Friday, 29 April 2011

Robotz DX - A retrospective & contact from Project X...

 
Considering it was my first attempt at programming a game, Robotz DX turned out quite well.  It generally received some good press and was voted one of the best free games of 2010 by 1UP, and to be honest I still get a kick out of playing it today (after all, I set the difficulty so that it was just right for me without the guarantee that I'd beat it every play-through).  However, Robotz DX is of course a remake, and therefore a great deal of it's success is down to the quality of it's source material; the original Robotz on the Atari ST by the formally enigmatic development group 'Project X'.

(Robotz DX)
 
You can probably imagine how excited I was to finally be contacted by the one of the original Project X team members.  The email I received read as follows:
 
"Hello,
 
I just stumbled across your Robotz DX web page, and boy, did it bring back memories. I am one half of the "team" that created the original game. My name is Patrick Fox, I did the artwork, level design, and sound effects, and Scott Williams did the coding. Scott also managed to display 32 colours on screen in the original game. The status bar had a separate 16 colour palette to the game area . . . ground breaking stuff, huh. :)
 
We made the game for the, then very new, ST Format magazine's cover disk, and although the magazine promised payment for reader contributions to the disk, we never received a penny. The game entered the public domain pretty quickly, appearing on various cover disks, and although Scott and I were never credited, we were happy to see it out there.
 
I like your additions to the game, but had to content myself with watching the video because I'm on an iMac these days.
 
Please feel free to get in touch, and in the words of the song, thanks for the memories."
 
(Robotz DX)
 
After a bit of research, I quickly discovered that Project X's Patrick Fox and Scott Williams were actually behind some of my favourite games from the 16-bit era, including Bubble & Squeak and Krusty's Super Fun House.  Receiving praise from Patrick (and not a cease & desist!) really made my day, and has solved some long unanswered questions with regard to the original game's history.  In a further email exchange, Patrick went on to explain;
 
"Robotz was a game we knocked up in our spare time while we were working for a small development house in Coventry called Anglosoft. During the day we'd work on Super League Manager, which was released by Audiogenic, and in the evenings we worked on Robotz. It was while we were at Anglosoft that I came up with an idea that would become Krusty's Super Fun House. We made a four level demo and approached Mirrorsoft and Audiogenic who made an immediate offer on the game. Six months later we handed them a complete game called Rat Trap, only to be told that they'd licensed the game to Acclaim who'd put a Simpson's license on it. I spent another six months redoing the graphics across all formats, while Scott programmed the Megadrive version.
 
We eventually got to the end of KSFH and had to come up with something new, so I had an idea of doing a two player cooperative game for one player. The game was called Barney and Clyde, but became Bubble and Squeak when Sunsoft bought it. When the Megadrive version of the game was finished, Scott and I went our separate ways. I worked on the Amiga version of the game with the coding being handled in house by Audiogenic."
 
I'm really glad that Patrick and Scott went on to achieve success in the videogame industry - Although relatively unknown today, Robotz on the Atari was a decent little game that showed a lot of promise.  I just hope that my remake introduces a few curious Robotz DX players to the Atari ST original, and indeed, the still not-quite-dead Atari scene.
 
(Robotz)