“What is it?” I mused, blowing the dust off the mysterious slender slab with some sort of rainbow effect, nestling in my hands. “A computer”, my dad answered “someone at work was chucking it out, it’s yours.” I’d always had a unique fascination with game systems and computers born out of a sense of longing for that which I did not have and now here it was- my very own computer! I’d spent hours looking through the glass windows to arcade casinos to get a glimpse of the giant colour sprites battling it out, which I try to visualise and draw as soon as I got home. Visiting friends’ houses and getting to play their systems had left me with a buzz for days after. The Spectrum 48k plugged into an old black and white TV. The next day a new treat arrived- a cassette case boasting a most impressive cover to a small child- a martial artist kicking an Egyptian mummy, with a robot and beast creature also involved in proceedings- heaven! “Renegade 3: THE FINAL CHAPTER!”- well this was the opening chapter for me, my very 1st game and it looked like it would be fantastic! I still remember my excitement upon loading this game- the sound that played as lines frantically flickered across the TV before giving way to the games title image.
I wasn't to know then that the game was actually rather flawed. It’s two predecessors ‘Renegade’ and 'Target Renegade’ (acquired later) were actually far better and became the backbone to my childhood love affair with the scrolling beat-em up. Renegade 3 was my first game, and it will always have a special place in my heart!
The Spectrum 48k supported me loyally for a couple of years. But the world outside was changing.
Through visiting the house of the friend who I use to create the card games and booklets with, I had become aware of a fascinating home computer and spent several years trying to convince my Dad (money was no doubt very tight and value had to be proved) that I needed one. The friend helped me, by creating a booklet selling the benefits of owning an AMIGA, which no doubt bemused the adult it pandered to- ha, such endeavour! Still I guess it worked- eventually I got one.
Scorned by 1200 owners, I didn’t care- the Amiga 600 (with 2MB I might add!) was my own, my precious. For the first time the playing field had narrowed. There was such a wealth of varied games on this machine, collections became vast. The magazines of those days are also remembered fondly. On occasion they served up real gems on their cover disks- demos of games I would not normally play and also public domain games. ‘The One Amiga’ and ‘CU Amiga’ were my favourites (I must apologise to Amiga magazine enthusiast James Tate here who might strongly disagree with my choices- sorry old friend but ‘Amiga Power’s’ rating system was too brutal for me!)
One day a demo disk came out that blew my mind. It didn’t matter that each screen took five minutes to load and that I dies within 20 seconds of playing, Beneath a Steel Sky was a passage into another world (yes, I loved that game too!), it was the best art work I’d ever seen in a game and ignited my interest in the click and point genre.
What also made this machine so wonderful was a piece of software I’d initially completely disregarded in favour of playing games. I was not to know that the grinning goon juggling balls on the cover of the Deluxe paint 3 manual was attempting to entice me into the most wonderful piece of art kit. My love of film and animation grew from here. Another lesser known program, movie setter championed by Eric Swartz (which was also my first insight into the world of cartoon soft porn) would further ignite my passion as it allowed me to add sound to my animations which I’d nicked off Team 17’s Worms game.
Here it is- my first animation with sound! 1993! The duck was an asset supplied with the movie setter software and the sound effects are from Worms!
Just when I thought things could get no better, my friend and his brother introduced me to the wonderful world of game making. They were clever, streaks ahead of most people at School and were already dabbling in programming in AMOS. Now, they wanted me involved in creating a game because I had learned to draw with the mouse. I have fond memories of those times. Our first game was a football management sim with animations. You could pick your team and play other sides but every game finished in a 2-2 draw! We then half-finished a general knowledge quiz game where if you got a question wrong you would be treated to ever more grotesque horrific death animations- I think Mortal Kombat had just hit the arcades and I was influenced by the fatalities. The ‘Shoot em construction kit’ had also just been released as a magazine cover disk and this allowed us to create some tile based shoot-em ups. I enjoyed that software immensely due to it’s of use but you couldn't add power ups to your weapons which was my only gripe. So we certainly weren't tied down to any genre- we just loved making stuff (and not finishing it)
My friends then got hold of the Amiga Graphic Adventure Creator (GRAC) and suddenly everything changed, because this software was the real deal- you could create click and point adventures limited only by your own ability. Playing games fully made way for game creation for a whole month... We worked day and night, they programmed and I built all the graphics in deluxe paint. “Beneath a Blue Sky” was our masterpiece; it had laser guns, mad scientists, football hooligans, fights, prison escape puzzles and a bar (so original!) The world would worship us as child genius’ and we were going to be stars and sell millions of copies- that was until we ran out of disk space after four rooms and the game started crashing. The floppy disk was left to rot on the floor and we went outside to play football. The Amiga market soon followed our fall from grace, making way for a PC take over. At the time PC’s were not built in the same way, I felt they were way behind the Amiga’s user friendly qualities and so I moved away from dreaming of making games and started secondary School. Here I met many more Amiga users but the market was dying and mid-way through School I pretty much lost interest in computers altogether for a long time aside from playing games occasionally on consoles. Looking back, I can only wonder what would have happened if we had continued to pursue those dreams that started on GRAC. I did not think that almost twenty years later, a return to game making would come from the most unlikely of sources…