THE BITMAP BROTHERS



The independant company The Bitmap Brothers was co-founded in Wapping, East London in 1987 by Mike Montgomery, Eric Matthews and Steve Kelly.

Within a year their first game was completed and from the very start Xenon established them with a reputation as developers with an eye for detail and the ability to polish every aspect of a game to perfection, not to mention a knack for self promotion. In an unusual but very deliberate move they decided to include a digitized animation and a voice sample of one of the team to announce the start of every level. The game was a big success and gave the new developers the distinction of producing the first ever Amiga game to enter the UK's All Formats Top 40. Its popularity also lead to it being featured on the Saturday morning childrens program 'Get Fresh'.

In the same year their second game Speedball was released. A future sports game featuring the same quality of graphics and design, Speedball was another huge hit for the Bitmaps and showed that the first game was certainly no fluke.

For the third game by the Brothers they decided to make a sequel to their first game Xenon. In a unique move for game developers, the Bitmaps teamed up with record label Rhythm King and Tim Simenon's dance music act Bomb the Bass. The result was a game that not only outshone both their previous releases in terms of visuals and gameplay, but also for the first time featured 'real' music as you played, a remix of Bomb the Bass's Dance hit 'Megablast' Xenon 2 was universally acclaimed and became an instant classic.

The decision to include real music into their game was an incredible success and became a popular feature in some of their later releases with the Bitmaps working with Nation XII for both Speedball 2 and Gods, and remixing Betty Boo's 'Doin the Doo' for Magic Pockets.
 
With their reputation quickly growing the Bitmap Brothers decided to work with the games magazines of the time by allowing them to feature preview demos of some of their upcoming games on coverdisks. Starting by simultaneously releasing exclusive demos of their next game Cadaver for the Amiga and the Atari ST, it would prove to be a very clever move by the Brothers and gain them even more recognition.

The success of their games, the promotion of Xenon and later Magic Pockets on the television, along with the ingenious idea of releasing preview tasters of Cadaver on magazine coverdisks, all combined to propel the team as individuals into the gaming publics awareness. This was always one of the aims of the Bitmaps as they believed that as developers they should be at the forefront, as opposed to just the software house taking all the credit. They became the first game development team to have almost a rock star image and were often seen in magazines wearing their trademark black shades while striking a cool pose for the camera, usually in a suitably moody black and white.



Read here 'How the Bitmaps planned the hype' and how they've met. (ST Format #18 Jan'91)

The end of 1990 saw the release of the sequel to Speedball. For Speedball 2 Brutal Deluxe the Bitmaps enlisted the talents of renowned comic book artist Glenn Fabry. Fabry's unique artistic style was used to produce the box art for the game and gave it a dark violent look that suited the theme of Speedball perfectly. Another well known comic artist, Simon Bisley, would later be called upon to produce the box art for Gods and an add on disk for Cadaver called The Payoff. The results are truly unique looking game boxes.




Before the release of Gods in 1991, the success of the Bitmap Brothers previous games allowed them to set up their own publishing label Renegade. The aim of Renegade was to provide a publisher for high quality developers that would give the teams a bigger share of the profits than the average software house. Renegade would go on to be a big success for the Bitmaps with some of the biggest games of the 16-bit era being released under its banner, not to mention all upcoming Bitmap Brothers titles which included Magic Pockets, Cadaver The Payoff and The Chaos Engine and its sequel.
Read an interview regarding the Bitmap Brothers' split with Mirrorsoft (ST Format #18 Jan'91)



From the start of the 16-bit era to its end the Bitmap Brothers produced classic after classic. Never before or since had there been a development team to produce such consistant high quality. With an unparalelled back catalogue, The Bitmap Brothers reputation was set in stone and still is to this day.

The success of the Bitmap Brothers can be attributed to the fact that they very cleverly marketed themselves as 'star' developers and took every opportunity to showcase themselves and their games to the public in both television and on magazine coverdisks. Along with this, every one of their games was given the same incredible levels of attention to detail, which made them stand head and shoulders above every other release of the time. As if this were not enough, they also managed to successfully create a classic game accross many different genres.
There really was something for everyone in their catalogue, which ranged from Shoot-Em-Ups like the Xenon games to the isometric adventure puzzle games of Cadaver and The Payoff.

As well as being incredibly successful with the game buying public, The Bitmap Brothers also gained critical acclaim, with their games being awarded numerous awards for their technical and innovative achievements.


1989

Generation 4 D'or - Best Shoot-Em-Up (Xenon 2)
Golden Joystick Awards - 16-bit Game of the Year (Speedball)
Golden Joystick Awards - 16-bit Programmer of the Year
Indin - 16-bit Technical Achievement Sound/Music (Xenon 2)

1990

European Leisure Awards - Best Shoot-Em-Up (Xenon 2)
Fnac - Best Original Game (Speedball 2)
Fnac - Adventure Game of the Year (Cadaver)
Indin - Arcade Game of the Year (Speedball 2)

1991

Golden Joystick Awards - Best Soundtrack 16-bit (Speedball 2)
Indin - Budget Game of the Year (Xenon 2)

1993

Power Play - Best Multiplayer Game (The Chaos Engine)
SEGA Third Party Seal of Quality Award - Product of the Year (The Chaos Engine)


The 16-bit era was a golden age for gaming with almost endless classics across many different platforms. The fact that The Bitmap Brothers are highly regarded by everyone and considered the best developers of all time by many is a testament to their genius, and a recognition truly deserved.

The team that produced these classic games were Mike Montgomery, Eric Matthews, Steve Kelly, Graeme Boxall, Steve Tall, Rob Trevellyan, Dan Malone, Sean Griffiths, Marc Coleman and Richard Joseph.

As fans of theirs these pages are a tribute to their work.