As we were programmers and not artists, we wrote our own art package (called Easy Art) to help us to include graphics in our games and BBCSoft were so impressed that they offered us the chance to create the artwork for a game called Battlefields. This was such a success that they wanted to commission us to write a book on How to Write Games in BASIC. Unfortunately we were under 18 so the BBC would not sign a contract with minors and the idea was abandoned.
With a published title under our belts, we set about writing more games - all still in BASIC. Assembler and Machine Code was some kind of voodoo magic that we had no hope of understanding - especially as we had no budget for books! We kept going though and continued to produce new games throughout 1984.
What we really wanted to do though was to write arcade-style games. The main challenge remained the graphics and there were no simple tools for transferring our designs to the screen. People at this time were drawing mosaics on to gridded paper and then converting them into the numbers that represented the correct colours on screen.
Our time was too precious to waste with graph paper so we set about mastering Assembler and added a fill feature in Assembler to Easy Art and it all ran SO fast, probably 20-50 times faster than BASIC. It also had the advantage that you could squeeze more into the limited as 32K of memory, well, 8K after you took away the screen and system RAM. Once we'd got to grips with this new language we could at last create our first arcade-style title.
We thought we attempt to get Easy Art published and sent it to various publishers. Tony Rainbird of British Telecom's new software division 'FireBird' gave us a £2000 payment for this, but shortly afterwards decided not to publish it. Thank fully he didn’t ask for the money back, which was just as well as we’d spent it on a car – a silver Datsun Cherry. It was a cheap, rusty old Japanese car, but nonetheless it was transport and made all our school friends very jealous!
We set about our first ‘arcade style’ game Cavey, inspired by games like Space invaders & Galaga, only we thought we set it in a fictional past time where a Caveman was fighting off pterodactyls. Cavey would run back and forth along a log that bridged a ravine. Pterodactyls swooped across from side to side and dropped rocks on you while you threw spears back at them. Of course, the more spears you launched the more you had to avoid as they turned and fell back towards you.
We felt this would be much easier to get published and sent cassettes to all the publishers of the time. Acornsoft were interested but wanted a better frame rate which meant speeding up the game.