Friday, 15 July 2011

Retro Videogaming: ULTIMATE PLAY THE GAME.


The heroes of videogamers today are the likes of Rockstar, Bungie, Bethesda or Epic, but for the original old school gamers who were around to witness the birth of the industry back in the early 80's, the pioneers during those days are remembered with awe and affection. This includes me. 

As far as I'm concerned, the greatest ever videogame company were ULTIMATE PLAY THE GAME. The company was founded by two brothers, Tim and Chris Stamper, in 1982. Both were ex-arcade developers/coders who saw the potential in home gaming with the launch of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48K computer here in the UK. Their first release was a simple and addictive shooter called Jetpac which was a huge success due mainly to its arcade quality graphics which were amazing for the time. From there many of their releases became huge hits and all time classics: games like Cookie, Tranz Am, Atic Atac, Lunar Jetman, Sabre Wulf, Underwurlde, Knight Lore, Alien 8 and many more.

 The awesome Atic Attack

What made ULTIMATE special was not the quality of their product but more due to the deliberate air of mystery which surrounded the company. They never courted the media, never attended computer shows and never issued a release schedule. The first thing you saw when a release was upcoming was a single page advert in the videogame magazines and that was it. It all added to the legend that was ULTIMATE. Looking back, I have so many great memories of their games - buying their first, Jetpac, was one. But the one I remember the most is the dual release of Underwurlde and the epic Knight Lore in 3D. Two ULTIMATE games out at the same time was just mindblowing to us Spectrum owners back in '84. Both games, of course, were absolutely brilliant and revolutionary.

As time passed and the Spectrum, Commodore 64, Atari St and Amiga era's faded away, ULTIMATE became RARE who began to work with and produce games for the new kids on the block - consoles. The Stampers eventually sold up and left the videogaming scene a few years later. RARE were bought by Microsoft and the heart of the company was lost. 

Those early Spectrum days were fantastic and unforgettable. All thanks to a small group of people that anyone hardly knew anything about...

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