|★ GAMES ★ EDITEURS ★ DIZZY ENTERPRISES : DIZZY THIS IS YOUR LIFE|Amstrad Action) ★|
|Dizzy Enterprises : Dizzy this is your life||Games Editeurs|
Dizzy doesn't know it yet. He thinks we're just Here to 'talk about his upcoming game, Crystal Kingdom Dizzy (his twelfth). But what's that big red book ADAM PETERS is ' holding? Could this be the full, uncensored Dizzy history? Did the life of Britain's favourite egg really begin like this...
"I didn't want them to do it,' declares CodeMasters boss David Darling, dramatically. “We'd done a couple of games that were selling nicely, and I wanted them to do a grand prix game. They came up with this funny egg thing and I didn't think much of it.”
“There was a bit of conflict at the time,” admits Philip Oliver, one half of the famous Oliver twins'. “We were writing a lot of simulators back then, but we thought it was a bit boring just doing simulators. We thought it would be good to do something a little more creative.”
Dizzy Enterprises: Andrew Oliver. Philip Oliver. Pogle the fluffle, and various dodgy looking blokes.
I'm sure I've seen one of the chaps In the back row on Crime watch UK...
And so Dizzy was born. Hail Britain's most famous egg adventurer!
“We wanted something with character, which meant having something with a big face,” says Philip in response to the ‘why an egg?' question. “He needed to move around, so we added legs and arms. Before you knew it, we had an egg-shaped thing." He waves around some photos of Dizzy wandering round the 1992 Computer Entertainment Show in Chicago.
“We thought that costume was going to be really good,” David laughs, remembering Chicago Dizzy. “We got the same people to do it that did the Hofmeister bear for the TV ads. It was far too baggy, and just looked ridiculous. Sega's Sonic costume isn't any better, though.
“Dizzy? You mean Mr Easy-to-draw,” sarcasms Paul Ranson, Dizzy's valet since 1990.
“I'm not a very good graphic artist,” admits creator Philip.
“Dizzy is an egg,” adds creative director Shan Savage, helpfully.
All right, let's start again...
The birth off Dizzy
1987: CodeMasters, only a few months old, is already well established as an 8-bit budget software house. The early success story is mainly down to the efforts of two sets of brothers; the Darling brothers (Richard and David) who set the whole thing up and wrote some of the early games, and the Oliver twins (Andrew and Philip) who soon established themselves as the Codies' most prolific programmers. The Olivers wrote a whole host of games, most of which featured the word 'simulator' in the title.
“With simulators you're just trying to portray a really popular sport so that the player can control it," says Philip. "You're simply translating the sport across onto the computer, rather than doing something original.”
The Olivers decided they wanted to do something original. What they came up with was a game of exploration and puzzle-solving, starring a giant egg.
“They showed me this screen with an egg
rolling around," declares David Darling, “and I wasn't impressed. But once they started developing the game, it began to look really interesting. We decided to put it out and see how it did.”
The game was released in September of that year and sold moderately well. Initial sales were about average for a CodeMasters game, but then things started going a bit strange. The game continued to sell in the same numbers. There was no fall off in sales. CodeMasters were puzzled and interested to see what happened when they released the follow-up.
Philip: “We were going to call it Dizzy 2, but we'd just released Grand Prix 2 and that hadn't done very well, with the original Grand Prix having stopped selling altogether. We decided that with Dizzy we were going to give each game its own title. Like the James Bond films, each new release would be part of a series but would have its own name and identity. You can play one without having played any of the others.
“We released the second game as Treasure Island Dizzy.
It sold very well, better than the first game.
More curiously, its release didn't affect the sales of the first game, which continued to sell as well as ever. Very surprising.”
Even at that stage, CodeMasters were aware they had a cult phenomenon on their hands.
Egg: on his -face
“Dizzy has aged five years in the last three months.” Sh3n Savage, CodeMasters creative director (in charge of the inlays and illustrations) points to the artwork for the Crystal Kingdom cover. “The illustration for the first Dizzy game was terrible - so bad that we had to change the illustration for the second game. We've really changed the character's appearance with this illustration for the new game. He'll appeal to older teens now, rather than six year olds."
“He looks evil,” pipes up Stephanie, AA regular Richard Eddy's glamorous assistant.
“He certainly looks spooky," admits Shan, “especially with the whip.”
The whip? Crikey!
The simplistic little ovoid character we know and love now bears the look of an egg who has been to hell and back, if only on a day trip. There's something just slightly unnerving about that look in his eyes, and he's also taken to sporting a tattoo.
DIZZY GETS TOUGH SHOCKER: The Twiggins family of Wiggly Road, Burnley were in a state of shock last night over the change in behaviour of their ten-year-old son Terry's favourite playmate. Dizzy, a five year old egg hailing from the Leamington area, used to be “such a sweet old soul" said Mrs Twiggins, “a happy smiling egg. We felt comfortable knowing our son was up their playing with Mr Dizzy."
THEN THINGS CHANGED.
In the past few weeks Dizzy has become “a whirlwind of evil". He has taken to:
“It's been so sudden," Mrs Twiggins told AA, “and I don't know what to make of it. Certainly I won't be so quick to leave Terry and Dizzy playing alone now. Who knows what mischief the/ll get up to. Swinging from the lampshades and all. There's expensive china in the living room, you know"
Asked about his behaviour, Dizzy was nonchalant. “Shan made me do it," he said.
“We're a bit limited in what we can do,” says egg corrupter Shan, without a hint of remorse, “because of the oval shape. We had to retain the character's identity: basically, an egg wearing red boxing gloves and red shoes. We've tried to make him more believable though. A real hero.
“Previously Dizzy looked very young. You couldn't really believe that he'd be able to embark on any of those adventures without having to be home by 8 o'clock. He's cuter now, but in a mischievous rather than a childish way.”
“He's a lot sexier now," adds Richard Eddy. “He's more butch,” double-adds Paul Ranson. “You could parallel his development with that of Jason Donovan growing up from Neighbours to the present day.”
We could Richard, but I rather think we won't. Asked about the ‘new" Dizzy, Terry seemed impressed. “Yeah, he's much more wicked now," he told AA, “but he'd be even better if he had fangs.” Fangs? “Yeah. And a gun."
Are you at all surprised by Dizzy's success?
Philip Oliver: “Yeah, definitely. Very."
David Darling: “We certainly didn't expect the character to do so well at the outset."
Why do you think the games are so popular? Philip: ‘They appeal as family games. Most games are just for kids. They go and sit in their bedrooms with the game and everyone else forgets about them. With Dizzy games the whole family can sit round and take part. You may be holding the joystick but the other people are there making suggestions.
“Dizzy games are the ultimate word-of-mouth games. People get talking about them in playgrounds, asking round to see who knows how to get past a certain problem they're stuck on. More people get involved in the discussion and it encourages others to go and buy the game.” David: “He's such a unique-looking character. The way he always tumbles and the fact he's always in really playable games are two reasons for the success. If we'd put him in bad games it wouldn't have worked."
“We'd done Treasure Island and it was really successful. We wanted to show that the games were based on the character rather than the style of game. To illustrate that we decided to have a go at putting Dizzy into a different style of game. Hence Fast Food."
Have the arcade games been as successful as the adventures?
“Yes. People get more involved in the adventures but the arcade games sell just as well.”
All the Dizzy adventures are the same.
“We keep the control method the same to keep things familiar to people. Lots of programmers throw in every technique they can think of, making things really complicated for the person playing. We use simple programming and styles that people are used to, aiming to make everything really user-friendly. Dizzy games are no more 'all the same' than James Bond films.”
Or Famous Five books, as Linda Barker said in her Wild West Seymour review last month. Which reminds me... so far I've managed to resist the temptation to ask that question, but it needs to be asked. The window is dangerously ajar. Philip Oliver could well be a psychotic schizophrenic for all I know. Oh dear. Formulating a whole question would be extra dangerous: I think I'll just say the word...
“Seymour arose out of quite strange circumstances [see previous AAs for the full story]. Seymour Hollywood was going to be the next Dizzy game, that's how the character came about. We would have preferred him to be a bit more different though.”
"Most games are just for kids.
Dizzy games appeal to the whole family"
Richard Eddy pops up with a bit of diplomacy: “The gameplay relies on the same thing but the styles are moving further apart. Dizzy appears in ‘serious' adventures set in a fantasy land, whereas Seymour appears in more humorous adventures set in the real world."
“Good," says Philip, calming down a little, “the further apart they get, the better." The window slams shut. Phew, survived that one.
Now -the world...
Dizzy looks set to be still wending his way through fantasy landscapes well into the next century. A lot of Dizzy games have been released on the Nintendo NES in America, and there are plans for Dizzy titles on the Super NES and Megadrive. Word is that Dizzy games will also be appearing on multi-media machines (such as the Philips CD-i) in the near future.
“Dizzy games would then become what we've always dreamt of them being,” says Philip, “fully interactive cartoons, set in a magical land where everything is possible. Games will also have much longer lives. They'll last for years.”
And that's not all, Dizzy fans. Chances are you'll be seeing your ovoid chum in action on the TV within the next few years. Discussions have already taken place with Hanna-Barbera over the possibility of producing a Dizzy cartoon series. (United Artists have also shown an interest.)
The NES game The Fantastic Adventures of Dizzy (Bubble Dizzy and Dizzy down the Rapids were both lifted from it) recently won ‘Best Graphic Adventure of the Year' in a prestigious American video games awards ceremony. Surprising really, considering that CodeMasters aren't officially licensed by Nintendo: the company has consequently found it difficult both getting their games into the shops and getting them reviewed in magazines.
Whatever happens in computing, it seems that Dizzy is here to stay. But let's leave the last word to Paul Ranson, designer of recent titles starring the infamous egg: “While we were programming Magic Land Dizzy at Big Red, we spent a lot of time eating Donahue's balm cakes. They're the biggest balm cakes in the world, and they only cost 80p each. They were served by a woman who only had one eye. She'd be pointing at you and you wouldn't know where she was pointing. You'd go into the shop and...”
Er, scratch that. Let's leave the last word to Andrew Oliver, who, along with brother Philip, started this whole big egg thing off.