minterIn the hills of western Wales there lives a man known to some as YAK. This man surrounds himself with sheep, goats, llamas, and the like. By his own description he is, like his four-legged friends, a bit of a "scruffy hairy beast," himself. He is incapable of turning down a quality curry, and, likewise, incapable of developing a game that does not break with tradition and bend the mind -- to some extent, at least -- of the player. And while the name YAK was spawned by necessity due to early arcade machines only recording three letters in the high score lists, he does have a real name. To normal folk -- those perhaps outside the video game world -- he is known as Jeff Minter. And to me, he has long been known as the king of indie game development. And Jeff "YAK " Minter has, at long last, found the iPhone.

space_giraffeJeff began writing games on the Commodore PET in the late 70s. In 1982 he founded Llamasoft, developing games for the Commodore VIC-20 and 64. His games have always been known for their distinctive, often psychedelic style. Some of his more notable titles include Tempest 2000 for the Jaguar, Tempest 3000 for the VM Labs Nuon, Gridrunner, Space Giraffe and Space Invaders Extreme for the Xbox Live Arcade, and even the "light synthesizer," the Xbox 360's musical visualizer. Jeff is a bit of a legend who has recently embraced the iPhone.

Of our favorite platform, he says,

I enjoy working on the iPhone because it's capable and interesting and the ergonomics make you rethink things a bit. I really don't like games that just try to replicate analog thumbpads on the touch screen - although some of those controls are very well done nonetheless I always feel a bit awkward sliding my thumbs around with no accompanying tactile feedback. Plus there's the added and inevitable disadvantage of having to obscure the screen you're trying to play on. I'm interested in developing stuff that's playable with the accelerometers and uses touches appropriately but sparingly and in a way that doesn't upset the view too much.

Jeff's first iPhone title -- currently in progress -- is a Time Pilot-style multidirectional shooter utilizing accelerometer-based controls. He indicates that the game is a good testbed for the generalized iPhone game engine he is currently working on. Jeff indicates that once this game is released, future iPhone games should come at a much faster pace -- a few weeks or a couple of months tops per title -- and he's got a lot of ideas for iPhone games. Great news for iPhone gamers.

Jeff recently released Gridrunner Revolution for the PC, which was highly rated in the latest issue of Retro Gamer magazine and, when asked, indicates that there's a good chance that we'll see an iPhone take on that title. "Probably not a straight port, but something specifically created for the platform and incorporating elements of the PC game," says Jeff. Let's keep our fingers crossed.

The highly accessible iPhone platform has attracted many superb indie game developers. Jeff's decision to join these ranks only takes the platform that much further towards gaming nirvana. We'll keep a close eye on what Jeff's woking on and keep readers well informed. In the meantime, have a look at Jeff's Llamasoft blog.

Stay tuned -- there's some real iPhone gaming goodness on the way.

  • http://jespersunivers.dk/ Plast2

    Gridrunner FTW!! That shooter of his. - I want that!

    You guys should feature more of these indie developer segments... It's nice to put a face on our developers :)

  • http://jespersunivers.dk/ Plast2

    Gridrunner FTW!! That shooter of his. - I want that!

    You guys should feature more of these indie developer segments... It's nice to put a face on our developers :)

  • Lost & Found

    where did he find this magical iPhone?

    • http://www.blakespot.com Blake Patterson

      A mystical llama delivered it unto him, the story goes…

    • MrMuesli

      In his magical beard; )

  • Lost & Found

    where did he find this magical iPhone?

    • http://www.blakespot.com Blake Patterson

      A mystical llama delivered it unto him, the story goes…

    • MrMuesli

      In his magical beard; )

  • Voynix

    There's a buzz about gaming on the iphone that I haven't seen since the 8-bit days!

    • Lions

      I completely agree.

    • http://www.blakespot.com Blake Patterson

      Absolutely. Many have compared the iPhone and its free, accessible SDK to the home computing days of the early '80s where all you needed was an assembler and a few zip-lock bags in which to distribute your games. It's a special phenomenon, to be sure.

  • Voynix

    There's a buzz about gaming on the iphone that I haven't seen since the 8-bit days!

    • Lions

      I completely agree.

    • http://www.blakespot.com Blake Patterson

      Absolutely. Many have compared the iPhone and its free, accessible SDK to the home computing days of the early '80s where all you needed was an assembler and a few zip-lock bags in which to distribute your games. It's a special phenomenon, to be sure.

  • http://www.beigematchbox.co.uk Beige

    Best new I've heard in a long time.

    Been a fan since I got hold of Llamatron on the ST, such a long time ago...

    • Adams Immersive

      Llamatron on Amiga is where I know the name from. Free seizure in every box!

  • http://www.beigematchbox.co.uk Beige

    Best new I've heard in a long time.

    Been a fan since I got hold of Llamatron on the ST, such a long time ago...

    • Adams Immersive

      Llamatron on Amiga is where I know the name from. Free seizure in every box!

  • Lazrhog

    Having met jeff a few times over the years at gaming shows, I can confirm that he is just one of the greatest gamers to talk to. He has time for anyone, and he is definitely a legend to me !

    Can't wait to see what he brings to the iPhone :)

  • Lazrhog

    Having met jeff a few times over the years at gaming shows, I can confirm that he is just one of the greatest gamers to talk to. He has time for anyone, and he is definitely a legend to me !

    Can't wait to see what he brings to the iPhone :)

  • Mindfield

    YES! I am utterly chuffed that he's finally on board with the iPhone platform. He was doing PocketPC stuff for a while, so I'd wondered if he'd ever get on the Apple device. And now he us. Awesome!

  • Mindfield

    YES! I am utterly chuffed that he's finally on board with the iPhone platform. He was doing PocketPC stuff for a while, so I'd wondered if he'd ever get on the Apple device. And now he us. Awesome!

  • Johnny

    One of the first games I bought for my VIC 20 was Gridrunner. Brilliant game! Then Attack of the mutant Camels for the C64 which was brilliant as well. Great to see him developing for the iPhone.

  • Johnny

    One of the first games I bought for my VIC 20 was Gridrunner. Brilliant game! Then Attack of the mutant Camels for the C64 which was brilliant as well. Great to see him developing for the iPhone.

  • SteveJ

    Tempest 2000 was awesome. I'm definitely looking forward to what Minter comes up with for the iPhone.

  • SteveJ

    Tempest 2000 was awesome. I'm definitely looking forward to what Minter comes up with for the iPhone.

  • Zetaspawn

    I love Jeff. His games are going to make the iPhone a happy place. I am extremely nervous about him though. After space giraffe came out on XBLA (an amazing game mind you) he said he almost gave up on making games completely after he found out the extremely low sales. iPhone gaming can be pretty hit and miss and I don't know if his heart can take it. He cares too much. Though I personally love that about him....

  • Zetaspawn

    I love Jeff. His games are going to make the iPhone a happy place. I am extremely nervous about him though. After space giraffe came out on XBLA (an amazing game mind you) he said he almost gave up on making games completely after he found out the extremely low sales. iPhone gaming can be pretty hit and miss and I don't know if his heart can take it. He cares too much. Though I personally love that about him....

  • TKO

    Wohoo! The Yak is back! This is many psychedelic shades of awesome.

  • TKO

    Wohoo! The Yak is back! This is many psychedelic shades of awesome.

  • Klaus

    YAK the Hairy! Can't wait to play his first iPhone Game! I'm a huge fan since those 8bit days!

  • Klaus

    YAK the Hairy! Can't wait to play his first iPhone Game! I'm a huge fan since those 8bit days!

  • Jas

    Tempest 2000 on iPhone ...... drool .....

  • Jas

    Tempest 2000 on iPhone ...... drool .....

  • Yuan

    Blake once again goes way over board, this time evangelizing a developer whose creative steam ran out about two decades ago.

    Anyone enjoy endless amounts of Tempest clones? Thought not.

    • http://www.frapstr.com/ Mindfield

      I've always been morbidly curious: What _do_ Cheerios taste like with piss?

    • Yuan

      Now aren't you smooth.

    • http://www.blakespot.com Blake Patterson

      Yuan: Looking at the general sentiment from commenters here, I don't feel particularly alone in my acknowledgement of the significance of Minter coming to the iPhone.

      Tempest 2000 and 3000 were his two Tempest outings. They were official Atari licenses - sequels, not clones. Have a look at them. Many - and it seems you may be among them - wrongly assumed Space Giraffe to be a Tempest-style game. It is not. This would explain player frustration I sometimes hear in connection with this title. If you spend a small amount of time to actually understand the game (there's a clear tutorial), then you might just find it brilliant. I consider it one of the very best XBLA purchases I've made.

      Jeff Minter and his bizarre development tendencies are a perfect match for the iPhone scene.

    • http://www.thegamelessplayed.com Dominic White

      @Yuan

      People? Enjoying things and liking other people? On the INTERNET!? Go, Captain Negativity, in the name of pointless bitterness!

    • http://www.blakespot.com Blake Patterson

      To those not up to reading the link I posted, I purchased a Jaguar and a $75 rotary controller (modified) to play Tempest 2000 as it was meant to be played (superior to Tempest X, the PSX translation) and a rare Nuon DVD/console to play Tempest 3000, the pinnacle of the Tempest series. Minter does some solid games, folks.

      • spiffyone

        I've still got a Jaguar for the sole reason of playing Tempest 2000. One of the best shooters of all time, IMHO, tube shooter or not. And Yak coming on board is good news to this gamer right here.

        Some may whine about Tempest clone this and that (T2k and 3k were, as you stated, official sequels, and his other games don't actually play like Tempest at all), but they shouldn't whine too much. Why? 'Cause eventually the man will make a nice visualizer for the iPod music library that is beyond trippy (as he did for the Jag CD and the NUON). And I don't know anyone who doesn't appreciate trippy visualizers.

    • Yuan

      I'm just throwing a cat amongst the pigeons. You did, however, evangelize him a little too much, and it's clear part of that reason if because you're particularly enthused by the scene he partly pioneered but that'll count for very little in the bull-pit of the App Store.

    • toast

      He's a respected Indie game designer who's had a solid track record beyond "tempest clones" (though I don't see how licensed sequels could exactly be called "clones") and who has a solid following of people who've enjoyed his work. If you don't care about such things, fine. I could care less about the endless racing games that are being released, but I don't go in the threads for them and whine about it; I know that different people have different interests.

      By the way, I'd like to see what you've ever done with your life ("Yuan"), or what you're ever going to do (which I have the feeling, will be nothing but make pissy comments on messageboards.)

      • Bruce

        Those who can, do; those can't, complain.

      • Yuan

        And indeed Mr. Minter has done nothing of real note in over two decades. Whoops.

  • Yuan

    Blake once again goes way over board, this time evangelizing a developer whose creative steam ran out about two decades ago.

    Anyone enjoy endless amounts of Tempest clones? Thought not.

    • http://www.frapstr.com/ Mindfield

      I've always been morbidly curious: What _do_ Cheerios taste like with piss?

    • Yuan

      Now aren't you smooth.

    • http://www.blakespot.com Blake Patterson

      Yuan: Looking at the general sentiment from commenters here, I don't feel particularly alone in my acknowledgement of the significance of Minter coming to the iPhone.

      Tempest 2000 and 3000 were his two Tempest outings. They were official Atari licenses - sequels, not clones. Have a look at them. Many - and it seems you may be among them - wrongly assumed Space Giraffe to be a Tempest-style game. It is not. This would explain player frustration I sometimes hear in connection with this title. If you spend a small amount of time to actually understand the game (there's a clear tutorial), then you might just find it brilliant. I consider it one of the very best XBLA purchases I've made.

      Jeff Minter and his bizarre development tendencies are a perfect match for the iPhone scene.

    • http://www.thegamelessplayed.com Dominic White

      @Yuan

      People? Enjoying things and liking other people? On the INTERNET!? Go, Captain Negativity, in the name of pointless bitterness!

    • http://www.blakespot.com Blake Patterson

      To those not up to reading the link I posted, I purchased a Jaguar and a $75 rotary controller (modified) to play Tempest 2000 as it was meant to be played (superior to Tempest X, the PSX translation) and a rare Nuon DVD/console to play Tempest 3000, the pinnacle of the Tempest series. Minter does some solid games, folks.

      • spiffyone

        I've still got a Jaguar for the sole reason of playing Tempest 2000. One of the best shooters of all time, IMHO, tube shooter or not. And Yak coming on board is good news to this gamer right here.

        Some may whine about Tempest clone this and that (T2k and 3k were, as you stated, official sequels, and his other games don't actually play like Tempest at all), but they shouldn't whine too much. Why? 'Cause eventually the man will make a nice visualizer for the iPod music library that is beyond trippy (as he did for the Jag CD and the NUON). And I don't know anyone who doesn't appreciate trippy visualizers.

    • Yuan

      I'm just throwing a cat amongst the pigeons. You did, however, evangelize him a little too much, and it's clear part of that reason if because you're particularly enthused by the scene he partly pioneered but that'll count for very little in the bull-pit of the App Store.

    • toast

      He's a respected Indie game designer who's had a solid track record beyond "tempest clones" (though I don't see how licensed sequels could exactly be called "clones") and who has a solid following of people who've enjoyed his work. If you don't care about such things, fine. I could care less about the endless racing games that are being released, but I don't go in the threads for them and whine about it; I know that different people have different interests.

      By the way, I'd like to see what you've ever done with your life ("Yuan"), or what you're ever going to do (which I have the feeling, will be nothing but make pissy comments on messageboards.)

      • Bruce

        Those who can, do; those can't, complain.

      • Yuan

        And indeed Mr. Minter has done nothing of real note in over two decades. Whoops.

  • MedwayPVB

    @Blake Patterson: Llamasoft only provided the Neon backgrounds to Space Invaders Extreme on XBLA, they didn't program the actual game. ;-)

    @Yuan: "Endless amounts of Tempest clones"? Tempest 2000 and Temest 3000, both licenced versions for Atari and Space Giraffe, a web based shooter, but with gameplay almost opposite the original Tempest. From a vast catalogue of over 65 games since 1982. Hardly 'endless clones'.

    • Chad

      How is it opposite of Tempest?

      • MedwayPVB

        In the original Tempest, T2K and T3K, if you let any enemies get to the top/rim of the web, it meant almost certain death.
        In Space Giraffe, the main point was to LET the enemies get to the top of the web, then 'Bull' them off for maximum score/increase in the multiplier.

  • MedwayPVB

    @Blake Patterson: Llamasoft only provided the Neon backgrounds to Space Invaders Extreme on XBLA, they didn't program the actual game. ;-)

    @Yuan: "Endless amounts of Tempest clones"? Tempest 2000 and Temest 3000, both licenced versions for Atari and Space Giraffe, a web based shooter, but with gameplay almost opposite the original Tempest. From a vast catalogue of over 65 games since 1982. Hardly 'endless clones'.

    • Chad

      How is it opposite of Tempest?

      • MedwayPVB

        In the original Tempest, T2K and T3K, if you let any enemies get to the top/rim of the web, it meant almost certain death.
        In Space Giraffe, the main point was to LET the enemies get to the top of the web, then 'Bull' them off for maximum score/increase in the multiplier.

  • Sol

    Great to see the legendary Jeff Minder working on a non-Microsoft platform again. Given his history I am sure he will be shitting on Apple within days of his first app submission but at least he is starting with a good attitude and some positive comments about the hardware of his choice. Is it too much to ask for Apple to use his visualiser in the next version of iTunes or better yet, something similar on the iPod/iPhone?

    • WiseWeasel

      Or sweet Jebus, give us a visualizer on the AppleTV, for crying out loud!

      • spiffyone

        And I wrote the visualizer for the iPhone/touch idea (I know there are some, apparently, but Minter has a gift for the trippy stuff needed that is beyond most others), and you bring up Apple TV.

        YES. Goddamn it, YES! Apple needs to hire the man to make one for Apple TV and the iPhone/touch...and Macs. Or, better yet, iTunes (the program) as a whole.

  • Sol

    Great to see the legendary Jeff Minder working on a non-Microsoft platform again. Given his history I am sure he will be shitting on Apple within days of his first app submission but at least he is starting with a good attitude and some positive comments about the hardware of his choice. Is it too much to ask for Apple to use his visualiser in the next version of iTunes or better yet, something similar on the iPod/iPhone?

    • WiseWeasel

      Or sweet Jebus, give us a visualizer on the AppleTV, for crying out loud!

      • spiffyone

        And I wrote the visualizer for the iPhone/touch idea (I know there are some, apparently, but Minter has a gift for the trippy stuff needed that is beyond most others), and you bring up Apple TV.

        YES. Goddamn it, YES! Apple needs to hire the man to make one for Apple TV and the iPhone/touch...and Macs. Or, better yet, iTunes (the program) as a whole.

  • http://www.twitchfactor.com Twitchfactor

    Well, Minter's Time Pilot clone there looks A LOT MORE accessible than that... umm... "Space Giraffe". I love Minter and was enthused to meet him a few years back @ GDC, but Space Giraffe was a mess and endless iterations on Tempest, does not a "legend" make.

    BTW, when was Space Giraffe a "web based shooter"?? I've only played the XBLA version.

    • MedwayPVB

      See the previous comments by myself and others about the 'endless' versions of Tempest.
      Not sure what you mean about Space Giraffe not being a "web based shooter" when it clearly is.

      • http://www.twitchfactor.com Twitchfactor

        Oh, "web-based" as in the grid upon which the shooter is played, not a shooter that runs in a web browser (as I think most people would assume, considering the age and technology we live with everyday). Anyone who thought that the term "web-based shooter" is common knowledge must really get out more (top-down, side-scroller, tunnel, even Tempest clone, but "web-based"???).

        I guess Minter's as good a "indie legend" as anyone. I mean, if I look at the list of people with that moniker, he's certainly got a better track record.

        Still not sure if it's reason to jump for joy, but like I said; Time Pilot with a million particles and Minter's classic; you better drop acid before playing this game, game style should prove interesting.

  • http://www.twitchfactor.com Twitchfactor

    Well, Minter's Time Pilot clone there looks A LOT MORE accessible than that... umm... "Space Giraffe". I love Minter and was enthused to meet him a few years back @ GDC, but Space Giraffe was a mess and endless iterations on Tempest, does not a "legend" make.

    BTW, when was Space Giraffe a "web based shooter"?? I've only played the XBLA version.

    • MedwayPVB

      See the previous comments by myself and others about the 'endless' versions of Tempest.
      Not sure what you mean about Space Giraffe not being a "web based shooter" when it clearly is.

      • http://www.twitchfactor.com Twitchfactor

        Oh, "web-based" as in the grid upon which the shooter is played, not a shooter that runs in a web browser (as I think most people would assume, considering the age and technology we live with everyday). Anyone who thought that the term "web-based shooter" is common knowledge must really get out more (top-down, side-scroller, tunnel, even Tempest clone, but "web-based"???).

        I guess Minter's as good a "indie legend" as anyone. I mean, if I look at the list of people with that moniker, he's certainly got a better track record.

        Still not sure if it's reason to jump for joy, but like I said; Time Pilot with a million particles and Minter's classic; you better drop acid before playing this game, game style should prove interesting.

  • Blades

    Anybody remember Hoover Boover on the C64? Only LlamaSoft could pull off a game about mowing lawns.....

    And the music.......still rings in my ears today....

    ;

    • Renate

      I loved that game!!!
      Humming the music at this moment!

  • Blades

    Anybody remember Hoover Boover on the C64? Only LlamaSoft could pull off a game about mowing lawns.....

    And the music.......still rings in my ears today....

    ;

  • VoodoVyper

    All the comments relate to / praise this Minter fellow, but did anybody happen to watch the video for the game? It looks terrible. 360 degree shooter with tilt controls ftl.

    • http://www.roottheband.com.au/ Skip

      The graphics are placeholders. As far as tilt goes, let's wait and see...

  • VoodoVyper

    All the comments relate to / praise this Minter fellow, but did anybody happen to watch the video for the game? It looks terrible. 360 degree shooter with tilt controls ftl.

    • http://www.roottheband.com.au/ Skip

      The graphics are placeholders. As far as tilt goes, let's wait and see...

  • Dark NRG

    Wow, I have to agree with Yuan.

    I'm from TRS-80/C-64/Apple400&800 days.

    This is mindnumbingly boring news IMHO.

    There is such great new rugged indies that are NEW!
    Support them! This is like praising the return of the Platters at a Korn concert!

    • http://www.twitchfactor.com Twitchfactor

      Wow, The Platters and Korn... damn... ;) (I'm old and 8-bit too, but c'mon...)

      More like Jethro Tull at a Lady Gaga concert! ;)

  • Dark NRG

    Wow, I have to agree with Yuan.

    I'm from TRS-80/C-64/Apple400&800 days.

    This is mindnumbingly boring news IMHO.

    There is such great new rugged indies that are NEW!
    Support them! This is like praising the return of the Platters at a Korn concert!

    • http://www.twitchfactor.com Twitchfactor

      Wow, The Platters and Korn... damn... ;) (I'm old and 8-bit too, but c'mon...)

      More like Jethro Tull at a Lady Gaga concert! ;)

  • SteveJ

    Hmm... well, last night I downloaded the Space Giraffe demo on XBLA and... I'm not sure I'm all excited about this advent any more. This guy is *still* making Tempest 2000, but worse. The game is so visually overloaded that it's virtually unplayable, and it's basically just a variant on Tempest 2000. When T2K was new it was amazing, but now? Does he make anything different?

  • SteveJ

    Hmm... well, last night I downloaded the Space Giraffe demo on XBLA and... I'm not sure I'm all excited about this advent any more. This guy is *still* making Tempest 2000, but worse. The game is so visually overloaded that it's virtually unplayable, and it's basically just a variant on Tempest 2000. When T2K was new it was amazing, but now? Does he make anything different?

  • http://www.phonefreelancer.com iphone developer

    Can't wait to see what this guy makes. Definitely a fan, this guy is a legend.

  • http://www.phonefreelancer.com iphone developer

    Can't wait to see what this guy makes. Definitely a fan, this guy is a legend.

  • Adele jones

    -replicas Ulysse Nardin
     downloaded the Space Giraffe demo on XBLA and... I'm not sure I'm all
    excited about this advent any more. This guy is *still* making Tempest
    2000, but worse. The game is so visually overloade

  • JindoFox

    And now, a few years later, he's pulled all their games from the App Store. Jeff has said that going back to ios would be like returning to the scene of a mugging. I'm bummed, I loved those games and wish they would be updated, but if there's no money in it, I guess that's how it goes.