64, you can new connect up a Hard-drive, CD Rom Drive, 20Mhz Accelerators, Internet / Broadband connections (With a graphical browser) and also play Doom-like games… would you think I was totally insane? (It is true by the way :-) )
Most definitely insane-in-the-membrane! … although, back in the late eighties/early nineties we were using Commodore 320d’s to do NES development on (these were Commodore 128d’s with an additional 192k of RAM stacked on top of the 128k already present).
26) What is your take on the whole ‘Retro’ phenominon which is going on today with classic games and machines?
I find it quite bizarre that gaming is old enough to have a “Retro” scene … but on the whole I like spending a few hours playing various classics. Also, when you consider the cost of games for todays PCs/consoles (£20-£40) you can get real value for money buying retro. For same kind of cash as buying a new game you can get a C64 or Speccy with a few fair games, a NES with Super Mario, an N64 with Mario 64 or even something more exotic (I recently spent a happy couple of hours playing an Astro-Wars table top ;-) … although it must be said I’m currently looking forward to getting F-Zero on the GameCube as well!
27) What is your favourite:
28) Sadly, Martin Holland, an ex-colleague of yours, sadly passed away recently. Is there anything you would wish to say, or mark as an act of respect to the great artist?
Martin’s passing was a shocking, sad and tragic loss. Although I worked at the same company as Martin for many years unfortunately I never got to work on a game with Martin. However, over the years I saw Martin produce some stunning graphics on virtually every platform you can think of. Like many others I’d like to express my deepest sympathy to his close friends and family.
29) Please feel free to send any greetings to anyone you know...
A big hello to everyone who worked at Software Creations over the years (at Oxford Road, Park Place, Seattle and Cheetham Hill Road)!
30) Were there any questions I didn't ask and that you would like to answer?
I’ll take the fifth.
31) Thanks for your time Steve, I’m sure that along with myself, can say that your work is very appreciated and a big thank you for such wonderful conversions throughout the years!
You’re more than welcome on all counts. I’d like to say a big thank you to you and the rest of the game buying public on the C64 and everything else, I really do enjoy what I do and you make it possible … thanks!
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