Level 0: DIV Games Studio

The first games I ever released publicly ran in DOS, which you're not likely to get working nowadays without the help of tools like DOS Box. This was perhaps the most prolific period of my career, where the creation of games was measured in weeks rather than months! Although it was a case of quantity over quality, many concepts were introduced that live on in my work to this day...

Federation Online: September Edition
My fledgling wrestling simulator went on to receive several monthly updates over the summer of 2001 - 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 looks woefully crude compared to the sequel that would follow a year later, and is relatively unplayable. However, the countless breakthroughs that were made seal its place in history as the blueprint for every 2D game followed...
Federation Online: September Edition can be downloaded here! (3.5mb)

Federation Online
 (June 2001)
As Big Bumps drew to a close, I realised that a decent wrestling simulator was finally possible and began contemplating what form it would take. I awoke one night with the title "Fed On" racing through my head, which was to be an abbreviation of "Federation Online". I was making such headway with my website at this point that my instict was to make an "online" wrestling federation. Not in the same sense that we understand "online" multiplayer today, but more of an e-fed where my fans submitted their own characters, which I would dutifully put in the game to create the illusion of them playing against each other! Suffice to say, it turned out to be an impractical nightmare that I swiftly abandoned - but the title remained as I settled back into making the best wrestling sim I could. It had the most sophiscated combat and wildest action of any game yet, along with a handful of other innovations that we take for granted now - such as a real in-game referee and entrance music loaded in from your actual CD collection! The basic concept of booking was even in evidence, where lasting damage was done to the roster you had to work with.

Big Bumps
 (February 2001)
Hardyz Stunt Challenge 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 "Big Bumps". With 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. Incidentally, this was also the first project I ever got paid for - as I accepted a replica WCW United States championship for promoting a merchandise website! Winning the title proved that my work had value in more ways that one...

PC Format Magazine
 (February 2001)
Just a few months after it was born, 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 possible.

Family Christmas
 (December 2000)
I ended my first year as a known game developer with a "Christmas Special", which would be spent at the McMahon household! The basic premise featured each member of the clan running around the living room attacking each other with their unwanted gifts (which were different each time). I was hoping this would be the first of many seasonal specials, but as my games got bigger and more demanding I couldn't afford any wasted energy...

Sure Shot
 (December 2000)
This was the very first incarnation of an enduring concept that would pop up numerous times throughout my career. It was a unique take on the shoot 'em-up genre, which simply challenged 2 soldiers to trap enemies in their crossfire WITHOUT hitting each other! This was just a crude prototype of what would follow, but it gave me the confidence to experiment. Even though I was carving out my niche as a wrestling specialist, it was important to prove to myself that I was a well-rounded developer who could make games of all kinds.

Wrestling Vs Boxing
 (December 2000)
THAT Love Triangle was a leap forward in gameplay and got people suggesting that I finally make a proper wrestling simulator. I knew that was still some way off, but I decided to go as far as I could. I staged a contest between just two characters: the wrestler "Rocky Maivia" and the boxer "Rocky Balboa". Inspired by the Rocky movies, it was to be the ultimate test to see who was the better athlete. My new website played its role well, as the features of the game were gradually introduced through little cartoons and spoof interviews! This generated more hype than usual, which the game managed to live up to. I had the player moving around a small arena, complete with ring, and the fighting action was a definite step forward. The game even boasted a decent format, as each challenge was unveiled in a backstage confrontation! It was soon overshadowed by its successors, but this project was a big achievement for its time. Especially because I was churning these things in a matter of WEEKS at this point, as this was the first of 3 projects that would be released in December alone!

THAT Love Triangle
 (November 2000)
Throughout this period, my games were very topical and closely followed WWF storylines - often within days of them playing out on TV. At this particular time, there was a "love triangle" brewing between Triple H, Kurt Angle and Stephanie McMahon. This helped to elevate the game above the usual mindless fighting, as you actually had to compete for the lady's affection as she ran around the scene! Like some sort of human ladder match, you had to incapacitate your opponent long enough to spend time alone with the girl. To this end, you could even give her instructions about where to go or what to do - which were followed quite faithfully thanks to some impressive AI programming. The combat was also the most sophisticated we had seen thus far - featuring actual grappling moves, a scrolling game world, and a satisfying range of items (which even extended to a driveable car!). It was arguably the most enjoyable game to come out of this era short of a proper wrestling simulator.

 (October 2000)
As these games became more popular, there was a brief period where I was literally taking requests from fans and making entire games on demand! One such request was this vehicle for Edge & Christian - who had just gotten over with their chairshot gimmick. It was a kind of "whack-a-mole" game, where 2 players had to run around the ring knocking out as many enemies as possible. It was a fun arcade concept, but didn't have enough substance to push my work forward...

Case 3:16
 (September 2000)
I was struggling to follow up on the success of Stunt Challenge and everybody began to suspect it was a "fluke" that would never be improved upon. Since I couldn't yet make a legitimate wrestling simulator, every game needed a "gimmick" that riffed on one aspect of the sport. It wasn't until Steve Austin exploded back onto TV with a hot storyline that I got another chance to shine! There was a mystery about who had run him over and why, which I used as the backbone of a simple fighting game. You not only had to beat opponents but also beat information out of them, en route to confronting the guilty person (which changed each time to make it a genuine mystery!). Thanks to the improved combat and perfect timing, it was considered a return to form and my work was worth getting excited about again... 

Fat Bastards: Live On PPV (September 2000)
Before I found my own visual style, I got started by ripping the sprites from existing 16-bit games. First from Fire Pro and then from WWF Wrestlemania for this comical game about Earthquake and Typhoon fighting over food! It had some interesting moments, but the game itself wasn't well made at all. It was very much a step too far for me at this early stage - but a valuable learning process nonetheless. Having 2 characters on screen at once, interacting with each other, was a significant achievement. Not least because it was the first to have them traveling around a game world in all 4 directions instead of side-to-side. That technique would be honed in later games, but this is where it started...

The Rock's Promo Cutter
 (August 2000)
High on the success of Hardyz Stunt Challenge, I felt obliged to make anything remotely related to wrestling. By now The Rock was more popular than ever, and his promos in particular were very entertaining. This led to me making a bizarre program where you played his voice like a keyboard - triggering individual words with each key. It's what we now know as a "soundboard", but it was a unique concept at the time. It was certainly a valuable exercise in working with sound. However, its lack of substance didn't impress. Hoping for another game as good as Hardyz, the webmaster of Tha Warzone naturally rejected it and it didn't see a release until my own site launched several months later...

Hardy Boyz Stunt Challenge
 (August 2000)
This was the first game I ever released publicly to an enthusiastic audience. Knowing my novice limitations, I decided to focus on successfully recreating one aspect of wrestling instead of failing to recreate the whole thing. The high-flying antics of the Hardy Boyz were popular at the time, so I simply had them throwing themselves from a great height performing stunts for points. With a handful of different jumps to perform and destructible furniture to land on, it became a strangely satisfying stress reliever! I was so confident about it that I even sent it into a wrestling website, where it reached thousands of fans in their newsfeed and literally became an overnight success. Within 24 hours I had received hundreds of excited e-mails praising the game, and the positive reaction convinced me that a hobby was about to become a career...

Copyright MDickie 2000 - 2020