Interview with Alex Amsel of Tuna Technologies

Xtreme Racing

This is an interview that was originally published on my old website in 2001. I have republished it here as it was originally published. Alex Amsel was at the time of this interview MD of british game development studio Tuna Technologies (earlier called Silltunna Software), and a lot of the interview is about their Amiga racing game Xtreme Racing.

Interview with Alex Amsel, MD of Tuna Technologies

What are your favourite Amiga games?

Sensible Soccer and Worms.
a4000nyedisker-crop-1609091303-05What made you get into the games market in the first place?

Many games are poorly designed or poorly programmed. I thought I  could just do them better. Being more experienced I now know that  many games are messed up by marketing depts and bad producers, or unreal deadlines.

How did you get the idea to make Xtreme Racing more than a straightforward racing game?

I’d love to say we had a gameplan from the start, but it was a case of make it up as we went along. We were working 12-16 hour days 7 days a week for much of the project, and most of that time was spent either programming the gameplay or playing the game.

The graphic engine itself took a couple of weeks more or less, tho was fairly optimised.
Anything you’d like to tell us about the development of XTR?

We had noone to tell us what to do, it was our first ever project, and yet we came out with a fantastic game on a really tight schedule (3 months + 4 weeks to repeatedly test and completely cock up the serial code!).

a4000nyedisker-crop-1609091303-01I just wish the same was true today. Our projects are still almost always done quickly but these days we have to deal with a lot more red tape.

The stupidity of some of the main industry players is beyond belief, as anyone in the games industry will tell you.

How did the game fare commercially? Were you satisfied?

In Amiga terms it was, I think, the 2nd top seller (to Alien Breed 3D) on AGA Miggy’s in 1996. In real terms that didn’t mean much – a few thousand copies.

It also didn’t help that the company responsible for it, NOT Black Magic/Acid Software I hasten to add, were…shall we say…less than perfect. We basically earned nothing from it, and I’m not joking either.

a4000nyedisker-crop-1609091303-03Have you played any of the user-created tracks for XTR? Any favourites?

At the time I did play a few, but I must admit I haven’t even booted up my Amiga since showing XTR off to Peter Molyneux at Lionhead 18 months ago!

You had some interesting Amiga games lined up (one being a Doom clone, if my memory serves me right). What happened to them?

Dentaku was the original plan in fact, and Mindscape offered to publish it. However, I wanted to get my degree first and the money was poor so I decided against it.

The project would have been too big tho, and realistically my programming experience on Dentaku allowed me to write XTR very quickly. The ideas for Dentaku, both technical and gameplay-wise, were and are still being implemented in games today. It would have been a very, very good game, but these days I have no interest in writing another Quake clone.

a4000nyedisker-crop-1609091303-06There are plenty of talented level designers and artists out there, and we’ll leave it to them.

Why did you leave the Amiga market?

No money!!!

What have you been doing since you left the Amiga market?

A variety of projects on various machines.

We wrote a very bizarre PC game called Cowhunter which is absolutely fantastic – only took a month to write, and is really, really playable. We had free reign on the design, but again the publisher didn’t make the best of it sales-wise to say the least. I would love to have sold it as shareware and actually made something of it.

Anyone who sees it in the bargain bins in the US or finds it on a warez site, give it a go. It’s extremely silly – 3 sub games including Cow Tipping (they shoot cow pats at you!), cow skeet shooting, and a cow target range. All rendered artwork, all good fun and bad taste. It suits people who don’t play 3d games etc, especially women and older players for some reason.

a4000nyedisker-crop-1609091303-02These days Mark and I are working on the Advance Gameboy, having done a number of good Gameboy Colour projects such as Ghosts’n’Goblins and Roadrash. Both were near perfect conversions, and the graphics engine on Road Rash is a very long way ahead of any other gameboy racers (most of them are a joke).

The AGB is a wonderful little machine and it’s expected to sell extremely well. At this point I can’t discuss our projects, but one did have a very well known Amiga incarnation.

I’ve been pushing to do an XTR-like game on the AGB but it won’t be this year (2001), if nothing else because there is little point in competing directly with Mario Kart at this point.

However, if anyone would like to publish/fund the project, you know where to find me.

Will you support the AmigaOne or any other upcoming products from Amiga Inc?

a4000nyedisker-crop-1609091303-04Unfortunately only if we’re paid to do so. We lost a lot of money on the old Amiga and had very little useful feedback when we offered our services to the many people who were supposed to have bought it.

I would love to see it do well – a world full of Windows machines would be hell.

Will you ever release a sequel to XTR?

Definitely not.

However, given the opportunity I would definitely write another racing game along those lines.

Article by Joachim Froholt. is a Norwegian website mostly dedicated to indie-, niche- and retro games. If you liked this article, we have some more content in English.