My Game Dev Story

I’ve met a lot of new people recently and so I thought it would be a good time to tell my game dev story, especially as a lot has happened in the last couple of years. I hope that you find it interesting!

Early Days

I started coding on the Spectrum 48K in 1984 when I was 9 (it came with a BASIC manual), and later I got a C64 on which I learned assembly language. I also programmed a lot on BBC Micro and Acorn Electron. Eventually I got an Amiga and did more assembly until one day I found out about Blitz Basic 2 which was brilliant because it was faster than AMOS and it enabled me to make games much more quickly than assembly.

Business Software

This was all a hobby but when I was 21 I got a job making business software in Delphi/SQL which I did for 9 years! It was bookshop stock control and accounting systems – pretty boring but it taught me a lot and I ended up as manager of the company and we installed systems all over the UK including parliament, which was neat.

Going Indie

Eventually I quit and went indie in 2005 because I was working all day and coding games all night and it was making me ill. I was making a platformer at the time but I quit it and started making casual games (in BlitzMax) as they were doing well back then. It took me a couple of years before I hit my stride and programmed Fairway Solitaire for Big Fish Games. That did pretty well and eventually they hired me and moved my family (I have a wife, 2 boys and a cat) over to Vancouver where I worked for them for 2 years, mostly on a Facebook game.

However, corporate life was not for me so I quit and went indie *again*, this time armed with more experience and some savings (unlike the first time, God, I was so naive) – luckily I kept my company, Grey Alien Games running the whole time and so I was able to pick up where I left off. I released Spring Bonus after 3 months of being indie, just 7 minutes after my non-compete expired.

Full Indie Meetup

Whilst in Vancouver I co-founded Full Indie, an indie meetup group with well over 1000 members and monthly meetups with over 100 people and speakers etc. I also helped Klei Entertainment with Eets Munchies (to be released next year), and did some of my own stuff before we decided to move back to the UK in August this year (for many complicated reasons).

Back in the UK

So now I’m trying to meet up with people in the UK indie scene because there wasn’t much of one when I left 4 years ago. It’s clearly huge now which is fantastic.

I’m just about to release Holiday Bonus GOLD, my 8th casual title, on iOS/PC/Mac and maybe Kindle, and I’m also porting Titan Attacks (by Puppy Games) to iOS using Monkey. I’ve also got some other things in the pipeline. Over the years I’ve made a bunch of free games and love doing game jams, and of course playing games. I also play the guitar, compose electronic music, and teach Aikido (been doing it for 15 years). I’m also an accomplished speaker (have spoken at PAX, Casual Connect, Universities, meetup groups, Toastmasters etc.) – so if you need a speaker or panelist, let me know!

Hope that wasn’t TL:DR and it helped you to get to know me better. I look forward to hearing your stories too!! :-)

Jake Birkett
Grey Alien Games

8 Responses to “My Game Dev Story”

  1. Kyle Says:

    Thanks for the mini-bio. I always find it interesting to read people’s history, being able to draw comparisons to your own. I look at people like Kevin Glass (Legends of Yore) and think “He’s 7 years old than me. I’ve got 7 years to catch up to where he’s at right now!”. You, Kevin, Brian Provinciano, you inadvertently become role models. Thanks for that.

  2. Jake Birkett Says:

    Ha I look at Brian and think he’s 10 years younger than me, I’ve got a lot of catching up to do :-) Glad you enjoyed it, thanks Kyle.

  3. Tim Fisher Says:

    I seem to remember a large crowbar was needed to pry you away from Blitz+ :) So glad that you made good – much enjoyment from your games… on many levels.

  4. Grey Alien Games Says:

    Ha thanks Tim (my first ever publisher!) Yeah I was used to Blitz+ but wow BlitzMax is so much better and when I started using it I finally began to have some success with my games.

  5. Paul Wadsworth Says:

    Thanks for the story. I always love reading about people’s stories and the behind the scene stuff (glued to double fine’s amnesia fortnight). 9 years of SQL! Ouch!

    Gutted to hear that AMOS was slower than Blitz basic 2. I bought the ‘pro’ version with AMAL, stuck a few sprites on the screen (trying to make a basic shooter) and it all ground to a halt!
    Maybe blitz basic would have been the way to go – no internet back then…

  6. Grey Alien Games Says:

    Hi Paul, yeah I tried AMOS and Blitz and as I was into assembly I preferred Blitz for its speed and the fact you could even inline assembly!

  7. John Gehrke Says:

    Jake – I liked reading about your career path and experiences. I enjoy your games and have settled into casual gaming after younger years of more massive video gaming (I now pass that to my son on Xbox360 for example). I am an IT guy (more systems admin than programming) and like things such as match 3 to relax without soaking up too much time. I hope to see more fun titles from you soon.

  8. Grey Alien Games Says:

    Thanks for your comment John. Yeah casual games have a lot of offer but are often looked down upon by core gamers. I’ve enjoyed plenty on my own and with my family. I still like core games too. Anyway, I’ve managed to remain indie for 7.5 years due to casual games, so that’s good.