BT: You had a good reputation for sound and music too, although the Xenon 2 soundtrack sounded pretty awful coming through the PC speaker. What was it like dealing with PC audio back then?
MM: Xenon 2 – that was Bomb the Bass wasn't it? That just wasn't done for the PC speaker, because the cards had just come out for Sound Blaster, and there was another one – the Roland. Of course, the Roland was the first pseudo 3D sound system, and the Bomb the Bass track was actually the first piece of music to go on to a computer game using the Roland system – it actually got on Tomorrow's World on the BBC. You could even buy the vinyl from the BBC!
Mike wants to make Gods 2, but it's not easy to get a publishing deal any more
BT: So what happened to the Bitmap Brothers?
MM: Well, I closed the company down about six years ago. Mainly because I couldn't get any deals for original IP. It's a shame, but if you can't get money then you can't go any further. I've spent most of my money on developing ideas – I've got a whole drawer-full of designs, and some of them are hundreds of pages long – you go to a publisher with them, they read them and you do a bit more work and all of a sudden you've spent £300,000, and then you find there's no deal.
BT: Could you give any hints about the sorts of things you designed before you closed the company, or is it all top secret?
MM: We were working on a little bit of a follow-on from RTS games, with a first person perspective. Not all of them were necessarily first person shooting games – some of them were shooters, and some of them were RTS games in the third person. We were looking at doing Speedball 3 in the first person or third person, as well as Gods 2 and stuff like that.
There's a whole range of stuff, and there were also a few things we tried to raise money on by doing a bit of work for hire, but once again, you end up doing prototypes for a publisher without getting paid and then getting no deal, so you run out of money eventually.
BT: So what are you doing now?
MM: I was a member of Tower Studios when we were doing mobile games, and I got out of that 4-5 years ago, because quite honestly the mobile market dried up in cash – every publisher wanted you to do something for nothing and get paid a royalty, but you can't work for nothing. Then, 3-4 years ago, I started a company called Lightning Fish with three guys – we're up to nearly 60 people now doing games involved with motion and camera – it's a bit of a niche for us in a way. It's very different to developing a Bitmap Brothers game, and it's quite exciting as well, because we do a lot with film, and it's enjoyable to do something that's different in a way.
Mike is now a director of Lightning Fish, making motion-controlled games such as the NewU Fitness Wii titles
BT: Do you still miss the Bitmap Brothers days, though?
MM: Oh yes, tremendously. But, you know, I've got to earn money – somebody's got to pay my mortgage! I'm really enjoying it at Lightning Fish, though – I'm one of the directors here, and it works really well. And you never know, we might even do a Bitmap Brothers game one day!
At the moment, I'm trying my best to get these old titles out there on formats that weren't available six years ago – you know, when we cut all the staff. And these games play well. One of the other directors here [at Lightning Fish] said that the reason he got into the industry was because of my games – the games are good, they are some of the best and I just hope that we can continue with that.