One day, sitting around the house, I came up with the idea of making video games. It was some time back in December, when the weather was cold and I was stuck in the house with nothing to do. I quickly enlisted the help of a couple of friends and BritBitGame was launched.
I’d had some experience of making video games, having made some for the C64 and Amiga back in the 80’s and 90’s. However, none of the games I’d made had ever been officially published and I’d not made any games for almost 20 years. This meant that I was rather out of practise. My two friends were even less experienced than I was… But we decided to go for it and make our first game.
The first game was going to be a Breakout clone called Blokker. The basic plot was that an alien computer virus had taken control of a futuristic Earth defence computer and you had control another program called a Blokker to destroy the data blocks in the computer systems that the virus had infected. To stop you there were a number of enemies and other obstacles.
Unfortunately the game never reached completion because mistakes were made (we at one point lost a whole month’s worth of work due to a backup failure) and my two inexperienced friends decided that video game development wasn’t for them. We decided to go our separate ways and BritBitGames folded.
But I wanted to continue making video games. So I decided to resurrect BritBitGames as a solo developer and work on smaller projects while trying to gain some exposure as a creator of video games. This led to me coming up with the idea of making short, free games that I can use as a stepping stone to other projects. The idea is to create several of these “concept demo’s” and put them out on sites like Desura, Kongregate, IndieDB, and GameJolt, so that people can play them and offer feedback. The games that gain the most feedback, or prove to be the most popular, I will look into turning into much bigger games. I’m calling the scheme Project Prototype.
Now, obviously it’ll take me a while to get noticed, and I may not even be noticed. But at least I’ll be getting some much needed practise in creating video games.
I originally started making video games on the ZX81 back when I was around 8 years old. They were very simple things, usually created by typing the code in from one of those make your own games books. However, I quickly learned that by changing certain things I could influence what was happening on the screen. It was a bit hit and miss, and a lot of trial and error, but it did enable me to learn how to code in BASIC.
For my 13th birthday my father bought me a Commodore 64. Being a more powerful machine than my 1k (later 16k with upgrade) ZX81, I was able to create much better games, learning machine code in the process, and was well on the way to joining the rest of the “Bedroom Programmers” that were so prevalent at the time. I created several games, mostly platformers and shooters, and shared them with friends and family. Unfortunately, though, I never got anything published.
I did take a game for publication to my local studio, Ocean Software, which was a couple of miles away from where I live. I was 18 at this point and it was 1992, and Ocean really weren’t all that interested in some geeky kid making games in his spare room. There seemed to be more of a push towards teams of developers working together, so unless you were already an established name, like Geoff Crammond, Andrew Braybrook or Mike Singleton, you weren’t getting your foot in the door… At least that’s how it seemed to me. And even if you were an established name, this wasn’t always a direct route to publication, as Jeff Minter from Llamasoft found out when he created Llamatron.
Jeff Minter managed to get around the problem by releasing Llamatron as shareware, where people could get the game for free and then donate £5 if they liked it. He got a great response from this and and it really saved his bacon. I, on the other hand, wasn’t quite so quick to grasp onto shareware (in fact I just didn’t bother) and gave up on creating games.
I won’t bore you with too much detail of what I did next, but I did gain a wide set of skills, including working as a chef, baker, website designer, graphics designer, musician and actor… As well as an on/off stint working in a friends second hand shop.
So, why back to making games? I don’t know. Unfinished business I suppose. There has been a new boom in independent video game developers, and it does kind of remind me a little of the “old days” of the bedroom programmers, with a new breed of solo developers out there. I decided to join in, but this time, though, I’d really like to have a much better crack at it.
So there it is. The story so far… I have no idea why I decided to bore you all with that, and it was a bit back to front. But there it is!
UTS-187: Uniform Tango Sierra -
A failed attack upon a downed enemy mothership wipes out all of tank squad UTS-187. That is all but one! Cut off from your allies you must battle your way through waves of enemy forces… Will you …
This will be my last games related post on here for a little while as I’m taking a step back from this blog to concentrate on www.britbitgames.com.
If you’d like to play the game follow the link above.
programmingfreedom said: the things you said about game maker i sort of feel the same way its too easy and i constantly feel like im not a real game maker when i use it so i started using sfml and c++ its allot different and i learn allot but im not actually finishing anny games :P once you got somewhere with it you can do allot more with just programming but as you said i probably dont need any of that anywhay just wanted to tell you that
I completely get where you’re coming from. Like I said, I started out in BASIC on a 1K ZX81 and later a C64. Sometimes I feel like using GameMaker takes me away from the “nuts and bolts” of making games, because it’s just so easy to get results.
I personally see no problem in using GameMaker as a stepping stone to other things.I chose to use it at this point in my return to making games because I’ve not programmed anything for over 20 years, and I wanted to use something that gave results quickly due to the fact that I’m a bit rusty.
What I’m doing is using GameMaker to create short 3-5 level demo games, sort of concept demo’s if you like, from different genre’s that can be turned into bigger projects, with more features and polish, somewhere down the line.
I’m also looking at moving on to other development tools, like Unity, and I’m also studying c++.
Anonymous said: What's your opinion on GameMaker? There seems to be a lot of discrimination against it for curbing out massive parts of the development process, obviously quite rightly so, but do you think it, and other software like it, are still useful as learning tools for people with no previous background looking to learn the basics of game logic and some programming skills?
I don’t use it and therefore have no opinion on it.
Tommy, I hope you don’t mind me stealing this, but I’d like to add something. I hope you don’t think I’m being cheeky by butting in.
I use GameMaker. Why do I use it? Because it’s a tool, and it’s a tool that suits my needs. Like all tools it serves it’s purpose. If I wanted to knock a hole in a wall I’d use a sledgehammer, but it’d be much quicker and easier to use a pneumatic drill. Yes, there are things out there that are more powerful than GameMaker and ways of making games that are more flexible, but for the moment GameMaker suits my needs.
Sometimes I do feel like I’m cheating when I use it. I think this is a throwback to the fact that I used to make games on the Commodore 64 in the 80’s using BASIC and machine code (I started out with a Sinclair ZX81). Sometimes GameMaker just feels a bit too easy. That being said, there’s still a lot I don’t know about the software as I’ve only just started using it, as is probably evident from the first couple of games I’ve made. I’ve only just returned to making games after a 20 year break and being very out of practise I wanted to use something that gave decent results quickly.