GS: People really seem to associate you with Tempest, so much so that some think that you created the game.
JM: I think I kind of took it over somehow, because Dave Theurer doesn't seem particularly interested in the games business anymore. I remember when I was working on Tempest 2000, I was hoping I would have some kind of contact with him. I contacted Eugene Jarvis when we were working on Defender 2000. But Dave Theurer was already doing his graphics format thing he does, and didn't seem interested at all.
I heard in one interview where he was asked whether he minded if people were doing updated versions of Tempest, and he said he didn't really mind. He just didn't really seem to care about Tempest anymore, and it was a shame. So I took it over a bit. Probably a bit too much, seeing as how people think I created it!
To be fair, I'll always give credit to Dave Theurer first in the Tempest games. He's always the name above mine. I believe we should give credit where it's due.
GS: You mentioned that you never tell a story in your games. Would you ever want to try to do that?
JM: Not really. I don't think that's really my style. I'm all about giving an immersive feeling with appropriate feedback, and I can do that in different ways every time. I'm not really a storyteller. I don't want to tell science fiction stories, or horror stories, or anything. I'm going straight for the essence of game, really.
I'm not saying that storytelling is bad; it's very good. I enjoy lots of story-based games, and I enjoy lots of traditional games and realistic games. But what interests me creatively is working in the abstract.
GS: Peter Lee from the casual developer GameLab said that he moved into games because he was in advertising, and advertising always felt like it was about promoting something else. In games of this type, the only value is the games themselves. The only reason the game is fun is because the game itself is fun.
JM: I believe that a game should be fun and rewarding in and of itself, regardless of whether you make progress, and regardless of whether you get a high score. You should always step away smiling, and step away feeling good. That's why I don't like certain kinds of games where you have hard bosses and you get to the point where you just want to throw your joystick through the screen.
If you're swearing at the screen and not enjoying yourself anymore, you won't play. You'll get to a point and then you'll stop because the game just winds you up. I want games to always be a pleasure to pick up and play, even if you don't always do your best, and still walk away with a smile.
GS: Frustration can still be a good motivator, though.
JM: Absolutely. It's a delicate balance. You don't want to make your game a walk-over, but conversely you don't want to make it so you'll walk into brick walls every five minutes. I think what we've done in Space Giraffe is quite nice because there are two ways you can play it. You can play it very defensively, and it's not that hard to play it defensively and make a good bit of progress. But if you play defensively, you won't get the extra lives, so you need to play aggressively as well, to build up the bonus points you need to get extra lives.
So if you have a level you find very difficult, you can play defensively to just get through it, and if you're confident with another level you can play aggressively to get the maximum amount of points out of it. There's a wide path through the game.
GS: Through things like Xbox Live Arcade, the arcade style of game seems to be coming back. It seemed to be in sincere danger for awhile.
JM: It is coming back, because sometimes you want that sort of thing. Sometimes you just want to sit there and have a good old blast and not sit there and work your way through some forty or fifty hour epic.
GS: Have there ever been times where you thought about giving up on games entirely due to financial or creative reasons?
JM: Not really. There have been times where I thought I might like the light synth thing more than games, but after a period of working on light synth, I was gagging stupid for more game stuff. It was always there. I just enjoy the process of making games. Games and light synth have been really strong in my life since 1984, and now I think I've brought them together and can enjoy both at the same time.
GS: Who else do you think is doing good things to bring back the old style of gaming, or at least that aesthetic?
JM: The Geometry Wars and Mutant Storm guys are doing a fantastic job. It's good to see that kind of stuff. There are developers who have the same ideas as I do, who want to make games that give homage to the past but have enough to satisfy present tastes as well.
The more people like that who get into that, the better, and I think they do good things for that style of gaming as a whole, if there's a nice choice of people doing their own styles. There's enough room for everyone to have their own style. I don't think anyone can ever copy the style of Space Giraffe, since it's so intricately based on the Neon engine that you'd need to copy the Neon engine first before you'd be able to do that. It's easier to try and make your own style than to reverse-engineer that.