2008 Retrospective


"I didn't lose my mind. It was mine to give away."
Robbie Williams

The only problem with reaching the top is that there's nowhere else to go! Upon peaking with games like Reach, I felt I was now making the biggest and best games that one man could realistically hope to deliver. When even that wasn't considered good enough, there was nothing left to do but draw a line under my PC exploits. But I wouldn't go without a fight...

Wrestling MPire 2008: Career Edition
January 2008
After going into production towards the end of 2007, the new-look Wrestling MPire series finally arrived in early 2008 as the date suggests. The advances of Reach had ensured that everything was looking ten times better than before - from the arenas and scenery to the characters themselves, who enjoyed better modelling, texturing, and animation. More importantly, it all FELT better too. A smooth new camera system was tied into a modified control system, which always reflected your view of the action and made the game playable from every angle! The way the characters interacted was also a notch better, as taller wrestlers contorted their bodies to grasp smaller opponents and vice versa. Their heads even turned to face their intended opponent, which made the animations more natural and the action easier to follow. Lots of exciting innovations were thrown in too - not least of which was the arrival of double-team moves, which I had never been able to implement before. Now there were no fewer than 5 for every single possible scenario! The refined new career mode itself was also more interesting, as players wielded greater control over their lives and could even arrange matches or form tag teams at will. But for all the additions, all anybody could talk about was what was "missing". The game still fell short of mainstream content, and fewer and fewer people were willing to overlook the gaps. The result was that the game received a surprisingly lukewarm reception when it was finally released in February 2008. It didn't help that CafePress had begun screwing up the manufacturing process and took a whole month longer than usual to make the game available (it was actually finished in January). Despite being the biggest project of my career, it was also the first to be released solely as a download until CafePress got their act together. My defining moment turned out to be a bungled mess and made me long to return to the days when making games was just a hobby...  
The game can be downloaded here! (42mb)

Wrestling MPire 2008: Management Edition
April 2008
As with Reach, the disappointing reception to Wrestling MPire 2008
confirmed that it was time to go. It was without a shadow of a doubt the single greatest project I could ever hope to deliver. If I couldn't make that work then there was nothing else to look forward to. Unfortunately, that also extended to the managerial sequel - which was made with rather less enthusiasm now that I knew very few people would play it. I had big plans to renovate the concept in the way the previous game had revolutionized gameplay. I couldn't bring myself to go the extra mile anymore and simply ended up recreating the original concept with better visuals. That said, such a project was still worth getting excited about. It may not have been a "revolution", but it was still the ultimate incarnation of the concept. If you wanted to manage your own wrestling show, this was the biggest and most visually satisfying experience you could ask for. In order to improve its chances in the outside world, I finally dropped any references to "booking" in the tile and simply referred to it as "Management Edition" (the first instalment being "Career Edition"). It made it clear that these were two sides of the same coin and prevented any confusion. Players now had access to whichever aspect of the wrestling business appealed to them most. It was the best I could do and I left the fans to make of it what they will...   
The game can be downloaded here! (42mb)

The Heavyweight Titles
June 2008
Following Hard Time and Reach, the
arrival of the 2 games in the Wrestling MPire 2008 series completed a quartet of major releases. Whether the public agreed or not, these were the 4 biggest and best games so far - and they made for a tantalizing compilation (appropriately called The Heavyweight Titles). The only problem was that CafePress were screwing up on my publishing so I couldn't trust them with the project. I was forced to jump ship and ended up on the other coast of America releasing my games through a New York outfit called Kunaki. As ever, it was a blessing in disguise because it turned out they could do a better job at a more reasonable price. If only I had made the switch a year earlier! In any case, my greatest projects were finally being sent out to people quickly and efficiently - and they enjoyed a little more popularity as a result. It wasn't enough to salvage my professional career, but it at least ensured the final few projects would fulfil their potential...    

Popscene: Track 2
August 2008
As the end of my career loomed, each new project took on a new significance. I was like a terminally ill patient trying to spend my last few months wisely! It was now or never for certain projects. Although there was healthy competition from other ideas, I felt compelled to remake Popscene with the improved visuals of recent games. The music simulator had always been my most popular concept outside of wrestling, and I couldn't leave it as the ugly mess from 2004. I delivered exactly what I intended to and revamped the original concept with much improved graphics. Most noticeably, the instruments were more detailed and refined. I knew so little about music last time that I didn't even get the layout of the keyboard correct! As a budding pianist, I now saw the error of my ways are corrected it - along with a character model that now had individual fingers to stab at the keys in question. That also made the guitar playing considerably better. The only problem was that it was the same old game underneath, and that no longer cut it in a world where Guitar Hero was redefining what people expect from a music sim. The "symbolism" of my games could no longer compete with those that had real interaction. The result was that the game failed to convert new fans and was strictly for diehard fans of the original...
Popscene: Track 2 can be downloaded here! (36mb)

The You Testament
December 2008
The good thing about my popularity ebbing away was that I no longer had anything to lose. I approached my final project with the fearlessness of a suicide bomber! That wasn't the only "religious" thing about it either. Rather controversially, I elected to recreate the life and times of Christ as an interactive RPG. I had always been fascinated by the connection between spirituality and programming. It was a good metaphor for the relationship between body and soul. That's exactly what the game riffed on, as it reinterpreted biblical events through the idea that life is a "creation". As a miracle worker, Jesus was simply a man capable of manipulating that creation - and you played a disciple that longed to follow in his masterful footsteps. It featured the most sophisticated storytelling mechanism my games had ever seen too, as your every step triggered any number of spontaneous cut-scenes. It tied biblical events together in a surprisingly coherent way. The new character models also benefited from real moving eyeballs that conveyed more emotion! As blasphemous as it sounds, it was an entirely sincere project and sought to make the teachings of religion easier to understand and more accessible. I certainly feel I did the best job I could possibly do within the confines of a game environment. It effortlessly endorsed every key teaching - from forgiveness and "loving your enemies" to sacrifice and the pitfalls of materialism. If you wanted to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, you had to cultivate virtues and forgo sin. As in real life, the choice was entirely yours. The sentiment wasn't lost on my players, who had come to appreciate the freedom in my games. Believers and disbelievers alike found the project surprisingly enjoyable and ensured it would be a fitting farewell. My work ended as it had begun - with fearless innovation!
The You Testament can be downloaded here! (18mb)

The Rise & Fall Of The MPire
December 2008
The You Testament was the culmination of every game that had come before it. It had the social interaction of Hard Time, the fighting from the wrestling games, the survival gameplay of Wrecked, and all manner of lesser contributions from every other game. In fact, in the "Credits" I chose to credit each preceding title instead of myself personally! It played more like a greatest hits package than a game in its own right. And that's exactly what we would see as my career finally came to a definite end. The Rise & Fall Of The MPire featured every single published release on one great value disc, allowing players to chart the evolution of my work firsthand. My work had always been about the whole being greater than the sum of its parts, and this final compilation made that abundantly clear. My solo output may have been a mishmash of successes and failures, but every single project played its part in the bigger picture. No creative endeavour begins or ends in vain...    


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