Whatever happened to the fabled Worms prototype?
Wormage is surely not total without it.
I'm preparing something rather special for Monday's video post -- one of the most requested videos on the channel, a documentary on Team 17, one of the UK's longest lasting software houses. They've had some hills and valleys over the years, but they've survived -- and a big part of that has to do with a bunch of psychopathic invertebrates wielding bazookas and dynamite, those good old Worms. So before the documentary, I thought I'd quickly explore the story of how Worms came to be.
The genesis of Worms belongs to a young man named Andy Davidson, who entered a 1993 competition that Amiga Format held to win an Amiga 4000. To win, you simply had to send in a game you'd made in Blitz Basic. Davidson's game was a take on the classic Scorched Earth (it might be more accurate to call it a take on Scorched Tanks, an Amiga PD version of the game) that originally featured sprites that had been ripped from Psygnosis's classic Lemmings. Andy naturally realised that such a game wasn't exactly sellable without a significant copyright issue, and so the Lemmings eventually became Worms, and the game was submitted -- it was known as Total Wormage.
Andy Davidson would not win an A4000 -- in fact, his game didn't even place. Still, he was not perturbed by this setback -- instead he took Total Wormage to the European Computer Trade Show, where he ended up showing it to Martyn Brown and Debbie Bestwick of Team 17, who played it and...needless to say disagreed with Amiga Format's impression of the title. They found that they couldn't stop playing it there, nor could they stop playing it when they met Andy in a local bar later on. The game most certainly had something...and in the end, they got Andy and the game on board -- despite actually losing his details at one point and having to call Amiga Format to get them.
The actual development of Worms was a rapid period of serious crunch -- recognising that the title was way too big to be merely consigned to the fading Amiga, Team 17 paired up with publishing giants Ocean to get the game on as many platforms as were available at the time, and over six months ten versions of the game were made. Ocean expected modest results of around 60,000 copies sold in the first six months, and the game would end up selling millions in the same period, securing the immediate future of Team 17 and providing them with a franchise that, to this day, still keeps on giving.
Unfortunately however, the genesis of the whole idea still remains missing in action. Out of historical interest, a lot of the titles submitted to that same Blitz Basic competition have been recovered -- at least 20 or so. One can even see a version of the game called Total Wormage being demoed by Andy Davidson on the UK games show Bad Influence in 1995, although chances are it's a later build under the same name...alas, it is yet to surface. The story shows one of the main reasons why Team 17 have survived and thrived, however: Their knack for talent spotting. Nearly 20 years later, company CEO Debbie Bestwick stumbled upon a nascent game called The Escapists on Kickstarter, pledged £100 and got the designer, Chris Davis's details, and with that the game, a modest Kickstarter success, was turned into another huge hit -- Team 17's biggest franchise since Worms, and one of the reasons why, 25 years after their original formation, Team 17 are one of the fastest growing labels in Europe. This is just one thing that shall be explored in the video come Monday.