Mat@MDickie.com
2007 Retrospective














 


"It's not about how hard you hit. It's how hard you can GET hit and keep coming back!"
- Rocky Balboa

I dejectedly went into 2007 thinking it would be my last, but the unexpected success of one game put just enough fuel in the tank to get me through the first half of the year. Which is just as well, because from that point onwards my future looked more promising than ever thanks to some remarkable advances in the quality of my work...


Hard Time
~
January 2007
After a lacklustre 2006, I desperately needed a hit to survive and did what every other game designer has been doing for the past 10 years - turned to a life of crime! The idea of an RPG set in prison had been on my mind ever since I saw the gritty HBO drama, Oz - and the more recent success of Prison Break proved there was an audience for these dens of inequity. The violent content of my games had always invited comparisons to Grand Theft Auto and co, but I was never capable of replicating those sprawling cities in my independent work. A claustrophobic prison, however, was well within my capabilities - and so I endeavoured to take that same anarchic gameplay behind bars. The huge prison population meant that I had fewer resources to work with than ever before, so the level of detail couldn't advance much from previous games. However, some nice tricks kept the project looking its best. In addition to the now obligatory high resolution texturing that got the best out of the character models, we also had the most finely crafted indoor locations yet - complete with real atmospheric lighting. The game engine itself was similarly advanced, as sophisticated artificial intelligence tracked your every move and allowed meaningful relationships to be formed with the hundreds of different characters. Complete with a cool logo and arguably my best theme song yet, it was a well-presented piece of work and success seemed assured. Although it was never going to out-perform the wrestling sims, it joined the ranks of Popscene as one of my most marketable games outside of that genre...
Hard Time can be downloaded here! (21mb)


Games For Windows
~
February 2007
Within a month of its release, Hard Time was already courting the attention of the printed press. It was crowned "Indie Pick Of The Month" in the ubiquitous Games For Windows magazine, which ensured the target North American audience was instantly aware of the project. However, the backhanded compliments that accompanied the piece may have cancelled out the lucrative publicity! Despite making it his pick, the reviewer had his fair share of reservations - finding fault with everything from the execution of the concept to the quality of the graphics. Most jarringly of all, he seemed to have precious little regard for my independent methods - failing to see it as an adequate excuse for the game's shortcomings. By the time he concluded that the game WAS actually worth buying, I suspect very few people were still paying attention...


PC Gameplay Benelux
~
March 2007
A more excitable review was to be found across the Atlantic in the European publication, PC Gameplay Benelux. The only downside was that none of you could appreciate it because it was in a foreign language! Fortunately, a fluent Belgian fan came through for us and translated the article. The translation confirmed that the numerous exclamation marks WERE good ones, as the reviewer begins by announcing me to be a "game designer with balls" - which is always a relief to hear! The piece went on to politely articulate the game's pros and cons, before concluding that it was an "enjoyable" independent effort...


YouTube Channel
~
April 2007
By this stage in the year, my next project was well underway and I began exploring video as a means of relaying its progress. If a picture is worth a thousand words then a video is worth a thousand pictures! Or, in this case, screenshots. Hundreds of players had already posted their own exploits online, so I figured I should release some official footage. I had my doubts about exposing a game in early production, since my critics aren't exactly known for being able to see the bigger picture. However, I felt it was worth suffering the slings and arrows of ignorance to give true fans an insight into my methods. I accompanied the production footage with choice cuts from completed projects such as Hard Time, and a YouTube "channel" was born. The campaign was supposed to lure in thousands of new fans, but it turned out that the millions of people that peruse YouTube seldom find themselves looking at anything they haven't searched for. The result was that I ended up preaching to the converted, and somehow managed to get FEWER hits than I already had at my own site?! Still, it remains the best way of demonstrating certain game features and is always there when we need it...


Reach
~
July 2007
The new project in question was a revolutionary new boxing game called Reach. There may not be anything "revolutionary" about the genre of boxing, but what WAS revolutionary was the degree of effort I put into making sure it was my most polished release yet. A brand new character model had finally been drawn up, which disposed of my "Lego men" once and for all and ushered in a curvaceous new mountain of muscle. It was the perfect fit for a one-on-one slugfest, as the game let rip by pouring all of its resources into those two fighters. It would all be for naught if the game didn't play well though, so I put just as much effort into the movement of the characters - causing them to sway and step differently according to the player's input. It finally made stiff, robotic movements a thing of the past as the boxers moved gracefully around the ring. Complete with equally well animated punches and inch-perfect collision detection, it made for one of the most remarkably professional releases you'll ever see from an independent. Unfortunately, even these powerful fists couldn't make a dent on the scepticism surrounding my work. Although the game wasn't exactly a "failure", it certainly didn't succeed in converting an army of new fans. Despite boxing being a niche sport, I rather hoped the game's impressive content would get the masses excited about my independent work. I had always consoled myself with the belief that justice would be done once my graphics evolved to a decent level. But here I had the best looking game I could ever hope to make and the pieces still weren't falling into place. I had reached the top of the mountain and there was nothing there. It was the biggest indicator yet that the end was near...
Reach can be downloaded here! (31mb)


The Wrestling Revolution
~
August 2007
I thought my wrestling days were behind me, but the advances of Reach had taken on a life of their own and began dictating my course. Everything from the improved graphics to the refined gameplay simply cried out to be transferred to the world of wrestling. Although I had my reservations about returning to a genre that the world had fallen out of love with (myself included), it seemed to be now or never and I resolved to spend the rest of the year developing the ultimate incarnation of my claim to fame. My YouTube channel had emerged at just the right time to chart its progress, which made the long journey ahead as exciting for the fans as it was for me. Within a matter of months, it became clear that we were going to witness something very special indeed...


Sports Game Of The Year
~
December 2007
By the time Christmas rolled around, my new wrestling sim was still a month away from completion and eager fans accepted that it wouldn't be among their gifts. However, the year did manage to end on a high note thanks to Game Tunnel crowning Reach "Sports Game Of The Year"! Coming from one of the leading independent gaming sites, it was a belated endorsement of my work and ensured that we headed into 2008 with renewed hope for the latest project...

                    

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