I have no doubt it’s gone completely unnoticed that I have been keeping a rather low profile, blog-wise, in recent weeks. There are numerous reasons for this, prominent among them being that I have been quite extraordinarily lazy but also, to be perfectly frank, there’s been very little worth writing about on the Maxwell front. In my defence, I had intended to write this article a fortnight or so ago, but in a sudden and unexpected burst of activity, a couple of people – yes, real human beings and everything – approached me (completely independently of each other) about the possibility of producing some graphics for the game, so I spent a not-inconsiderable amount of time preparing documents, example artwork and level maps to help them get started. Said humans are also experienced and talented pixel artists, so I’m really looking forward to seeing what they come up with. That and the fact that without a full set of graphics, Maxwell doesn’t happen. Simple as that (no pressure, eh?).
Here’s a story to hopefully cheer you (and me) up, though. At the start of April, a week off work occurred. Pleasingly, this coincided with the Norwich Gaming Festival, a now seemingly annual event in this part of the world, showing off many computers and consoles, old and new, with indie developers showing off their new wares in plentiful supply, as well as talks, presentations and the like. It’s great fun to visit and take part in and it was a hugely successful week, by all accounts.
The relevance? Well, a nice chap called Gary was showing off his extensive collection of retro machines, all fully playable. As well as the Spectrum, Commodore 64 and (excellently) the smart Turbografx console (not regularly seen in the wild), my personal favourite, the Amiga 1200, made an appearance. It struck me just how popular all of these were, not least the Amiga, and it prompted me to wonder if I could show off my own games at some point during the course of the week, what with being from the area and all, and let’s face it, new games are new games, regardless of the format they’re written for, so as far as I was concerned they fit in with the indie theme of a large part of the festival.
I figured I had to act quickly and ruthlessly to get my way, so in a hard-hitting, no-nonsense discussion, I asked Gary if he’d load up my games on his A1200. He said yes.
On the Friday, I popped in and Maxwell was loaded and ready to be played. It didn’t take long to garner some interest, mostly from small children who perhaps found the idea of an old-fashioned joystick to be beyond them, let alone working out the controls and the objective of the game. A few of them eventually got it, though, and it’s a rewarding experience when you see total strangers who have never even heard of the computer before get to grips with it (a particular high point being the kid whose response to me helping him solve the game’s first puzzle – finding the key to unlock the front door – was to immediately get up and walk off. Can’t fault their honesty, can you?).
Despite the title of this article, it wasn’t Maxwell that proved the highlight, although the curiosity certainly got the better of a number of unsuspecting visitors. It was my previous game Downfall that stole the show that afternoon, probably due to the instant pick-up-and-play appeal and the fact each go tends to be a brief one, especially when you’re only just figuring it out. Again, it was a big hit with a lot of the kids who came in, and many of them got the hang of it very quickly, inevitably having three or four goes at a time. When I came back later in the day, the high score table was totally full up – a good indicator of its popularity.
Alright, so it didn’t get the attention some of the famous consoles hanging around the place got, but hey, it’s all relative and considering that nobody there had even heard of the game before, let alone know the programmer was standing behind them watching them play it, it was a resounding success and, naturally, a real buzz for me, too – outside of people who have visited my flat, I’ve never actually seen anyone play my games in the flesh before, so it was rewarding and a huge incentive to keep programming.
There were a couple of things I took from it, overall. The first was that in general, new games for older machines should be demonstrated to the public more often – in my view, they’re deserving of just as much coverage as some of the brilliant stuff being produced for Steam, PSN or whatever, and the spirit and philosophy on show is extremely similar and a refreshing antidote to the offensively bland big-budget titles like Call Of Duty 56, or whatever it’s up to now. Secondly, I really ought to write a brand new, reasonably simple game for the festival next year to use in some sort of competition, with whoever achieves the highest score winning a small prize for their troubles. That would definitely raise the profile of both Remainder Software and the modern Amiga scene, at least locally, and it gives me a project to get my teeth into for when Maxwell decides he needs to take a holiday (I can only assume he’s on a trip round the world at the moment). Yes, that’s an idea worth pursuing…