The Bitmap Brothers
OverviewFounded in 1987 by Steve Kelly, Mike Montgomery and Eric Matthews the Bitmap Brothers were the original ‘rockstar’ developers - a small, but highly successful development team that prized quality over quantity, and depth over glitz. The company has been responsible for several memorable titles, released on a range of formats that have included 8, 16 and 32-bit home computers and consoles - from the Commodore 64 through to 21st century PCs and consoles.
The first game from the Bitmaps, Xenon, was released in 1988, a sophisticated shoot-‘em up that, through a combination of cutting-edge graphics and challenging gameplay, became the first Amiga game to enter the UK top 40 charts. The sequel, Xenon 2: Megablast, was an even bigger success.
Also in 1988, the Bitmap Brothers followed up the success of Xenon with the futuristic beat-‘em up ballgame, Speedball. Its sequel Speedball 2:Brutal Deluxe was their most critically-acclaimed game. A third title in the series, Speedball 2100 on the PlayStation, was released in September 2000. A 3D version entitled Speedball Arena was abandoned mid-project.
Other hits included TV tie-in Magic Pockets, much-delayed Cyberpunk shooter The Chaos Engine, and real-time strategy game Z. Their last game was World War 2: Frontline Command. This was a WW2 RTS that used the 3D engine from Steel Soldiers.
At one point the studio was split into two studio sites - one in Wapping, London, the other in Harrogate in the north of England. In 1998, Kelly and Matthews both stepped down from the board to concentrate on games design and programming respectively, Mike Montgomery took on the role of Managing Director and successfully drove the company forward, investing in personnel and equipment that enabled the company to develop a new range of next-generation games software. Employing over 20 designers, programmers and artists, the Bitmap Brothers remained fiercely independent and entirely privately owned.
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