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Minter at the Game Developers Conference in 2007
|Occupation||Programmer, game designer|
Jeff Minter (born on 22 April 1962) is an independent English video game designer and programmer who often goes by the name Yak. He is the founder of software house Llamasoft and has created dozens of games during his career, which began in 1981 with games for the Sinclair ZX80. Minter's games are often arcade style shoot 'em ups which contain titular or in-game references demonstrating his fondness of ruminants (llamas, sheep, camels, etc.). Many of his programs also feature something of a psychedelic element, as in some of the earliest "light synthesizer" programs including Trip-a-Tron.
Minter's works include the music visualisation program Neon (2004) which is built into the Xbox 360 console, and the video games Gridrunner, Attack of the Mutant Camels, Tempest 2000, and Polybius.
Game development career
Pre-commercial career (early years)
Minter had expressed an interest in programming computers from a young age. He wrote the game Deflex for the Commodore PET in 1979. However it would not be until a long illness during the school year that Minter's talents would develop in any meaningful way. Following a three-month stint in which Minter was restricted to lying on his back and was confined to his bed between November 1981 and January 1982, boredom led him to take up computer programming in earnest to pass the time.
Upon recovery, Minter teamed up with Richard Jones, a fellow pupil, and together they started writing their own games on their school's Commodore PET. They soon parted ways. Jones went on to commercial projects, some of them in the software market (e.g., Interceptor Micros).
Commercial 8-bit games
In 1981 Minter started independently writing and selling video games for the Sinclair ZX80, the first machine he owned. Some were made for software company dk'tronics. These titles were sold as a package but this was not available for very long, as Minter left the company following a royalties dispute. He formed a partnership with his mother, Hazel Minter. Together they developed and commercially produced 20 games for the Sinclair ZX81, Commodore VIC-20, Atari 8-bit computers, ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64. Having been studying physics at the University of East Anglia, success in the programming industry prompted him to drop his studies and take up video game development full-time.
The following year, he founded the software house Llamasoft. His first Llamasoft game was a Defender clone for the Commodore VIC-20 called Andes Attack (US version: Aggressor). In Andes Attack, little llamas advanced upon and attacked the player instead of the spaceships from Defender. As a fan of Defender, Minter would remake it again as Defender 2000. Through the Brighton-based software house, Salamander Software, Minter had his games written for the Spectrum and other home microcomputers. It was Mr S.A. Tenquist who was responsible for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum 16K version of Gridrunner. The conversion was released and published for Christmas 1983 by Quicksilva Ltd., UK. Jeff Minter's original Commodore version was written in a week and marked his first commercial success both in the UK and in the US.
Minter went on to develop a number of games for the Commodore 64, Atari 8-bit family, and Atari ST which were marketed by word of mouth and magazine advertisements. These included Gridrunner, Abductor, Matrix: Gridrunner 2, Hellgate, Hover Bovver, Attack of the Mutant Camels, Revenge of the Mutant Camels, Return of the Mutant Camels, Laser Zone, Mama Llama, Metagalactic Llamas Battle at the Edge of Time, Sheep in Space, Voidrunner, and Iridis Alpha.
Post 8-bit work
Minter worked for Atari and VM Labs. For Atari he produced Tempest 2000 (1994) on the Jaguar. It was a remake of Dave Theurer's 1981 Tempest. He followed it with Defender 2000 (1995) on the Jaguar, a remake of the 1981 arcade game. Listing Minter in their "75 Most Important People in the Games Industry of 1995", Next Generation called him the Jaguar's "leading developer". Minter also produced the Virtual Light Machine (VLM-1) for the Jaguar CD add-on. For VM Labs he created the VLM-2 and Tempest 3000.
Minter then wrote games for the Pocket PC platform, some of which also have Windows conversions: Deflex, Hover Bovver 2: Grand Theft Flymo (a reinterpretation of his own 1984 game, Hover Bovver), and Gridrunner++.
In 2002, he began work on a music video game for the GameCube to be called Unity. Using the newest version of his VLM, the VLM-3 or Neon, Unity was to combine the two main threads of Minter's prior career: light synthesis and classic arcade style shooting. Minter was involved in writing this game for Lionhead Studios throughout 2003. The project was cancelled in December 2004. Neon has since been reprogrammed and significantly expanded and is used in Xbox 360 media visualisation.
In 2008 it was announced at the Tokyo Game Show that designers at Llamasoft were working on the visualisation aspects of the Xbox 360 version of Space Invaders, called Space Invaders Extreme. The game was released in 2008. In December 2008 Space Giraffe was released for Windows.
In September 2009 he released Gridrunner Revolution for Windows as a digital download.
The Minotaur Project
In 2010, frustrated with the delays surrounding the release of his titles, Minter was keen to return to a style of game development where games could be produced and released quickly. The iOS platform was chosen and Llamasoft announced that a series of games would be produced under the banner The Minotaur Project. The idea behind the series is that Llamasoft would develop a game in the style of a past computer or console but without the constraints of the original hardware.
On 2 March 2011 Llamasoft released their second iOS game, Minotron: 2112. Minotron: 2112 is a remake of the Atari ST / Amiga game Llamatron (which was inspired by the coin-op video game Robotron: 2084). An iOS version of Deflex was also released although this was not specifically labeled as being part of the Minotaur Project.
Super Ox Wars, a shoot-em-up based on Ikaruga, was released in July 2012; the final game in the series, GoatUp 2 was released in March 2013, unique in that it is the only Llamasoft title to feature a level editor.
Minter then announced his intention to abandon mobile development due to lack of discoverability, low turnover, and the dominance of free-to-play and video game clones; he ultimately declared that, after accounting for his time, the Minotaur Project made a net loss. Minter stated on Twitter than "Returning to iOS would be like returning to the scene of a mugging"  and "I would advise any dev valuing integrity and sanity to just get the hell out". As a result, the Minotaur Project games were not updated for 64-bit versions of iOS and were removed from the App Store while existing copies became unplayable on updated devices.
The code framework for the Minotaur Project games enables them to be rebuilt for both Mac and PC versions. Gridrunner was released for the Mac in August 2012.
In March 2018, Minter announced that the framework had also been ported to the PlayStation 4 and implied it may be possible to release enhanced versions of the games in bundles under the name Minotaur Arcade.
In December 2018, Llamasoft released Minotaur Arcade Volume 1 on Steam. This contained much enhanced versions of GoatUp and Gridrunner with support for playing on the Oculus Rift but also playable in 2D.
Return to console games
In April 2013 it was announced that Llamasoft had signed a deal with Sony Computer Entertainment to create a tube shooter for the PlayStation Vita called TxK. The game would be Llamasoft's fourth tube shooter in two decades and was described as the spiritual successor of 1994's Tempest 2000 for the Atari Jaguar. As Minter explained in his development blog the project goals were to create a more traditional, straightforward and accessible tube shooter than Space Giraffe, to improve on the flaws from Tempest 2000 and Tempest 3000, and to evoke the neo-retro aesthetic without being cheesy. TxK was released on 11 February 2014, by digital download through PSN.
At the beginning of 2015, Minter was threatened with legal action by Atari, claiming that TxK was too similar to Tempest 2000 - a game that Minter himself wrote, but Atari owned the rights to. This raised several issues, including Atari claiming that Minter that had illegally copied material from his own source code and violated design copyrights on his own design traditions. Sony was unwilling to support Minter and as such future versions of TxK were blocked from release, although the PS Vita version remains available.
Minter and Zorzin's first publicly available game for a modern home console, Polybius, was released on the PlayStation 4 on 9 May 2017. The game features extensive support for the PlayStation VR headset, based on Minter's experience building the unreleased VR version of TxK. Shortly after release, Llamasoft were contacted by Trent Reznor of the band Nine Inch Nails, asking to use visuals from Polybius as the basis for the music video for the song "Less Than"; the video was released on 13 July the same year.
In August 2017, Atari, SA issued a press release, announcing a partnership with Llamasoft to develop Tempest 4000 on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One video game consoles and Windows-based personal computers. It was released in July 2018.
In online forums and informal game credits pages Minter usually signs as "Yak", which is, in his own words
"a pseudonym chosen a long time ago, back in the days when high score tables on coin-op machines only held three letters, and I settled on Yak because the yak is a scruffy hairy beast – a lot like me ;-)."
Since 2015, Minter has used the name "Yak" relatively rarely, usually signing as "Stinky Ox" or "Jeff Minotaur".
He lives in Wales with his partner Ivan "Giles" Zorzin, four sheep, two goats, two llamas and a dog. Although Minter is synonymous with Llamasoft, Zorzin is jointly responsible for the recent titles.
Minter likes Indian food, particularly chicken vindaloo. Sheep are his favourite animal; he has kept them as pets for many years.
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Second- and third generation games
- Deflex (VIC-20, Commodore PET)
- Centipede (ZX81, 1982)
- 3D Labyrinth (VIC-20, 1982)
- Abductor (VIC-20, 1982)
- Andes Attack (VIC-20, 1982) a.k.a. Defenda
- Bomb Buenos Aires (VIC-20, 1982; Atari ST, 1988) a.k.a. Aggressor, Bomber, Blitzkrieg
- City Bomber (ZX Spectrum, 1982)
- Gridrunner (VIC-20, Atari 8-bit, ZX Spectrum, 1982; C64, 1983)
- Matrix: Gridrunner 2 (VIC-20, 1982; Atari 8-bit and C64, 1983; C16, 1986)
- Rat Man (VIC-20, 1982)
- Rox III (VIC-20/ZX Spectrum, 1982)
- Super Deflex (ZX Spectrum, 1982)
- Attack of the Mutant Camels (Atari 8-bit and C64, 1983) a.k.a. Advance of the Megacamel
- Headbangers Heaven (ZX Spectrum, 1983)
- Hover Bovver (C64, 1983; Atari 8-bit, 1984)
- Laser Zone (VIC-20/C64, 1983; C16, 1986)
- Metagalactic Llamas Battle at the Edge of Time (VIC-20, 1983; C64, 1984) a.k.a. Meta-Llamas
- Revenge of the Mutant Camels (C64, 1983)
- Rox 64 (C64, 1983)
- Traxx (VIC-20/ZX Spectrum, 1983)
- Ancipital (C64, 1984)
- Hellgate (VIC-20/C64, 1984)
- Psychedelia (VIC-20/ZX Spectrum/C64/MSX, 1984), light synthesizer.
- Sheep in Space (C64, 1984)
- Batalyx (C64, 1985)
- Colourspace (Atari 8-bit, 1985), light synthesizer.
- Mama Llama (C64, 1985)
- Yak's Progress (C64, 1985) - compilation of eight previously released titles.
- Iridis Alpha (C64, 1986)
- Made in France II (C64, 1987)
- Return of the Mutant Camels (C64, 1987; Atari 8-bit, 1988) a.k.a. Revenge of the Mutant Camels 2
- Voidrunner (C64, 1987)
Fourth generation games
- Trip-a-Tron (Amiga/Atari ST, 1988)
- Super Gridrunner (Amiga, 1989; Atari ST, 1991)
- Defender II (Amiga/Atari ST, 1990)
- Photon Storm (Amiga/Atari ST, 1990)
- Llamatron: 2112 (Amiga/Atari ST, 1991; PC, 1992)
- Revenge of the Mutant Camels (Amiga/Atari ST, 1991; PC, 1994) enhanced re-release
- Hardcore (Atari ST, 1992)
Fifth generation games
- Tempest 2000 (Atari Jaguar, 1994)
- Virtual Light Machine (Atari Jaguar, 1994) a.k.a. VLM-1
- Defender 2000 (Atari Jaguar, 1995)
- Llamazap (Atari Falcon, 1995)
- Tempest 3000 (Nuon DVD, 2000)
- VLM-2 (Nuon DVD, 2000)
- Gridrunner++ (PC, 2002)
- Hover Bovver 2: Grand Theft Flymo (PC, 2002)
Sixth generation games
Seventh generation games
- Neon (Xbox 360, 2005) a.k.a. VLM-3
- Space Giraffe (Xbox 360, 2007; PC, 2008)
- Space Invaders Extreme (Xbox 360, 2009)
- Gridrunner Revolution (PC, 2009)
The Minotaur Project
- Minotaur Rescue, (2011) Represents the Atari 2600.
- Minotron: 2112, (2011) Represents the Mattel Intellivision.
- GoatUp, (2011) Represents the Sinclair Spectrum.
- Caverns of Minos, (2012) Represents the Atari 8-bit.
- Gridrunner iOS, Represents arcade games of Namco System 86 era. First Minotaur Project title to be released on the Mac.
- Five A Day
- Super Ox Wars, Represents the Namco Galaga platform. Llamasoft's first vertical scrolling shooter.
- Deflex, Puzzle game and a remake of one of Llamasoft's earliest titles.
- GoatUp 2, Sequel to GoatUp. Platformer game with level editor built-in.
Eighth generation games
- TxK (PlayStation Vita, 2014)
- Minotaur Rescue VR (Oculus Rift, Windows, 2014)
- Polybius (PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift, 2016)
- Tempest 4000 (PC, PS4, Xbox One)
- Minotaur Arcade Vol. 1 (PC, PS4)
- Moose Life (PC, PS4)
- Boule, Pete. "Jeff Minter, fondateur de Llamasoft – Interview Archived 5 August 2012 at the Wayback Machine." Eurogamer. 10 July 2012.
- "Jeff Minter". Halcyon Days: Interviews with Classic Computer and Video Game Programmers.
- Fulton, Jeff; Fulton, Steve (19 March 2010). The Essential Guide to Flash Games: Building Interactive Entertainment with ActionScript. Apress. p. 25. ISBN 978-1-4302-2614-7. Retrieved 26 April 2011.
- "Skeletons in the Closet: my own early Vic 20 efforts". minotaurproject.co.uk.
- "Business Born in Bed". Home Computing Weekly Issue 4, 29 March – 4 April 1983 on page 11
- Jeff Minter. "Llamaosft History Part 7". Llamasoft.
- Purchese, Robert (16 December 2008). "Llamasoft's Jeff Minter -Interview". Eurogamer. Retrieved 19 September 2010.
- Krouwel, Andy (January 2005). "Clearly Minter". Retro Gamer (12). Retrieved 8 June 2018.
- "75 Power Players". Next Generation. Imagine Media (11): 51. November 1995.
- "WCES: The Calm Before the Storm". Next Generation. Imagine Media (3): 18–19. March 1995.
Once again, Jeff Minter's efforts paid off, though, and his Virtual Light Machine which comes packed into the Jaguar CD's hardware unit delivers a psychedelic enough experience for any audio CD-playing, Jaguar-owning hippies.
- Sheffield, Brandon (4 April 2007). "Llamas in Space: Catching Up with Llamasoft's Jeff Minter". Gamasutra. p. 1. Retrieved 18 May 2016.
- "X05: Live in the Next Generation – IGN". Xbox360.ign.com. Retrieved 2 August 2013.
- "Gamasutra – Topic: Console/Digital Games". Gamerbytes.com. Retrieved 2 August 2013.
- "Llamasoft announcement of the Minotaur Project". Retrieved 23 March 2012.
- "Minotaur Rescue for iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPod touch (3rd generation), iPod touch (4th generation), iPod touch (5th generation) and iPad on the iTunes App Store". Itunes.apple.com. 28 September 2011. Retrieved 2 August 2013.
- "Minotron: 2112 for iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPod touch (3rd generation), iPod touch (4th generation), iPod touch (5th generation) and iPad on the iTunes App Store". Itunes.apple.com. 16 September 2011. Archived from the original on 15 July 2015. Retrieved 19 October 2020.
- "App Store entry for GoatUp". Retrieved 23 March 2012.
- "App Store entry for Caverns of Minos". Retrieved 23 March 2012.
- Jeff Minter [@llamasoft_ox] (1 February 2014). "this is why for me returning to iOS would be like returning to the scene of a mugging" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- Jeff Minter [@llamasoft_ox] (5 February 2014). "@CraigGrannell see? Wasteland, full of poison. I would advise any dev valuing integrity and sanity to just get the hell out" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- "Eurogamer interview with Jeff Minter". Retrieved 23 March 2012.
- "Steam page for Minotaur Arcade Volume 1". Retrieved 23 December 2018.
- "Cult Studio Llamasoft Blazes Onto PS Vita With TxK". Sony Computer Entertainment.
- Jeff Minter. "The Road to TxK: Genesis of a Genre". Llamasoft.
- "PSN Tuesday: Lightning Returns, TxK, Far Cry Classic". Engadget. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
- "Jeff Minter "beyond disgusted" with Atari over TxK block".
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 3 July 2015. Retrieved 23 August 2015.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "PlayStation® Games". PlayStation™Store.
- O'Connor, Alice (8 August 2017). "Jeff Minter making Tempest 4000 for Atari". Rock Paper Shotgun. Retrieved 28 January 2018.
- Machkovech, Sam (17 July 2018). "Tempest 4000 finally lives after delays, legal threats—but what's up on PC?". Ars Technica. Retrieved 19 July 2018.
- Allen, Ben (28 December 2018). "Meet the cast of Black Mirror's interactive film Bandersnatch". Radio Times. Retrieved 28 December 2018.
- Minter, Jeff. Llamasoft: Home of the Virtual Light Machine – An Introduction. 2005.
- "About Llamasoft". minotaurproject.co.uk.
- "How Jeff Minter's Polybius brought his signature style to VR".
- "ZX81 Cassette Tape Information for Centipede". Zx81stuff.org.uk. Retrieved 2 August 2013.
- "3D Labyrinth – Llamasoft Baachive". llamasoftarchive.org.
- "A Brief History of Llamasoft". blueyonder.co.uk. Archived from the original on 19 December 2014.
- "Jeff Minter". the-commodore-zone.com.
- "Bomber". World of Spectrum.
- "Rat Man – Llamasoft Baachive". llamasoftarchive.org.
- "Superdeflex - World of Spectrum". www.worldofspectrum.org.
- "Jeff Minter". the-commodore-zone.com.
- "Headbangers Heaven". World of Spectrum.
- "Jeff Minter". the-commodore-zone.com.
- "Rox 64 - Commodore 64 Game / C64 Games, C64 reviews, downloads & SID tunes". lemon64.com.
- "Lemon - Commodore 64, C64 Games, Reviews & Music!". Lemon64.
- Couper, Heather (20–27 December 1984). "Wooly Logic". New Scientist. p. 73. Retrieved 26 April 2011.
- Newman, James; Simons, Iain (4 June 2007). 100 Videogames. BFI. p. 11. ISBN 978-1-84457-161-1. Retrieved 26 April 2011.
- "Jeff Minter". the-commodore-zone.com.
- "Yak's Progress". blueyonder.co.uk. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016.
- "Return of the Mutant Camels - Commodore 64 Game / C64 Games, C64 reviews, downloads & SID tunes". lemon64.com.
- "Voidrunner". gamefaqs.com. Archived from the original on 29 November 2014.
- Greg_Sewart (20 December 2007). "Tempest - Xbox Live Arcade". GamesRadar+.
- "Jeff Minter". the-commodore-zone.com.
- "Neon". IGN.
- "Gridrunner Revolution out now". Eurogamer.net. 29 September 2009.
- "Minotaur Rescue released for iPad and iPhone". minotaurproject.co.uk.
- "Caverns of Minos review – llama lander". 24 January 2012.
- "Celebrating Jeff Minter's Best Works". Musings of a Mario Minion. 14 February 2017. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
- Keith Stuart. "The 30 greatest British video games". The Guardian.
- "Jeff Minter Is Re Imagining Urban Legend Polybius". Eurogamer.net.
- "Tempest 4000 is real, Jeff Minter is developing it and Atari is publishing it".
- https://store.steampowered.com/app/906110/Minotaur_Arcade_Volume_1/. Missing or empty
- https://hardcoregamer.com/2020/02/01/never-enough-particles-in-llamasofts-new-moose-life-gameplay-trailer/366746/. Missing or empty
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Jeff Minter.|
- Llamasoft official website
- Jeff Minter's Google TechTalk, March 2007
- "the history of llamasoft", by Jeff Minter
- A netmeeting/interview with Jeff Minter, held by B3ta
- The Inquirer article on his early games
- Gamasutra Interview, April 2007
- Jeff Minter's profile at MobyGames
- Llamasoft at MobyGames
- Andes Attack & Gridrunner reviews, 1989
- Defender II review, 1991
- Llamatron review, 1991
- Revenge of the Mutant Camels review, 1992
- Tempest 2000 review, 1994
- Llamazap review, 1995
- Jeff Minter on IMDb