I was planning on doing this top demakes article (which I might still do) because I legitimately find demakes to be really interesting. Whether it is for illicit means (looking at you CHINA) or simple fun, demakes can be a fantastic little homage to the original idea. However, I faced a major problem when doing my research on this; I couldn’t find a copy of a game I was really wanting to play. This was a situation where I could legitimately state that I couldn’t get my hands on this. If it were something complicated like Chrono Trigger NES, that would be one thing. Chinese pirate ROMs have to be purchased, ripped and uploaded. Three pretty daunting steps that make for a real excuse for it not to be on the Internet.
Not this game though. This was one bred for mass consumption. This was Sexy Seaside Beachball, a ZX Spectrum demake of Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball created by a pair of Britons for a very public web contest. It’s not like Tigsource is a site that doesn’t have visitors trickling in regularly to consume the wares. I just refused to believe there isn’t some copy floating around of it on this, the Internet.
That’s when my train of though derailed as I began to put my researchers cap on and really start combing for this game. I start pulling up GamesRadar articles that covered the Tigsource competition. In a somewhat unusual fashion, instead of just linking to the site, they ripped the games from the devs and posted it up online, so I had thought I’d found some success. Dead link. I decided to dive deeper.
So I head off to Ben There Dan That’s developer Size Five Games, as they have a nice little page set up in the forums talking about the game. “Success,” I thought. Dead link. Apparently, Size Five decided to change from Zombie Cow to their current site resulting in this link to nowhere. Still though, here is a new forum, so I thought I’d scope out what the dev had said about the game. Turns out they weren’t exactly happy that GamesRadar threw it up without any real paper trail linking people back to the developer. So I’m back at square one with a bunch of interesting new context for my article, yet still no active link.
Now it is time to really start combing. Maybe stalking, because this is around the time I want to know more about what mysteriously happened to this developer that their main website and even their personal blog went down. I’m legitimately intrigued by now.
I now have an idea who the dev is because thankfully they have a consistent Internet footprint. From here I run across an article from the developer that is bizarrely preserved on a site called Ship Hazmat. Here we see a breaking point reached. The article was dated around the same time the first “uh, this link is broken” style post was put up on Tigsource, and it really is fascinating. It goes into the rash decision to code using XNA, a system that not only put the developer, but their entire hopes at indie development into a bad place.
Here is where we get the background story of Chris Simpson. Timeline-wise, Sexy Seaside Beachball was a little gag game Chris had put together with his partner Andy Hodgetts. From Chris’s post, we find that he had been looking to get a bit of knowledge on what exactly it was to be indie. Coming from a commercial developer background (he had worked on Stuntman and Driv3r), it’s understandable that you’d just want to play around in the crowd before jumping in with your first big title. Sexy Seaside Beachball and their next game, a Re-Animator puzzle game was their way of gauging what they could do outside of the commercial games industry.
The results were positive. They made a solid impression while on Tigsource, with the only consistent issue popping up amongst the community being that they were using XNA and running C#. Linux users obviously aren’t big fans, but that wasn’t enough of a caveat to stop utilizing it and moving towards their first real game in PAWS with their new artist Marina Siu-Chong.
PAWS was planned to run free on PC with an XBLIG version to accompany it. The idea being that the free paid version would help offset some of the other costs. Unfortunately, when they finally started moving forward with their first real game together as The Indie Stone, they hit a pretty big wall in Microsoft. Microsoft denied publishing for their Xbox Live Indie version of Privates because of the content. They worked on it, which was a free educational twin stick shooter on procreation, together with Size Five Games and it was well covered. It made no money, but they got a BAFTA, which is nice in a way. Still, in their dealings with Microsoft, they had to look at the Indie Games marketplace and finally decide where to go next.
Without much hope (or more importantly money) left, PAWS was shut down. It was the tough decision of spending many more months to complete a game that wouldn’t make money when they needed some influx to cover the rent. This was around Spring 2011, and now we know why their website went down.
So I’ve now got the who, what and why of the missing download link, and by George am I curious about this duo now. By this point, in my research, I find out what exactly happened to these two after 2011 and I was surprised with what they were working on next.
We’ll continue this tomorrow. Stay tuned!