||The independant company The Bitmap Brothers was co-founded
in Wapping, East London in 1987 by Mike Montgomery, Eric Matthews and
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
Read an interview regarding the Bitmap Brothers' split with Mirrorsoft (ST Format #18 Jan'91)
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.
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
||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.
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.
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)
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)
Golden Joystick Awards - Best Soundtrack 16-bit (Speedball 2)
Indin - Budget Game of the Year (Xenon 2)
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.