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A unique and lavishly produced history of the visionary British software house, created by videogame history publisher Read-Only Memory
A comprehensive history of the visionary British software house behind seminal titles such as Xenon 2: Megablast, Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe and The Chaos Engine.
A comprehensive history of the visionary British software house behind seminal titles such as Xenon 2: Megablast, Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe and The Chaos Engine.
1,224 backers pledged £48,697 to help bring this project to life.

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The Bitmap Brothers: Universe

£48,697

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Our Kickstarter campaign has now come to an end. Thanks to our backers, The Bitmap Brothers: Universe will be published later this year. To order a copy or to learn more about our products please visit readonlymemory.vg

The Bitmap Brothers: Universe will be the official history of the visionary British software house. The book will combine an authoritatively written inside story, thoroughly researched via new, first-hand interviews with The Bitmap Brothers' key figures, with a breathtaking haul of never-before-seen archive material, including original production drawings and digital artwork from seminal titles such as Xenon 2: Megablast, Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe and The Chaos Engine

Alongside a celebration of the Bitmaps’ classic works, the book will reveal for the first time the fate of unreleased projects such as the high octane Amiga racer ‘Bike’/‘Havoc’/‘Triple X’ and the 2D Speedball successor ‘Brutal Deluxe’/‘ブルータル デラックス’.

We’re thrilled to say that the book will also feature a specially commissioned cover illustration by Bitmap virtuoso Dan Malone (artist on Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe, The Chaos Engine, Z).

The book will be our most elaborately-produced publication yet, featuring a quarter-bound spine and a specially-commissioned illustration by Dan Malone (shown here in draft form). © The Bitmap Brothers/Read-Only Memory/Dan Malone
The book will be our most elaborately-produced publication yet, featuring a quarter-bound spine and a specially-commissioned illustration by Dan Malone (shown here in draft form). © The Bitmap Brothers/Read-Only Memory/Dan Malone
Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe title screen and original concept – Dan Malone – © The Bitmap Brothers/Read-Only Memory/Dan Malone
Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe title screen and original concept – Dan Malone – © The Bitmap Brothers/Read-Only Memory/Dan Malone

Overview

This will be latest publication from Read-Only Memory, creators of the celebrated Sensible Software 1986–1999 (2013) and Sega Mega Drive/Genesis: Collected Works (2014) – dubbed ‘the best coffee table book about videogames of all time’ by Kotaku.

Working closely with original Bitmaps team members, our aim is to produce a book with the same ethos and visual rigour as the greatest games of The Bitmap Brothers. As well as offering unparalleled insight into one of videogaming’s most enigmatic companies, The Bitmap Brothers: Universe will delve deep into the rich lore of The Bitmap Brothers’ games, tying it together in one place for the first time.

The Bitmap Brothers: Universe will be written by Duncan Harris (contributor to Edge and Rock, Paper, Shotgun, and creator of the celebrated realtime game art site Dead End Thrills). The book will be edited and designed by Read-Only Memory founder Darren Wall (Sega Mega Drive/Genesis: Collected Works, Sensible Software 1986–1999).

Z character concept, Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe cover concept and Bike/Havoc/Triple X character concept — Dan Malone — © The Bitmap Brothers/Read-Only Memory/Dan Malone
Z character concept, Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe cover concept and Bike/Havoc/Triple X character concept — Dan Malone — © The Bitmap Brothers/Read-Only Memory/Dan Malone

During the early ’90s heyday of the Commodore Amiga and Atari ST, The Bitmap Brothers created a series of critically acclaimed, groundbreaking games whose graphic style, all brushed steel and glistening marble, was instantly recognisable. But the Bitmaps themselves also stood out in the minds of the gaming public, as distinct from other developers. Mysterious photos emerged of them sporting black Ray-Bans, long coats and nonchalant poses.  Through these photos, they projected an image of youthful irreverence and self-assurance, and seemed to be reshaping the idea of what videogame developers could be.

In their canny use of publicity shoots they were before their time. In their use of contemporary music in-game they were wonderfully of their time: memorable examples include Bomb the Bass’s ‘Megablast (Hip Hop on Precinct 13)’ in Xenon 2: Megablast and Betty Boo’s ‘Doin’ the Do’ in Magic Pockets. The Bitmaps’ use of electronic, techno and dance tracks infused their games with a layer of counterculture, and masterful audio, which helped them to transport players to their exotic and gloriously realised universes.

Creators of an enviable catalogue of iconic titles, The Bitmap Brothers’ pioneering legacy remains a high water mark for the games industry and in popular culture.

The Bitmap Brothers: Universe will offer unrivalled dissections of iconic games such as Cadaver, Gods, The Chaos Engine and Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe. A compelling interview-led history will be accompanied by beautifully presented game artwork and a stunning cache of hand-rendered production pieces, the majority of which have never been seen before. Highlights we’ve uncovered so far include unused character concepts for Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe, intricate pencil renderings of The Chaos Engine’s iconic cutscenes and early robot designs for Z.

The Chaos Engine character concepts — Dan Malone — © The Bitmap Brothers/Read-Only Memory/Dan Malone
The Chaos Engine character concepts — Dan Malone — © The Bitmap Brothers/Read-Only Memory/Dan Malone

We’re excited to announce that alongside this material, we will be opening the vaults for the first time on several unreleased/unannounced games: most notably the high-tech dystopian racing game ‘Bike’/‘Havoc’/‘Triple X’, the as-yet-unmade 2D Speedball successor ‘Brutal Deluxe’/‘ブルータル デラックス’  and a stunningly realised design document for a modern reimagining of the Bitmaps’ bloodsport series, Speedball 3.

Featured titles

  • Xenon (1988)
  • Speedball (1988)
  • Xenon 2: Megablast (1989)
  • Cadaver (1990)
  • Cadaver: The Payoff (1991)
  • Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe (1990)
  • Gods (1991)
  • ‘Bike’/‘Triple X’/‘Havoc’ (unreleased)
  • Magic Pockets (1991)
  • The Chaos Engine (1993)
  • Z (1996)
  • The Chaos Engine 2 (1996)
  • Z: Steel Soldiers (2001)
  • ‘Speedball Arena’ (unreleased)
  • 'Warbots' (unreleased)
  • World War II: Frontline Command (2003)
  • ‘Brutal Deluxe’/‘ブルータル デラックス’/ (unreleased)
  • ‘Speedball 3’ (unreleased)
Speedball and early prototype — © The Bitmap Brothers/Read-Only Memory
Speedball and early prototype — © The Bitmap Brothers/Read-Only Memory

Contributors

Founding Bitmap Brother Mike Montgomery and renowned artist Dan Malone (Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe, The Chaos Engine, Z) will act as guiding voices throughout the book, revealing how some of the 16-bit era’s most innovative games were created. In addition, the book will feature extensive contributions from a wide range of industry personalities. Confirmed contributors so far include:

  • Mark Coleman (Artist — Speedball, Xenon 2: Megablast, Magic Pockets, Gods, Z, World War II: Frontline Command)
  • Gary Carr (Artist — The Chaos Engine 2)
  • John Kershaw (Artist — Z, Speedball 2100)
  • Jamie Barber (Designer — Z, World War II: Frontline Command)
  • Bruce Nesbit (Programmer — Z, World War II: Frontline Command, Speedball 2100)
  • Sean Griffiths (Programmer — Cadaver, Magic Pockets)
  • Graeme Boxall (Producer — Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe, Cadaver, The Chaos Engine, Z)
  • Martin Heath (Founder, Director — Rhythm King, Founder — Renegade Software)
  • John Foxx (Musician — Nation 12, Ultravox)
  • Jon Hare (Designer — Co-founder of Sensible Software)
  • Joris de Man (Musician – Z)
  • Andi Smithers (Audio – The Chaos Engine)

We will be updating this list as the number of confirmed contributors grows throughout the campaign.

Specification

  • 190mm x 240mm
  • Hardback
  • Quarter-bound
  • Litho print
  • Approx. 300 pages
  • 35,000+ words

All specs may be subject to change/improvement as the project evolves

The Chaos Engine CD32 intro sequence and original concept – Dan Malone – © The Bitmap Brothers/Read-Only Memory/Dan Malone
The Chaos Engine CD32 intro sequence and original concept – Dan Malone – © The Bitmap Brothers/Read-Only Memory/Dan Malone

Editions & tiers

As a thank you to everyone who pledges for a copy of The Bitmap Brothers: Universe, we will offer the option to have your name included in the book as a Benefactor. Your name will be included in any subsequent reprints of the book, serving to honour your part in making this project a reality.

For the die-hard fan, the Mike Montgomery Signed Edition will arrive signed and dedicated to the recipient by the Bitmap Brothers MD.

Alongside the book, we are delighted to offer the Dan Malone Speedball 2 Print. This reward comes bundled with an exclusive A2 print of our specially commissioned Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe cover illustration by Bitmap Brothers artist Dan Malone. The print will be shipped to you in a heavy-duty archival tube. Each edition will be hand-embossed with the Bitmap Brothers logo and signed by the artist.

The Chaos Engine 3D prototype – © The Bitmap Brothers/Read-Only Memory
The Chaos Engine 3D prototype – © The Bitmap Brothers/Read-Only Memory

Background to the project

I founded Read-Only Memory in 2012 with the aim of creating high quality books on videogame history. Our first title, the exhaustively researched and critically acclaimed Sensible Software 1986–1999, was published in October 2013 following a successful Kickstarter campaign. Last year saw the release of our second title, Sega Mega Drive/Genesis: Collected Works: its Kickstarter campaign ended on 9 December 2013, raising over £98,000 (329% of its funding goal). The book was universally praised as a new benchmark for videogame publications and labelled ‘The best coffee table book about videogames of all time’ by Kotaku.

With each new publication we strive to excite and innovate, creating beautiful, definitive books about pivotal moments in videogame history. The Bitmap Brothers: Universe will be our most ambitious title yet, and our focus will be to produce an object that not only does justice to The Bitmap Brothers legacy, but also feels part of their distinctive universe.

We embarked upon research in November 2013, locating production artwork and recovering data from the company’s digital archives. We’ve been delighted with what we’ve discovered – from embryonic design documents to unreleased game builds – and we’re confident the book will be a feast for even the most ravenous of Bitmaps fans. We’ve also been working closely with writer Duncan Harris to set a roadmap for the writing style, conscious that our efforts must not fall short of the incredibly high standards that The Bitmaps set for themselves. Not content with just making a Bitmaps history book, we want this to title to speak in the same language as the best of Bitmap Brothers games.

A note about Benefactor names

Please note that Benefactor entries may not be promotional of any business/website, or feature Twitter handles, email addresses, gamertags or messages of any kind, and are subject to approval by Read-Only Memory and The Bitmap Brothers. In the event your requested entry is refused we will contact you to request an alternative submission. We won’t be draconian, it’s just that somebody once submitted an ASCII-art penis as their Benefactor name, and despite its undeniable splendour, we thought we’d better make a contingency plan for future books.

Risks and challenges

In planning this project, we’ve all agreed that the writing, design and production of The Bitmap Brothers: Universe has a very high standard to live up to. The Bitmap Brothers name is synonymous with attention to detail, and we believe our book must be created in the same spirit. I’m hopeful that the positive reception of Read-Only Memory’s previous publications means we are well placed to meet this challenge and do justice to the legacy of the Bitmap Brothers.

As the project progresses I’ll of course be posting regular updates, sharing our progress and revealing any interesting archive discoveries we make. We’re aiming to ship copies out in November and will endeavour not to let this date slip. Should we incur any bumps in the road you’ll hear about it instantly, and if you have any questions about how the book is coming along I’m always available to speak to directly at darren@readonlymemory.vg. Even if it’s late at night, I’ll probably be up, agonising over typography and paper choices.

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    The Book + The Dan Malone Speedball 2 Print

    A copy of The Bitmap Brothers: Universe and a specially commissioned Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe print by original artist Dan Malone. This high production A2 print will be signed by the artist.

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    The Book: Mike Montgomery Signed Edition + The Dan Malone Speedball 2 Print

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Funding period

- (25 days)