Puzzle-themed budget games dominated the latter years of the 8-bit computers, and here on Antstream Arcade, we have one of the finest of its kind. Released by Alternative Software in 1992 and created by Mike Berry, this is the story of Reckless Rufus.
The Game: Reckless Rufus
Developer: Mike Berry
Platforms: C64, ZX Spectrum
Story: Reckless Rufus stars Rufus, intergalactic numbskull and illegal stowaway. Having hidden himself aboard a huge mining ship, the Astro Cruiser, Rufus is rumbled and forced to beam down to the nearby planet of Killey. Once there, his task is to collect the many rare crystals that lay around the landscape; once he’s collected them all, only then will the admiral decide whether to permit Rufus to continue his unsanctioned journey back to Earth.
Antstream Arcade: Hi Mike! Was Reckless Rufus your first game?
Mike Berry: Hi! I’d coded about half-a-dozen games, but most of these were for my friends and my amusement or to upload onto the then-nationwide ‘mini-internet’ system called Compunet. The only other commercial game I coded was Boing! It was pretty rubbish, and I was actually quite surprised that it got picked up – but thrilled all the same.
AA: Can you explain a little about the games scene around the time of Reckless Rufus?
MB: The early nineties seemed to be dominated by TV or movie-based games. I wanted to produce something fairly original, but I knew a lot of the software houses at the time just wanted to play it safe with tried and tested formulas. BORING!
AA: Boring indeed! So, how did the idea for Reckless Rufus come about?
MB: I kicked around a few ideas over a few months. All of them needed work, and after a while, all I had were some snazzy routines, effects and half-baked ideas. Then I stumbled across Tony Crowther’s Bombuzal on the Commodore 64, which he had written some years earlier. With the routines and ideas I already had, and after playing Bombuzal for a couple of hours, the design for Reckless Rufus was all but set in stone.
AA: Is it true the game initially had a different title?
MB: Yep, the original title was Awesome Dude, but Alternative Software decided to go with Reckless Rufus instead.
AA: You developed Reckless Rufus for the Commodore 64 – were you a fan of the computer?
MB: Yep. While I was far more into programming than playing games, anyone who knows me will know that my all-time favourite C64 game is Elite. It’s a masterpiece. Granted, it runs a little slow on the C64, but it’s not less astonishing for that.
AA: Was anyone else involved with Reckless Rufus’s development?
MB: I did all the original game design, coding and most of the background graphics. As I suck at writing music and couldn’t afford the likes of Rob Hubbard, my cousin David Green wrote the music and SFX. My friend Roy Fielding was also a huge help; he designed many of the sprites, including some brilliant animation.
AA: Reckless Rufus’s levels soon become very tricky. How did you go about devising them?
MB: I created a level designer, which enabled me to create screens in just a few minutes. Doing it the old-fashioned way – with a pencil and graph paper – would have taken far too long for me. I’m always looking for the quick and lazy way of doing things! I tried to make sure that different approaches were required for each level, but as the levels piled up, it started to get more challenging to present levels comprising 13×7 blocks in more interesting ways!
AA: The graphics in Reckless Rufus are cute, reminding us of the animated classic TV show Trap Door. An influence?
MB: Most definitely! Rufus is a bit reminiscent of Berk, isn’t he? It’s so long ago that I can’t recall exactly how the design of Rufus came about, but I’m pretty sure The Trap Door series had an influence on his design.
AA: You were 30 when you started work on Reckless Rufus – did you have to juggle other priorities?
MB: I was in full-time employment, so coding on Rufus was limited to perhaps a couple of hours a day and then longer sessions at the weekend. I had a young son as well, so spare time was a very precious commodity. I think it took about 6-8 months to complete the game.
AA: How did Reckless Rufus end up with Alternative Software?
MB: I think I sent copies to several of the big UK software houses, but Alternative were quick off the mark. Very shortly after sending them a demo, I got a telephone call from Chris Price. He told me they wanted the game, and that was that. A few days later, Chris came to my house to discuss some ideas and changes they wanted. But pretty much the only changes were the game’s title and difficulty level.
AA: What happened with the difficulty level?
MB: They wanted to make the baddies a little more annoying. I thought it was a mistake – the puzzle aspect is hard enough without dealing with the aliens. But, having said that, once you get used to them, the alien patterns are pretty easy to deal with.
AA: Looking back today, is there anything you feel you could have done differently?
MB: As I mentioned, I would have lowered the difficulty level as far as the aliens were concerned. Maybe I’d do away with them altogether! Another thing I would definitely change is the number of screens you have to complete in order to get the start level code. I wish I’d made it one code for every level.
AA: Finally, Mike, how do you look back at your time developing Reckless Rufus, and what are you up to today?
MB: Most definitely as some of the best times of my life! For me, the mid-eighties and early nineties were the golden years of the C64 and 8-bit era in general. I spent almost every spare moment coding and creating stuff and would happily go right back to those days right now! I’m still working full-time as a PC engineer, but I still love 8-bit gaming, so much so that I created a website selling my 2D and 3D artwork interpretations of old 8-bit games.
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