Bitmap Brothers - The FutureBT:
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?
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
So what happened to the Bitmap Brothers?
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.
Could you give any hints about the sorts of things you designed before you closed the company, or is it all top secret?
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.
So what are you doing now?
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
Do you still miss the Bitmap Brothers days, though?
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.