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Blog posted by Ste Pickford on Fri, 25 Jul 2008
Subject: Pickford Bros.

Ste Pickford

I was invited to the Retro Fusion event in Leamington Spa last Saturday (I was even listed as a 'celeb'!), and I had a really good day there.

I've only been to one of these things before, and I do find them a little strange if I'm honest. I think I'm slightly puzzled by the level of passion shown for old tatty old 8-bit video games, unreliable old home computers and broken down arcade cabinets.

I've got loads of fond memories of the games and machines from back then, but loads of really bad memories too. Losing hours of work to wobbly RAM packs, or whole days of work to unreadable microdrive cartridges, or saving up my pocket money for weeks to buy games that were buggy, unplayable, untested garbage.

I think for a team like John and I, who've been making games without interruption since the 1980s, we've seen a constant progression and improvement in our work. I've said it loads of times before (probably in this blog), but we've learned something new on every game we've ever made, and we've become a better designers, artists, programmers and businessman after every project we've completed.

I can't look back on those games from the 80s and see anything other than the flaws, mistakes and omissions. Even when the raw ideas were good (like Feud or Zub or Cosmic Pirate) I can only see weak design, missing features, missed potential. The games we make now are so much better. Naked War is the best game we've ever made. The new game is looking really good. I guess I feel slightly puzzled and even a bit frustrated when people want to talk about the games from twenty odd years ago.

The people at these events are incredibly friendly though, and it's quite nice having a little taste of fame for a few hours every year. Some people came up to me to tell me how much they enjoyed games like Feud or 180 (and I showed them the hand *), and I was even asked to sign a couple of cassette inlays for old Mastertronic games.

I did a little interview on the stage, hosted by the excellent Paul Drury, which was good fun. I hope I didn't accidentally slag anyone off, because it was being filmed!

There were great games and great machines back then of course, and it's fantastic that all the good stuff - and the bad stuff - isn't being forgotten.

I was chatting to somebody who'd rediscovered a lost version of Repton for the BBC Micro (Repton 4 maybe?). This particular game was never finished and never came out, but they'd tracked down the source code somehow, fixed it up and finished it off, and were almost ready to release it as a new game. Amazing! So much of video games' history is lost in the ether, I think people like this (and the whole emu scene) are doing something really valuable and useful, that perhaps will only be properly appreciated in many years time.

I met a couple of lovely people I'd only spoke to on forums before, which was great, but it was a shame that I had to shoot off so early for my train as I missed the chance to chat to some of the other developers there. My personal highlight was spotting Sandy White just before I left, shaking his hand and telling him what an inspiration he was to me.

I guess I'm a retro game fan after all!

* Interestingly, I've been drawing my own hand again recently for the new game we're working on. I hope this one sells as many copies as 180 did!


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