Mat@MDickie.com
2001 Retrospective














 


"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...


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...
Big Bumps can be downloaded here! (1.7mb)


WCW United States Title ~ February 2001
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...


PC Format Magazine
~ February 2001
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 possible...


Speedball X ~ 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)


Dark BASIC ~ March 2001
Although Big 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 rewarding...

 
Dark BASIC Experiments ~ March 2001
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 language...


3D Studio MAX ~ March 2001
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...


It Wasn't Me! ~ May 2001
A Design 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...


Federation Online
~ June 2001
As Big Bumps drew 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 Dark 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 my greatest 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! (2.8mb)


Digitiser Article ~ July 2001
Prior to 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". They 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 publication!


Tribute Sites
~ August 2001
I've always 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...


Federation Online: September Edition ~ September 2001
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 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)


EEW's Total Annihilation
~ September 2001
One spin-off 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"...
EEW's Total Annihilation can be downloaded here! (2.5mb)

PC Utilities ~ September 2001
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 as "excellent". 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...


Big BumpZ ~ September 2001
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 simple game 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! (3mb)


Blitz 3D
~ November 2001
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...


CVG Strikes Back ~ December 2001
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! (3mb)

                    

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