Mark Sibly is a reasonably well bug tested computer programmer who would love to be working on creating Avant-garde video games but lacks the necessary creative bent so will forever be resigned to messing around with programming languages and graphics and algorithms and data structures instead, which are also heaps of fun so it’s all good.
A Brief History of Mark Sibly
…(switching deftly to first person…) featuring a tasty selection of my greatest hits (and a few misses) from the 80’s, 90’s, 00’s and beyond!
The Awesome 80’s
I spent the late 70’s and early 80’s learning to program in BASIC and Z80/6502 assembly code on the brand new TRS-80 in Dad’s office and, later, the Apple ][s at Selwyn College in Auckland.
This lead to me attempting to forge a career as a game developer in the late 80’s with mixed results. I did manage to write a bunch of not too shabby games for the 8 bit machines of the day, some of which were even commercially published, but alas none of which turned out to be particularly financially successful.
These games included such sadly neglected classics as ‘Dinky Kong’ and ‘Zeron’ for the Vic-20, ‘Starwarp’ for the C-64 and ‘Leapin’ Louie’ and ‘Tomb of Tarrabash’ for the C-16/Plus-4 (greatly underrated machines!).
My proudest achievement of this era was probably working with Commodore Computer NZ Ltd to help create the ‘Triple Jump’ game cartridge for the C-16 which included 2 of my own games. This was the first time I’d really had to deal with the hardware side of programming at all, although only in a very minor way, ie: working out where to put the ‘magic bytes’ in the e-prom.
More information on this interesting time in New Zealand’s game development history can be found here:
Hola, I even have a page there!
The Nervous 90’s
I started the 90’s writing the Blitz Basic 1 & 2 compilers for the Amiga computer, but reverted to game development again by the end of the decade.
Blitz Blitz 1 was plagued by HW problems as it was sold with a dongle (not my choice!) that never really worked, but Blitz Blitz 2 was pretty successful and quite a few Amiga games were written in it. It still has a loyal following these days including an active FB community etc.
My efforts at writing games were somewhat less successful. The games industry had grown into a behemoth by the late 90’s and I was obliviously well out of my depth. I was still working more or less on my own (albeit with the help of similarly self-employed graphics artists and musicians), which can work for the ‘auteur’ style game developers out there, of which I am sadly not one.
Still, ‘Gloom’ and ‘Guardian’ were both minor hits on the Amiga, Guardian even collecting number 3 in Amiga Power’s ‘top 100 games of 1996’ list! And Gloom was apparently so good the publisher saw fit to ‘reuse’ the graphics engine (completely without my/our permission) to produce a stream of Doom-ish clones for the Amiga…
The Nasty Noughties
By about the year 2000, I decided to give the programming language thing another shot, but this time on the by-now ubiquitous Windows PC. In retrospect, my timing here turned out to be flukily spot on, as 3d graphics hardware was just starting to go mainstream in the form of the new cheapish 3dfx voodoo and nvidia geforce graphics cards (amongst many others) so I was able to produce an easy to use ‘beginners’ style language with the some pretty cool (for the time) 3d graphics support which turned out to be a minor hit back in the day.
Thus Blitz Basic 3D was born, which is probably the most successful thing I’ve done to date, and the thing I’m probably most proud of. In fact, it still turns up occasionally in ‘best of’ lists 20+ years later, eg:
After Blitz3D I started work on a sequel of sorts, BlitzMax. BlitzMax featured a more complex language with object-oriented elements, and ran on ‘the big 3’ platforms: Windows, Linux and MacOS. However, I never managed to add the ‘killer feature’ that would have really made it super successful – 3D! I did get the basic ‘bones’ of a fairly good 3D engine written, but I underestimated how hard writing a 3D engine for 3 APIs would be. If I’d had more business sense, I might have considered employing someone to help.
Still, BlitzMax went on to be pretty successful without 3D and eventually found it’s own following amongst 2D game developers and the more ‘systems programming’ types.