Alastair Low’s love of vintage computer games stems from his childhood, with countless hours spent with old consoles.
Picking up games at car boot sales, he would never have imagined that one day he’d be making games for his old NES and Dreamcast.
Retro gaming is a growing phenomenon with people embracing nostalgia and simpler games.
Vintage consoles and games fetch high prices on sites like eBay.
It has led to enthusiasts making new titles for old gaming systems, which might have been first released before they were even born.
Passion for vintage games and consoles
Alastair, 31, first started making computer games when he was at school.
He went on to study computer arts at Abertay University and worked for local games firm Ninja Kiwi.
Shortly after the pandemic hit, he quit his job to work on vintage games full-time.
“At uni I had flatmates who were coders into retro hardware,” he said.
“When these consoles first came out in the 80s and 90s how they worked would have been under lock and key at Nintendo and SEGA.
“But there’s a real community who have built up libraries and documentation – it’s a fun challenge.”
In 2020, Alastair’s Dundee company Lowtek Games raised £9,000 with a Kickstarter campaign for Flea! – a game produced on cartridges for the NES and Dreamcast.
In the game you are a flea who jumps from dog to dog.
He said: “I had the idea of a character that always jumps and frogs and rabbits in games have been done to death.
“It’s a weird story and a little bit gross. You jump between dogs and they’ve made a series of bendy straws that help them navigate through the internal organs of the dog.
“There’s a class system as well – you’re trying to overthrow an evil king who taxes the blood too much.”
Crowdfunding funds game development
French company Broke Studio contacted Alastair to offer producing the cartridges for the games consoles and he struck a revenue share licencing agreement with them
The popularity of the game, led Alastair to release a second retro title last year – Tapeworm Disco Puzzle. The crowdfunding campaign for the title raised £16,000.
What’s the reason for interest in old-fashioned games in an era where games can cost tens of millions of pounds to produce?
Alastair, whose favourite console is the NES and favourite game is Super Mario Bros 3, feels he knows the answer.
“People like the simplicity and accessibility of old games. They have fewer buttons and are more pick up and play for children,” he said.
“Although the games look simple, they are a lot of work to make. Each game has taken me about a year from start to finish.
“It’s great to see people enjoying them.”
Lowtek future plans
Flea! and Tapeworm Disco Puzzle are being released digitally for the PlayStation4, PlayStation5, Xbox One and Switch today.
A company in Spain, Ratalaika Games, has emulated the games for the mass market modern platforms.
Alastair hopes the success on modern platforms will help fund future projects for his passion for vintage gaming.
“I love making the retro games but my next move may be a new game in the Flea universe for new consoles,” he adds.
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