The Mak­ing of: Fan­tasy World Dizzy

Dizzy’s orig­i­nal out­ing was a slow-burn suc­cess, but the fol­low-up was an overnight sen­sa­tion. The Oliver twins tell Retro Gamer how they capped their tril­ogy with ar­guably Dizzy’s great­est ad­ven­ture – Fan­tasy World Dizzy

Retro Gamer - - CONTENTS - Words by Rory Milne

The Oliver twins re­visit their most pop­u­lar game in the Dizzy se­ries

Re­leas­ing a se­quel to a pop­u­lar game was far from a given in the Eight­ies. That’s not to say that de­vel­op­ers were ad­verse to fol­low­ing-up chart­top­ping ti­tles, but this ap­proach was tem­pered by the knowl­edge that sales of a well-re­viewed orig­i­nal game would typ­i­cally eclipse those of a poorly-re­viewed se­quel. That said, a fol­low-up with good write-ups could po­ten­tially at­tain best­seller sta­tus, and 8-bit coders Philip and An­drew Oliver’s Trea­sure Is­land-set suc­ces­sor to Dizzy had done just that. But as pop­u­lar as their tit­u­lar hero Dizzy’s first two ad­ven­tures had been, the twins next put their egg-shaped hero in a junk food-themed Pac-man clone, as Philip ex­plains. “It was pretty ob­vi­ous from Trea­sure Is­land Dizzy be­ing so suc­cess­ful that we had a lot of Dizzy fans, but Fast Food was a weird kind of ac­ci­dent,” the de­vel­oper says of the Dizzy spin-off. “We loved Pac-man, and so one Fri­day night, we just said, ‘We could knock out a Pac-man game re­ally quickly, we can have it fin­ished by Mon­day morn­ing if we just knuckle down!’ And that’s what we did. But the rea­son

Dizzy was pop­u­lar was be­cause of the ad­ven­tures, and we wanted to move Dizzy on. We wanted to do the big­gest, best Dizzy ad­ven­ture that we could.”

The plan had to wait, how­ever, as the twins’ next three games were non-dizzy projects. But once they had cleared their slate, they looked to a favourite BBC Mi­cro ti­tle for ideas on how to be­gin Dizzy’s third ad­ven­ture – Fan­tasy World Dizzy. “Dizzy be­ing locked in a dun­geon came from Cas­tle Quest for the BBC,” Philip says. “It was an in­ter­est­ing game where you started in a sin­gle room where you had been im­pris­oned, and you had to get out, and we just thought that was a re­ally nice in­tro. But we also needed to lock Dizzy in a sin­gle lo­ca­tion to teach play­ers to pick an ob­ject up and take it where it needed to be used. If we had al­lowed peo­ple to explore too much, they might not have re­alised what they had to do.”

The Oliv­ers wanted to en­cour­age play­ers to explore, and so they de­signed a big­ger world for their lat­est Dizzy project. “Our be­lief was that if we were go­ing to im­prove on Dizzy and Trea­sure Is­land Dizzy then we needed to be a lit­tle bit big­ger, but also a lit­tle bit richer in ev­ery as­pect of the game,” Philip con­sid­ers. “So ev­ery­thing had to be bet­ter, we had to im­prove ev­ery area. There had to be more in­ter­est­ing lo­ca­tions, more nar­ra­tive and more char­ac­ters.”

But rather than mak­ing these ad­di­tional char­ac­ters op­po­nents for Dizzy to over­come, the twins in­stead de­cided to give him al­lies that could help him solve puz­zles. “While work­ing on Trea­sure Is­land we were sur­pris­ing our­selves, be­cause by be­ing clever we could ac­tu­ally get a lot in, so we put in some en­e­mies,” An­drew says of the char­ac­ters in Fan­tasy World Dizzy’s pre­de­ces­sor. “But they were just things to kill, and we wanted a game that was about puz­zle-solv­ing, not killing, so for Fan­tasy World Dizzy we said, ‘We need to make char­ac­ters that are ob­vi­ously Dizzy’s friends,’ so we made them look like Dizzy.”

As well as hand­ing out ad­vice and items, one of Dizzy’s friends – the eternally sleepy Dozy – also added a pinch of hu­mour, which Philip in­sists wasn’t in­spired by a deckchair re­lated ‘ac­ci­dent’ that An­drew had. “We had the idea that Dozy would be at the fur­thest edge of the map, and so we had to make sure that there was some­thing there that stopped play­ers go­ing any fur­ther,” Philip rea­sons. “So we de­cided to make it a pier. It was Dozy at the sea­side, so why not stick him in a deckchair? That made sense. Not that I’m ref­er­enc­ing the fact that I did this to An­drew! I mean, I did hor­rif­i­cally in­jure An­drew in a deckchair once, but that’s an­other story. So when we put Dozy on the end of the pier, we just thought, ‘Hah! Wouldn’t it be funny if you could kick him in?’ We didn’t have room for more graph­ics, but it didn’t need any more, we just moved the sprite to kick him off!”

This one act of amus­ing vi­o­lence aside, the Oliv­ers wanted Dizzy to be a paci­fist fo­cused on puz­zle-solv­ing in or­der to avoid over­com­pli­cat­ing his lat­est ad­ven­ture. “Dizzy was not about com­bat,” Philip as­serts. “We had done that in Su­per Robin Hood and Ghost Hun­ters, and this was de­lib­er­ately a non-com­bat game. We also wanted to have the fewest num­ber of but­tons, be­cause hav­ing an­other but­ton would make the game twice as com­pli­cated. The idea of som­er­sault­ing and land­ing on some­thing’s head was not a con­cept that we had thought of – we hadn’t seen Su­per Mario Bros at that point.”

But while Philip and An­drew hadn’t yet en­coun­tered Nin­tendo’s sem­i­nal plat­former, the broth­ers had been ex­posed to clas­sics from a dif­fer­ent medium, and these helped in­form their ideas for Fan­tasy World Dizzy’s puz­zles. “We wanted to make the puz­zles rel­e­vant to a story, and the Looney Tunes car­toons set out very clear ob­jec­tives,” Philip rec­ol­lects. “So in Tweety Pie, Sylvester had to catch the bird. But the thing that made the comedy was that what you thought would hap­pen didn’t, and Sylvester’s fail­ure opened up other op­por­tu­ni­ties.” An­drew agrees, and ex­plains how these op­por­tu­ni­ties in­spired the twins to link their game’s puz­zles to­gether, “We thought, ‘What we’ve got to do is link op­por­tu­ni­ties to­gether so that when you do one thing it will en­able some­thing else.’ That was a chain, and it be­came far more in­ter­est­ing when you had a chain of events.”

Many of Fan­tasy World Dizzy ’s chained puz­zles boiled down to un­lock­ing ac­cess to more of the game, but the Oliv­ers de­cided to com­pli­ment these with a core chal­lenge that chan­nelled a clas­sic

fairytale. “Ob­vi­ously the big chain of events in Fan­tasy World Dizzy was Jack And The Beanstalk,” Philip points out. “So you needed the cow and had to swap it for a magic bean, plant it, grow a beanstalk and climb it to get into the Cloud Cas­tle so that you could res­cue Daisy and get out.” An­drew qual­i­fies his brother’s sum­ma­tion, “But you would be think­ing half­way through: ‘Why do I need a bucket?’ You thought you had beaten the puz­zle by plant­ing the magic bean, but that didn’t work. The bucket was empty, but there was water. So very quickly we could make lit­tle sto­ries out of key-and-lock puz­zles chained to­gether.”

iven that their game’s puz­zles re­lied on car­ry­ing ob­jects to ob­sta­cles, the twins re­alised that by putting a limit on the items that Dizzy could carry they could add tac­tics and ad­di­tional plat­form­ing to Fan­tasy World Dizzy’s chal­lenge. “Play­ers had to think when they found a new ob­ject: ‘Do I want to take it?’ So they had to use strat­egy,” Philip ar­gues. “It also al­lowed the player to think that Dizzy’s pocket was only a cer­tain size – even if it could fit lad­ders and buck­ets in it, and a cow! Al­though we did call it a Pygmy Cow, be­cause were you re­ally go­ing to fit a cow in your pocket? So it was an at­tempt to make peo­ple think: ‘Do I need it now?’ And if they did pick it up what did they have to put down, plus the thought: ‘Am I go­ing to screw my­self putting it down in the wrong place?’”

In ad­di­tion to lim­it­ing Dizzy’s in­ven­tory, the Oliver twins also dif­fer­en­ti­ated Fan­tasy World Dizzy from its pre­de­ces­sors by turn­ing some of the game up­side-down. “It was the right way up when we hand-drew it,” Philip rec­ol­lects. “It was only later that we said, ‘Wouldn’t it be fun if the well was re­ally deep, and then you fall out onto the other side of the world? We can do it up­side-down!’ It made ev­ery­thing look in­ter­est­ing, but it also played dif­fer­ently be­cause we changed the con­trols around so that ‘up’ was ‘down’. We were putting the mar­ket down there, so we needed a shop­keeper. It was the other side of the world, so we made him an Aussie and put one of those hats on him with corks on strings! It was a cheap trick, but it pro­vided com­i­cal en­ter­tain­ment.”

Per­haps less amus­ing was that the twins were un­der pres­sure to com­plete Fan­tasy World Dizzy in time for the fes­tive sales pe­riod, and al­though it wasn’t re­viewed un­til the new year, the qual­ity of Dizzy’s pre­vi­ous ad­ven­tures en­sured that this didn’t af­fect his lat­est game’s sales. “It was pretty im­por­tant to hit the dead­line and get it out quickly be­cause that was the last good Christ­mas for the 8-bit ma­chines,” Philip says of gam­ing’s chang­ing land­scape at the dawn of the Nineties. “The sales were spec­tac­u­lar, as ex­pected. Code­mas­ters, the dis­trib­u­tors, re­tail and both of us knew that it would be a best­seller.”

Decades af­ter the re­lease of their third – and likely best – Dizzy ad­ven­ture, the Oliver twins look back on the puz­zle-filled plat­former with pride. An­drew views the game as an evo­lu­tion that marked the end of an era. “It moved Dizzy on sig­nif­i­cantly, and it was pretty much all our work,” he says. “Be­yond that, we started get­ting more teams and we moved to an of­fice, so we’re re­ally proud that we did Fan­tasy World Dizzy at home in our bed­rooms.” Philip gets the last word on Fan­tasy World Dizzy, and sin­gles the game out as a ca­reer high. “I’m fond of and proud of what we man­aged to create. It was one of our best,” the de­signer en­thuses. “It was a re­ally en­joy­able time where there were no dis­trac­tions. Our heads were down work­ing long hours but lov­ing it and lov­ing the feed­back and the praise. Ev­ery­thing was awe­some; Fan­tasy World Dizzy just hit the sweet spot, re­ally.”

» A more com­pli­cated plan forFan­tasy World Dizzy’s beanstalk is the game’s de­sign doc­u­ments. de­tailed in

» The Oliv­ers’ orig­i­nal map for Fan­tasy World Dizzy shows a right-way-up Aussie sec­tion.

» The Oliv­ers are listed in 2019’s Guin­ness World Records Gamer’s Edi­tion as the most pro­lific 8-bit de­vel­op­ers.

notes sug­gest sub­du­ing » Fan­tasy World Dizzy’s de­vel­op­ment with a drugged ap­ple. the game’s wide-eyed dragon

» [Am­strad CPC] Dizzy en­coun­ters a prob­lem that we’ve all likely had, in some form or an­other.

» [Am­strad CPC] We never knew Dizzy had a soft spot for hard booz­ing, no won­der he rolls ev­ery­where.

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