Paul Glancey - Contributor
What are you up to at the moment?
I'm working for Criterion Games in Guildford as a Creative Manager. My last project was Burnout 3, which seemed to go down pretty well. I'm pleased it's getting a favourable mention from Rich and from Gus too! Thanks lads. You're beautiful.
You started with ZZAP! 64, working alongside Julian Rignall. Could you tell us a bit about that?
Well, the story starts with me as a 17-year-old reader, hassling Ciaran Brennan for a job. He interviewed me and didn't give me the job. I think Gary Liddon filled the gap, then Dan Gilbert was hired as Staff Writer. About six months later, Dan was about to leave so Jaz (who was the Editor by then) rang me and asked me to come down and have another interview. Much to my delight, I was hired and had a great time - even though the money wasn't great and the hours were bad. I got to play a lot of games and hang out with a load of cool people. We were all pretty tight with each other. It was about the closest I've ever been to having a Hollyoaks lifestyle. Although it would have been more Hollyoaks if there had been more sexy girls.
How did you get involved with Mean Machines?
Well, Mean Machines was always Julian's bag. Of course, Tony Takoushi did the original column in C&VG, but when Jaz moved to EMAP and took over the Dep Ed job, he was already well into consoles so he made sure the column became his. At the time consoles were in the spotlight because they were getting all the big games, including all the 'arcade-perfect' conversions which the Amiga and ST didn't always deliver. A lot of UK publishers were getting into consoles so they were obviously going to be looking for somewhere to spend their advertising moolah.
Jaz was editing C&VG and I was Dep Ed when we did the first Complete Guide To Consoles, with the help of Richard and Oz and... Not sure who else did the art - probably C&VG's Art Editor at the time, which was Andrea Walker. I don't think Gary was there at that time. Anyway, they were the test-bed projects for a console mag and of course they sold like hot cakes, so it was clear to our publisher, Graham Taylor, that the time was definitely right to launch a proper monthly.
Julian moved over, approximately six feet to the left I think, to launch Mean Machines and I took over the day-to-day running of C&VG. Officially, though, Jaz was the Managing Editor and I was the Associate Editor. I would help out with the occasional review but it was just Jaz and Matt doing all the writing, Gary painting the covers, designing the characters and laying out the star reviews (which he took AGES over), and Oz bringing it all together.
Gary and Oz were a great team. They were both so into action movies (hence Oz's famous Robocop/Arnie/Lethal Weapon fixation) and also into lots of disgusting humour. Actually that was more Gary than lovely, God-fearing Oz. C&VG's art guy at the time, John Billington, was quite a sinful influence as well. They used to sit over in their art corner, laying out pages, cackling disgracefully, telling jokes about each other's mums and shouting 'Sha-ROOO!' while putting on a cross-eyed face and thrusting a fist in the air.
As has been reported elsewhere, Matt didn't hang around too long. He was a nice guy, but I don't think he was on the right wavelength. He didn't 'get' consoles or the style of the mag, which was like a wild extension of Jaz's personality - the sense of humour and the obsession for games were all pure Rignall.
What was it like working on the magazine?
As I say, my main contribution was sitting next to those guys and helping out occasionally, oh, and helping Gary do the weekly shop because we used to share a flat.
It was just like a bunch of mad gamers working all day and all night trying to play through all these amazing new games, take photographs while sweating in a cupboard with the lights off, and getting it all written up, printed out (can you believe we used to wait about 20 minutes for an A4 page of text to come out of our super high-def laser printer?), laid out and run to film before the deadline.
It was ace. And I wish I could do it again, but I don't think I could take the pace now. Those days have passed.
You were one of the many staff members who also worked on CVG - was there much pressure working on two magazines at once?
I seem to recall that the mags had staggered schedules, so when Mean Machines was finishing, C&VG was just starting off a new issue, so I had time to do the occasional bit of freelance for them of an evening. Actually, probably my biggest contribution was spending all night finishing games with Gary back at the flat. We played through all of Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past in Japanese, even though we had no idea what was going on. That's probably testament to the superb logic of the design. And I was Gary's Streetfighter II take-home punch bag. Dhalsim had some great moves though. I did occasionally force-feed him some Yoga Fire.
I don't remember if there was ever anything like a conflict of interests over exclusivity of reviews. Most of the hot stuff was imported anyway, so there were no official agreements with publishers. Both mags had the game so we both ran with it and whoever hit the streets first had the 'exclusive'.
You went on to launch Megadrive magazine Megatech...
Yeah. I was totally shagged out running C&VG, and I wasn't really that good at editing it anyway. Covering the whole games market (including the death throes of 8-bit) was a hell of a lot of ground to cover, so I asked if I could go back to being Dep Ed and Graham could get a new Editor in. That man was Tim Boone. Tim was another nice bloke, but he wasn't quite of our ilk, if you see what I mean. He was a fully qualified journalist who'd come from newspapers, whereas we'd all just been a bunch of kids who had picked things up for ourselves, the EMAP/Newsfield way. As soon as I started working under him I started going mad, because he'd do things I'd think were daft. I suppose it's a standard sort of syndrome if you've been in charge for a while and then have to hand over the reins to someone who doesn't have the same approach. I'm not saying it was justified.
Anyway, because the Megadrive was the strongest of the console players, Jaz and I had been talking about doing a Megadrive tips/solutions magazine called MegaTech. I was fed up working on C&VG so I proposed it to Graham and he suggested I edit a Complete Guide To Megadrive to test the water. If it flew I could launch the mag, with Jaz as the Managing Editor. I thought this was great, and I was released from C&VG and given a couple of months to put together the Guide. Great, except that for the first six weeks I had no-one else to write it, design it or lay it out and no computer to write on! The whole thing had to be put together in, effectively, about three weeks, with the designer, Jeff, starting off coming in evenings until he worked out his notice at his previous job. It was a really shaky start.
Mean Machines was taking up so much of everyone's time that we were left on our own to try to work out what we were meant to do with MegaTech. We didn't really do any market research about what the mag should look like although we fancied it might be a bit more high-tech and upmarket than Mean Machines. The tips mag idea was dropped pretty quickly, so of course it ended up being reviews-led. We thought we wanted to have a rendered graphic on the cover every month, but no publishers were producing renders then like they do now, and we had to go to some graphics company in Acton to find the American football player on the cover of the first issue. Jeff had never really designed magazines before, and we were the first magazine in the company to have an almost completely digital production method, including the first video-grabbing hardware (Radius Theatrics, which used to crash all the bloody time). Mark Patterson had moved up from being the Staff Writer on Commodore User to be the Deputy Editor, so between the three of us we had to knock something out.
We managed to get the first issue out of the door but it was a real hotch-potch of stuff. It wasn't a lot of fun at the time, and it took about three issues to get something approaching a style worked out (the Desert Strike cover was where it started to get good). All the late nights and disgusting jokes and lunches at the Golden Fish on Farringdon Road made for another great bonding experience though, and it wasn't long before we were all pretty close.
When Mark left - to go and try to be a screenwriter in Hollywood, the scamp! - we had to find someone to fill in. I think Nintendo Mag was just about to start up, so Mean Machines had done the standard games mag recruiting trick of putting an ad in the editorial column asking readers who wanted to join the team to send in a sample review. That was when Paul Davies, Gus, Rob Bright and a young fellow-me-lad called Tom Guise wrote in. I think they all turned up on the same day and Julian interviewed them all and made them write a test review.
I can't remember what Tom wrote, but it was probably some nonsense about sweets and dinosaurs. He seemed very meek at the time, so I thought, "Aha, here's someone I can boss around." We offered him the job and he was great. He was like a court jester, a whirlwind of silly jokes and rolling-around-the-office-floor buffoonery. All of that was probably why his work was always late, but it was always good, so it was very hard for me to get mad at him. When I worked at ZZAP! I always used to make Jaz and Gordon wait ages until my copy was just right, so I thought this was some kind of Karmic punishment for my own past tardiness.
Once we'd got the hang of it, MegaTech seemed to go pretty well and it ended up with just over 40,000 readers, although I must admit, when it came to understanding the business side of magazines I was a bit of an arsehead. Looking back, it seems a crime that we were the first Megadrive mag out and we didn't manage to capitalise on that, so we ended up going toe to toe with Mega (which was a good mag, although I never got that Bull Durham column) and Sega Megadrive Advanced Gaming (which I seem to remember hating, but that might have been just because it was published by Hugh Gollner).
I had to jack it in after about 20-odd issues. It was looking pretty good by the time I left, but, once again, I was totally knackered by the stress and the hours, month after month. So Steve Merrett took over and after a few more issues Mr Gollner bought the magazine and flushed it down the toilet so SMAG would get an easier ride.
You popped up again in CVG during the mid-90's (the Paul Davies era) - was it much different to when you worked on the magazine before?
Yes much different. This time it was absolutely ace! I think, in terms of being a really authoritative and entertaining read, Paul's version of C&VG was the best ever. When Paul took over C&VG was in a real mess after years of neglect and no appropriate editorial direction, Between them, him and Tom, Ed Lomas and Steve Keye, and Jaime Smith on design, they turned it around. Paul was the first good journalist to run the mag, probably since Jaz, and with his motley crew around him to provide all the jokes, it was a great read. Probably one of the best games mags ever, until the business guys stuck their oar in and paddled it to down Rio Oblivion.
On the subject of CVG - as an ex-staffer what are your thoughts on the recent demise of the magazine?
It's a shame, for sure, but not that surprising. Ever since the console market established itself and the bulk of the audience broke into these partisan groups of PlayStation owners or... well, PlayStation owners, the audience for a multi-format mag just went south.
C&VG used to have a monthly sale of well over 100,000 back around '89-'90 (which made it the top-selling games mag at the time), but nowadays a multi-format mag is lucky to get more than 20,000 readers. When there were all those formats out there, kids wanted to read about other formats because they were always looking for something to upgrade to. For the vast majority of players these days, their console of choice does pretty much everything they want it to, and there aren't that many XBox owners who are hankering for a PS2 as well, so if they're going to buy a magazine it's going to be the Official XBox Magazine or some similar XBox-related monthly.
If the magazine doesn't have much of interest to say, no-one's going to buy it. If no-one's buying the magazine, no-one's going to spend their advertising budget there. Hence, its fate is pretty much inevitable. At least when the Paul Davies Experience was running the show, the mag had something interesting to say. The Spirit Of The Mad Gamer was in residence.
You eventually ended up at UK software house Criterion - could you tell us about that?
Well, I worked at Eidos for a while, trying, with a lamentable lack of success, to find them new products to publish. I met Paul one evening and he suggested I go to see Criterion because they had two hot titles in development, going under the working titles of Shiny Red Car (which would become Burnout) and Stunt Squad (Airblade).
I went to see them and the games were probably the best things I'd seen from any UK developer at the time. (Some of the stuff other people were pitching was just pure crap - a football game with teams of insects, anybody? Yeah, the FIFA guys will be shitting themselves. Sign us up for a couple of million dollars.) The management there were really switched on, so I joined up.
As someone working within the industry, what is you opinion of the current videogames market?
It's really good. But tiring. And pretty much all of the games are better than they used to be. In fact, there are too many good games. I've got a pile of them here and I don't have time to play them all. I'd never have imagined such a situation when I was 14. Loads of games but I'm too busy to play them.
What is your current console/game of choice?
Right at this moment I'm evenly split between PS2 and XBox. It's NFSU2 on Xbox and the so-rude GTA: San Andreas on PS2. I occasionally fixate on a Gamecube title, but I haven't done that since I got stuck on that invisible Phazon boss guy near the end of Metroid Prime and smashed the pad up. It was a bad time.
Do you still keep in touch with ex-MM/CVG/EMAP staffers?
Richard comes down to visit us in Guildford occasionally and it's always nice to see him. I spent a couple of days with Jaz in February of 2002 when I went over to San Francisco to promote Airblade. I haven't heard from him since, but he's always been terrible with replying to emails. I missed Oz's birthday party a few weeks ago, but I do want to get together with him again, because I haven't seen him for a couple of years... and Rad, and Paul, and Gary and Dave Kelsall and Steve and Ed and Jaime. And Tom, if he ever gets deported back from the Antipodes for his reported crimes against decency. I've got a frame full of pictures of them all that I keep meaning to put up. It would be great to get them all together again for one last 'Sha-ROOOO!'. Like Bands Reunited on VH1, but less classy.