Last week I was in the presence of gaming Icons. Giving a talk as part of the Video Game Nation exhibition in Manchester’s (England) Urbis, were the famed, fantastic and frantic Oliver Twins of Blitz Games Studios. Some of you may know them from knowledge of Blitz, others may have seen those cheesy documentaries about bedroom development, and then there’s the obsessed few clutching the nostalgia of Dizzy games to their chest (or maybe just clutching a stack of Dizzy cassettes.)
Even without the talks that are going on throughout the next few months, this exhibition is something definitely worth checking out if you find yourself anywhere near Manchester. There are whole heaps of interesting things to look at, depicting the emergence and rise of British video games, including the chance to play a vast amount of them. Stories, news articles and comments from the developers themselves adorn the walls offering insight into some of the highlight’s of gaming past.
Maps that the developers created whilst making their games, concept art for various locations, magazine covers and game posters are among the beautiful artwork on display. There is also the ability to get hands on as playable versions have been set up allowing you get your gaming action with Broken Sword, Geometry Wars, Donkey Kong Country, LittleBigPlanet, Pac Man World, MotorStorm, WipeOut, Bully, Tomb Raider, GTA IV, Snake, Dizzy and that is not even the full list.
As well as all that, they have a range of guest speakers talking about their time in the industry, their games, and in some cases the future. As mentioned before, the speakers in question last week were the Oliver Twins, creating Dizzy and the origins of their gaming empire from their bedroom whilst still at school. For those of you old enough to remember, this was a time gaming involved cassettes, so you’re showing your age if the Dizzy series rings any bells.
The two shared insight into the history of their game development career, which was interesting enough by itself, but the real meat of the presentation (for those not blinded by an egg) was as they showed not what games that had worked on in the past, but what games Blitz is set to offer us in the future.
Let’s start with one of the items the two men behind seem most proud of, 3D gaming. It went over a storm at GDC and E3, and a dozen other non-gaming conferences that the Olivers have attended. It is going to be a big deal, and getting to go hands-on with the first released 3D game was quite a treat. Invincible Tiger is the game in question, whilst not revolutionary in the gameplay being a standard brawler, the visual effect gained from great level design mixed with the new technology was certainly a site to behold.
Unfortunately, 3D games are in a painful catch-22 at the moment. There is a limited market for them because as of yet they have yet to prove to publishers they are worthwhile, and the other side is without the backing of a publisher it is increasingly difficult to create a game to prove the point. I would expect to see a few more games like this hitting arcade in the next 6 months, small games trying to break the 3D technology boundary.
Regardless of who does and doesn’t make 3D games in the future, the fact is Blitz have made one now, and whilst the 3D effect feels quite gimmicky at times, the brawler is solid and enjoyable feeling like a redux of a classic retro beat-em-up like Comix Zone or Streets of Rage, but not feeling one bit dated.
As well as Invincible Tiger, we got to see footage/gameplay from the brutal game Dead to Rights: Retribution. This game looks definitely still in development, as there were camera issues, aiming issues and some quite hurtful frame rate issues.
This game is certainly one to look out for, third person carnage that will get the blood pumping. Apparently, one of the animators was so keen on it, he got involved in the motion capture too…he broke two ribs. This game is breaking the people making it, that is selling me at least.
They also showed some casual games ranging from quizzes based on logic instead of general knowledge, Droplitz for the iPhone, Karaoke Revolution and some game where you round up people…Yeah, you can tell I was paying slightly more attention to the blood and guts side of this day.
One of the fascinating things about all these games was they are all (excluding Droplitz) created using the Blitz Tech engine, which seems such a versatile engine. Seeing video of the level editor at work on Dead to Rights a while back staggered me, as it essentially made my experiences with Hammer and Unreal Editor look like rubbing two sticks together to make a game.
Whatever the future brings for the twins or 3D gaming, one thing is certain, Blitz Games Studios are certainly ones to look out for this year.