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Meet the developer who spent 13 years making his childhood game Exclusive
June 19, 2014 | By Mike Rose

June 19, 2014 | By Mike Rose
More: Console/PC, Indie, Business/Marketing, Exclusive, Video

When Adam Butcher was 14 years old, he had a vision for a video game that he wanted to make. It was a little bulky in scope, sure, but it was the game he wanted to play, and he had the tools to make it.

So began the development of Tobias and the Dark Sceptres, a game that, 13 years later, is finally complete. Butcher has spent nearly half of his life adding bits and bobs to this epic saga, and at the age of 27, he's finally done.

"I was lucky that I never started hating the game," he tells me. "I guess that is unusual. I think it's because, ultimately, there were a lot of ideas that I liked in the game and still like to this day."

14 year old Butcher had decided that each set of levels should have their own special mechanics and concepts, rather than having one type of core mechanic running throughout the game. With this kind of knowledge, you begin to understand why this has taken 13 years.

"They're mostly weird puzzles and surprise set-pieces that I still haven't seen anywhere else," he notes. "Although the game style is pretty derivative, I guess it always had some originality that I wanted to put out in the world. What I did fall out of love with was the game dynamics - all the jumping and sword-swiping that isn't so playable by modern standards. I wouldn't make a game like this today, but it has a nice nostalgia to it."

My main question for Butcher, and a question I've seen bandied around, is why the heck he is giving 13 years of his life away as a free download. Was he not tempted to slap a small price tag on it?

"It had to be freeware," he answers. "Anyone who plays the game will realize it's not quite a commercial venture! It will probably take 1-2 hours for a player to even know whether they like it or not. And ultimately I'd rather as many people played it as possible."

Notably you can choose to buy the game's soundtrack to support Butcher, if you so wish.

Butcher used the Multimedia Fusion engine to put the game together, an old but classic engine that is still used by some developers today, if extremely rarely.

"I'm honestly so far behind in knowing what's good to programme with and what's not," he notes. "I was very lucky to grow up with Klik n Play and MMF - programming without coding made my entry possible."

"But I did find it very limiting further down the line," Butcher adds. "I hear good things about Unity and Gamemaker, and even MMF2 looks pretty good, so there are options for coders and non-coders alike. Just know what you're getting into!"

You can download Tobias and the Dark Sceptres for free.

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Steffen BaboonLord Kabbelgaard
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Damn and I thought we had commitment...

Pallav Nawani
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With a story like that, he should be putting this game on GoG and Steam. Way more people will buy the game than those who will get it for free.

Alexandre Lautié
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He started the game 13 years ago but probably did not spend 13 years full time making it.

Nick Harris
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I've been working on my game for 22 years as a part-time hobby.

bukan iJam
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i agree. over exaggerated. just because he started making the game 13 years ago, doesnt mean it took 13 years to make it.

also, there is nothing to shout about if it took 13 years to make a game like that.

Terry Matthes
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What have you made? Please do show bukan iJam ...

Tom Hughes
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It's still pretty remarkable.

Christiaan Moleman
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@Alexandre: The impressive thing is that he managed to stick with a side project for that period of time. Most everyone has projects they tinker with evenings and weekends but not many people finish them.

Mantena Raviteja
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13 years of dedication WOW!!! just WOW!!

Ben Oakley
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Reminds of the game...Quest for the Crown.

Dave Hoskins
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When I got to the dark area the game just gets mean, and mean games should stay in the 1990s :p :D

Benjamin McCallister
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A lot of people combine hours/manhours and years/man years. Its unbelievably frustrating when someone tells me they've been working on their game for years and compare their game to mine, which I've worked on for a few months. Then I ask them how many man hours they put in, and its usually a few hundred from them, compared to over two thousand by me.

That said, 13 years is a whole other measurement, and this guy deserves kudos. Also he gets more kudos for releasing it for free. Its almost assuredly a mess, but the publicity he picks up for this may help him make his next one easier, if he ever does another :)

Henry Banks
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I can't even think of a witty statement or special praise to put here. That's just awesome.