2003 Retrospective


"Faced with crisis, the man of character falls back on himself."
- Charles de Gaulle

Throughout 2003, what had previously been a hobby continued to become more professional. After years of playing 2nd fiddle, I finally felt in control of my games and my career. However, as the bar was raised so too were the demands on my time and energy. My work rate dropped to producing just a few major games (and very little in between) - as I started prioritizing quality over quantity...

Big BumpZ
January 2003
Although I had been using Blitz 3D for over a year, the boxing game was literally the only 3D concept that I had gotten round to making! That would all change at the turn of 2003, as I took my first steps towards a 3D wrestling simulator. The Stunt Challenge gameplay came out of retirement one last time for an explosive final instalment. I felt that the Big BumpZ of 2001 was a stain on the game's legacy, so I vowed to make amends with this the ultimate remake. My new professional attitude served it well, as it boasted the best 3D graphics I could muster and equally good presentation. The story mode from the 2D game made its 3D debut - and it was better than ever, featuring animated cut-scenes that introduced the challenges. The gameplay was as good as the concept could afford too, and took place in many unique locations. Still, the finished game received distinctly mixed reviews. As with every other instalment in the series, you either "got it" or you didn't. It was strictly for wrestling fans, and left everybody else bewildered - not least my university lecturers who had to accept it as my coursework! My publishers were equally unimpressed and politely refused to take it any further. That was quite a blow, because I had designed it to be released on CD and was left with a hefty piece of freeware to upload. Fortunately, the game still managed to impress on that level. My wrestling fans took it to their hearts as ever, and even the freeware library had good things to say. Their review praised its innovative concept and challenging story mode, before concluding that it was "charming". All in all, this Big BumpZ was a fitting end to the Stunt Challenge legacy - and an exciting preview of where my wrestling games were headed...
Big BumpZ can be downloaded here! (7mb)

Student Direct
~ March 2003
My newfound status as a published game developer gave me more stroke with the media than ever before. Even though it was on a small-time label, the mere fact that I had games out there was impressive news - especially because of my single-handed approach. My University's local paper was the first to swoop in - despite the fact that my course was more of a hindrance than a help! In any case, the article's "hometown hero" angle practically guaranteed that it would be favourable. It delivered the goods admirably, with 2 whole pages of coverage. One dealt with my work in general, whilst the other reviewed the 2 published games...

Federation Booker
~ May
At this point in my career I was juggling 2D and 3D games with incredible ease. After Big BumpZ, I was right back to the 2D wrestling series for the promised sequel. Whilst Federation Wrestling was a fun-filled arcade affair, this second instalment would return to the game's booking roots. You had won control of "Federation Online" at the end of the first game, so here you were acting out the rest of the story. The transition was very effective. You recreated your character and were then thrown into a showdown with the former owner. He vowed to make life difficult for you by stripping the company down to its bare roots, and from there it was your job to rebuild the show! Whilst the wrestling gameplay remained the same, this new managerial role gave the game a huge twist. It was infinitely more sophisticated than the rough concept of the original Federation Online game. For a start, there were hundreds of characters spread across 4 different promotions! You had a huge pool of talent that came and went as surely as they did in real life, which made for some very satisfying gameplay. Quite simply, it took 2D wrestling simulation further than it had ever been - before or since - and sealed its place as the definitive game of its kind... 
Federation Booker can be downloaded here! (21mb)

Independent Publishing
June 2003
When Big BumpZ was shot down by the publishers I grew concerned about their stance on wrestling games. Sure enough, Federation Booker also went over their heads and got the same blank response. Although it's understandable, I had hoped that they would place more faith in my work. After all, Federation Wrestling proved to be their best selling game so far - and the booking sequel was guaranteed to sell even better! As surely as they had failed to understand the concept, they failed to understand my enthusiasm - forcing me to go elsewhere. Unfortunately, I was so new to the publishing world that I didn't have anywhere else to go! It seemed increasingly likely that this, my finest hour, would be lost forever - along with my career. Out of desperation, I investigated the publishing process for myself and arranged to have the game distributed independently. I quickly drew up some packaging of my own, commissioned a Californian printer to manufacture the CD's - and the rest is history. It was tough work (especially for a guy that was already doing everything else!) but it paid off spectacularly. I was now in control of my own destiny, and my players had the game they were waiting for. Best of all, they made it overtake Federation Wrestling as THE most successful Blitz game of all time!  

The MDickie Show
~ August
I've always thought of my games as title holders - each one having the responsibility of carrying the company through the months ahead. If that's the case then The MDickie Show was a "paper champion" that wasn't up to the task! It was a fun enough game, but it didn't have the depth that my wrestling fans were accustomed to. Matters weren't helped by the fact that my computer went down weeks before the game was due to be released. In fact, the game was very nearly lost forever! Miraculously, it turned up in the half of my files that the technician managed to recover. In any case, it was left with a subdued debut as I struggled to post a mere preview of the game - let alone any other promotional material. The show might have been a commercial failure, but I still stand by it as a production. The TV presentation was ambitious, and even extended to spoken arguments in my first (and only) foray into voice acting. The gameplay, though primitive, was also a step towards what would become Wrestling MPire...

September 2003
In the short time that its appeal lasted, The MDickie Show did capture people's imaginations. The sound effects laden gameplay was a treat for editors, as they were even encouraged to record their own arguments for the show! Unfortunately, the results were so large that they were seldom shared on the Internet - but amongst friends it was quite the party piece. A couple of underground musicians even went so far as to sample the game's rants in a rap song! Vengeful Blessings took the George Bush impression and somehow squeezed it onto their "OURmageddon" track...  
The song can be downloaded here!

Made In America
September 2003
Shortly after The MDickie Show was released I left for Chicago, USA - where I would spend a whole month sampling the culture. 90% of my audience comes from North America, yet I hadn't seen it for myself. With laptop in hand, I actually managed to redefine the term "independent" game developer. Not only am I independent of co-workers, but I'm even independent of an office! I was quite literally taking game development to new places. In fact, Wrestling MPire went into production at this very juncture - which raised a lot of eyebrows at the airport. It's not everyday you see an epic 3D wrestling game being made at the table next to you! The plan was that by being made on American soil, the home of pro wrestling, Wrestling MPire would inherit some of that fine tradition. And that it did, as week by week it became better than I ever could have hoped. When it finally materialized the following year, it would prove to be the ultimate souvenir...

Daily Telegraph
~ November 2003
The MDickie Show may have disappointed the wrestling faithful, but it had a successful impact on the rest of the world. It was the most impressive 3D game to ever come from one man - which, combined with the unusual concept, made it quite a story for the press. Federation Booker might have been the real success behind the scenes, but it was The MDickie Show that captured the public's imagination. This article, which came from the Daily Telegraph, is typical of the time - and was perhaps the most supportive to date. They took liberties with my words by focusing on the financial side of things, but they were at least taking my business seriously. Spookily enough, I used to deliver this very same newspaper when I was a kid! Who'd have thought that a few years later I'd actually be in it? Furthermore, the story was actually tipped to be front page news - but unfortunately some kid drowned and stole my spot. That's probably for the best! Even I don't think my work is THAT interesting... 


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