FAQ: Andrew Oliver

FAQ: Andrew Oliver

By Rob Crossley

December 18th 2009 at 10:08AM

The Blitz Games' co-founder gets the rapid-fire question treatment

Andrew Oliver is often praised for his near-unmatched experience in the industry – he started making games at the age of thirteen – but not often enough is his business praised for its longevity and relevance in the industry.

Oliver and his brother, lest we forget, founded Blitz when Ocean Software was hitting commercial highs. The firm was going on strong when Rare was bought by Microsoft, and it held it all together when Free Radical fell victim to the recession.

Blitz continues to expand, having recently launched 1Up, a division of the company that supports and signs promising independent work.
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What are you working on right now, and what stage is the project at?
We’ve just finished and shipped several projects, including Karaoke Revolution, The Biggest Loser and iCarly. Our big upcoming game is, of course, Dead to Rights: Retribution and we’re also working on other unannounced games.

Which aspect of it do you think will impress players the most?
Dead to Rights: Retribution looks great, but more importantly it’s fun to play. The integration of the 3rd person shooting, hand to hand combat and the dog as an interactive AI partner works brilliantly.

The other things people will enjoy are the enemy AI and Jack’s dog, Shadow. Not only does Shadow look adorably cute, with his fur shading and great animations, but when you’re under fire, he turns into the most ruthless companion a renegade cop could ever wish for.

What was your first job in the industry – and what was the first game you worked on?
My brother and I wrote and published games while still at school. So where do you start?  We won a TV ‘design a video game’ competition on The Saturday Show when we were 13. The game, Gambit,  went on to be published by AcornSoft.

We subsequently wrote games for Interceptor Micros, including Cavey and Killapede. Then, when we left school, we met up with the Darlings and agreed to write games for Codemasters – the first was Super Robin Hood.

What was the first video game you ever played?
Difficult to exactly remember but it was either Space Invader or Asteroids. Those arcade cabinets took a lot of 10ps from my twin brother and I!

What was the last game you played? Did you enjoy it?
I’m currently playing Avatar on a 42” 1080p Polarised 3DTV to play it in 3D and it looks awesome!

What’s your favorite game ever, and why?
Mario Kart, without a doubt. I used to play this game with my girlfriend – now wife – back in 1992. Over the years, it’s been released on different formats, although it hasn’t changed much, just had multiplayer, Wi-Fi and internet play added.

Fundamentally, it’s the same game.  I’m currently playing it a lot with my young family and we absolutely love it. My son knows every trick in the book and my younger daughter loves it when she gets the bullet.

It’s brilliant in its simplicity and so playable on any of its formats. There probably isn’t a year that’s gone by, over the last 17 years, in which I haven’t played Mario Kart at some point and loved it.

How many hours a week do you get to spend playing games?
Probably only 3-4 hours a week. I’d love to play more but I just can’t find the time anymore.

What area of the industry needs more investment?
Gameplay. At the end of the day, is the game fun? It’s important to concentrate resources on this one thing – making it fun to play. Nintendo concentrate their efforts on gameplay and making sure that it’s a great experience and it’s working very well for them.
What disappoints you about the industry?
Lack of technological innovation. I think particularly in the current economic climate, people aren’t always prepared to take risks on new tech. Hardware manufacturers lead the way but it takes some time for developers and publishers to follow suit.

What do you enjoy most about working in the video game industry?
We make entertainment! It’s our job to take cool tech and make it fun.  I love playing games, I love making games and knowing that we’re making fun entertainment is just a wonderful thing to be involved in.

Of all the games you have been involved with in the past, what has been your favourite, and why?
I have so many favourites, all for different reasons. But I guess the one that always comes up for me and my brother is Dizzy. It was 100% our work and is still remembered so fondly by so many people more than 20 years on.

What websites do you visit most regularly?
MCV, IGN, VGChartz and GameTrailers. I also find myself looking at YouTube an awful lot and not just for the funny stuff – it’s such an amazing place for research ideas.

What do you do in your spare time that isn’t related to video games?
I spend time with my family, which often involves acting as a taxi to friends’ houses! We love going out on day trips a lot. We’re family members of English Heritage, National Trust and love museums and just seeing new and interesting places. 

What’s your favourite book, movie or TV show, and album of all time?
Wow, that’s a tricky question. I have so many favourites for so many different reasons. But I think Disney’s Snow White is up there.

Not only was it the first colour film, but it broke in so many new techniques and did it with such style and emotion. It must have been so painstakingly hard to make that cartoon and yet looks effortless and holds up extremely well today.

What game would you most like to have worked on?
Mario games. They may look simplistic, but they play extremely well and are very well designed to entertain the game-savvy hardcore followers and the casual player, which is a great achievement. Whatever age you are you can enjoy Mario and if I was working in a company on a game, I don’t think I’d tire of working on it.

Which other games developer do you most admire?
It’s probably obvious by now but it has to be Shigeru Miyamoto and Nintendo.