We caught up with Steve Wilcox from Elite to talk about Jet Set Willy, Manic Miner and the state of the XBLIG marketplace.
If the saying, “look at the past to see the future”, is correct then Steve provides some interesting thoughts and ideas.
Q: So ELITE are who exactly?
RESPONSE: Elite Systems Ltd is, arguably, the UK’s oldest continually operating developer-publisher of computer and video games. Incorporated in England in 1984 (by myself and my father Brian), Elite was originally a leading developer and publisher of groundbreaking games for the Sinclair Spectrum and Commodore 64 home computer systems…
Today Elite is a highly-specialised developer AND publisher of game software products for handheld, mobile and wireless systems; providing mobile network operators and selected other partners around the globe with “the best names in mobile games”.
Q: I’m of the age that, errm, remembers Jet Set Willy on the spectrum. Along with Manic Miner, these games were pretty ground breaking. Were you aware of this when the games came out.
RESPONSE: Software Projects (the company which first published Jet Set Willy for the Sinclair Spectrum) was, like Elite, incorporated in 1984 by Tommy Barton, Alan Matton and Matthew Smith. We knew Tommy at that time and were obviously aware of the significance of Jet Set Willy. We’re still in touch with Tommy and with Matthew today.
Q: In this day and age the graphics and sound etc aren’t exactly cutting edge. Do you think that the gameplay alone can make this a hit? Or is this purely a trip back in time?
RESPONSE: Just like other timeless games which don’t have “cutting edge graphics” – take chess and drafts (checkers) for example – Jet Set Willy endures because of its impeccable game-play.
Q: You’ve released a few games on to the XBOX LIVE Indie Games market, but what is your view of the market in general? Do you think there is a future for this type of marketplace.
RESPONSE: The XBLIG market place is sufficiently large to support a commercial nano-/micro-publisher and is sufficiently well policed (by its development community) to avoid the hideous piracy problems that plague the Android platform. So, at least from a developer-publisher’s perspective, the XBLIG marketplace has a future. How Microsoft’s Xbox division would answer that question is another matter.
Q: Is there anything that you, as a Publisher, would like to see happening with the XBOX indie games platform?
RESPONSE: Well any opportunity to co-market the XBLIG marketplace / content with the platform holder would be a real boon. Even something as simple as on-deck promotional slots, whether that be for ‘categories’ or for individual XBLIGames would raise the profile of the entire XBLIG marketplace and catalogue.
Q: XBLIG is in the same space as the iTunes and Android marketplaces – cheap games, casual players. Do you think that consoles can ever be really successful in this area, given that consoles have always been for the hard-core gamer?
RESPONSE: Nintendo might disagree with that description of the Wii’s audience. Consequently we do think consoles offering a meaningful opportunity.
Q: Are you currently playing any games? Or have you just about had enough of games when you leave work?
RESPONSE: I play our games and I play our competitors’ games – only occasionally, for example on a long flight, might I play games for recreation.
Q: Any tips for budding developers?
RESPONSE: Make sure you know why you’re developing what you’re developing, before you start. Analyse the competing products and be sure you can explain convincingly to others, not just to yourself, why what you’re developing is better than what’s already out there.
Q: So what’s next in the pipeline for Elite? And will you continue to support the XBLIG platform?
RESPONSE: Having started on iPhone / iPod Touch we’ve spent the last 12 months rolling out our Sinclair Spectrum catalogue to a growing number of platforms – currently that extends to iOS, Windows Phone, Bada and XBLIG. In the not too distant it’ll also be available on selected Android devices. On a similar timeframe, we’ll be rolling out our other 8-bit catalogue (which is currently only available on iOS) to other platforms. Additionally, we’ll be adding functionality, such as multi-player and 3D, to our entire wherever possible.