Inverview with the founder of Pixel Age Studios: Mevlüt Dinç

23 May 2019 Thursday
Inverview with the founder of Pixel Age Studios: Mevlüt Dinç
Murat Oktay
Murat Oktay Editor

We talked with Mevlut Dinc, founder of Pixel Age Studios, for his future plans.

If you are a real old school gamer, you probably heard the name of Mevlüt Dinç, creator of some famous games like The First Samurai and Street Racer. These games were a masterpieces for their times. And behind these classics, Mevlüt Dinç was there as creator. As Play4UK, we were lucky to get this amazing interview from him. 

Interview with Mevlut Dinc from Pixel Age Studios

Here it is:

  • Murat Oktay: Most of old/retro gamers know you. Could you tell more about yourself for the new generation gamers?

Mevlüt Dinç: Yes, the word ‘old’ is very appropriate as I started way back in 1985. My gaming career is quite interesting with a long story behind it.

So, here’s a summary of how it all happened for both the retro and new generations of gamers. 

My story begins with marrying with an English girl and moving to England in 1979! From 1980 I started working in Standard and Telephones Company, a cable factory in Southampton, producing communication cables that connected countries and continents. I took part in the first production of fibre optics based cables too!

I had no interest in or any knowledge of games or computers at the time. My getting into games was a complete chance or fate as was coming to England!

  • Murat Oktay: How did you decide to work in the gaming industry? Did anyone pushed you to programming or was it only a hobby?

Mevlüt Dinç: While working at the factory, a close workmate of mine called Vino Dos Santos kept on telling me about this new amazing computer called the ZX Spectrum and suggested I got one too. For weeks he tried to convince me and in the end I gave in and put my name down for one also. After having waited for about three months Vino drove us to the Sinclair factory to pick up our beloved Spectrums. It’s a crazy sounding story but this is more or less how it all started.

Inverview with the founder of Pixel Age Studios: Mevlüt Dinç

It was very tough at first as there was very little resource. Remember it was 1983 and there was no internet – no nothing! So, to cut a long story short, I learnt how to program the Spectrum in “machine code” in about 2 years. Basically, I am a completely self-taught computer games programmer!

I found games programming absolutely fascinating and very exciting, creating a product out of nothing was just a miracle for me. In a really strange way I had absolutely no interest in playing games.

To this day I have hardly played any games at all, and admittedly I am absolutely useless at it, which is probably the main reason why I don’t play!

Incidentally, I’m just finishing my biography where I tell my story and gaming career in detail!

  • Murat Oktay: What was your first project? And who published it?

Mevlüt Dinç: My first professional game was Gerry The Germ, which was published by Firebird, Telekomsoft Label belonging to British Telekom.

Since I was not playing games I didn’t know what games there were out there and had no idea what games the gamers liked!

Inverview with the founder of Pixel Age Studios: Mevlüt Dinç

One thing I noticed was that all games had a hero and you always played against some enemies of some sort, just like in films really. So, I thought maybe I could do something very different and made my hero a baddy, a germ, that could try and destroy the human body. I also thought the human body would help me design my gaming world easier, it was a brilliant environment with different body parts could provide different ideas and levels!

I first took my idea to Mirrorsoft; they literally threw me out of their office, they said the idea was too risky for such a reputable company to publish it! I thought what a disappointment!

Then I took it Tony Rainbird who was the Head of Rainbirdsoft and Firebird at Telekomsoft. He loved the idea and Firebird published my first game in 1985! It took me 8 months to develop. I personally did the coding of ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC versions and helped my C64 programmer Edwin Rayner to also do the C64 version. So, my first game was published in 3 formats, which was amazing actually.

C64 Disk version was a big success in the USA, I still don’t know the reason but I managed to earn royalties from the US version for months.

I learnt a lot of important things from my first publishing deal; keeping copyright and also always asking for royalties. I always try to pass this important knowledge and experience to my programmer friends and also newcomers who want to get into gaming.

  • Murat Oktay: In years you have been involved in many projects. Which one made you most satisfied?

Mevlüt Dinç: I’m very lucky to be involved in games for over 30 years; I have witnessed the whole progress and change.

Inverview with the founder of Pixel Age Studios: Mevlüt Dinç

As you say I have programmed and produced many games, to me they were all special. To single out the ones that were both satisfying and successful I guess I must say Enduro Racer, Last Ninja 2, First Samurai and Street Racer. These games are still remembered and respected and contributed to my career in a big way and helped me become one of the well known and respected names in the gaming industry. Very lucky and grateful!

  • Murat Oktay: Lots of gaming dynamics changed in time. What do you think about new generation games? Do you think that games before industrial evolution have much more fun?

Mevlüt Dinç: This discussion has been going on for decades and will continue for decades too! I believe every era has its own merits, successes and failures both in terms of hardware and software.

Of course, the late 80s and early 90s were very special, the gaming was really shaping, and most of the original and unique ideas and technics came through in this period. Everything we did was new, always learning and always experimenting, that’s why probably it was more exciting to code and play.

I think with the coming of first next generation console, PlayStation, the gaming direction was taking more towards visual aspect than the gameplay. But this also helped new gamers come into the industry, it made the industry more cool, people with more money could buy these consoles and play these cool looking games

With visuals and story driven big games becoming more popular allowed the American market to enter into gaming and this helped the gaming industry become bigger. Games started to become even more visual, with amazing animations and cut scenes. Some us developers didn’t like this as we thought it negatively effected the quality of gameplay.

I believe lately there’s more effort towards gameplay as well as innovation, which is a good thing. There should always be a good balance between impressive visuals and gameplay.

Of course, with the amazing growth of mobile gaming now we have so much more variety of gameplay and original ideas.

  • Murat Oktay: You are not publishing games for a long time. Is that means that you are retired? Or did you change your way in the industry?

Mevlüt Dinç: I have not been very active since 2013, about 6 years, where does the time go?!

I left the UK at the end of 2000 to move back to my native country Turkey to start the professional game sector. As you know the early days were tough but we worked very hard and I believe were successful establishing the foundation of the gaming industry in Turkey. Now with 30 million plus gamers its one of the biggest emerging markets in the World.

Inverview with the founder of Pixel Age Studios: Mevlüt Dinç

I sold my Turkish gaming studio Sobee to Turk Telekom in 2009 and continued to head it until 2013, when I left and I guess I’m sort of semi-retired now. I’m trying to contribute to special projects, mentor new talent and also look for opportunities especially in the area of mobile gaming.

  • Murat Oktay: When you started at the gaming industry there weren’t too much options to develop games. In time, gaming evolved. As you know mobile and VR gaming are very popular on these days. For the future, what will be change for the gamers?

Mevlüt Dinç: I always say that we were lucky in a way in the early days. It seems we were limited and didn’t have many options, which is true, of course, however, this limitation both forced us and allowed us to experiment in unlimited ways to come up with new ideas and ways. That’s why so many groundbreaking original and unique games were developed in the late 80s and early 90s.

I’m still very sceptical about the VR thing, this time everyone thought this is it! This was said before, probably 15 years ago or so. My personal feeling is that it’s not the technology that’s the problem with VR, i.e it’s not the power or the capability of the hardware but there’s something fundamentally wrong with it. If you can’t play a game for more than 30 minutes then it has no chance. On mobile you can have really simple casual games that you can play for a few minutes but something looking so immersive and impressive you would want to play and enjoy a lot more than 30 minutes.

VR may work when it is reduced to the size of normal glasses we wear or even lenses we use. It just doesn’t work when it detaches you completely from the real World. Maybe AR has better chance but still early days for me.

Mobile is very different, this is now bigger than the console market and continues to grow in a big way. It allows new generation of game developers to enter the industry, which means new blood and ideas, and also this in turn brings new generation of gamers. Now we have just many women gamers as male gamers, which is a good thing.

Mobile also allows smaller and more indie talent to come through as it’s relatively quicker and cheaper to develop.

Gamers are lucky, they will always many options and they will choose to play and consume what they like and enjoy the most!

  • Murat Oktay: About 10-15 years ago, most of the middle-aged people were thinking that games are waste of time. Now, kids or gamers who plays in those years, are in the professional business life. How it affected gaming industry?

Mevlüt Dinç: There are those middle aged people who grew up with games i.e the retro community still love games and it’s amazing how they still keep the all games and memories alive.

As I mentioned before, with the arrival of next generation consoles such as PlayStation and XBox brought new generation of cool gamers most of whom were successful professionals. 

With the growth and expansion of mobile now we have every age of gamer, from 6 to 70! Even 2-3 year olds play games!

Of course, we now have the amazing growth of eSports, this also brought about a new change and with it brought new people to the industry. eSports will be huge  and will continue to grow just like mobile.

So, all this is very good for the industry and the gamers.

  • Murat Oktay: For the last, what will we see from Pixel Age Studios? Is Pixel Age focused on mobile gaming?

Mevlüt Dinç: I moved back to London in 2016, and lived there for a couple years. It was really nice to be back and see some of my old friends and also work mates! There’s quite a bit of interest in my old classic games such as First Samurai and Street racer. I primarily setup Pixel Age Studios to perhaps remake or reimagine some of these games.

Inverview with the founder of Pixel Age Studios: Mevlüt Dinç

And yes, I’m quite interested in doing possibly something in mobile gaming, still exploring and flirting with ideas, which in itself is quite fun. I would be more than happy to let you know if anything develops.

I must also share with you the fact that I became a proud BAFTA member when I moved to London.

I wish happy times and gaming to all your readers!

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