Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Game Dev Quote of the Week: Gratitude for Crappy Games Edition

Posted by Rampant Coyote on February 14, 2014

The following comes from the extremely awesome and talented (and quotable) Jeff Minter, creator of many, many games including Gridrunner, Tempest 2000, and Space Giraffe (shown below). It was printed in “Halcyon Days” (a source which I just discovered and will no doubt be drawing several quotes from in the future):

“Basically I was motivated by seeing “Asteroids” by Bug Byte on the Vic 20, by S. Munnery. That name is branded on my brain. It was so bad, I mean, unbelievably bad. You only had one spaceship, and the program would poke your ship on the screen, then randomly poke on the asteroids, and fully half the time it would poke a rock right on top of your ship before you even had a chance to move or fire, and it would be “Game Over” before it even started. When you fired, instead of individual bullets that actually moved, you just got this chain of full stops that stuck out of the end of your ship while the Vic made a sound like a vacuum cleaner. Shudder. They were charging seven quid for that pile of wank, and I thought, hell, I could do better than that, so I started work on what would eventually become “Andes Attack.” Originally Llamasoft was founded to sell that. After a brief period of misguided partnership with your archetypical dodgy geezer, my mum came into the partnership, we kicked him out, and Llamasoft proper came into being in 1982.

“I guess I have to thank S. Munnery for something, even if that game he wrote was execrable!”

We all have sources of inspiration. We often draw from those awesome games that we think of when we are asked why we love games. But sometimes it’s more from a motivating factor of seeing something bad, and realizing, “I can do better than that!”

This was a lot easier in the old days. Nowadays, they can put  a million dollars of lipstick on a pig, so that even a terrible game looks impressive enough that a pure newbie can’t imagine pulling it all off. And they can’t – not without having a team of artists, sound designers, programmers, etc.  But back in the old days, when the games in the arcade and on the cartridges were largely created by one or two people, it was easier to imagine that with a little bit of learning and know-how, you could certainly do better.

But hey, we’re living in the age of indie now, when little games by solo developers and tiny teams are once again popular and abundant. And yes, as much as I evangelize indie gaming, the majority of them are still crap. But if nothing else, they can be examples of what not to do, and may provide the next generation of developers to take up the craft, because they tell themselves, “I can do better than that!”

Definitely read the whole interview. It’s awesome.

Filed Under: Quote of the Week - Comments: 6 Comments to Read

  • Anon said,

    Halcyon Days is definitely great, read it several years ago when I was in my full-retro phase 😉
    Especially all those tidbits from 6502 programmers as most Western systems were based on that CPU.

    Minter is of course an ace programmer with a capital A – but I always thought he limits himself to his favorite kind of shooters, which are great, but we know that kind of stuff for years now…

  • Felix said,

    That reminds me of when I was first developing Square Shooter. I had the exact same problem, so I added some bias to the randomness, to make the asteroids tend towards the edges of the playing field. And they still happened on top of the ship occasionally, so I made the ship initially invulnerable (thanks to the already existing shield powerup). Problem solved!

    More on topic, that’s how I wrote some of my best stories, by telling myself “I can handle this theme better than X”. It’s the same principle at work. Not competitiveness, but an expression of passion — because we care enough to try and do better. That passion shines through more than polish, be it flashier graphics or elegant prose. And that’s why indies thrive.

  • Maklak said,

    Not that this has to do with anything, but Eschalon 3 was supposed to launch and basilisk games website went down about the same day (14 feb 2014). Does anyone here know what’s with that?

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Thomas has been trying to figure out the same.. 😛 He’s been working with his host provider all weekend long, and it’s been crazy. The latest update was that they migrated the host, but then the site still hasn’t come up, and the provider has finally “escalated the issue.”

    You can get some updates via https://www.facebook.com/BasiliskGames

    Or his twitter feed – https://twitter.com/BasiliskGames

    Absolute insanity. This sort of thing happening at launch is a complete hair-puller. I would go insane. (I’ve *ALWAYS* had Murphy’s Law hit me at launch, but not on that scale).


  • CdrJameson said,

    ‘S.Munnery’ would be standup comedian Simon Munnery, so he’s famous for something other than crap Asteroids clones too.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    At least he found something he’s good at… 🙂

    Which is unfair to say, ‘cuz I’m sure he’d have improved over time. I remember those days, and it was like the indie world today – a lot of crap made it to the store shelves, arcades, and mail-order catalogs.