BritBitGames The Story So Far
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!