Sense and Unsensibility

Leaving school in 1982, Jon Hare half-heartedly drifted into studying art and theatre design at college, all the while yearning to embrace his true passion; music. Growing tired of the education process he dropped the course 12 months later with aspirations of channelling his energy into ‘Zeus’, the band he and school friend Chris Yates formed in the final year of school.

No-one becomes a rockstar over night so in the meantime Jon took whatever jobs paid the bills, including a gig spray painting lawnmowers. Outside of work Jon would spend time with Chris experimenting with computer generated music and designing simple goofy games purely to amuse themselves.

The experience piqued Chris’ interest in programming, he bought and returned several special offer Spectrums from various catalogues, effectively loaning them for free, and taught himself to code within three months. LT Software in Basildon spotted his raw talent having appraised a demo submission accompanying his job application and offered to take him on.

Jon offered to help with the graphics for Chris’ first game – the Spectrum title, Sodov the Sorcerer – and in doing so impressed his employer to such an extent he ended up working alongside him. Although Jon remained a singer, songwriter and guitarist, playing in several Essex based bands, games design soon became his core focus in a professional capacity.

In his new role Jon worked on Skyfox and the background graphics and animation for a version of International Karate that was canned and supplanted with Archer McClean’s interpretation due to the programmer going AWOL under dubious circumstances. Subsequently Jon contributed to the development of Trivial Pursuit for Oxford Digital Enterprises.

Nine months on, in 1986 the duo left LT to establish a games development studio of their own to improve their cut of the royalties earned. You may have heard of them – they christened it Sensible Software, and thankfully were anything but.

Chris served as the lead programmer, whilst Jon operated as creative director, lead designer and artist, and musical composer. They were a formidable partnership; the synergy of an offbeat sense of humour and innovative stream of consciousness modus operandi permeated their every micro-sprited creation.

Sensible kick-started their softography developing Spectrum and Commodore 64 titles such as the highly acclaimed Parallax featuring Martin Galway’s sublime chiptune score, the Zzap! Gold Medal Award winning Shoot ‘Em Up Construction Kit, Crash-Smash-worthy Microprose Soccer and Zzap64’s ‘Game of the Decade’, Wizball.

MicroProse Soccer also made it to the United States where it was renamed ‘Keith Van Eron’s Pro Soccer’ and released for the DOS platform.

As technology advanced, Sensible switched their attention to the Atari ST and Amiga, releasing seven number one hit games in quick succession. The highlights include Mega’s no. 1 Mega Drive Game of All Time, Sensible Soccer, Sensible World of Soccer, which according to Stanford University represents one of the “Ten Most Important Video Games of All Time”, “Best Atari Jaguar Game of 1995”, Cannon Fodder, MegaTech Hyper Game award winning Mega Lo Mania, and Wizkid, Amiga Power’s 31st best game of all time according to their 1996 list.

When two dimensional gaming shifted up a ‘D’, Sensible struggled to make the leap into this uncharted territory. Investing heavily in experimental projects such as and Sex ‘n’ Drugs ‘n’ Rock ‘n’ Roll that would never materialise due to their controversial nature and Sensible’s deficiency in 3D coding experience, the team were in dire straits financially. Which acutely illustrates why Codemasters’ buy-out offer in 1999 came as such a relief, and thus was accepted without hesitation.

Jon went on to collaborate with the Darling brothers, updating his lovingly nurtured back catalogue for release on modern platforms, in addition to operating as an independent consultant designer.

In 2004 Jon founded Tower Studios along with Mike Montgomery of Bitmap Bros. fame with a view to developing games for modern mobile and desktop platforms including original titles and revamps of Cannon Fodder, Sensible Soccer and Speedball II.

2014 marked the release of Jon’s first original game in 20 years, Word Explorer, dragging crosswords kicking and screaming into the 21st century. He is now close to releasing Sensible Soccer’s spiritual successor, Sociable Soccer, aiming to inject fun back into a genre over-saturated with tedious, ultra realistic football sims.

When Jon isn’t designing games, he’s delivering lectures to students of the art to share his wealth of knowledge on the subject as a visiting lecturer at the University of Westminster, London, and far beyond.

And that’s merely the potted history of the workaholic who forgot to take a proper holiday for the thirteen years he captained the Sensible juggernaut. I can’t keep up. Nevertheless, as I’m sure he’ll agree, the highlight of his career thus far is undoubtedly being featured on the Everything Amiga blog, an experience we hope to revisit soon.

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