Category Archives: World Cup 2010

RIP Mungo, you lovely man

Mungo Amyatt- Leir 31st May 1968- 16th January 2017

mungo-1‘Hello, Mungo Leir speaking, how can I help you?’
‘Ah, Mungo, it’s Andy Payne, you left a message on my answer phone, something about a dragon’s cape?’
‘Ah, yes, thank you Andy. I really do appreciate you calling me back. Have I caught you at a convenient time? I would like to talk to you about a game I am making called Dragon Scape and wondered if you could help?’
That was early 1989, and it was the first time I had ever spoken to my dear friend, one time business partner and surrogate brother, Mungo Leir. When I asked how on earth he got his name. he told me that it was his father’s idea who thought it would give his son a ‘distinctive and international flavour’ as well as providing some mirth given his son would sound like a country once ruled by a great military leader, namely a bloke called Genghis Khan.
I never did actually get fully paid for the work I agreed to do, but that didn’t matter as Mungo and I hit it off immediately, besides, Mungo acknowledged that he would honour the debt down the line and most importantly it set up a friendship that lasted for 28 years. Mungo was true to his word, and I never doubted he would be.
Mungo had a spell working with Jeremy Cooke and Howard Newmark at The Software Business, where our paths crossed again. Then he worked with greg Rice at Instant Access and we worked together once more. It was only when Mungo set up a games business with Roger Large that we began to get really close. This was summer 1996 and in 1997 all three of us agreed to become partners and rename the company, Just Flight.
We had no office and worked from home, using the internet and meeting up once a month in a hotel to chew stuff over. We were a virtual company before that was even a thing. Those were great days. Mungo was the ideas man, Roger was all about sales and I did everything else. It was fast, furious, frustrating, hilarious and mostly chaotic. When we couldn’t get any magazine coverage for our Flight Sims we decided to set our own specialist print magazine up and called it PC Pilot. When we decided to branch into Train Sims, we set up our own label, Just Trains. Then we decided to branch into strategy games, and set up Just Play. All the time, Mungo, Roger and I would see no barriers and just get on and make things happen. We did a JV in Italy and one in the USA. There was very little time for planning, indeed if I did plan, Mungo took little or no notice, we just had a load of fun. We eventually got an office in Cambridge in 2000, which we shared with PC Pilot and designers Fink Creative. We painted the office and furnished it like it was our own flat way before Google made that stuff cool. We built a shower and kitchen and practically lived in the local boozer, The Champion of the Thames. We often slept in the office, and Mungo and I did many an all-nighter, crunching the impossible workload we had made for ourselves. We shared fantastic times with our mates and fellow workers, Alex Ford, Dermot Stapleton, Olly Hilton, Darryl Fickling, Dan Stoneham, Dale Nicholson, Mark Embleton, Wolfgang Schwarz, Marc Siegel, Ruth Chaloner, Martin Wright, Richard Slater, Simon Martin, Richard Pomfret, Scott Phillips, Paul ‘H’ Hyslop and loads more.
Mungo and I sold PC Pilot in 2003 and agreed to go our separate ways, business wise, in 2004.

 

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Mungo and I with members of 617 The Dambusters, and in the centre Flight Lieutenant Bob Knights DSO, DFC when we launched The Dambusters

But the friendship was never over, just on hold. We had ridden the Cresta Run in St Moritz many times together, indeed Mungo dislocated his shoulder in 2000 crashing off wonderfully on Shuttlecock corner. He never liked the fact that I got the fastest time that year either, and was not in the slightest bit worried about the damage he had done to his body. We went skiing together, we went sky diving together, we ran together, drank together, raved together and he even took me up in his aircraft on a wondrous trip along the south coast taking off from Shoreham.
One of the best nights we had was in LA, at E3 after a party at The Playboy Mansion, when our hire car got towed away by the LAPD. I was incensed at the Old Bill and Mungo had to play the part of peacemaker. When he sweet talked the copper to see reason at the car pound, I sneaked under the gate, grabbed the keys from the desk and managed to drive off without being noticed. I will never forget Mungo’s face as he was distracting the copper only to see me drive off. By all accounts Mungo did his best Lord Charles meets Hugh Grant impersonation and made his excuses, and left, fast. How we never got nicked that night I will never know.
Mungo had some hard times, but was always a man to come up with a plan, thinking big and delivering. As a lifelong Conservative, Mungo had threatened many a Damascene moment and we often talked and disagreed with each other on political issues. But, Mungo had joined the Labour Party in early 2016 in order to support Jeremy Corbyn, Unlike many other Tories who thought would be a wheeze to get Corbyn in, Mungo actually believed in the politics that Corbyn stood for. Ever determined and driven by principle, he was one of five fellow members of the Labour Party who had taken the Labour Party to the High Court in August of last year over the ruling that ‘new’ members did not have a vote in the leadership election if they had joined the party, like Mungo, after January 12th 2016. I saw him the day of the ruling and we had a proper laugh. We embraced shared a few beers and above all laughed. He liked my Brexit protest beard, although felt that Brexit was the right way to go. As I say, we often disagreed on politics. But none of that ever mattered.
He was an eccentric, irascible, infuriating, talented, hilarious, warm, emotional, gentle, kind, precise, and lovely, lovely man. We often joked that we had been brothers in a previous life and felt certain that we would be brothers again the next one. I really hope that is true.

 

mungo-3

Mungo passed away yesterday, and I got the news of that tragedy early today. I have to admit, I have been pretty numb ever since I heard the news. In 2016 we lost so many talented superstars and the world got pretty dark. Now in 2017, I have lost my little brother superstar. Rest in peace amigo, you made your mark and you spread love and peace to so many. Thank you for the good times, I know you will have a glint in your eye, just like you always did. Shine on you crazy diamond xx

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#oneaday 63; Tax. Stab 1

Tax. Blimey. There’s a 3 letter word to get everyone’s hackles up. 3 letter words can be like that. Tax is a word that never seems to be associated with anything good, or at least I can’t remember it being so. Poll Tax, value added tax, council tax, road tax, even purchase tax back in the old days made grown men and women weep. Indeed it feels like it still does!

And tax is now right slap bang in the centre of our politics. It could well be the key defining subject for the next general Election in 3 years time the way that the tax bandwagon is rolling right now. Mind you, some would say that tax is always the most important issue at ANY general election.

The person who has the most say over tax in the UK is the Chancellor of the Exchequer, currentlyMr George Osborne. Even he is now talking all about tax. How rich people are avoiding tax, legitimately and otherwise, and how this is fundamentally wrong and needs immediate attention and reform.

Even the Mayor of London election campaign has become a race based on whether Boris or Ken has avoided more tax than each other. Some of the media have fallen over themselves to accuse Ken Livingstone of channeling his fees into a company to avoid paying personal tax, an accusation that is fundamentally so naive it must be political. I am no Livingstone supporter, but I do like to see fair play.

Form what I can understand, Mr Livingstone has set up a trading company and that company issues invoices for the goods and most probably services Mr Livingstone supplies – like public speaking, writing, media appearances and so on. That company pays Mr Livingstone a salary on which he pays tax at the national rate. Every year, the company will declare its profits (or losses) and pay corporation tax to the UK Government via the Treasury. The rate of corporation tax (currently has just moved down to 24% from 26%)  is different than the rate of personal tax (currently 20% for earnings up to £35,000 and then 40% on the additional earnings between £35,001 and £150,000 and 50% for the earnings over £150,000). Right or wrong, these tax rates start off easy, but soon get complex. So Mr Livingstone will pay tax on his income, via PAYE (pay as you earn) and NI (National Insurance – which is an additional tax of about (12% of your income) which actually ends up being higher than corporation tax, which his company will also pay provided it makes a profit, which one would hope would be the case.

Anyway, this whole tax issue is definitely going somewhere. The politicians know that grassroots feeling towards ‘tax avoidance’, ‘tax management’ and ‘tax evasion’ (that’s the illegal one) is starting to boil over and organisations like 38 Degrees and UK Uncut have been on this issue for over a year now. The Treasury believes that the whole tax system needs a major overhaul, with the goal being ‘simplification’ and there is a mood at the margins to make the UK a tax haven for businesses and individuals, which is something that would encourage inward investment from foreign based companies, principally American, and would only mimic what happens in Ireland, Luxembourg, Switzerland and the Netherlands all of whom have a more company and therefore individually friendly tax regime.

Charities are up in arms because the Chancellor is talking about capping the amount donors can make to charities and write it off against their tax. The media and some MPs are calling for personal tax returns of MPs to be made public. UK Uncut have called for the tax affairs of large corporations such as Vodaphone to be investigated and potential Mayors of London are accusing each other of tax evasion. This whole issue is set to run and run and it will be interested to see where it ends up. As a PAYE person, I don’t have a lot of choice about how much tax I pay. I do like the fact that a charity can claim back some of the tax I have paid on anything I have earned via GiftAid. That really is a nice tax rebate scheme and it does do some good!

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#oneaday 62: Please release me, let me go

I got a text today from one of my mates who was asking what day I was actually  leaving for the Ukraine to watch England contest the European Championships in June. My answer was simple, this time I am not bothering. England FC have become toxic, much like most football and certainly anything  to do with the Premier League. Yes the quality is there, but the loyalty and committment from many of the players just follows the money.

Two things have happened though that give me some hope and neither would I normally applaud or agree with the outcomes.

First, it looks like John Terry’s time as an England captain is finally over, for a second time. He may even have played his last competitive tournament game for England. I admire John Terry on some levels, there is no doubt that he is a true legend at Chelsea giving any team he plays for 100% of everything he has, and Chelsea rarely lose when he plays. But the FA have decided to sack him as skipper and have shown some leadership, even if it is a tad misguided. Terry is innocent until proven guilty, but the authorities should have brought the trial forward and got it out of the way before May. It is clear that some if not all of the other England players have had enough of their captain. His last outburst in South Africa was damaging beyond repair and he is guilty of hubris on occasion.

In sacking Terry, the FA have now pricked Mr Capello into action and he is not a happy bunny. Fabio has appeared on Italian TV and said that he is effectively unhappy with the decision and with the fact that he was not consulted. David Davies a journalist who used to be an executive director at the FA, has stated that some of his contacts are convinced Capello will quit. Personally I agree with him. Mr Capello has only got 5 months of his contract to run and forefit if he resigns. It will appeal to his Italian sense of ‘justice’ to resign. He knows he can only lose in the summer, he is working for money and no longer cares about what his employers think. If he walks away, in his mind he walks with his dignity intact, it was his decision. I believe Capello has lost the dressing room anyway, so this move would be the only chance of a win he would have this year.

Meanwhile the king in waiting is Poplar’s very own crown prince, Harry Redknapp who is currently on trial for tax evasion. Harry was by all accounts, banged to rights, but given the lead accusor and witness for the prosecution is a News of the World journalist, Harry may just find that his luck is in and he walks free. I hope he is innocent and proved so.  If he is, he will carrying on walking north all the way to Wembley and take control of the England team as soon as the season is over, although the FA will cut a deal with Spurs to borrow him for the friendlies planned between now and June. He will make Scott Parker his captain and try and forge an English birth certifcate  for Luca Modric and Gareth Bale. Harry has plenty of friends who can fix these things.

If Harry falls foul of the law and is detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure, then the FA may turn to the hardest number 3 on the planet. Mr Stuart ‘Psycho’ Pearce who has been managing the U21s for some time. That would be confusing to many, but the players would love the motivation of messrs Redknapp and/or Pearce and there may just be a modicum more effort shown this summer. Failing that Alan Pardew would do a fine job.

If Capello stays, and worse still Terry is picked for the squad, expect England to repeat their performance in the Euro ’88 tournament P3 W0 D0 L3. Wayne Rooney may not get a game!

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#oneaday60: Living in the past?

As usual we (I) am up against a time deadline. Although we have no formal agreed ‘rules’ amingst us Five Hombres, and we said we would each do a blog a week, we have kind of hit a rhythm which has seen us write a blog each day since the 1st of January. So, I am honour bound to write something. At least I think I am. There has been so much going on this week. Cloud gaming, SOPA, PIPA, the launch of Games Britannia and much action over at AppyNation all point to suitable subjects, but sadly they all warrant some proper thought, reflection and time. Something I don’t have right now.

I always seem to be living my life in the future. I am always looking forward to the next ‘event’ and planning the next ‘experience’. As a result I can get a little sidetracked on matters a little closer to home. The ‘here and now’ becomes the ‘what if’?

It was therefore somewhat refreshing to have sat down tonight, switched the iPad and iPhone off and watched a wonderful film called Midnight in Paris. I knew nothing about this film, following my new code of conduct which is not to read any reviews at all nowadays, instead trusting in my own judgement and being completely surprised with what comes up.

It was a real surprise to discover this is Woody Allen’s latest work. Never my favourite film director, I looked forward to the experience given it would not be my first choice all things being equal. But it was a lovely film, rich dialogue, great acting and a wonderful plot. Intriguing and entertaining in equal measure. Beautifully shot, full of beguiling charm with a wonderful pace Midnight in Paris just delivered me pure pleasure on a plate.

I am not going to tell you anything else about it, for risk of breaking my own rules about reviews, suffice to say if you do get a spare hour and a half, then give it a go. It really did make me think about living in the moment, rather than in the past, or indeed in my case, always looking to the future.

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#Oneaday 56: New Year’s resolutions?

This is a blog I wrote late on New Year’s Day. THis year, we are 5 trying to do ‘one a day’ as a team….that is 73 blogs each this year…

Is there any point? I mean each and every year for as long as I can remember I have been suckered into making New Year Resolutions. Mostly they last a few weeks, occasionally they last longer, but I never keep them. Ok I did once, 1st Jan 1983 I gave up smoking.

But why do we do this? Last year my resolution was to blog once a day. Enticed by the #oneaday blogging movement, I resolved to write every day even though plenty of people told me to do #oneaweek. Nope, I thought one a day would be doable. What was I thinking? I managed to finish the year on 54 blogs, just over one a week. It started poorly and I never ever caught up with the daily average. Yet until about May, I thought I could pull things back. I didn’t, clearly.

So this year, instead of learning my lessons, I resolved to blog once a week with my fellow Fab Four Amigos. Together we are calling ourselves the Five Hombres, and it already feels much better. We are together, we will support each other and make sure that we deliver one blog per working day ie five days a week. Yep, I am confident we can do this, so confident that I actually volunteered to be first up. And here it is and here am I, at 11.37 on Jan 1st 2012 writing a few hundred words to get the ball rolling. So much happened last year on a micro sort of personal, as well as on a global level, that sometimes it was hard to keep up. Exciting and uplifting at all times and it was actually cool to glance back at some of the things I wrote about during 2011.

Here’s to my fellow Hombres! Together we are stronger, of that I am confident. 2012 is going to be a brilliant year.

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#oneaday 50: E3 – a kind (of) view

It was my first time back in LA at E3 since 2006 and it was both exciting,  stimulating certainly never boring. Would we see the true dawn of a new platform less frontier where the Cloud was all? Or would we see platforms continuing to plough their own furrow, vying for the top development talent as well as the consumers’ Yen, Pound, Dollar or Euro?

These are inspiring times and we are seeing both structural and seismic changes to the industry as we know it.  Platforms and methods of distribution are certainly key factors that will both disrupt the status quo and drive growth or hasten failure for those who are unable to adapt to market conditions and consumer demand.  Everyone is seeking to be the hub of the entertainment universe both in the home and out and about. From a consumer’s perspective, this does give plenty of choice, but it can also lead to confusion and confusion is never good. That is why technology and content companies need to have very clear offerings and above all deliver seamless, secure, reliable, scalable and inclusive services and products to consumers. It is clear that some consumers want one connected device which they can use in a variety of ways. Between Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft, Apple, HTTC, Samsung and others we will see plenty of gadgetry that will edge us all towards that nirvana.

But back in the video games world, it was great to hear and see that Microsoft were pushing Kinect out to the core gamers, that Sony launched their new handheld the PS Vita (out this year) and were also focusing on the core gamers and Nintendo unveiled their new console, Wii U (out anytime between April and December 2012). The Wii U will blow most people away as soon as you get your hands on it and it truly offers another dimension (3rd anyone?)  in gaming. It will push and inspire games developers to make games that will in turn inspire and push gamers everywhere.  And Nintendo too are focusing on, you’ve guessed it, core gamers. Selling packaged goods media alongside the hardware will be a much needed fillip to the traditional retailers who are not yet into the digital world.  There are also some Nintendo favourites such as Mario Kart and Luigi’s Mansion coming to the 3DS which will push sales nicely too.

Meanwhile up the road from LA, Apple announced the iCloud which is a way of storing all your music, photos, apps, docs and more, wirelessly as well as pushing them to all your devices automatically.  Cloud computing is finally becoming a practical reality, and another exciting tech on show was OnLive, who have BT and HTTC as investors.  This is a streaming service which brings top notch PC games to your TV or tablet. Using a universal controller you simply play directly from the Cloud. I even saw Flash running on an iPad! OnLive are due to launch in the UK in September so it will be interesting to see if the service is taken up by gamers, core or casual or somewhere in between.

Elsewhere in the digital space, EA have launched Origin which is their digital distribution service set to rival Steam, Amazon, Apple, XBLA, PSN and others. They clearly see the digital race is on and like the chariot race in Ben Hur, it will be fast, furious and pretty brutal.

And finally, it was great to see E3 packed with the key innovators in our industry – the developers, old and new, all hungry for the new tech, some liberated by self-publishing and above all most of them had a smile on their face. I even saw some great augmented reality apps which will revolutionise advertising very soon.  If you see smiles augmented or up there in the clouds, it’s a good sign that the future for interactive entertainment an video games is very bright indeed.

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#oneaday 48: Christmas in May

I woke up this morning at 6am and just could not get back to sleep, no matter how tired I thought I was.  Nothing unusual in the Spring or Summer months, I am usually so keen to get up and get outside into the garden, I think I just wake up with the sunrise. But today is FA Cup Final day and it used to be a very special day, especially when I was younger. Today could still be a special day given that there are 2 teams in the Final neither of whom have won any silverware since the 1970’s, Stoke City and Manchester City. Stoke have never been in the Final in their 140 odd years of existence, so their fans will be experiencing a mix of emotions, anxiety right now and maybe, just maybe ecstasy at about 5pm tonight. Or their fans and players will feel flatter than a pancake if they lose to their big money rivals, the Chelsea replacements in light blue. To both sets of fans winning will be everything today and losing, well just not worth contemplating. To both sets of supporters, may the best team win.

My how the game has changed though. This is the first time ever that the FA Cup Final has been played before the end of the Football League season (or indeed the Premier League) has actually finished. Worse than that, a stack of Premiership teams actually play today, all be it at 12.45pm. And even worse than that, the FA Cup Final is no longer on the BBC! Without being dewy eyed. things ain’t what they used to be.

FA Cup Final day was always special. Outside of World Cups and the occasional European Championship ( I say occasional that was because there was only 8 teams who took part, even up to 1992, and the home countries were rarely involved) and the much loved and much missed Home Internationals, which featured England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Island in a round robin tournament played over a week  of 2 Saturdays and a Wednesday nigh match, there was no live football on TV.

I remember watching my first Final in 1970 – Chelsea vs Leeds which went to a replay the following week, which was great becasue it was another match live on TV.  Chelsea won it and also won a legion of new fans, all about 6 or 7 years old.  At  school on the Monday after the Saturday draw, I remember getting punched by some bigger kids because when they asked me ‘who are you for the replay, Chelsea or Leeds’ I simply replied, ‘neither, I amWest Ham’. I think the die was cast even at an early stage in my life that I was never one to follow the crowds and certainly never one to support anyone else bar my beloved Hammers. In 1971 we saw Arsenal do the Double in colour for the first time and Charlie George lay prone after scoring the winner against Liverpool. Then in ’72 it was Arsenal back again, this time against the mighty Leeds, Mick Jones with a bandaged shoulder which looked like it had dislocated as he crossed the ball for Allan Clarke to nail the winner. I remember that year collecting the Esso coin collection celebrating 100 years of the FA Cup, and pleading with Dad to make sure he always bought Esso petrol and thus got more little blue printed paper packets with a precious silver coin inside. In ’73 it was that legendary game, Sunderland of the 2nd Division beating the mighty Leeds! No one could believe it. In 74 Liverpool thumped Newcastle 3-0 and Alec Lindsay scored a scorcher which was ruled out as offside. In ’75 it was West Ham against 2nd Division Fulham. Bobby Moore, the legendary number 6 played, but not for West Ham but for Fulham. In then end all my dreams came true when our FA Cup hero, Alan Taylor scored twice again and Billy Bonds lifted the FA Cup and I was happy as a happy thing for months. The following year, it was Southampton’s turn for a day in the sun and they beat hot favourites Manchester United with a solitary goal by Bobby Stokes. And so every year the memories just built. I have only ever been to 2 FA Cup Finals, 1980  when a 2nd Division West Ham beat 1st Division Arsenal and in 2006 when a 2nd Division (now rebranded Championship) West Ham took Premiership Liverpool to penalties after a 3-3 draw in 120 minutes, not at Wembley but in Cardiff. A great day and all that, one I will never forget, despite us being on the losing side.

Not only was the match live on TV in the old days, but the whole day seemed to be about the Cup. I think the BBC and ITV used to kick off about 9 or 10am and we would have Cup Final themed ‘Swap Shop’  (BBC) and something else on ITV, and the day was about one thing and one thing only. But these were different days. Yes the game meant everything, but it was played by players who earned good money, but not daft money. The gap between the fans and those players was not enormous. We were all working class people, joining together on the big day. We all wanted to win, but we all had a laugh or a cry and above all there was a feeling of a national togetherness. Even the managers were relaxed and full of banter. Nowadays it is all conflict and hype. Take a look at ‘Big’ Ron Atkinson and Jimmy Melia who were interviewed by the legendary David Coleman on the morning of the Cup Final. They are laughing and joking and at complete ease with each other. How refreshing that is when compared with some of the nonsense we see today.

Ok, we were younger and we had more vivid memories, but who could forget the FA Cup finalists, the players, the heroes and the villians. The sea of colours, the banners, the terraces at Wembley stacked with true fans paying fair prices and the perfect pitch, green and cut with what must have been nail scissors. Who also could forget the players, putting absolutely everything into a game, often played in blazing sunshine. Those  same players with rolled down socks, discarded shin pads and fantastic 70’s and 80’s hairstyles, exhausted, many crippled by cramp and all connected to their fans and to the nation as a whole. Above all, the nation would tune in in to 1 of 2 channels and watch the game, ‘Abide with Me’ would bring tears to the eyes of the older ones, and us youngsters would be so excited we were also close to tears.

And then to the game. Everyone, and I mean everyone would be watching the game. It was just like Christmas Day, but without all the presents. Once the game was over, we would all go outside and then play football for hours, until the very last chink of sunshine allowed us to see an old rough ball. I will always remember that Sunderland team, managed by the man in the hat, Bob Stokoe, who really could not believe that they had beaten the best team in the country. These were the best of times and there were simply no ‘worst of times’. Today is a tale of two cities, Manchester and Stoke and let’s hope the best team on the day, the one who wants it most, wins. I have no fear that both sets of fans will be singing their hearts out as it will mean loads to them. Indeed one of my very good friends is an ardent Manchester City fan in his 60’s and he is taking his family and his mother a lifelong fan. Another old school friend will be there, hoping that his beloved City will win something at last. That for me is what football is all about.

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