One of the most innovative games designers of the Spectrum generation was Bo Jangeborg. Although his work was far from prolific , what he did create will always be remembered as the classic titles that they are. Fairlight in particular is a wonderful 3D adventure that appeared long before Zelda ever graced a Nintendo and helped create an adventuring hunger in games players that is still as active today.
ZX: The first commercial program you wrote was The Artist. Was there any other programs you wrote before this?
BJ: No, that was the first one. It started out with me being able to move a single pixel across the screen, and grew from there.
ZX: What made you to write a graphics program first and not a game?
BJ: It allowed me to build a platform of routines that I later used in my games.
ZX: Did you feel restricted to what the Spectrum had to offer graphically?
BJ: Yes, the colour blocks where quite a pain.
ZX: Where did the inspiration come for the Fairlight games?
BJ: Don't really know. The basic idea was to do a game using the same isometric 3D view as Ultimate play the Game had just released. I was into roleplaying quite a bit so an adventure game seem natural.
ZX: I assume you paid most attention to the graphics as they are beautifully drawn and full of detail.
BJ: I did a lot of the graphics but some of the best bits like the guards and the title screen were done by Jack Wilkes.
ZX: You used a system called GRAX. Was this an offshoot of The Artist or something you devised solely for playing games?
BJ: GRAX was initially a picture description language, that I used for some small Swedish adventure games. I used the same drawing routines as in The Artist and added the language.
ZX: What does GRAX stand for?
BJ: Graphics with an X added on the end for flare.
ZX: You went on to produce Artist 2 next. Why did you feel the need to update an already great program?
BJ: We wanted support for the point and click style of working that you got with a Mac.
ZX: The release of the Spectrum 128K saw you updating both The Artist and Fairlight. How did the extra 80k benefit you?
BJ: More picture buffers and an inbuilt pagemaker utility that was brought in from outside.
ZX: With Fairlight 2 did you improve on the original in anyway?
BJ: Not much, it was made bigger with a few new monsters and items. Unfortunately it was never quite finished since the publisher tried to force me to sign a new contract by with holding money that I was due. Needless to say I told them to stuff it. At that point the game was in beta but they decided to publish it anyway. The whole issue ended up in the court system, and dragged on for a year, so most of the money I got ended up lining the pockets of lawyers.
ZX: Wasn't Fairlight supposed to be an ongoing saga with more games that would expand upon the story?
BJ: That was the idea.
ZX: What are the best points about the Spectrum?
BJ: It made serious computing available to the masses.
ZX: And the worst?
BJ: It's dead.
ZX: Between Fairlight 2 and your involvement with the Sam Coupe what did you do?
BJ: A failed attempt to make a hires game on the Spectrum using the screen interrupt, and later fiddling around with making my own operating system on the Atari ST.
ZX: Were there any Spectrum games or programmers that you admired?
BJ: Admire wouldn't be the right word but I was certainly impressed by the likes of Mike Singleton and Ultimate Play The Game. In fairness there was a lot of guys to be impressed by.
ZX: How did you come to be involved with the Sam Coupe?
BJ: They approached me because they needed a graphics program to show of the graphical capacity of the machine.
ZX: Didn't you have a say in the graphics side of the Sam at some stage?
BJ: I convinced them to do away with the hardware flash in the high colour modes. That allowed for a significantly larger pallet. I think it went from 64 to 128 colours. That also allowed me to transfer some pictures from the Atari without too big a degradation.
ZX: Did you ever feel the machine could succeed? With a more advanced machine like the Atari ST already well established it must surely have seemed like a tough challenge.
BJ: I really didn't think they could succeed considering the speed of the processor. But I was hoping that they could do it.
ZX: Did you ever consider writing a Fairlight game, or any other game, for the Sam?
ZX: What route did your work take you after your involvement with the Sam finished?
BJ: I went on to work with administrative programs back in Sweden.
ZX: What does Bo Jangeborg do in his spare time?
BJ: Relaxes with friends, feeds the cats, plays games down at his local game club and tries to keep fit with a bit of running and swimming.
ZX: Abba, a musical legend or a curse on the people of Sweden?
BJ: Not really, I think they were an inspiration to a lot of Swedish bands, showing that it was possible to make it big abroad. My own taste where more in the lines of Queen, Genesis and classical music.
ZX: Is it time us Spectrum users moved on to something better?
BJ: I think so.
ZX: You have three wishes o' master, what are they to be?
BJ: Peace, love and understanding for us all.
ZX: Any words of wisdom for readers of The ZX Files?
BJ: If you enjoy what your doing you are almost sure to do it well. And if you don't enjoy it then it's time to move on.
The above interview was originally published in issue 6 of The ZX Files in 1998. It remains copyright The ZX Files and cannot be used without permission!!
Permission received by Paul White (ZX Files editor) 990303.