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Wednesday 12th July 2000


The Brothers Are Going To Z It Out!
Posted: Wednesday, 12 July 2000 16:12pm GMT

    Mike Montgomery is managing director of a small and perfectly-formed UK developer. Unlike The Lost Toys or Lionhead it is not ex-Bullfrog or, in fact, ex anything. For the Bitmap Brothers have been around since the golden age of computing gaming (that's mid-80s). They took the charts by storm and pushed the industry to new heights with Xenon, The Chaos Engine, Speedball I & II, plus Z. From the Spectrum to the PlayStation, the Bitmap Brothers have pushed innovation, while scoring massive chart success.

    But in the mid-90s the Bitmaps received an unexpected backlash when their Action/Strategy title Z sank in every global market apart from their home turf - despite getting almost ecstatic reviews even from the hardest US and European hacks. Was the game too difficult? Or was it just too British? Were the Bitmaps finished?

    However, the world has not forgotten the Bitmaps. Just like the Chemical Brothers they were set to resurface in 1999. In February the GameSpot network broke the story that Wapping's finest were planning a comeback with SpeedBall 2100 for the PlayStation. As soon as we published the piece the GameSpot server went bonkers. Gamers from all round the world knew that a game from the Bitmaps was an event. Suddenly Mike and co found themselves the subjects of front-page news - even PC magazines wanted the story!

    The Bitmaps have also been working on a long-awaited follow-up - Z2 - which is already causing a stir, despite that no-one has seen any code. But this time they've got the press on their side as well as an army of Z fans - linked by the power of the Internet.

    With the Bitmaps announcing last week that they had signed up with UK publisher Empire Interactive for Speedball 2100, it seemed a good moment for our editor bloke, Ian Howie, to quiz the godfather of gaming - Mike Montgomery.

    GameSpot UK:
    So why have the Bitmap Brothers been a little quiet over the past few years?


    Mike Montgomery:
    We wanted to wait until the time was right. I think we fell into a trap with Z - in that we gave too much information away very early on in the project - and our competitors may or may not have taken some of those ideas. We got a lot of hype for Z, which everybody wants. But it was too early and that worked against us, too. So what we're trying to do with Z2 is to wait and start showing the game at a point when we are close to finishing.

    GameSpot UK:
    What can you tell us about Z2?


    Mike Montgomery:
    It's going to be one of the best action/strategy games ever to come out on the PC and I'm really excited about it. I can't wait for the press and the public to see it.

    GameSpot UK:
    Can you tell us about the plot for Z2?

    Mike Montgomery:
    When we were developing the cut-scenes we felt that we wanted to increase the storyline of the product so that we could incorporate and tell the story through the cut scenes. So we're employing a professional script writer to develop the story so that the game has a flow to it. This is the first time that we have used someone who is a story writer instead to doing it ourselves.

    GameSpot UK:
    How many people are working on Z2?


    Mike Montgomery:
    Eight programmers, three artists, a designer and two level designers, a musician, a script writer - and we're still looking for another artist and three more level designers.

    GameSpot UK:
    Is Z2 for the PC platform only?


    Mike Montgomery:
    Yes, I think that certain games suit certain machines. We were slightly disappointed with Z2 on the PlayStation. Z should have been bundled with a mouse, but it wasn't. Z and Z2 are mouse games. Making a PC interface work on the PlayStation or any console can be quite hard to do.

    GameSpot UK:
    Who is Z2 aimed at?


    Mike Montgomery:
    The twenty-something gamers - what we're trying to do is address some of the problems we had with Z, especially the difficulty levels and the learning curves, so that it will cover a range of player abilities.

    GameSpot UK:
    When is Z2 going to be released?


    Mike Montgomery:
    Again it's a case of when the time is right. When we feel that it's as perfect as we can make it we'll release it.

    GameSpot UK:
    What can you tell us about your publishing deal with Empire?


    Mike Montgomery:
    The Bitmap Brothers are a privately-owned company as is Empire - so for both companies every penny spent is in fact our own money. I get on well with the guys who run Empire. I think when you're dealing with a large publisher you naturally tend to feel like a match in a match box. For this particular product - Speedball 2100 - I know that Empire will really push it in the way that I want it pushed.

    GameSpot UK:
    Do you foresee any problems with GT publishing, Z2, and Empire publishing Z2?


    Mike Montgomery:
    In this day and age who is secure? We have seen strong publishers fall so I think that from a business point of view, if you deal with two publishers, the risk to the developer is lessened.

    GameSpot UK:
    When is Z2 going to be released?


    Mike Montgomery:
    Again it's a case of when the time is right. When we feel that it's as perfect as we can make it we'll release it.

    GameSpot UK:
    What can you tell us about your publishing deal with Empire?


    Mike Montgomery:
    The Bitmap Brothers are a privately-owned company as is Empire - so for both companies every penny spent is in fact our own money. I get on well with the guys who run Empire. I think when you're dealing with a large publisher you naturally tend to feel like a match in a match box. For this particular product - Speedball 2100 - I know that Empire will really push it in the way that I want it pushed.

    GameSpot UK:
    Do you foresee any problems with GT publishing, Z2, and Empire publishing Speedball 2100?


    Mike Montgomery:
    In this day and age who is secure? We have seen strong publishers fall so I think that from a business point of view, if you deal with two publishers, the risk to the developer is lessened.

Taken from GameSpot UK

GameSpot UK

Related Links

Game Sites:

GameSpot UK

Bitmap Brothers pages

Official Speedball 2100 Site
Official Z: Steel Soldiers Site
Speedball
Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe
Speedball 2100
Z
Z: Steel Soldiers

Other

Empire Interactive
EON Digital Entertainment
Take 2 Interactive

 

 

 

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