I have absolutely no idea why, but recently whilst outside having a cigarette in the bracing Scottish summer, I looked at my phone and was fascinated how quick it was to get a mobile game up on the Google Play store (about 15 minutes for those who don’t know, all being well).
When I first started out in games back in 1994, things weren’t so quick and for such a high-tech, cutting edge company that Psygnosis was, delivery of builds was still either via floppy disk in the post or through the Bulletin Board machine that sat in the corner connected to a 14.4k modem. (For millennials, a 14.4k modem would take approximately 4 days to download the latest episode of Game of Thrones from whichever Torrent site you prefer).
Once we had the date, we then had the fun of getting into whatever format was required which could either be a floppy Amiga disk, a SNES ROM or a CD for various systems. When we first got the kit to create final discs for the Sega Mega CD, I thought someone had dropped off a high-end HiFi in our corner!
The kit consisted of two polished silver boxes around 8 inches tall, 18 inches deep and maybe 30 inches wide (this was over 20 years ago so forgive some inaccuracies!). One of them was used to create the disk image, the other had a solitary CD slot in the gargantuan front to burn the CD. Both of them were sensitive. Seriously sensitive. So much so, that we had to try and keep people from walking past desks when they were burning away as even the slightest jolt or heavy footfall would cause an error and lead to a restart. And when the process took hours, that was not good. Worse though was the price of the blank CD’s – whilst I can’t remember the exact price, I remember they were extortionately expensive given they were pretty much normal discs but a specific brand you had to use.
Nintendo and standard Mega Drive were easier as you just pushed the build through en EPROM writer on the EEPROM chip things and put them in a plastic sleeve for safeguarding and transit. Early on in my Psygnosis career I was on standby to fly with the chips for (if memory serves) Prince of Persia directly over to Japan to hand them over at arrivals before jumping straight on a flight home. Fortunately that didn’t happen!
When Playstation came along, or PSX I guess I should refer it as, we were provided with new CD burners that were the only ones allowed for creating discs to head into Sony QA and approvals. These were much smaller and around the size of the typical VCR at the time, although they were still damn sensitive. The first thing Sony QA did was do a detailed data test on them and any slight discrepancy due to a seagull taking a dump on the roof above your head whilst burning, would get them sent back for new ones. I seem to recall we had to send about 8 of the damn things off as well.
Flash forward 20 years and if I get a new build of our Bingo game to upload, it literally takes seconds to fire it up to Google’s Publishing portal and is available to everyone worldwide within minutes. Given the issues with games and apps needing large Day One patches to fix issues, we seem to have taken a step back!