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Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Q&A With Legendary British Developer Mike Montgomery, of the Bitmap Bros.

  • And if you could change anything about your career?

“I think I would have to be switching and change to developing for consoles quicker than we did. We stayed with the Amiga for so long because we were good at it, but there was no money there. I think that’s what killed us in the end.”


  • You did always try to style yourself as the Rock and Rollers of the industry; what was your biggest Rock and Roll moment?

“The biggest moment for our fans is always that picture of us in front of Rob Maxwell’s helicopter. But I remember once when we had to go to an awards ceremony; Xenon 2 had been nominated, I think. But we had spent literally the last 2 days straight programming  for a new release, I said look, we can’t go. We’ve not slept, we all smell, we would never last the night, we’d have one drink and we would be on the floor. But obviously we went in the end. We didn’t have one drink we had many, we had a fantastic night, and best of all, Xenon 2 actually won the award as well. That was a good night”


  • Piracy and DRM are a very controversial issue in the industry today; did you face similar challenges in the 8 and 16 bit era?

“Oh, piracy was a big problem then, too. When we were developing Xenon, another game called Kelly X was released on the black market 3 weeks before Xenon’s release. It was actually the exact same game, and as a result, Xenon’s sales were minimal. We actually knew who did it as well, but our publishers at the time wouldn’t let us sue them. That was really wrong.”


  • What game are you playing at the moment? Do you still play many retro games?

“No. No I don’t, ha ha. I’ve not been doing any gaming recently actually, and little work either for the past 2 months. I actually have RSI from playing too much Skyrim. I’ve done 550 hours in the game so far. I love that game, but it infuriates me, as it’s impossible to finish. There’s too many bugs. Interesting story actually; my character’s name is Dyson. It’s a nickname my colleagues gave me as I hoover up everything; I leave nothing behind. But then I put it in chests and forget where it all goes, too!”


  • Nowadays, most journalism is done online. But how was your relationship with the media overall, when it was mainly magazines?

“Oh the magazines were brilliant, as were the journalists. Journalists are important to developers, as they have a big part in whether a game sells well or not, so it’s always in a developer’s best interest to have a good relationship with them. We really did love them all though. It was a lot more personal back then, since the rise of the internet and online journalism, it’s definitely become less personal.”


  • So, is this the beginning of the Bitmap Brothers again? And would you ever join with your old business partner, John Phillips?

“Well at the time when we decided to close the company; I still had a good 8 or 9 IP’s we could have worked with, but the problem is always going to be selling the ideas for publishers, which is very difficult, especially today, when publishers are only interested in making games to cater for the highest common denominator. it makes it very difficult to be innovative. But I don’t think me and John will be working together again; we were very close, and arguing with your best friend is always going to be messy and upsetting.”


  • The bitmap Brothers were part of a golden age for the UK gaming industry; how did it feel to be a part of something like that?

“I’m very proud to be British. For a long while, Britain was actually number 3 in the world after the USA and Japan, but this is dropping now, which is a bit of a shame. Many developers are moving to Canada, which is the next big mover in the industry. I did some development work in Japan for a while too, and although it was fun, it’s completely different over there, and I do believe British developers are better in terms of initiative and creativity. So yes, I’ll always be proud to be British!”


  • Finally, are you proud of your achievements in the industry?

“I am extremely proud. I wouldn’t be here today without everything I did then. And I think it’s great that shows like this can happen, where people can get together and share their appreciation, too.  I’m very proud to have been a part of the golden age of the British games industry, especially with all the 8 and 16 bit titles we released. I really wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for that.”

Matt, 24 last time he checked, was born and raised in Manchester. A self-styled geek; when he isn't annoying his other half by fitting in as much gaming time as he possibly can, he can be found getting his fix of Fantasy and Sci-Fi elsewhere by reading, writing, or watching TV Series and Films. He is also a Michelin 3-Starred Chef in his spare time, and can be found experimenting in the kitchen, and generally poisoning his friends with obscure and mysterious dishes.

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