The Story Of ANMA: Two Schoolboys And A Game Development Dream
June 1, 2011 Page 3 of 3
While many of the professional MSX developers had long left the system for dead, by 1992 the machine still enjoyed a vibrant indie scene across the Netherlands. "I don't know exactly, but somehow MSX kept a very loyal fanbase," explains Ligthart. "I think it was partly due to the relative accessibility of the system. For example, there was a very good BASIC programming language built in, so an amateur could do some interesting programming.
"I think some people were 'attached' to the system and believed in a long-term survival, even though the facts were plainly different. At that time a PC was not so attractive (no music, and 'green' monitors, no 'smooth' games)." The result was a scene of MSX indies, with all the alliances and rivals that go along with it.
"In our demos, we made comments about a lot of our rivals," says Ligthart. "They were both competitors and our 'MSX-friends', so sometimes we made nice comments and sometimes we made quite rough comments about them, because of the competitive element.
"We'd all meet up during the MSX fairs and sometimes between. We also participated in a more local MSX club/fair. We regularly made a special 'MSX Quiz' with questions about the MSX scene and about technical MSX stuff. The winner of the quiz got home with a little prize.
"I had some contact with a few fellow programmers; we sometimes brainstormed or asked questions to each other. But mostly people contacted us (when we peaked in popularity) because they wanted something done, like an article or a release of one of our demos."
Thanks to ANMA's rise in popularity, the boys were regularly featured in MSX magazines. "There was one interview with MSX Engine Magazine I remember," says Ligthart. "The interviewers came to our place. At that time our popularity had peaked and we were very aware about how everyone viewed us. So we answered the questions in a very arrogant manner (in a 'we are the best' and 'ANMA rules' manner). That interview is both cute (because of our age) and embarrassing at the same time…"
However, by 1993, the pair's enthusiasm for creating games was waning. "We were kind of fed up with it," explains Maatjens. "Especially with the last game which is, in my eyes, our most inferior product released. Troxx was was really only done for the money, and we didn't have much fun creating it. So I guess that's why we stopped."
"Yes, that's it," agrees Ligthart. "Also, we could see the MSX slowly fading away in terms of popularity. So we knew that sales could never increase, even if we would make the best game ever. So the potential to grow was not there anymore. We considered moving to a different system, but we would have needed to invest a lot of time to learn a new system, especially as coder."
The pair made enough money from their releases to, as Ligthart puts it, "buy a nice video recorder, a PC, and some other stuff," but sales weren't high enough to mean the two boys could make their hobby their full time vocation.
Both drifted into IT jobs at firms in the Netherlands, losing contact till 2000, when a group of old MSX developers approached Ligthart to encourage them to re-release some of their old titles on the Game Boy Color, whose 8-bit Z80 processor was very similar to that of the MSX. While the Game Boy project stalled, No Fuss may yet resurface, as a friend of Ligthart is currently porting it to iOS.
But in the main, the ANMA dream is consigned to history, the project the product of a set of unique hardware circumstances, and the passion and hard work of two two schoolboys. "I loved that time," says Maatjens. "We had no worries and we were free to be very creative. This interview has brought back so many memories, and reestablished contact between Andre and myself. I still like video games and play them on a routine basis. I sometimes even have played some of our own games on an emulator, just to reminisce."
"Like Martjin, I look back to that time very positively," says Ligthart. "Nowadays I rarely play video games, but about once a year I boot up some MSX titles (including our titles) to enjoy the nostalgia. I have a daughter now (one year old), but when she's ready for it, I will introduce video games to her. Maybe I'll start with my own."
Page 3 of 3