2004 Retrospective


"You've ain't even impressed no more - you're used to it!"
- Eminem

On paper, 2004 was my strongest year thus far and produced a steady flow of the most ambitious projects yet. However, underneath the surface something wasn't quite clicking. By the year's end, my "best" games yet were being played by a dwindling audience. Rather oddly, the players and journalists that drooled over my feeble 2D games grew silent once their mighty 3D counterparts stomped onto the scene...

Wrestling MPire
January 2004
The year promised to get off to a formidable start with the arrival of my first 3D wrestling simulator, Wrestling MPire - and it didn't disappoint! Its gruelling 3-month production schedule was the longest of any project thus far, but heralded a whole new era of content and quality. Boasting some 200 wrestlers spread across 9 talent pools, it was THE biggest wrestling game on the market - let alone the biggest from my stable! Considering that it was a fully 3D affair, that scale was not to be taken lightly either. It didn't hide a bad game so much as make a good one even better. The role-playing possibilities in the "Career" mode went through the roof with such a large playing field, and produced arguably the most involving wrestling experience available to fans. Not least because of realistic backstage details, such as contract negotiations and booking decisions, that only a true fan could appreciate. Thankfully, the detail also extended to the ring as well. The game faithfully recreated the anarchic, open-ended gameplay that its predecessors were famous for. The "biggest" again, too, as up to 30 wrestlers and 100 items littered the arena! Its dubious graphics were inevitably criticized by some, but the fact is they made all of the above possible. And when it went on to become the best-selling game in my arsenal, the players had voted with their wallets - saying "NO" to eye candy and an almighty "YES" to substance. It went on to be downloaded over 100'000 times from alone and remains my most successful release - despite a string of infinitely superior remakes...
Wrestling MPire can be downloaded here! (15mb)

Booking MPire
April 2004
In amongst the madness surrounding Michael Jackson, I was busy trying to deliver the inevitable follow-up to Wrestling MPire. As successful as the first game was, it was actually meant to be nothing more than a warm-up act! What I, and many others, were really looking forward to was a bone fide sequel to Federation Booker - which focused on running a promotion rather than wrestling in it. Booking MPire was that game, and it did a fine job of bringing the management concept u to date in a 3D world. The enjoyable gameplay of Wrestling MPire was now just the tip of the iceberg, as countless other responsibilities flooded the player's desk. However, for one reason or another, this cerebral sequel was noticeably less popular than its simple-minded predecessor. Instead of complimenting the original and perching on its throne, this release sold barely HALF as many copies. Whether it was because people felt it wasn't sufficiently different to warrant a second purchase or simply because the concept was the least enjoyable of the two, I couldn't be quite sure. In any case, I personally crowned it the champion of the two. It removed many of the bugs that plagued the first outing and felt just that little bit more polished. After all, a new era was dawning where such qualities would become increasingly important...
Booking MPire can be downloaded here! (15mb)

Develop Magazine
~ April
Spring offered a double-barrel of media exposure, as yet another page was dedicated to my work. This time it was in the games industry journal, Develop - and this time I was writing the news instead of being in it! The most overlooked part of my work is that I spend as much time writing about it as I do actually making it (the words you're reading now being a case in point!). Normally, these self-indulgent rants are reserved for the website - but this article was the latest to spill out into the published media. Fortunately, it was the greatest too - as I confidently and articulately stated the case for independent game development. Independent developers have always treated their work as some sort of stepping stone to better things, but here I was insisting that it WAS the "better thing"! Naturally, those sentiments were met with a distinctly mixed reaction from the magazine's audience. Although players and journalists are thrilled by my brazen optimism, it's not exactly what the established professionals want to hear. I stand by it, though, as a passionate call to arms for those who want to innovate...

Evolution Of The MPire
~ June
Although they ended up dividing people, the two games in the Wrestling MPire series were actually designed to compliment each other. A value twin-pack was always on the cards then, and it would appear a few months later as the Evolution Of The MPire compilation. As the title suggests though, it was much more than a "twin-pack" and rather generously included every other major game leading up to their creation! The dominance of Wrestling MPire may have rendered some of those predecessors redundant, but it still stood as a nice commemorative package to look back on. Above all else, it was yet another MDickie innovation. As a collection of games sharing a similar theme, made by one man in a short space of time, it was arguably the games industry's first "album". You could now get every major game I had ever made for the price of ONE mainstream release! It was a tantalizingly prospect that highlighted the benefits of my brand, and was duly snapped up by the many late-comers that followed Wrestling MPire's arrival. In fact, the project was so successful that it became a traditional way of re-releasing the produce of each new era...

August 2004
Evolution Of The MPire was especially poignant because it marked the end of the wrestling era that it encapsulated. After 4 long years of dedication to the genre, I was quite literally burnt out and found myself going through the motions as the Wrestling MPire series drew to a close (which is never a good sign). For my own sanity, then, a break was essential - and Popscene had the dubious honour of marking that departure. As risky as it felt, it was probably the safest escape route I could have asked for. It was a remake of a charming little 2D game that I had made way back in the early days. So far back, in fact, that it was never even released! Not so far back, however, that its potential didn't shine through - and so the music management concept made a triumphant 3D comeback. It was relatively well received (considering the flagship franchise that it had to follow), and to this day remains the most successful release outside of a wrestling ring. More importantly, it also did a fine job of kick-starting a new era - even managing to thaw the hateful sceptics of the Blitz community, who finally honoured my work in their newsletter on the month of its release. In every other respect, however, it failed to make the huge impact of its wrestling predecessors. I had hoped that it too would be hailed by the music community and related media - but no such luck, as it was routinely ignored by most. It seemed my ability to play the media (which had always been my strongest asset) was finally starting to fail me...
Popscene can be downloaded here! (15mb)

Sure Shot 3D
November 2004
When you're responsible for something, there's a kind of fatherly pride that affects your judgement. Although you can list thousands of things that you're proud of, not a single one of them promises to be shared by the rest of the world. Sure Shot 3D was such a game. It proved to be the single most monumental flop in the history of my professional career - barely clocking up any sales at all! I'm no stranger to failure, and talk about it openly on these very pages, but there was something especially galling about Sure Shot 3D's reception. I genuinely felt - and still do - that it was my best release yet. Small, yes, but perfectly formed. The fact that I could be so wrong was deeply disturbing. My favourite game proved to be my audience's least favourite - a chasm of opinion so wide that it threatened to swallow my career for good. As a professional game developer, everything I made now had to be worthy of buying and there's was no longer any place for self-indulgent projects like this. Now that the game is free to download, however, it may enjoy a better roll of the dice. For fans of the Sure Shot concept, there can be no doubting that this was a nice interpretation of it - as the 3rd dimension made the process of catching enemies in your line of sight even more challenging and satisfying...
Sure Shot 3D can be downloaded here! (7mb)


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