SEVENTEEN-YEAR-OLD MATTHEW SMITH has just quit Liverpool's Bug Byte to found his own independent label with a couple of other known- names - as Software Projects. A relatively new Video Star, it was Smith who brought the US video game Miner '49er to the Spectrum et al with his related, Manic Miner just over a year ago.
He's now haggling with Bug Byte for payment of substantial royalties (around 16,000) on the 40,000 copies of Manic Miner they still hold in stock. Matthew's already made that much again from his 5 per cent cut on the first 40,000 copies.
"It's a popular misconception that I worked for Bug Byte and was then lured away. I never did - all they ever did was to manufacture and sell my game for me," said a now older and wiser Matthew Smith. He left Bug Byte together with one of the founders, Alan Maton. He took Manic Miner with him "as a way of getting Software Projects off the ground."
Matthew began playing games on a cheapo-cheapo Tandy TRS 80 model 1. While still 16 he produced his first game, called Styx, but added that it was "quite a flop" for Bug Byte. "But that didn't put me off. I just got down to writing Manic Miner that summer (1982). I realise that Styx was so bad because I had been writing it on the Spectrum, rather than using the TRS 80 for design and then targetting back to the Spectrum.
"It's become a lot easier to write the game which I'm now working on, Jet Set Willy. Since I fixed a hardware fault on the TRS 80 model 4 which I now use," he added. Jet Set Willy is a classic shoot 'em'up speed-freak's game.
And what of fame and fortune? Well, Matthew is well known in the designer world but hasn't yet got the Video Star status he deserves. But will admit to "tens of thousands of pounds" in royalties for eighteen month's work.
This is "the reward of being able to stay freelance", said Matthew, and he added that to save the hassle of starting a company and still get more than a couple of per cent, even he might do things differently.
"If I were starting again and had a good game, I'd offer it around several software houses before accepting the first offer that comes along," said a slightly bitter Matthew. For every pound which he gets from Manic Miner, Bug Byte rake in the other 19 . . . that's 76,000 worth of sales.
And the moral of this story? "Stay freelance, very definitely!"
Photo and story taken from Big K Magazine, Issue 1, April 1984
written by Paul Walton