"Miracles happen when
you give as much energy to your dreams as you do to your fears."
- Richard Wilkins
2001 proved to
be a somewhat disjointed year.
As I grew to master my beloved new DIV programming language, I got itchy feet
and spent half of my time investigating new possibilities. My work rate became
a shadow of that which had made my name in late 2000, as I produced just 3
major games. However, from the chaos emerged one game that would revolutionize
my work forever...
had been my flagship game since day one (only THAT Love Triangle
came close to dethroning it), and there had been talk of a sequel within
weeks of its release. As it happened, that sequel didn't
arrive until 6 months later -
when the gameplay was repackaged under the catchier title:
hardcore legend Mick Foley now leading the way, the
new Stunt Challenge
took the old concept in a wild new direction.
The more sophisticated health-based
gameplay - supported
by a multitude of new stages, characters, and
weapons - ensured Big
Bumps surpassed the first game
in every possible way. It was also a much more
refined production, boasting saved high scores and a challenging Story Mode...
Big Bumps can be downloaded here! (1.7mb)
WCW United States Title
By some strange
twist of fate, Big Bumps ended up winning me the WCW United States
championship! That is, a replica belt awarded to me by a wrestling merchandise
store. They wanted to host the game on their website, and felt compelled to
pay me for my contribution. Cash was on the table, but I turned it down in
favour of the gold! As a wrestling fan, I suppose I attached more significance
to a championship than I did to real money. After all, money would just be a
number in the bank - whereas the belt was a tangible trophy that I could
treasure forever. And that I did. The strap is still with me, and reminds me
of the very first time that my games were marketable...
Just a few
months after it was born, MDickie.com became PC Format's
"Site Of The Month" for February. It was
treated to a whole page of exposure in the UK's
leading PC magazine, which
brought more traffic to my site than ever before!
The journalist happened to be a huge wrestling fan, so it was favourable
coverage too. There was even talk of my games appearing on the cover disc -
but they were still infringing WWF copyright at this point, so it wasn't
~ March 2001
By some coincidence,
I shared my issue of PC Format with an
interesting feature that rekindled my interest in C++.
They ran several Bitmap Brothers endorsed tutorials, which culminated in
a special version of their Xenon game. It
also led to a "competition" to see who could create the best modification
of the project. Naturally I stepped up and spent a month developing my Speedball variation,
which turned out great. It was exceptionally creative in making reference
to the Bitmap Brothers' flagship game of the 90's.
Unfortunately, nothing ever came of my entry - even though they claimed
"We'd love to see your entries!" in every issue. It became clear that very few
people had bought into the competition, so it was quietly dropped without
another word. Frustrating to be sure, but it was
still good to tinker with some professional C++ code...
Speedball X can be downloaded here! (3.8mb)
~ March 2001
Bumps was by no means the best I could do in DIV, I had already begun to
feel that I had conquered the language. By March I was exploring other options
- and C++ was no longer one of them!
I actually had a brief encounter with Blitz Basic (which would later
become my staple language), but I was so inexperienced with BASIC that I
couldn't get my head around it. It was strictly 2D in the early days anyway,
so I was much more drawn to its 3D counterpart: Dark BASIC. If I was
going to toil over a new language, I felt this one would be the most
My first exploits
with Dark BASIC were surprisingly impressive. Within
hours I had
an animated model running around a mountainous landscape
- complete with a smooth camera system. I didn't
pursue it as a game, but it definitely got me hooked
on what could be achieved with the
At this point,
I also started to make a conscious effort to learn modelling skills. Although
Dark BASIC provided a fine selection of standard models, I knew my own
games wouldn't be complete without my own creations. After experimenting with
a few lesser products, I finally arrived at the best: "3D Studio MAX". Here, I
slowly learnt to make everything from characters to props...
~ May 2001
assignment for my course finally
forced me to make a start
on a Dark BASIC project - as we were challenged to
make a "prototype" for a major game. I chose
a 3D remake of THAT Love
Triangle, called "It Wasn't Me!"
- in which you had to conduct an
affair with a woman, without being caught by the husband!
Rather frustratingly, my limited Dark
BASIC skills reduced it to nothing more than a bit of fun.
For my first 3D project, the game required programming that
was far beyond me. However, the graphical side of
things were encouraging - as I had several homemade characters running around
a variety of beautiful locations...
~ June 2001
As Big Bumps
to a close, I realised that a decent wrestling simulator was finally possible.
By early March, I had already established plans
for "Federation Online" - a wrestling game which would be contested
online by hundreds of real players. Site visitors were invited to contribute
their own characters, complete with all the usual stats, and they would
all eventually be brought to life in the finished game. Hundreds of characters
rolled in over the months - but unfortunately they were
accompanied by just as many ungrateful demands. My
easy-going temperament was exhausted for the first time, and Federation Online
was officially cancelled. The
whole affair cast a dark cloud over my work -
causing me to ignore the site and focus solely on learning
BASIC. As the months past, there were
accusations that I couldn't even make a wrestling game - and that the whole
Federation Online project was fictitious. Keen to
prove them wrong, I knocked up the skeleton of such
a project in a single weekend and the game was back on!
Albeit as an offline wrestling
simulator, and without the fan-created wrestlers. Instead the game now
had a roster of stars from the WWF and several indy
promotions. In any case, it turned out to be
game yet. The wrestling gameplay
boasted tons of unique attacks and a fine selection
of moves - plus the wildest action yet! There was even an in-game referee
trying to keep control of it! The presentation raised the bar too - thanks to
a huge scrolling arena, complete with lighting effects and music! My now
infamous booking gameplay was even in evidence, whereby the characters
suffered lasting damage and varying statistics. All
in all, Federation Online was a triumph - receiving praise from any
wrestling fan that came across it. And there was plenty of them, thanks to
word of mouth spreading like wild fire!
Federation Online can be downloaded here!
Federation Online, I had a lot of time on my hands and spent much of it
writing articles about the games industry. By July,
one of them was published by the
televised games magazine "Digitiser".
devoted no fewer than 4 pages to
my musings about the potential of independent game
development - and even managed to link to my website. The exposure was bigger
than anything before and, following the release of my best game yet, the
timing was perfect! It secured me plenty of new fans, and triggered further
interest from the media. Above all else, however, the article was actually a
taste of revenge. Digitiser had publicly ridiculed my name just a few
months earlier - but there they were, proudly attaching it to their own
thought that one of
the greatest achievements in game development is to have a
fansite dedicated to a game. After all, it's a
huge seal of approval when people can be that passionate
about something. I got my first taste of it in the
Summer of 2001. Federation Online finally convinced everybody that I was
onto something, and several sites emerged to support the game and my work in
general. They were nothing major - and didn't survive very long - but the
gesture itself was very encouraging. Nowadays the fansites have progressed as
surely as the games themselves. However, as a published developer, I have to
take a stricter approach to promoting them - because they invariably end up
doing more harm than good...
Online: September Edition
Due to popular
demand, Federation Online went on to receive
several monthly updates - each offering more and more
new features. By the final
installment, it was almost an entirely different game!
There were new characters, new moves, and even new concepts
such as building arena improvements. More importantly, the gameplay continued to
improve - boasting a new system that allowed for all 12 wrestlers to participate
in a match. Given that the game already had a generous selection of managers,
referees, and intruders - that made for some crazy scenes! Unfortunately, like
all the DIV games, it didn't stand the test of time very well. It looks woefully
crude compared to the sequel that would follow a year later, and is relatively
countless breakthroughs that were made seal its place in history as the
blueprint for every 2D game followed...
September Edition can be downloaded here! (3.5mb)
EEW's Total Annihilation
of Federation Online even saw me team up with a real promotion! That
is, a tiny independent promotion right here in the UK. At this stage in my
career, I was just pleased that my work had been noticed by the wrestling
community - so I jumped at the chance to keep the relationship alive. However,
to be honest the collaboration did little for either party. It was an
interesting experience though, which was up there with the fansites as proof
that I had "arrived"...
Annihilation can be downloaded here! (2.5mb)
After appearing in both PC Format and Digitiser,
I was firmly on the UK media's radar. One of my biggest supporters proved to
be Martyn Carroll of PC Utilities.
He wrote a glowing review of my work in one article about
independent game development. It
was noted that my games are "improving with every new release", and
he hailed my work as proof that "the bedroom coders
are once again making their mark". My writing even took
home some praise, as he described my infamous Digitiser article
Unfortunately, by this time I
was too popular for my own good and the article managed to pass me by! I only
found out about it after a curious little Internet search - which means
there's no scan available...
The biggest technical achievement
of 2001 was my 3D debut, Big BumpZ. My exploits with the promising new Dark BASIC
language were largely unproductive for most of the
year, but once the summer kicked in I was confident that a
could be made. I adopted the same strategy that I had with by
2D debut, exactly one year previously. Quite literally in fact, because I made
a 3D version of the same game! Big BumpZ took my infamous Stunt
Challenge concept to new heights, featuring all-new 3D graphics and
gameplay. However, this is not to be confused with the Blitz 3D version
that arrived in 2003! This "Big BumpZ" was the very first attempt at that
game, and consequently was nowhere near as sophisticated. It was a fine effort
though, which introduced many brave new features - such as a character editor,
several unique stages, and a whole range of camera angles. I was so pleased
with the game that I submitted it to a Dark BASIC competition that was
running in PC Gamer magazine. Unfortunately, it turned out to be an
exact repeat of the PC Format fiasco - whereby nobody else entered! It
was especially frustrating this time because the winner was promised a trip to
E3 in California. I was hoping to win by default, but instead the competition
was never spoken of again...
The original Big BumpZ can be downloaded here!
By the end of the
year, I was desperately looking for a new language to focus on.
Although DIV had served me well, Federation Online had squeezed every
last drop out of it! Meanwhile, Dark BASIC was proving to be a little
too difficult to master. So in stepped the all-new "Blitz 3D" - which now promised
the best 3D and 2D game creation in one tidy package.
Although I had my reservations about Blitz
earlier in the year, my experience with Dark BASIC left me much better
prepared to tackle it again...
As is often the case when I have a
new language to learn, I decided to ease myself in gently with a fun little
game. Rather controversially, real events surrounding my Computer &
Video Games course would prove to be the inspiration this time. Our course
representative was struggling to get much-needed learning resources from
the management, so I satirized the situation with a game that saw him "beating"
money and computers out of the management!
The game was nothing special, but it was a fine introduction to the world of
Blitz. Looking back, it was odd that I was using an exciting new 3D tool to
make yet another 2D game! However, deep down I knew there was still a lot left
to accomplish in that style - as 2002 would prove...
The game can be downloaded here!
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