Jeff Minter

From Academic Kids

Jeff 'Yak' Minter (born in Reading, April 22 1962) is one of the most innovative and distinctive modern British computer/video game designers and programmers.

Missing image
Jeff Minter at Assembly 2004

Minter's games are as recognizable as the oeuvre of a literary writer. Almost all his games include certain distinctive elements—they are often arcade style shoot-em-ups. His fondness of llamas, sheep, camels etc. often leads to them appearing in his games or the titles (Llamatron, Llamazap, Attack of the Mutant Camels, Revenge of the Mutant Camels, Sheep in Space, etc.). Also many feature something of a psychedelic element, as in some of the earliest 'light synthesizer' programs such as his Trip-a-Tron.

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 hi-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 ;-)."


Jeff Minter became interested in computers while attending secondary school. He teamed up with Richard Jones, a fellow pupil, and together they started writing their own games on their school's Commodore PET. Jones was never talented for programming in the way that Minter was (few admittedly are), and they soon parted ways. Jones went on to commercial projects, some of them in the software market (e.g., Interceptor Micros), but never gained the industry fame that Minter earned.


In 1981 Jeff Minter started writing and selling Sinclair ZX80 video games. In 1982 he founded software house Llamasoft (a company that creates games rather than sells or distributes them is often called a house). His first game through Llamasoft was Andes Attack (US version: Aggressor): a Defender clone for the Commodore VIC-20, but with little llamas instead of spaceships (a great fan of Defender he would remake it again, and better, as Defender 2000). His second Llamasoft game, Gridrunner, was written in a week and was his first real success both in the UK and in the USA.

Minter went on to develop a number of classic games, all written in assembler, for the later home computers (such as the Commodore 64, Atari 400/800 and Atari ST) which were marketed mainly by word of mouth and by the odd magazine advertisement. After the collapse of the home computer market he worked for (now-defunct) Atari and for (now-defunct) VM Labs. For Atari he produced Tempest 2000 (1994) on the Jaguar, a remake of Dave Theurer's classic Tempest of 1981; for VM Labs, he designed the Nuon chip. Jeff Minter also created the VLM & Tempest 3000 for the Nuon.

Later came a short spell writing games for the Pocket PC platform, some of which also had PC conversions (using a customized Pocket PC emulator). During this time, Minter released three games: Deflex, Hover Bovver (ports/remakes of his own early 80s games of the same name), and the PC/Macintosh game Gridrunner++, an upgrade of his breakthrough game and by far the most popular of the three.

In 2002, Jeff began work on a project for the Nintendo GameCube with the name of Unity — the combination of the two main threads of Jeff's work: light synthesis and classic arcade style shooting. Jeff was writing this game for Peter Molyneux's Lionhead Studios but the project was canceled in December 2004.

A form of the VLM will be used in the Xbox 360 media visualization.

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