The late 80s and early 90s saw the decline of 8bit computers in favour of their more powerful 16bit brethren. Understandably software production for these now defunct machines took a back seat or stopped altogether with software houses concentrating on the next big thing. However, with the resurgence of interest in vintage computing there is also a thirst for new software, something Graz Richards at Monument Microgames was quick to notice and fill that gap. Cheese and chocolate loving*, extreme bus-ride enthusiast Graz, now in his forties, originally started Monument in 1992 as a store to sell second-hand and new-old stock games, moving onto publishing new games in 2012. (*even together apparently!)
The games produced by Monument are of the utmost quality and often come with extras only ever previously seen in the ‘big box’ games of the Amiga/ST era. Badges, CDs, collectible cards and full colour manuals all come as standard and pricing is extremely reasonable considering the amount of work and level of detail that goes into each and every title.
Games produced so far on the Monument Microgames label include:
- Catacombs of Balachor
- Zombie Calavera
- Genesis: Dawn of a New Day
- Sid Spanners Collection
- Balachor’s Revenge
- El Stompo
- Game about Squares
- Forest Raider Cherry
- Cray 5
- Future Looter
- Sir Ababol
- Sam Mallard
- PET Snake
- Endless Forms Most Beautiful
- Multi Dude
- Seto Taisho Vs Yokai / To Kazan
Interview with Graz Richards, owner of Monument Microgames
RGC: When did you first become interested in videogames and what was the first videogame you ever played?
Graz: It was Pong in 1977-78 I was 4 or 5, and very much aware of the “grown-ups” discussions about the impending microchip revolution. Seeing Pong was like looking into the future. I honestly couldn’t believe it at first. Playable television!
RGC: What was the first games console or computer you owned and how old were you?
Graz: The first console was an Atari 2600. It was very much a move on behalf of my parents to, ‘keep up with the Joneses.’ Friends of the family brought the console round to our house one day and showed off, “Missile Command.” The sounds and graphics, bursting with light and colour were amazing, and the imagery of cities being levelled under mushroom clouds was extremely powerful for my young mind. I was 8 years old by then.
And then, one day, dad bought an Atari home for us, along with the obligatory Combat, plus Space Invaders and Adventure, which is still my favourite game of all time to this day.
RGC: When did you first get the idea to publish homebrew titles for the ZX Spectrum?
Graz: Since I was 11, although I always imagined that they’d be games I’d written myself. It wasn’t until 2012 that I actually started getting Monument ready, simply because there was so many great games being made and not enough outlets.
RGC: How did the name Monument Microgames come about?
Graz: It’s slightly convoluted, but pretty much everything I do has the name Monument. It all started with Monument Miniatures, which is the name I used (and will use again) for releasing white metal roleplaying figures. It was originally going to be called, “City of Lead” but I ended up basing the logo on the Cnoc Suil monument from the Spectrum Game, Tir Na Nog. Unsure whether Cnoc Suil was a real Gaelic place, a legendary oracle, or the property of Gargoyle Games, I ended up just using the word, Monument instead. It seemed to work quite nicely for the miniatures, and more so for the games; a homebrew house that’s a monument to all the greatest Spectrum games currently being made. Phew! Got there!
RGC: Your products have lots of extras. How long does each game take to produce?
Graz: It varies. It can actually take years. Seriously. With some of the games, lots of people can have an input, so it’s reliant on the amount of time that can be put into it, especially if the game requires tweaking, extra artwork or Loading Screen$ commissioned. Generally though, with all the elements available, it’ll take a solid non-stop month to get it all together, and that’s cutting it very finely.
RGC: How many titles have you published to date and which is your favourite?
Graz: At time of writing this, we have released 18 games including the Freebie CBM PET game on our webpage. As for a favourite, that’s so tough. We’ve been blessed with the absolute best of modern gaming, and things like Oleg Origin’s MetalMan are so high-brow that they look and play as though they’ve been produced by a big development team. I can’t help but be extremely happy with our flagship game, Catacombs of Balachor by the wonderful Lasasoft team, as that defined our benchmark for the quality of the software. The sequel is even more amazing. But there’s one that we recently released that I totally adore, and that’s Endless Forms Most Beautiful. Dave Hughes made that one, and it really is a unique experience … every time!
RGC: The Desert Island Scenario: which one computer/console and game would you take and why?
Graz: I’ll be taking my Amiga, plus, and I’m cheating a bit here, Ishar Trilogy. I just love that whole environment. The graphics, soundscape, and exploratory gameplay combine to make, well I think so anyway, the best dungeon crawler ever. Oh wait a mo, can I take Skull Keep too?
RGC: What plans do you have for Monument Microgames going into the future?
Graz: There are still plenty of Spectrum games to release, and we’ll soon be branching out into ZX81. Then there’s the Next to cater for, so there’ll be no shortage of good stuff. Yes, there are a couple of hush-hush titles on the horizon. Can’t wait to share this news … I’m literally bursting!