A great little game which never really seemed to fit into the category it was placed under. The game strangely was situated within Binary Zone PD on one of their PD games disks. A game of commercial quality and addictive platform playability was being given away for free?
A mistake surely, but sadly not. This hard work was the creation of both Kevin Murphy and Damian Steele whom created the game with the hope of finding a publisher. Along with other titles that Kevin had written, the Flubble and Squij was shown around to publishers such as Codemasters and Mastertronic, but sadly without too positive a response.
Commercially, the C64 was dying and it was down to the new breed of post bast C64 companies to save the day. Kevin, after publishing hell for this and his other titles, gave up on the C64 and moved on. Pretty peeved over the way his quality work never made it in the shops.
Music was just temporary from Ubik’s Music, and they were due to get a set of tunes. Sadly they were let down by the musician who was meant to be supplying some tunes. We’re not sure who that was exactly! The intention was never to sell the game with the Ubik Music within though – unless it was credited accordingly.
Kevin worked on Flubble and Squij with his friend Damian Steele, popular for his adventure games he wrote for The Guild (Or later merged as Binary Zone PD). Damian carried out creation and design of levels, as well as thoroughly testing everything. The game levels were built up using a level editor developed by Kevin. After Kevin became disollusioned with the game, Damian pushed it over to Jason Mackenzie over at Binary Zone PD (and then at the time Psytronik in its first guise). Damian has very kindly added to the Creator Speaks section to give his story on the game.
Jason must have been impressed when Damian sent him this game, and Jon Wells was set to work to tidy the game up and add some extra presentation. Commodore Force reported Flubble and Squij as one of Psytronik’s new titles.
Music currently in the game (Taken from Ubik’s Music) was to be replaced by a set of tunes by Feekzoid. So with Jon’s additional work and Feekzoid’s added music, the game was about to become even more special.
Just why it never got released on Psytronik’s label is still a mystery. According to Kenz, Jon did tweak with the game, and there exists a modified version which Kenz has kindly dug out for GTW to present to you for the first time ever. The new version 2 contains some improvements to the sprites, and also features colour splits over the background graphics. There is also new bizarre and unheard Feekzoid music in the main game itself, and on the title screen (Which is in HVSC).
Eventually the game was placed into PD and was a prominent feature of many of Binary Zone’s game compilation disks/tapes. Although the game won many fans, it was always questioned why a game of this quality managed to end up in PD, but sadly that was the way it was. But Kenz was to finally lay an old ghost to rest when the game was finally released on the Psytronik relaunched label in 2013 to mark the 20th anniversary. As a result you can now purchase the game as intended from here.
Kenz in 2013 told the story about what happened to the game, which can be found under the Articles tab or via the original blog post here.
Why did this never get snapped up by a budget label?…
Contributions: Kevin Murphy, Jason Mackenzie, Damian Steele
Damian Steele talks about work on Flubble and Squij…
“I am the co-author of this game and you have somewhat understated my role. Whilst it is true that Kov did all the coding, it was my job to design, create and test all the levels for the game. We used a graphics editor that Kov had created for his <i>Thunderzone</i> (another game that I helped with in a minor role, but never got credited for) to select blocks of scenery, special function or Squij characters and build them, one by one, into a variety of levels of varying difficulty. Each level would take hours of construction, testing, altering and retesting.
As with most games there were originally a lot more levels created for the game than made it into the final version. We were quite democratic about the winnowing process and went about it by individually playing through all of the levels and choosing our favourites. After that we spent some time working out how the levels should progress and removed those that didn’t fit well within the sequence before finally ending up with what we believed to be the best of the lot. I’m not going to pretend that we didn’t disagree a few times, but in the end we were both happy with what we’d produced. I recall that for quite some time Kov couldn’t actually finish the game as the last level was too much of a challenge even for him!
For those who wonder why the game ended up using Ubik’s Music, it was simply because Kov and I were let down by the chap who was supposed to supply the music. Neither Kov nor I were musicians but we knew a guy who said he could supply what we needed. Meanwhile Kov wanted to show the game to various publishers and it needed something to give them an idea of what the game could be like. It was never our intention to sell the game with the Ubik’s Music tracks still in it, especially uncredited. Sadly, with the problems we had getting any publisher to take any notice, development of the game stopped and the music wasn’t replaced by us. It later ended up being released as a PD title and the rest, as they say, is history.
One final thing, there is actually a cheat mode for the game. We used a line of dialogue from a Terry Pratchett novel and it should be typed in during play. The thing is, neither of us can remember exactly what it does. NO PINK is the code.”
Kevin Murphy speaks about work on Flubble and Squij…
“Although i’ll be the first to admit that they are all low quality games, i simply just wasn’t talented or knowledgable enough at the time to really be able to make comercial standard games. But then i was mostly doing everything on my own. Flubble and Squij being the exception where a friend of mine Damian Steele created all the levels.
As for Jason Mackenzie. I think actually me and Damian had some correspondance with him. I think it was mostly Damian though as i had wanted to wash my hands of Flubble and Squij as it had been rejected again by various companies. I do also remember, that someone, it might have been Jason, recoded part of the game. Added some flashy colour cycling to the in game scores, new music and some different graphics. I definately remember seeing and playing that version but have no idea if it was every published.
I think i verbally gave damian free rain to do with the game (flubble and squij) what he wanted after we had had some publishing rejections and it was he who had most of the dialogue with Jason Mackenzie.
Damian was heavily into creating his own text adventures too and i think he sent some of his stuff off to Jason as well as Flub and Squij.
The version of Flub and Squij i have and which you forwarded the link to me, is the original version i wrote with Damian and because neither of us could write music at the time we used the Ubiks music package. Well spotted. :)
Jason Mackenzie’s Psytronik label does ring some bells now and i’m glad he’s been in touch. I now remember the name Jon Wells and also recall seeing some other software he had written. As i previously said, i remember seeing his version of flubble and squij but sort of lost track after that as to what happened to it.”
Kevin Murphy .
Kenz reflects in 2013 about what happened to the game (borrowed from the original post here)
As part of the Psytronik Software 20 Year celebrations I have recently dusted off and released a game that has been languishing in the not-quite-properly-released void since around 1994. The game is a C64 title called Flubble & Squij – a cutesy arcade platformer that was originally produced by Damian Steele & Kevin Murphy back in the day – and then a modified version was produced by Jon Wells for the Psytronik release – which never quite happened. Want to know how come? Then read on!
When Flubble & Squij was initially submitted to Psytronik Software I was impressed with the game with it’s fast, smooth gameplay and cute graphics. The only problem with this version was that the music for the game was made up of the demo songs from the Ubik’s Music editor – which may have caused problems with them being featured in a commercial release.
To get around this problem I asked Jon Wells if he could install soundtracks by FeekZoid into the game. This led to the idea of enhancing the game slightly for the Psytronik release. Jon added some raster splits to the game to give the levels more colours, altered the main Flubble sprite to make him look more like a dragon and changed some of the in-game sprites.
The problem with the revised version of the game is that some of the cuteness of the original was lost somewhere along the way. This wasn’t helped by the choice of in-game tune which was a tad surreal sounding! I ended up being torn as which version I actually preferred as I liked the overall cleaner look of the original version, but Jon had also done some nice work with the enhanced version – and had also produced artwork for the Psytronik release of the game featuring the new dragon style Flubble character.
The result of this dilemma left poor little Flubble in limbo – and while all this to-ing and fro-ing was happening back in 1994 all wasn’t going well for Psytronik. The release of the third Psytronik title The Shoot ‘Em Destruction Set was, to be quite honest, pretty disastrous. Despite an excellent review in Commodore Format (earning the release a very respectable 90%) the compilation literally only sold a handful of copies. In fact, I can remember giving away more copies as compo prizes for a CF compo than I sold in the end. As a result of this, coupled with the uncertainty of which version of Flubble to go with, Psytronik Software was laid to rest until it rose once again, like a great fiery Phoenix in 2008!
So where did this leave poor old Flubble? I think by this time the game creators had given up on the game having a proper commercial release so instead the original version was released into the public domain as a Shareware title. The enhanced version kind of vanished into obscurity … But for all these years Flubble has been niggling at the back of my mind. In my opinion the game was definitely worthy of a proper release – and that’s a fact I had not forgotten until …
Flash forward to 2013!!
And so here we are … IN THE FUTURE! After realising the Psytronik label has been kicking around for the last 20 years I had a think about things to do for the anniversary. And that’s when Flubble popped into my mind. Now that I am able to do nice glossy colour artwork for Psytronik releases I thought it would be a cool idea to FINALLY give the game the properly packaged release it always deserved. So I dug out the original two versions of the game and puzzled over which version should be released – and that’s when I had a brainwave! Why not release BOTH versions in the same package?! So simple it’s brilliant! I sent the original version off to Richard Bayliss who concocted suitably jolly soundtracks for the game – replacing the old Ubik’s Music that hampered the original release. I also found the original artwork that Jon Wells produced for the Psytronik release. I began work digitally restoring the artwork and produced a vectorized version to use for the packaging.
But that’s when Flubble’s journey took ANOTHER unexpected turn! Realizing the original artwork was now looking a bit dated when compared to the more recent Psytronik releases I sent the pic to Trevor ‘Smila’ Storey to see if he could come up with something new. The image he sent back was so darned cute it just HAD to be used!! The only problem now was that I had already sent the original artwork to Carl ‘Mase’ Mason for him to base the loading bitmap on – and he had already almost finished the pic! Luckily, he very kindly agreed to do a second bitmap screen, this time based on the new Smila design. And this meant I had two lovely loading bitmaps, one for each version of the game!!
So with new artwork, new music, new loading screens and new tape masters + disk menu (expertly handled by Richard Bayliss) Flubble & Squij was FINALLY ready for a proper release after all these years – and the niggling itch at the back of my mind about not releasing it in the first place is now gone!