Mr. Irmak, thank you for agreeing to answer some questions. Firstly, can you tell us something about your background?
When I look back I realise that almost from the very beginning of my career computers have shaped, if not my life, the work I have done. But just before computers, I attended Hornsey Collage of Art and then Margot Street School of Art in Birmingham. After gaining a Fine Art degree, I went on to illustrate the covers of the current crop of computer magazines, all those years ago! The early computers hotly discussed in their pages were slow and primitive. But mostly they lacked the ability to deliver great graphics. The cover and editorial illustrations had to be done by hand, the old fashioned way. Not very ground breaking at the time but a great way to hone my skills, I can really appreciate this now.
After this traditional beginning how did you actually get involved with computers?
I was intrigued by the contents of the free copies the publishers of the magazines sent me. I didn't understand any of it at first! It was a new language. So I bought myself a home computer, an Acorn Atom, and slowly learned how to program it. This was still when cheap computers were black and white! As soon as the first colour computers with their flashy graphics potential started to emerge, I switched my art to digital and entered the "Computer Games" industry, at the time very much in its infancy.
Did you work for Clipper Software or was it a freelance job?
I have nearly always been a freelance artist. Clipper Software was essentially only Graham Lilley. As far as I know, he no longer works in the game industry.
Graham Lilley is credited for programming and original game design. How you did get involved with Clipper Software?
I had known Graham from my work with Adventure International. He was their lead programmer. Clipper was a side project of his I think. It was something he wanted to do on his own with Paul Cockburn, a writer friend, who was responsible for the plot of Touché. There were others who helped us from time to time but as far as I can remember we were the three main Clipper crew. I never met the music and sound people for example as that work was done at the end of the project.
According to the credits, the design team of Touché consisted of 12 persons, and you were the only person who is credited for the graphics. It is hard to believe today, but was this indeed a one-man's job?
There was no other artist working on Touché. It took me about a year and a half to finish everything, characters and animation included. At the time there was nothing unusual about this. Most projects were completed with very small crews.
Why is there no credit for the animation?
Because of memory restrictions the animations were very
short and simple, too simple in my view so I wasn't really
pleases with them. That is why no one is credited. It is just
one of those things one has to live with.
Was this also the reason that some minor characters were simply duplicated - such as the Blacksmith with all his cousins scattered over France - or was this done to amuse the players? By the way, I think you are too harsh about the animations, as the game includes various pretty and humorous animated scenes - when Geoffroi fights with the guard at the crossroads for instance, or when he jumps to Juliette's balcony.
You are right. Memory restrictions were the only real reason! Luckily it was amusing as well.
I take it that the backgrounds were sketched first, then painted and afterwards scanned into the computer?
I started with pencil drawings. It is not generally known that all the backgrounds were done in traditional watercolours! Not on a computer. This was the only time I created the visuals for a computer game in this way! Later they were scanned and digitised. Regardless of the requirements of the script, my personal quest for the project was "the property of light". The effects achieved where quite striking and to this day I'm quite proud of some of those fragile watercolours. Unfortunately the final game was released only in some parts of Europe and never gained a wider audience.
I am surprised to hear that you made the backgrounds in watercolours, as the images are so detailed. The only adventure game I am aware of that used watercolours was Golden Gate, published two years after Touché (not a very good game and not at all as attractive as Touché). Why did you decide to use watercolours?
I do have a degree in Fine Art so the watercolour backgrounds came naturally to me. At the time it was the quickest way to finish all the locations. If I remember it took about 3 to 4 days depending how complex the paintings were. The really long scrolling screens (the forest and the towns) took about a week each.
The backgrounds in Golden Gate were based on locations in San Francisco. Were you also inspired by real places and buildings in Touché?
Well, sort of. The backgrounds are not based on real locations. I did some research mostly about the general look of the times. Nothing specific. The only exception is the scene just outside Notre Dame. I had just come back from Paris so I knew what it looked like. At the time for inspiration I was looking at Disney backgrounds, especially Pinocchio! Perhaps you can see some similarities.
(c) All artwork copyright Clipper Software/Teoman Irmak
(c) Text game-nostalgia.com 2020