I have recently uncovered a little box with the source code backups of the original Kick Off, Kick Off2, Final Whistle, Player Manager games. These are all on Atati ST floppies. You might ask, quite rightly, why on earth I did not take more care of these sources and move them onto a hard disk or something. Actually I did… Atari hard disks, which due to the carelessness of someone else all got trashed. They were also on the hard disk of my old DELL 486 from 1991. I still have the hard disk drive, but it is ESDI. Yeh ESDI. You don’t remember ESDI?
Then there were backup tapes. Old magnetic tape backup carts from the DELL machine. Which I can’t read anymore. Later newer tape technology, which again I can’t read. And so on and on.
Well that’s why. So I have been having fun trying to get the data off the ST disks. In the end I am managing and most disks are readable. I now appear to have the source code and assets to KO2 v1.7, and Player Manager.
What am I going to do with it all? And why, you may ask, have I never attempted to do anything with it before?
Well, the obvious thing I could do is to remake the original game for iPhone. Of course, there is that problem with the controls; no matter what I do I cannot magic a good old fashioned one button, micro switch joystick. But the one thing that the original source gives me is the ability to recreate the original game play precisely. But of course, these days you can also do that by using an emulator, which reduces the value of porting to PC or Mac. But, well, you never know.
The harder question to answer is why have I sat on it all for so long. There are many complexities to that, my personal circumstances and my difficulty in merging my independent developer mindset with the video game industry the after around 1994 and the death of that great indie platform, the Amiga.
I won’t go into the personal circumstances to protect others, beyond saying that my life changed very significantly a few years ago, for the better.
As for the rest, maybe one day I’ll write a book about it. But in searching for something short and simple to project the tension I felt, I will recount a true story. On returning from some pointless and unproductive meeting in London, a few years ago, I received a call while travelling back to Bristol. It was from a lawyer. He wanted my help, because his client was seeking some kind of patent defence on the subject of overlaid radar view in a football game. As part of this, they wanted to show that the concept had already existed prior to some date.
I know this is going to sound awfully bold, but the truth is that I introduced a number of innovations in football games with Kick Off and Kick Off 2 and Player Manager.
Some examples are: aftertouch (swerving the ball after it is kicked by reading the post kick joystick movements); a free ball (i.e. not stuck to the dribbling player); tactic editor based on a grid; player morale; action replays to review the last goal; the ability to load your player manager teams into Kick Off 2; correctly scaled football pitch and of course present on the original kick off released in 1989: a radar, or scanner as I called it, to allow you to see the entire state of play even though the main view was close up.
So, there we have it. Want a patent on the idea of a radar in a football game? You better have done it before the release of Kick Off. So back to the telephone call…
Although I like to be helpful generally, I was talking to a lawyer and that placed me in a state of heightened alertness. Help? Maybe, but the question was: what would be in it for me? And who would I be helping?
I made it clear that I would not help unless I knew who I was going to help. If they would let me know that, then perhaps we could talk. I could have found myself subject to attack by the very people I helped, after all!
You can guess of course what happened. They did not want to tell me, and so it went no further, but presumably vultures were circling in legal arguments over an idea that apparently, it seems, I invented. In the end I am sure that only lawyers made any profit from whatever it was.
Now, some of you might consider me an eccentric. I let some things get to me, especially on matters of integrity and right and wrong. In my world, credit should always be given where it is due; people should always stick to agreements; customers should always pay for their entertainment and we should not rip each other off. I know, so naive.
But I can’t let the idea go, because in the end it is the right idea. And that idealism, mixed with the difficulty of facing the pressure of providing for a family and being an independent developer post Amiga and pre the last couple of years, meant that every time I tried to do something independent (for example in the 5 years I worked in the US as an employee), I did not have the energy, the space or the clarity to pull it off in my spare time.
But now, some 20 years later, I find that I can open that box, and read those disks without feeling uneasy. That box represents much more than data: it represents proof of who I am. Many people live their lives never finding out who they really are, but I was lucky enough to know early on. And the biggest reason why that box that I have carried around like the proverbial albatross was painful to think about was because I stupidly, and for reasons I still do not understand, turned my back on who I really was and lived a life that could never have brought me happiness. Until I came to my senses.
Dino: you were an idiot. But I forgive you.