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Matthew Smith

Although Matthew Smith produced only a handful of games during his short career as a programmer of Spectrum games, two of these happened to be arguably the most famous and influential games ever released on the Spectrum - Manic Miner and Jet Set Willy. His future seemed assured following the massive success of the Willy games, with a third, Willy Meets The Taxman, in the pipeline. And then he disappeared amid stories of spectacular debauchery, breaking his silence on only a few occasions thereafter.

Matthew Smith was perhaps the ultimate example of a young programmer being thrust into the limelight but failing to cope with the pressures of unexpected stardom. Like many others, he started his career in the software hothouse of Liverpool at a tender age - he was only 16 years old when he wrote his first commercially published game, Styx, for Bug-Byte, although this was more of a learning project. Manic Miner was produced a few months later and proved a massive hit. Although it was not wholly original - it was "inspired" by the classic coin-op game Donkey Kong - it was a big step forward in platform gaming on home computers.

Along with other Bug-Byte staffers, Matthew Smith defected in 1984 to Software Projects, established by ex-members of Bug-Byte. He took Manic Miner with him and it was republished by his new publishers, although this caused a fair amount of legal arguments. His first and only game for Software Projects, Jet Set Willy, was a sequel to Manic Miner and proved an enormous success. All was not well behind the scenes, however. It has never been entirely clear what happened, but it appears that Matthew Smith was unable to cope with the pressures of success and, in early 1985, he disappeared permanently from the Sinclair scene.
 

Softography
(Spectrum only)

See World of Spectrum for downloadable versions

Title Year
Styx 1983
Birds and the Bees, The 1983
Manic Miner 1983
Jet Set Willy 1984

 

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Chris Owen 1994-2003