- Update, 5 August 2016: you can now also read about volume 2 of the book here.
In the Spring of 2014, we had an email from a guy called Sam Dyer asking if we could put him in touch with CF editor Steve Jarratt. We did. One hour in a pub later, Steve had offered to edit Sam’s new book Commodore 64: A Visual Commpendium. It’s a high-end, impressive piece of work featuring the words of everyone that has ever mattered. We caught up with Sam in the week of the book’s launch to find out more.
Sam! So, tell us a bit about the book straight off the bat. Well, the book fuses my two biggest passions – graphic design and the C64. As a child I would stare at the screen in amazement at the pixel art and even try and create my own maths lessons on graph paper. This pixel art played a huge part in inspiring me to become a graphic designer. Fast forward 25 years and the time was right to create a book that bridged these two passions. A quick look around and I discovered that an art book for the C64 didn’t exist and that was it!
The actual book is 230+ pages printed lithographically with ultra durable thread sewn binding [that means it’s dead classy – Ed]. Each spread features a different game which is illustrated with either a single screenshot, a game map or a piece of Oliver Frey’s amazing artwork. To accompany each game is a soundbite from either a games journalist, a guest reviewer or a member of the original development team. I have been very lucky to get some big names to write about their games such as Ron Gilbert, Jon Hare, Andrew Hewson and David Crane and some ex-C64 journalists like Commodore Format’s Steve Jarratt, Andy Dyer, Andy Roberts and James Leach and ZZAP! 64 reviewers Gary Penn, Robin Hogg and Newsfield boss Roger Kean. The book is in chronological order so starts with Jupiter Lander and ends with 2014’s Commando reboot.
That’s one of the things we really liked about the book. So many articles, books and TV clips about the C64 seem to stop in about 1989 – as if there was no Mayhem or Exile…This was a really hard part of the project. I had to choose 100 games out of literally thousands. I am hugely grateful to Andy Roberts and Mat Allen here because they really helped to shape which games were featured. It was really useful to run ideas past Mat and Andy and I owe them both many beers…
The finished book looks amazing. Visually, it really knocks you out. It’s going to be on people’s bookshelves forever…Thanks 🙂 I’m a firm believer in ‘less is more’ and it was always my vision for the book that the pixel art was the hero. The design is subtle and it showcases the pixel art exactly how I had imagined it. I have been particular happy with how the pages have printed and how vibrant the colours are. I think it feels like a nice thing to hold and flick through.
Your book was a KickStarter thing…you could be a case study in how to do it right. But did you really think it would be that successful? Yes, and I don’t mean that in a big headed way! I always knew that the C64 had a global fan base so this wasn’t a niche product and I hoped there would be plenty of people potentially interested. Even people who don’t necessarily still own or play on a C64 nowadays still remember the C64 fondly and flicking through the book will hopefully bring back nostalgic memories.
It’s amazing how helpful and friendly the C64 community can still be, isn’t it? Unlike anything else. Everyone helps everyone, and everyone knows someone. This has been the biggest thing for me. I have been genuinely touched (and surprised) by how friendly and supportive everyone has been. I have met some amazing people along the way and couldn’t have done this without them. I want to give a special thanks to Andy Roberts as right from the beginning of the project back in April, Andy has been massively supportive. Whether it has been advice, contacts or putting together games maps, I honestly couldn’t have done it without him! [Andy’s done some Commodore Format style Gamebusters maps for the book and they are incredible – Ed]
Let’s talk about Steve Jarratt, then. We first spoke to you back when we were able to hook you guys up – not knowing he’d end up editing the book for you. It is just a dream come true to see him writing about the C64 again! Is he as sound a bloke as everybody says? He’s truly an industry legend now (whether he likes to admit it or not!) Yeah Steve is a proper legend! At the time I didn’t realise that Steve also lived in Bath so as soon as I knew we met for a beer. After an hour or so Steve offered to edit the book which was an amazing and incredibly generous offer. I’ve really enjoyed spending time with Steve completing the book and am looking forward to working with him more in the future (excuse the pun).
You’ve also got people like Andy Dyer and James Leach on board. It is truly wonderful to experience these guys writing about the Commodore 64 again. Have you got any particular favourites from the book? They have ALL been amazing but I have to say that Andy Dyer’s reviews really stood out for me. Not just because we share the same surname but they are funny, well written and informative. Just how I remember his reviews from the CF days.
Their reviews really are like reading a shiny new issue of Commodore Format…the same with the ZZAP! guys too! What mags did you buy back in the day, by the way? Commodore Format was the only C64 mag I can remember buying. I would make my trip to WH Smiths religiously every month to the latest issue. the Power Pack cover tapes are so iconic to me and I loved the graphic design style of the magazine.
And what about the C64 itself? When did you get yours, and what were your favourite games? I got my first C64 around 1987 which was handed down to me by my uncle. I loved that computer and for years enjoyed hours upon hours of playing some amazing games. Some of my personal favourites include Treasure Island Dizzy, Batman The Movie, Hunter’s Moon, Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts and Midnight Resistance.
Everyone loves Midnight Resistance! It’s like an unsung classic…anway. Before we let you go Sam, you’re doing another book right? For the Amiga…Yes, this feels like the natural successor to the C64 book and was also the next step in my gaming history. It’s going to be more of same with some sexy Amiga pixel art! The Kickstarter campaign starts on the 13th October. (Editor’s note: since this feature first appeared, the Amiga book and others have appeared. Check out the website)
We’ll be there! OK. One more – was there a facepalm moment during the creation of the book? Underestimating how long it would take to hand write a thousand postcards! Now that did take, er, a while! CF
- Find out more about Commodore 64: A Visual Commpendium here.
- Read about the new volume 2 of the book here.
- Disclosure: This website’s editor proof read the book before publication.