(? – early 90's,
Ian Weatherburn was a Spectrum games pioneer and a significant influence on the realisation of the Spectrum as a computer with real
potential to entertain. Weatherburn's early creation, The Alchemist (1983) was one of the first ever attempts at a collect and
use arcade adventure, a game mechanic that was refined and enhanced through the Spectrum's most successful years by other coders -
in the shape of the Dizzy series as well as many other Spectrum games.
Weatherburn's creative ability to tap straight into the imagination of a child was continued in games like N.O.M.A.D. and The
Neverending Story. His versatility beyond these can also be seen in the coding of the Leaderboard golf games for the Spectrum, which
emphatically raised the bar for that genre.
Ian Weatherburn remains largely an enigmatic figure in the Spectrum community because of his reclusive nature and eccentric habits.
A persona that was magnified when news of Ian's tragic death (apparently he commited suicide) hit the community. Simon Butler, who
worked together with Ian on many titles, tells us more about Ian:
I met Ian way back in the mists of time at the Imagine offices and he treated me then with pretty much the same disdain he did until
the end of our working relationship together. But that was just Ian.
He was a self-absorbed with few people skills, which worked to his detriment in the social arena but was one of his strengths in the
This distance that was always present between Ian and the rest of the human race only brought him closer to the thing he was best
at, writing games. His games were more than usually well-crafted with a lot of man-hours put into each.
He was sarcastic to a point where it was almost painful to hear some of the things he said. His idea of humour was almost always at
somebody else's expense...but again this was just part of Ian Weatherburn and you either got over it, ignored it or if you couldn't,
then stay away.
We worked quite extensively, just the two of us in our freelance days and because of his intractable manner he always said exactly
what he wanted and left no room for error. Would that other coders in years to come had been as blunt or as focused.
There was no room for niceties, he was a man of few words so whenever work started, work was all there was and you did it until you
finished; then it was time to clock off until tomorrow. No shooting the breeze or winding down, just down tools, goodbye, see you
While other, younger people came into the industry and matured and grew, Ian stayed a kind of Peter Pan figure in the background.
His hands later came to hold the reins of his own company but he was always a figure on the edge of things and even though the whole
ball of wax was his, he never entered centre stage.
His only true failing that led to his downfall was his trust in people he considered friends.
Ian was led astray and his financial dealings only got worse. It was sad to see but, Ian being the person he was, would not take
kindly to being offered advice and told he had made a mistake. His judgement was absolute and no-one could tell him otherwise.
We parted on far from good terms.
Ian could have, I can only conjecture, been a pretty damn good coder, but I believe his communications skills or lack of would have
held him back.
Most likely he would have gone Stateside and followed his first love, the almighty dollar.
I can see him now, alone but unconcerned in a house with a beach view, a fast car in the garage and the world's dodgiest collection
of 80s female rockers in his cd collection.
He could have been happy. But sadly he never was.
Jumping_Stack and Simon Butler for the write-up.