Mike Bithell – Thomas Was Alone, BAFTAs and More!

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It’s fair to say that 2012 was a fantastic year for indie game developers. With Valve’s Steam platform leading the charge and console publishers realising the potential of their online space we saw a massive boom in small time games.

mike bithellOne of the highlights of 2012 was Thomas Was Alone, a game created by Mike Bithell. With Thomas Was Alone, Mike managed to create a game that was beautifully simple, yet deceptively challenging, add to that a now BAFTA award-winning performance from Danny Wallace as the game’s Narrator, and a score from David Housden, and it’s no surprise that the game was a success; so much so that the game will now be ported to PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita.

I caught up with Mike recently to talk about the past few months and weeks and what he has planned for his mysterious ‘Project 2’.

Busy was his description of the less than 12 months since Thomas was released. It’s crazy how little of that time has been spent making the next thing, and how much has been supporting and sharing Thomas. It’s been a bit of a building thing….so I seem to get busier as more time goes on.

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Thomas was released for Windows and Mac in June 2012 much critical praise, especially for its ability to give simple rectangular shapes personalities. Did he ever expect the game to be so well received?

I hoped. But no, it was always a dumb hobby project, and to see it get the love it has gotten has been a bit surreal. Very lucky that it seems to have found a vocal fan base who spread the word and brought in a fair few players. I’m hoping to build on that with the next thing, and see if I can make something better.

With heaps of critical praise and a large growing fan base it was only inevitable that awards would soon follow. At the Video Game BAFTA’s Thomas was up for three awards for Story, Performance and Music, with Danny Wallace taking home the BAFTA for his role as the Narrator. How did it feel to be BAFTA nominated and award-winning?

Pretty good. It was cool that all three of us got a nod each. This was a truly collaborative process. And I’m super excited for Danny with his BAFTA. He did an amazing job, and was central to the success of the story elements. It’s great to see such a big performance in a little game getting the nod.

Initially Thomas was first sold via its own site, then it appeared on Valve’s Steam and now it’s being ported to Sony’s PlayStation 3 and Vita, (complete with additional content) with a little help from Curve and Bossa Studios. Were consoles always part of the plan?

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Yeah, bit of a shock, eh? Very cool. One of those awesome right time right place things. Shahid at Sony had played the game very early on, and thought it would be a cool project for their consoles. Curve are carving out an awesome niche porting indie projects over to Sony platforms (a job which primarily involves working through all our amateurish code), and Bossa were on hand to help my dumb business brain through all the paperwork and are doing some great stuff with marketing.

I’d genuinely never have thought the game could come to consoles, so this has all been super exciting. Nearly worked it all out, and it should be coming along pretty soon.

Last month Mike left his job as Lead Designer at Bossa Studios to concentrate on his own projects. Is he living the ‘Indie Dream’? I am. At the moment, the indie dream seems to be primarily about hanging out with cool people and sleeping in till midday. I’m getting used to it though, and the game’s starting to feel good.

With Curve handling the port to Sony, Mike is free to concentrate on his next project, but at the moment details are thin on the ground. (Personally I have fingers crossed for the musical theatre game he’s mentioned a desire to create)

It’s a game about performance, skill, AI and creativity. Pfft. I can’t give anything beyond that. One of the cool things about doing this my way, is I’m kind of working out ‘the point’ as I go, and I’ve not quite zeroed in on what the game is just yet?

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And if you had to do it all over again, which I guess you are, is there anything you’d do differently?

Hehe, I’m kinda happy with how it all worked out. The big shift with this game is I seem to have a reasonable amount of money in the bank to burn making it, which means bringing in even more awesome people to work with, and I think there’s going to be a fair jump up in quality with this one, especially art wise. Can’t wait to share it.

Thomas was Alone is currently available from www.thomaswasalone.com or on the Steam store. And if for some reason you don’t own a PC, but own a PlayStation then you can look forward to getting your hands on this fantastic game in Spring this year.

About Tim Bowers
Tim Bowers is the Editor of Zero1Gaming, he also occasionally writes when he's able to string sentences together. He can usually be found waiting for Nintendo to remember about Samus Aran.

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