Documentaryised: The Dream Game 13 Years In The Making

You have to throw rocks at this boss, see.

Like many, I tried making a game as soon as I discovered that was even a possibility. I dreamed of selling an epic Quake campaign set in a real city with real guns and buildings you could fully explore. I made a level which refused to compile and wrote a little QuakeC that’d crash Quake any time I fired a gun. While I’ve finished game things since, I never returned to any youthful dreams.

Adam Butcher never gave up on his dream game. After 13 years of development, he’s finally released Tobias and the Dark Sceptres, a freeware game created in the old Multimedia Fusion game maker tool. You should, at the very least, come watch the charming video he’s made about a pre-‘indie’ indie community and why a 2D platformer took him 13 years to finish.

Butcher started making Tobias when he was 14. As these teenage dreams often are, it was planned poorly, over-revised, and bodges came back to haunt him but by gum, he flipping well adored it. His mini documentary accompanying the release should be viewed as part of the project, as one of the things he got up to over the course of making it was pursuing a career as a filmmaker.

“Maybe it is just an amateur project that got stuck in a time warp and maybe that means some people will hate it. But maybe some people will love it as well because, deep down, I guess I love it,” he says. “I love it because despite all its flaws, it’s the game I always wanted to make, and no one–not even the grown-up 26 year old version of myself–could tell me otherwise.”

It’s awfully sentimental, but it would be, wouldn’t it? Not that Tobias is the only game Butcher’s been working on since 2001, mind. His shoot ’em up Teletrooper only took seven years.

Here’s the documentary, and the game’s free to download from its website.

From this site

11 Comments

  1. Torn says:

    Glad he finally finished his game!

    Starting new projects and never finishing them comes easy to a lot of people. 13 years — wow.

    Here’s the TiGSource thread on it: link to forums.tigsource.com

  2. Reapy says:

    Really great retrospective. It shows how intense making a game can really be for one person, and how far we have come having tools like Unity available to us now, and how there was basically nothing but a mountain of engine code you had to write to even begin to see something.

    • LionsPhil says:

      That’s not really true at all. I’m pretty sure MMF, like The Games Factory, was actually more RAD-friendly than Unity is, because you slap down some sprites and wire some behaviours together for them. It’s less flexible, but if you can think so far as “when press fire, man shoots boolet” and “when boolet hits monster, boolet and monster are destroyed”, you can get something interactive going.

      Christ, that was forever ago. I’ve still got the T-shirt from Clickteam’s first developer convention. Looks like they’re still chugging along, and Jamagic has vanished into the black abyss of shame. It’s not even in their “Retired Products” section.

      (Fun trivia: these are the same guys [well, guy; I don’t know what happened to the other] who made STOS/AMOS back in the 16-bit era. At one point they put the source for those up for download, but they seem to have been wiped away too.)

      • CameO73 says:

        AMOS … now that brings back memories! I loved those tools … never made a finished game, though :-)

        • Lemming says:

          Jesus, AMOS! You just gave me a white-hair inducing shock as Father Time just realised how old I am!

  3. SillyWizard says:

    Oh man, right in the feels.

  4. MadTinkerer says:

    You know… this does sound vaguely familiar. 14 years ago would have been June 2000, and I had been taking an interest in what I would have called the “Homebrew scene” at the time. I never released anything publicly because:

    1) I was mostly familiar with things like Adventure Game Toolkit and BASIC at the time. I had taken an introductory C course, but nothing remotely close to any kind of graphics programming. I also knew quite a bit of Visual Basic and other things that could be hacked into vaguely resembling the kinds of games I wanted to make, but I really didn’t like fighting the design of those systems (and my father was super-unhelpful in the sense that he totally supported me learning any kind of “useful” programming, but games did not count as “useful”). The things I made in AGT and BASIC I still consider “cute first efforts” and in no way worthy of public release.

    Plus I’m not 100% sure anything in the 90s survived thanks to surprise bitrot on half of our floppies before I realized I should be backing up everything on CD. I suspect our disks were subjected to X rays or magnets or something when they were shipped to our last house, because many of the oldest were fine but so many of them had degraded so quickly at once. But I digress.

    2) RPG Maker 2000, the amazing translated pirate version of RPG Tsukuru 2000 by a guy whose first language was Russian, was one of my main obsessions at the time. But what I actually made with it served better as presents with lots of in-jokes for bemused family members than releasing to the public. Also, part of the problem was that “RM2k” was super-illegal and it would be years before an English RPG Maker on the PC was released for legitimate purchase. I actually emailed the Japanese company a few times about it but gave up after a couple years. You kids who started with VX Ace on Steam don’t know how good you have it.

    3) I was aware of a lot of other things, such as Klick N Play and 3D Construction Kit, but was very frustrated by the limitations. Especially the first version of KnP, which clearly wanted to be Game Maker but had no idea how to do it at the time. I never had an Amiga and completely missed out on all the various 2D Construction Sets other than DOS Pinball Construction Set.

    I had somehow mistaken ZZT and Megazeux for level packs for Kingdom of Kroz (or something much less cool than they actually are) and I still kick myself to this day for ignoring them.

    4) I was doing a lot of tabletop gaming because I couldn’t afford a new computer until 2008 (that’s an entire decade without a computer upgrade, folks) and had given up on game creation systems after it became clear that RPG Tsukuru 2003 wasn’t going to get an official English release either, and VERGE was still essentially vaporware at the time.

    5) As for Game Maker and Multimedia Fusion, I never heard of them before 2009. I wouldn’t have had a computer to run them on before mid-2008 anyway.

    Anyway, long story short, I swear I’ve heard of this before now. Possibly just before I got distracted by D&D3, I think I may seen one of his earliest posts about this. Which is crazy awesome. Because I gave up on making computer games completely for almost a decade, but he still kept plugging away on the game creation systems I had written off. Crazy, crazy awesome.

    That reminds me, I really do need to get back to that last Game Maker project I started…

  5. Premium User Badge

    Ninja Dodo says:

    Anyone who’s ever tried to create something vaguely ambitious on their own knows exactly how this feels. Kudos to the guy for sticking with it.

  6. green frog says:

    Great video. I’m definitely going to check out what he’s made.

    Man, I had forgotten about Klick N Play. That really takes me back.

  7. Metalhead9806 says:

    The game is actually good. I may be a tad biased since i love retro games but imo this guy could sell this game. I would easily pick it up for a couple bucks off Desura.

  8. Oozo says:

    That video surpasses the quality of a lot of Kickstarter videos by a fair margin. Also, it makes me play the game, and maybe hug the guys. Whatever is easier.