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Why you should remember Blitz

Mike Bithell highlights the quiet legacy of a truly philanthropic studio.

Early on Thursday morning, Blitz called an end to 23 years working in the video game industry. Founded by the Oliver Twins, two sparky developers who had made their name with the Dizzy series, Blitz never had a big game to its name but the studio had countless successes, and its work for the UK industry was priceless. Its legacy isn't perhaps in the games it produced but the games it helped make possible, and the people that Blitz helped establish careers.

Mike Bithell, creator of Thomas Was Alone, was one of them. He worked at Blitz before finding his own success as an indie, and here he shares why Blitz was important, and why the studio's legacy's worth remembering.

It started, as most things do, on an internet forum.

Specifically, on Blitz's internal office forum. If you didn't work at Blitz that was, you probably never sampled its joy. A brilliantly off topic scramble of weird links to cute animal pictures and competitively priced secondhand games.

But I digress. This was before I worked there. A friend working as a junior animator had posted a shoddy flash game I made to the internal forum, asking for feedback. And my god did it get feedback. Pages and pages of senior industry veterans discussing everything from the quality of my jump controls to the stupidity of the artwork. When receiving the secretly copied and pasted feedback, I was knocked back. I still had that charming ego available only to recent graduates. How dare they not get my genius. My flash game was the best thing ever made. It had bloom and everything.

And then I actually read the feedback. And it was awesome. A 150 strong company had sat down (presumably while they were meant to be doing something far more important) and taken the time to give a precocious 21 year old some feedback. And it was with the same game, improved by that feedback, that I interviewed for a job there months later.

Blitz was an amazing company. It was a company where the bosses looked out for the employees, and the stability and security of the staff was always the top priority. As I worked my way up the ranks, from junior designer, to, well, the lofty position of regular concept designer, I was lucky enough to work directly with most of the senior staff. They were brilliant.

Blitz was also well known for its outreach to students and graduates generally. The open days were things of legend (that's how I came into the company, after a design manager who will remain nameless got me rather drunk on an embarrassingly small amount of cider). It is exciting that this attitude and approach lives on with Kim Blake's move to UKIE, but it's a shame to see a company who did so much for young developers leave the market. The remaining big studios have a big gap to fill.

The Oliver Twins made their name in the 80s with Dizzy, but they cast their legacy at Blitz.

On a personal level, I will always be grateful to Blitz for giving me my start in the games industry, for nurturing my talent, for shaving off (most) of the egotistical corners I have, and then for setting me off with Thomas Was Alone. There's a bittersweet realisation that right now, in pubs across Leamington Spa, small groups of people are wondering if grabbing a Unity license and making something of their own might be viable. I'm expecting a few phoenixes.

There are already so many of us, working in games across the world, who owe our starts, our training, our careers to the little studio above the pizza place with the dodgy oven. The industry would look a lot different without that company. Blitz, not the pizza place.

So thanks to the Oliver twins and everyone at Blitz. The nicest company in the UK. A company run by two chaps who will, for me, always be the two guys working in shifts on their home PC to make their own independent puzzle platformers, about 20 years before the rest of us thought that might be a doable thing.

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Mike Bithell avatar

Mike Bithell