In early 1999, programmer Ben John left his job at Psygnosis in Liverpool, where he worked on Colony Wars, to set out and develop his own Game Boy Color game. To say he was enthusiastic about Nintendo’s portable system might be a bit of an understatement. He has all seven Tetris blocks tattooed on his chest and once declared the Game Boy to be the greatest invention to come out of the 20th century.
The European Computer Trade Show at West London’s Olympia exhibition hall brought him, his father Mike, and his longtime artist friend Dan Crawley to exhibit the tech demo that they, especially Ben, had spent all year preparing. The goal: turn their gaming dream into a reality.
The clever ways in which the ambitious demo pushed the Game Boy Color’s limits impressed publishers Codemasters, Take 2 Interactive Software, and THQ. Its game engine, later coined “SLIT3D,” used a combination of self-modifying code and large data tables of pre-calculated information to make three-dimensional environments run with up to 16 sprites on the screen at the same time (link).
While Sonic Adventure, Final Fantasy VIII, and Donkey Kong 64 dominated the showroom that year, the representatives at Eidos, England’s largest gaming company at the time, stayed modestly to themselves in a private hospitality suite on the first floor. They, too, saw the demo and struck up a deal to partner with the Johns and Crawley. Ben’s hard work had finally paid off.