- Some of you may recall that I'm a bit of a Manic Miner/Jet Set Willy fan - read that essay for a bit of Matthew Smith context if you're hazy on that particular niche of '80s psychedelic platforming wonder.

So it was great when I was chatting via email (about another topic) to Westwood Studios/EA veteran Steve Wetherill the other day, and checked out his softography to realize that yes, he worked on both Manic Miner and Jet Set Willy for the Amstrad CPC, before becoming a key figure at Odin Computer Graphics of Nodes Of Yesod fame. Yes, 'fame', stop looking at me weird over there.

Anyhow, nowadays Steve has his own little mobile game company, Uztek Games, who did EA Air Hockey for cellphones (which I believe I've played and enjoyed, actually) - and also owns and operates a vineyard, so there. But he was kind enough to give me some recollections on interacting with Matthew Smith and his experiences alongside Matthew on the fabled 'lost' Miner Willy game, 'The Megatree', as follows:

"My very first job in the games biz was as a programmer @ Software Projects - that would have been in 1984. My first project, working with another coder called Derrick Rowson, was to port [Manic Miner] to the Amstrad CPC. This was the first "in house" conversion of MM that SP had done. I did see Matthew from time to time, but JSW shipped at around the time I started @ SP, so Matthew was in "burnt out" mode.

In any case, Matthew lived in Birkenhead and the SP office was in Woolton in Liverpool, and Matthew worked from his house, so he did not have regular cause to be in the office. It's strange too why we were not given access to the Manic Miner source code. We disassembled the Spectrum version to create the Amstrad version.

After MM, Derrick & I ported [Jet Set Willy]. Again, no source code was forthcoming (and I know this because it took forever to get the stairs/ramps to work the same way as the Speccy version). We went a little crazy with the JSW port though, and we ended up more than doubling the number of rooms. In effect, we were the very first JSW modders (though, we also wrote most the game from scratch too since we had no source code). I left SP to go to Odin once JSW for the Amstrad was done, but the canny folks @ SP saw an opportunity, and so Derrick then ported the Amstrad game back to the Spectrum where it was released as Jet Set Willy 2 - that game is basically identical to the Amstrad version we'd made. Here are some comments I made on the topic of JSW2 last year.

Matthew used to go to some of the same drinking spots as I did (I was living in Birkenhead while I worked @ SP) and I remember Matthew showing up at least once to the Birkenhead rock club "Stairways" wearing his toga, so the toga thing is definitely true.

When the powers that be @ SP (Alan & Tommy) decided that a new Willy game was needed, they setup Matthew, Marc Dawson (C64 coder - now Marc Wilding running Illusions in the Czech republic) and Stuart Fotheringham (artist) in my house (the house where I lived - it actually belonged to Software Projects) on Holt Road in Birkenhead so that they could develop "The Megatree" away from "distractions". Matthew was to design, Marc was to code, Stoo to do the art. I'd leave for work each morning, and various members of the team would be in the house, planning the game.

I'd return in the evening and various members of the team would be @ the house .. planning the game. And so it went on for a couple of months until it became clear that nothing was really happening. I do remember a demo of some little trees dancing around a big tree, or something of that nature. I don't think there was ever anything really playable. It is a long time ago though. :)"

[EDITOR'S NOTE: There's lots more info on The Megatree at GTW64, including disc images, for what it's worth, backing up Steve's recollections nicely.]