Codetapper's C64 Site

An interview with Michael Ware

Warhawk was a superb £1.99 budget title written by Proteus Developments and published by Firebird in 1986. The development team consisted of Michael Ware, 

How long did Warhawk take to create?

I think Warhawk took around 5-6 months to create. A lot of that time was spent manually typing the level data and attack patterns.

Was it the first published C64 game you made?

Apart from some minor freelance work, Warhawk was the first game published. Originally, the game we planned to make was a version of Pac-Land, but after visiting a local arcade we came across another very different game...

It appears to have been loosely based on Starforce from the arcade. Is that the game or just a coincidence?

It was totally based on Starforce. We did have grand ideas and wanted to do more with our version than we did. Sadly, expectations exceeded experience. It would have been nice to have parallax stars and such.

Can you tell me a little more about the Proteus vs Warhawk name. It sounds like Proteus was the beta version, but I can't understand why Proteus had a boss enemy at the end of the level but Warhawk removed it?

The game was originally called Proteus. This was the first version that we peddled around the Hammersmith Novatel at one of the computer shows. This version did include the end of level bosses. Sadly, along with a name change - the bosses had to go. It was deemed too close to Starforce (?) for them to remain.

Speaking of the end-of-level boss, sometimes you get attacked really heavily and other times only a few baddies attack you. Is this something to do with how many enemies/bases you destroyed? Or is it random?

From what I remember, it all depends on how many sprites were allocated when the end of level appeared. This affected how many sprites could be reused for the enemies. I really can't remember, but I think there could be six at a time, but sometimes you could get it down to just 4. I would have to look at the code, but I know it was designed to make sure 4 sprites were always free at the end for the original boss, and if there were more - they were used with the alien swarm.

What's the best technique for dealing with the end of level swarm? Back in the day I sat in the lower left corner, switched on autofire (when I didn't have the fast fire bullets) and hoped for the best. Is there a better technique?

The lower left was always the best bet. With auto fire and a good amount of energy, you should always survive it.

Can you tell me how you ended up getting Rob Hubbard to compose the tune for the game?

I had a disk of Rob’s that contained demos of several of his tunes on it (from CompuServe I think). On the disk was also his home telephone number. We needed some music so one afternoon I decided to give him a ring. Within a week or so, we received a disk containing the tunes and sound effects. We did have to tell him what kind of game it was and what memory was free for music/sfx though. I don’t think we ever requested any changes at all. Though I do recall there being a second version of the music sent at some point.

I imagine that you must have listened to the incredible Rob Hubbard tune more than just about anyone, but did you ever hear Archon's amazing 20k remake of the Warhawk music on the Amiga with an extra part added at 4:12?

I think I have heard it. I have listened to so many versions over the years. Some have been very good.

At what point did you approach publishers to get the game published?

We showcased the game at the Novatel. That was a great day. We got Jeff Minter to play it on his giant screen for us (I think he was showing Iridis Alpha at the time), and we also took it to the Newsfield stand. It was there, and I digress, where I got talking to a guy called Stavros. He had this game called Rainbow Warrior (Rainbow something anyway) and was nervous about showing it to people. I got the guys at the Newsfield stand to load it up. The game ended up being called Sanxion, and the rest is history. Anyway, We took Warhawk to the Durrell (Martech) stand and they appeared rather interested. But… somehow, between then and the actual contract, Andrew Betts went with Firebird and had the contract in his own name only.

Did Firebird make the best offer then? What kind of money could a game like Warhawk be expected to make back in 1986?

As for who made the best offer or what plans were signed. I have no idea. All I know is that we got an advance payment which was split equally (I believe) between myself, Andrew Betts, and Ian Gogay. It was a pretty good payment, so I have a feeling that the future rewards would have been fairly pleasing. Though, Ian and I never saw them.

Was there ever plans for an Amiga version? (I know the ST ended up with a disastrous version somehow!)

An Amiga version would have been great if coded for the hardware, but I have no idea if that was ever a plan.

Is the game doing any special technical tricks that the player may not be aware of while playing?

Warhawk didn’t really do any tricks as such. The full screen scrolling, though not unique, was unusual at the time. Also, the sprites used a simple raster split to allow 8 on the play area, and 8 along the base of the screen for score and energy. Sadly, there was a minor bug that meant when your energy depleted, a segment of the number 0 was also removed.

Can you tell me about the Andrew "thief" Betts story? Were you both programmers/partners etc? How did he get the IP?

I have covered that prior in as much as I can. Perhaps best not to elaborate.

As a side note. I (along with Ben Baker) worked on a DS version of Warhawk coded in pure assembly. We wanted to do Warhawk proud and to do some of the things that I never did on the C64. It was ‘very’ well received to say the least. But... believe it or not, we then got an email from Betts (first contact since 1987 or so)... He wanted to know what monies were involved and stated that the game was his and his permission was needed. He also said he owned the name Proteus Developments (a name I created in 1986 and have used ever since). We ignored him with irritation. So, you can see the kind of person he is.

Warhawk longplay

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