The evolution of They Were Our Gods

by Paul Morrison


As I sit here, it's two years since I kicked off this project "for real".  It got me thinking about how the time has passed, and how things have changed over that time.  I was quite surprised.

I actually had the idea back in 2001.  I was sitting in the study in the house I had recently moved into, with my new wife, in the United States.  I had only recently discovered the joys of emulation, and playing Paradroid on my spanking new PC was oddly more enjoyable than many of the PC games I'd bought.  It got me thinking about all these great programmers, and wondering what they were doing now.

That was when I thought a book about them would be a great idea.  The title, "They Were Our Gods", came into my head immediately.  And then I started doing other kinds of writing and the idea kind of faded away.

It was when "From Bedrooms To Billions" came to prominence that I realised I needed to resurrect this.  Since then, there have been tons of retro game projects, all of which I have followed keenly from a fan's point of view, all the while hoping they aren't too damaging to mine!  I often fear that the people I want to talk to will suffer from retro burnout and I'll be too late by the time I get to them!  But my project is different to the others, so I hope not.

One thing that has changed immeasurably even in the two years since I started is the look that the book will have.  Now, it's nowhere near finalised right now... I'm experimenting with looks all the time.  But when I think about my original idea... oh man, it's a bit embarrassing.  But I'm not going to keep the embarrassment to myself... I think it's only fair that you see what you might have been getting.

Can you imagine reading a whole book like this?

Can you imagine reading a whole book like this?

I mean, look at that.  The writing is dull, obviously, but more to the point, look at all the wasted space!  And it would probably hurt your eyes to read more than half a dozen pages like that.  The concept sounded great at the time... using pages that looked like the screens of our favourite home computers would hit a nostalgia nerve of everyone that read it, surely?

I'm so glad I realised early on just what a mistake that would have been.  It's amazing what a copy of InDesign and a bit of research can do.  Of course, it wouldn't all have been in a C64 format...

Really?  You would actually put that in a book?

Really?  You would actually put that in a book?

I mean, honestly.  I wouldn't even write something like that now anyway, it's borderline offensive at the very least.  OK, I was just throwing text in to see how it would look, but that's quite ridiculous.  You see, originally, the idea of talking to the people in question hadn't really crossed my mind.  I was just going to write everything based on my own opinions of games.  Then I realised that this book would be much more valid if the people I so admired actually talked about their work in the book.

That was quite an epiphany, and although it seemed a touch unrealistic I figured, why not?  And it's working out OK so far.  People DO want to talk to me about this stuff.  As long as I can get hold of the majority of people, then this book will be great.

Oh, as for evolution... here's a jpg of an actual test page.  This is genuine, actual content and the majority of what you read will be in the final book.  It might not look quite like that, because that's one of many test pages.  By all means give me feedback, good or bad.  It all helps, although I'd prefer it if you didn't make me cry!  But do tell me what you think.

Not necessarily the finished article, more of a taster of how things could be.

Not necessarily the finished article, more of a taster of how things could be.