25 Years Ago This Month

OMG!! Yes, it has been that long!

Twenty-Five years ago, in a state of what could only be described as sheer and unadulterated madness, I decided to start designing my own video game. No experience whatsoever.

But I was determined to do it nonetheless.

Naturally, as with everything associated with creative madness, I had these grandiose ideas of the game that I wanted to make. It would be a mash-up of these game series which I loved. Starflight, Elite, Star Command, Sentinel Worlds, Star Fleet, Echelon* and later on the likes of Jetfighter (for the combat simulation aspects).

So first, I started to flesh out the world, the characters and the interactions within. That world and characters have, over the years, formed the basis of each of the games that I have designed and developed to date. Right up to my upcoming opus, Line Of Defense and the recently released Line Of Defense Tactics. Even comics (1,2,3) have been based on this world and characters. Very soon, I will be making the move to either a cartoon or live action series for online distribution. Yes, it’s in the works.

During all of this and while working two jobs, night/online school – I started to learn how to program in certain languages for the sole purpose of making my game. Starting with Assembly (a language as dead as the Dead Sea Scrolls). I already knew and dabbled in other “dead” languages (COBOL, LISP, PASCAL, FORTH et al) which I already had a grasp on but which weren’t going to cut it. The Basic language proved to be largely useless; so we won’t be talking about that one.

Assembly for gaming was more archaic and difficult than I could possibly have imagined. In fact, my guess is that if today’s “game developers” were exposed to this language, it would probably be regarded as cruel and unusual punishment. Guaranteed. Script kiddies today have it easy.

Anyway, so I started to learn to program in C (I only delved into C++ years later). And to aid my self teaching, I enlisted non other than Lee Adams, whose books, tragically, have all but disappeared. He doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page that I could find. 🙁

I did this to the extent that the very first 3D visualization of my game world was written from an example in one of Lee’s books. Line for line. Once I got it working, I simply iterated on it. In fact, as I recall, it took over a year before all traces of that “sample” code was removed from what was to become the original Battlecruiser 3000AD (BC3K) game code. You can download a free copy of this first game, as well as its v2.0 Interplay release to see where and how it all started.

Back in the day, before a sect of bastards discovered and promptly proceeded to destroy the Internet, we had Compuserve, CIX, BIX and dare I say, AOL (hey!) etc through which we interacted in our favorite BBS and Usenet forums.

It was through these many avenues that some members of the gaming media “discovered” my work. Brian Walker (sadly, I have been unable to locate him over the years. Anyone know where he is today?), then a writer for Computer Games Strategy Plus, started it all when he previewed the “game” in the May 1992 issue.

The rest, as they say, is history.

So the journey continued and along the way through the BBS and Usenet, I enlisted help from the likes of Lloyd Pique, Peter Rushworth, Jim Marinis, Gerhard Skronn from the early days and whose contributions played a pivotal role in where my games headed. Today, from that first controversial Battlecruiser 3000AD game, the one that started it all, to present day, many people have come and gone and in some way helped shaped the legacy of the original game. Without these people and their extremely valuable contributions, I most likely won’t be where I am today. And for that I remain eternally and humbly grateful.

So yes, it has been twenty-five years now. As I said back in 2007, “…my guess is I’ll probably be doing this until they turn the lights out and wheel my sorry ass out“. It’s the only way to be sure that this journey will end on my terms and my terms alone.

In all these years, many battles have been fought, won, lost and some never to be spoken of again. But as each day goes by I reflect on a life that, for the most part, has been rewarding and I am grateful to be a small cog in the massive and terminally dysfunctional wheel that is the videogame industry. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

For those of you who have come with me on this long journey bought and played my games, as they say, it gets better with age. 🙂

That is all. As you were.

* I can’t find info on this game anywhere online. If you come across it, please email or Tweet me. The lower-right corner (above Harpoon) of this image shows what the box looked like.

7 thoughts on “25 Years Ago This Month

  1. Derek,

    Congratulations on 25 years. I hope you have another 25…well, if you’re not to tired of it all.

    Michael “Saint19” St.Julien

  2. Great write up Derek, I remember BC3K quite fondly… I was working at Interplay back then and remember being excited that we were going to publish it… I think Tony Breskello was the producer?… A person I have failed to locate over the years…
    1. Hiya Trevor; yeah fun times. In fact, if it wasn’t for Interplay (through Phil Adam, (kneeling on the right) who saw above all the noise the controversy of the original release wrought) picking up the rights to v2.0 of the game, I doubt that it would have gained the popularity that it did and which spawned the many sequels, updates etc. It was a huge leap of faith from them and turned out great. Too bad Interplay didn’t make it through the years, but at least all the very many awesome people (Phil Adam, Brian Fargo, Alan Pavlish et al) who used to be over there, are still around in the industry (I am in touch with most of them).

  3. Thanks Robert! It has been a long journey. And along the way I was fortunate enough to meet industry vets like you who helped move me along in some fashion or another. Thanks for all the years of mentoring and guidance.

  4. Derek, a proud moment for you – 25 years and still kicking in this industry is an accomplishment!!

    So congratulations to you for your enduring faith, fortitude during all the trying times, and for keeping positive when countless detractors could do nothing but exude negativity. You have proven many wrong and have won over many, and you deserve it. Nice job.

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