The time that Blitz Games Studio of Leamington Spa stole my game idea.

Blitz Games Studio of Leamington Spa, started by the Oliver Twins stole my college final major project, a puzzle game, and then around the time of their closure would sell on the IP to the game. They took from me a game I would never receive any recognition or money for creating but also in that respect with a team of game developers under their roof they gave life to a game that I at the time could never have given it. A game that was released on Xbox live and is still widely sold today on mobile platforms.

It all started in 2017; I was a student at Wiltshire College in Trowbridge. I first started at Wiltshire College in 2006 on a basic GNVQ ICT course, which was practically identical to my GCSE in ICT.

Life was not going well for me back then. I had a terrible experience being understood as I grew up. I was tossed from doctor to doctor, learned to walk and talk at 3/4 years of age with the help of therapists. It was not until I was 9 that I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, a lighter, more forgiving form of Autism.

As a child, I went through 4 different primary schools and never really fit into any of them. I managed to go from mainstream primary to a special primary to then again to a rural mainstream in Llancarfan. The rural mainstream was hard for me. I was already introduced as an outsider and had terrible anxiety. I remember quite vividly that none of the kids really liked or wanted me around, and because of this, I was often excluded from certain activities. This was a common theme of my life. I was by all means a happy, friendly, and in those ways very naive child. I was often blamed for things, and it was easy to make me smile and go red, which I felt adults took advantage of to pass the blame onto me.

By the time I finished primary, it was clear that none of my peers at the rural school wanted me at a secondary school with them, and there were only 3 options in the local area realistically. The teachers at that school had long given up on me, and I basically spent most days alone in the toilet where I was out of sight and out of mind. So it was decided I would go to a school which specialised in dealing with children who have autism spectrum disorder. It was a school comprised of half hearing impaired and half “of the autistically gifted” shall we say, for which I was one of them.

It was around this time my parents got a computer at home which was connected to the internet, it was running Microsoft Windows 98. I was somewhat obsessed, I would spend all of the hours I had on it, I started making simple games using game creator software at the time and simple batch scripts which ran computer programs I had designed, some of them executing VB.script to create simple dialog windows. Eventually, I discovered, probably via mIRC and/or Google that C or C++ programming was the next step from batch scripts and my father bought me three books on programming C and C++, the books told me that Dev C++ was a free option to compile the C code, I chose C over C++ as I preferred the syntax and started converting my batch scripts to compiled C programs, often at the time still using console commands executed via the System() function. Shortly after that, I was given a copy of Visual Basic 6 by someone my father worked with and I started programming in that, where it was much easier to make graphical user interfaces among other programs.

It was the isolation and rejection of my peers that lead me down this path of obsessive computer usage, in education I was always considered to be a dunce, or unteachable, and in many ways, it was very hard to teach me. My peers all rejected me and this made me feel very lonely and isolated. On the computer, I could teach myself, and with the help of the internet via a 56k modem at my fingertips, I was by all means flourishing.

After secondary school, my options were looking bleak, while I was very good at computers for my age it was unlikely I would get into a college in the local area with my GCSE’s alone, so my parents sent me off to a boarding school for young adults with high functioning Asperger’s. This is where I started my first year at Wiltshire College, which I believe was actually called Trowbridge College at the time as it was located in the town of Trowbridge.

My first year was very hard for me, I had no idea where life was going to take me but I figured it was going to be as bleak as my life had been so far, I was studying a year which felt like a wasted year because it was essentially the same qualification I had gotten prior in my GCSE’s and I was interested in programming not spreadsheets and databases, or word processing which I was already proficient in. But luckily for me, the college started a BTEC Games Development course in the second year of 2007, and I joined it, it was a two year course making my total time at the college three years and I adored it. For the first time, I felt like my life had a future.

Stan Zych (also accredited here for a “top pass rate”) was teaching the course and he was a brilliant teacher, his idol was clearly Steve Jobs and Stan would teach us how to use Autodesk 3D Studio Max, something I would never have taught myself autonomously, as I always struggled creatively with art although I think it’s fair to say I was a very creative person just more so physically with bricks of Lego or KNEX growing up and this creativity had now passed into my programming. I managed to combine this newfound skill of 3D modelling with my programming of C which around that time had evolved into C++ taking up the Object-Oriented design principles, having read the book Programming Game AI by Example which really sold the concept of OO to me. So I began making simple 3D games using C++ and the Ogre 3D rendering engine.

It was around the end of the first year I began to come up with the game Trax, a 2D puzzle game that I would work on for my final major project in the final term of college. Stan Zych was very interested in my game idea and would spend a lot of time with me trying to understand it, he told me that he had contacts at Blitz Games and that maybe he could get me an internship. I remember that Stan would insinuate he had ideas to improve my game, hinting at the idea of using round pipe pieces rather than square tiles but he would never really fully share his ideas with me, he seemed to be keeping them in reserve and I never really knew why. His attitude seemed to be that, he would try to prod me in a direction but if I didn’t lead myself to the conclusion he was prodding towards then that was just how things would be. Looking back it was clear that Stan saw potential in the game idea I had created called Trax, a game that by all means was original, had never been created prior, and he was developing an improved version in the back of his mind.

One day Stan brought me into his office and told me that some representatives of Blitz Games had come by to see my work and that I had somehow blown it and it was all my fault, I thought this was odd that he would tell me this, ultimately he was telling me that the internship he had been somewhat suggestively promising me at Blitz Games, if I did a good job on the game project I was working on for my final major project, was no longer going to be an option for me.

19th of June 2008 I had finished the project Trax; Stan Zych and Wiltshire college had given me the opportunity I needed to get into a good university and in October of 2008 I was in my first year at Teesside University. I kept my eye on Blitz Games periodically because I still believed that maybe I had a chance to work with them someday, as they knew of me and my work through Stan Zych and then that’s when I saw they had released a new game, and it was called Droplitz.

Droplitz was by all means the same game I had developed at Wiltshire college, but with the improvements, Stan had been hinting at. Was I angry, yes, did I feel cheated, absolutely, but was there anything I could do about it? No. I did seek legal advice at the time but after weeks of looking at my case, I was told that it would be very hard to fight in court.

But it does not end there, in a strange twist of fate it would turn out in my third year of university that I would be offered a two-day practical interview at Blitz games to compete for a job as a game programmer under their roof.

What can I tell you about this interview? well, it was awfully strange. I was working in an office on the top floor with other members of staff, no one really spoke to me and I felt as if I would be disturbing others by starting a conversation with them. The only person I really spoke to was a man sitting on my left who was working as an audio programmer, which was a great interest of mine at the time as I had been developing my own audio software such as the Borg ER-2 inspired by the Korg ER-1 hardware synthesizers, so I enjoyed very much talking with him — although it would later turn out that I would be scolded for this and accused of “trying to steal other peoples jobs”. To be honest, and I don’t say this out of spite but there was a particularly confident male up in that same office with me who had done talks at my university prior, and a talk I had attended when I was at Wiltshire College, he was your typical bodybuilder type, overconfident and forward to the point of being obnoxious and I remember many of my peers both in college and university having this same impression of not just him, but everyone from blitz games who happened to be speakers at these talks, they were seeming overly pompous, introducing themselves with over qualified degrees for their positions and had a general air of superiority.

The bodybuilder “guy” I don’t remember his name, he did make a sarcy comment to me while I was on that 2 day work interview/practical to imply that I was “not doing much” in what was essentially an open project spec with a very loose rule-set, one where I had to use their engine to create a game of my own design.

There was also this one curious incident while I was there, you see on the top floor the was a sort of kitchen and it was filled with a wholesale amount of chocolate bars and such which employees could eat freely, I never went near it and never ate anything from it in the fear of seeming like I was talking advantage however the evening after my first day it would seem someone “stole all the candy bars” (lol absurd I know) and that the security cameras had not been running for whatever reason (a real mission impossible job for the candy bars?), I obviously being the new person in there felt as if I would seem like the culprit but no one directly accused me and it was just one of those things. Obviously, even if I wanted to, I did not have the means to steal a truck full of candy bars and hide them at the bed and breakfast which the Blitz Games Company had booked for me.

Anyway, ultimately they reviewed the game I made, it was a simple 3D game where you played as a tugboat which had to guide a smaller boat you where tugging into particular waypoints, the aim of the game was to collect all of the waypoints. Simple, but it was two days and they made kids games so it seemed apt. A number of staff congregated behind me to see the demonstration, one of them talked very down to me and made some comment of the “this is all you have done” nature although there was an older member of staff who seemed to have come from a different floor who was more sympathetic to the heckle and told me he liked it.

A week later and I was called into the office with my work placement advisor at university, I had gotten some feedback, I wish I had kept it as evidence but it genuinely was an A4 page of the most horrible feedback I had ever gotten in my life attacking my character, basically making me out to be a worthless piece of shit. It was so bad that when my parents saw it they complained to the University, because the careers advisor talked to me as if I had deserved the harsh criticism but while I was there I had only spoke to two people, the man sitting on my left (the one I was accused of trying to steal the job of) and the man who wrote the feedback, the same man who was my overseer or point of contact for the two-day work placement (the one who accused me of trying to steal the former man’s job). They tore me to shreds, my parents read it and said “did they not know you are Autistic, surly the university would have informed them before you went” well they did know I was autistic, because on the first day we had a meal with some random people from the company who were not from the same floor I was working on and my “point of contact” and some of them mentioned he was autistic and I told him that I am also autistic and that I found it comforting to know that I was not alone in that sense, you know, not the only “weirdo” or social outcast in the building.

I feel like they invited me there, and never really gave me a chance, and still to this day I wonder if they invited me there just to assassinate my character or beat me down as some kind of sick joke. Honestly.

There’s nothing I can do now to change what happened, all I can do is write down my turn of events, below I have a link to an old YouTube where I uploaded videos of my original game project Trax with uploads dated 2008 and then some links of the Droplitz game Blitz Games Studios released in 2009.

The game has exactly the same specification as my original game, the only difference is that the tiles are circular and rotate rather than being square and adhering to slide-puzzle movement mechanics.

Trax Videos: (dated 2008)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w54gRmyYYWY
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yS0FpynqCH4

Droplitz: (all articles dated 2009 or later)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NazO7L89CKw
https://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/132623/postmortem_blitz_games_droplitz.php
https://atlus.fandom.com/wiki/Droplitz
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Droplitz
https://delistedgames.com/droplitz/
https://www.theguardian.com/technology/gamesblog/2009/mar/12/gameculture-playstation (real “altruism” indeed)

What can I say, I personally feel Blitz Games was a deplorable games company based on my experiences with them. Since their closure in 2013 it seems that the company fractioned into a number of new game studios, two of which are Unit2Games which still hosts the Blitz Games Studios website here and is currently working on the Google Stadia game Crayta, it is also worth noting that Chris Swan whom ran Blitz Games Arcade which oversaw the release of the Droplitz game title is now the Publishing Director at Unit 2 Games, I also, although there are no real photos of him online for verification, strongly believe he was the same man who acted as my point of contact during the two day work placement at Blitz Games Studios and the same man who wrote the terrible feedback on myself. The second company is Radiant Worlds or now known as Rebellion Warwick and are currently working on Sniper Elite and Evil Genius.

I have no doubt that to this day prior staff of Blitz games will argue that they created this game concept, like they did back in 2011 when I tried to seek legal action and that “it is possible for two people to come up with similar ideas around the same time” but based on the experiences I have shared with you, I will leave you to be the judge on how much truth there is in those statements and whatever loose evidence they can muster to back them up.

How do I feel about it all? in one aspect I am proud to say I created a game concept that a big company thought was good enough to steal, and they did a good job of it, they did ultimately give life to, or do justice for a game with their huge team of game developers and resources that I at that point in my life was incapable of doing and Stan Zych gave me an incredible start in life, allowing me the pathway to get into a brilliant university such as Teesside University where I met incredible tutors such as Keith Ditchburn, Tyrone Davison and Jay Chapman.

But, I also feel, that I deserve that recognition which I was denied, at the very least, for being the original IP holder, the creator of the Droplitz game concept.

I never did get a job in the games industry and to be honest with you, I live a very jaded and solemn life to date, I don’t have much of any trust in my fellow man and truly feel as if the world is out to do me wrong. I am an analytical person and the majority of my experiences with other people have been deceitful, although there are some truly kind hearted people out there whom alone make up for what I consider to be the hordes of malevolence; I feel safer not leaving my flat, not engaging with the outside world at all. These experiences have tormented me for the best part of 12 years and I had to get them off my chest and for that I thank you dearly for taking the time to read them.

If you wish to download and play my original version of Droplitz I have uploaded it to Github at this address:
https://github.com/traxpuzzle/Trax-Gold

Edit 6/12/20:
What happened to Stan Zych in the end, well that is a very interesting story in itself; in my second year of University someone who had just started the same course as me in Wiltshire College while I was in my final year, a person who at the time I did my best to help get into Teesside University with me as I was very fond of him (unfortunately he would leave at the end of his first term out of choice and against my best advice, it was a classic case of homesickness) we are still friends but we grew apart naturally over time and he went on to pursue a career in cheffing. He told me while I was in my Second year at University and he had just started his first term (2010) that in his second year at Wiltshire College, Stan Zych (Staszek T Zych) had been relieved of his duties so to speak as it had been discovered that he had not in fact had the teaching qualification necessary to be working at Wiltshire College, of-course I only have this information by word of mouth and no actual verification of the reason he was “relieved of his duties” other than a phone call I had with him around 2009 where he did tell me he had left that job but did not disclose any reasons why at that time.

Also I would just like to clarify the point that It’s not like Blitz Games Studios was not aware of me, as if Stan had me completely hidden away, as I have already mentioned I attended multiple open days and talks. The thing is that back then Blitz games ran one of the biggest outreach programs for young talent at that time, and in my first year of the BTEC Games Development course at Wiltshire college I remember that I had to book a bed and breakfast in Warwick with two other friends from college and catch a Taxi over to Leamington spa the next day to attend an Open Day at Blitz Games Studios because it was the nearest affordable option for us, Blitz Games Studios were always working closely with colleges and universities around that time. The Oliver Twins even attended Clarendon School in Trowbridge where Wiltshire college was located which is a point Stan Zych used to demonstrate to us that he had some special deal with them. I remember that in my second year of University that we attended an open day and this was after Droplitz had been released and that I was aware of it having been released. After the open day, Philip Oliver offered to take everyone who had attended the open day out for a free pint at the local pub, which was very nice of him as our entourage literally filled the pub. I remember telling him that I created the original game design for Droplitz while I was at Wiltshire college but either he genuinely did not hear me or he acted as though he had not heard me, he was hounded by all the people there and I can imagine it could have been quite hard to hear me, so I made a point of telling his PA outside the pub as he was leaving I remember quite vividly Philip was about 5–6 foot away still walking away as I had stopped his PA briefly outside whom we had spent much of the day with and said “I created the Droplitz prototype while I was at Trowbridge college” to some effect and finally giving up my cover, as I had not mentioned it all day, upon hearing that her eyes lit up as if she knew of where the game had really come from and she ran to catch up with Philip, as they walked away I could tell something had annoyed Philip, possibly what some one had said to him while he was in the pub, he seemed non-communicative with her and stressed out waving his arms above his head as they spoke. I never saw either of them again after that, not even during my 2-day interview some months later. Although I do not remember her name, for the day I spent there at the open day she acted as our personal chaperone, and from the very start of the day I took a fond liking to her, she was just an incredibly courteous and polite person. She seemed to absolutely adore Philip even though he visibly seemed like very hard work to deal with, he seemed to always be a very busy man and had an air of stress, stubbornness, or maybe even a tad argumentative arrogance when communicating with her at times, whichever I cannot fully put my finger on. At this point you must be wondering about the other twin, Andrew Oliver, well you never really got to see much of Andrew although he did make a few surprise appearances from time to time, at this particular open day it was just one appearance as Philip introduced him into the room as having been the sole developer of their first 3D game engine in OpenGL, Andrew walked in with dishevelled hair and said a few words in an under-confident almost autistic manner himself which is quite surprising because in many of the online videos of him he seems almost as confident as his brother but I guess that’s the difference between being in-front of one camera and being in-front of a audience of people. Of course, Andrew never made an appearance at the pub.

Ultimately I felt as if Blitz Games Studios set me up to fail, from the first year at Wiltshire College I felt like Blitz Games was a studio I may very likely end up working for, and rather than offer me a job and to be truly altruistic by helping me achieve my true potential under their roof I feel like that did quite the opposite rather they made up an elaborate lie about how my game had come from some in-house altruistic endeavour. Do I think they will continue to stick to this lie; very probably so, and in this lie I am visibly not the only person that they took advantage of, but as time will show one lie can be very hard to keep up.

What advice do I have for future Game Designers based on my experiences to date?

Well, what I can tell you is that if you have an original idea, the worst thing you can do is keep it a secret and even worse than that, only telling a few select people. Because when it comes to prove you are the original owner of that intellectual property you basically have nothing to back up those claims.

When I was younger the generally accepted method of proving copyright was to write down the idea on paper and then seal it in an envelope and mail it to yourself — that way you would have a sealed envelope with a postal stamp date on it (the idea being it is only unsealed in court). But luckily in more modern times all that you need to do is spread your idea across the internet on reputable websites.

In my specific case, Stan Zych tried to keep me quiet about my idea, telling me that he thought I had something special and keep it to myself, I remember when I created that first YouTube video in June 2008 he advised me against it, but I am glad now that I did because otherwise I would be sitting here now without a shred of evidence that I created the game other than the 20–30 odd students I had shared that class with who physically saw me creating the game as early as September 2007.

If you have a unique idea I suggest two primary ways to publish it online which will give you the attribution you deserve in the years ahead; of course, the first one is to upload a YouTube video but the second is to also publish it on GitHub and other such reputable source repositories. You don’t have to exclusively upload just source code to GitHub, you can just upload your binaries if you desire.

Some things to keep in mind, YouTube although may be around for the foreseeable future is not completely bulletproof, videos can be taken down; a particular method is via “bot strikes” where robot users in mass flag your video for some violation, causing the YouTube algorithm to automatically remove your video without any human intervention. One recent example of this was the December 2019 Cryptocurrency channel take downs on YouTube. For this reason, I also suggest you use screen capture software on your computer to show yourself browsing any websites you used to save this information, highlighting the dates displayed by those websites, and additionally save that as evidence too. This data should then be burned to a non-rewritable CD/DVD/Blu-ray locally and uploaded to other sites such as GitHub, that way if your YouTube video for example was taken down you also have the validity of the upload date on GitHub for the video of your screen recording which shows your upload on YouTube and the date it was uploaded.

Using reputable third-party sites is key here. Keeping offline local backups is also good, but when it comes to date verification, nothing beats third-party sites for validity. Obviously, any dates on local data can be fabricated, but the plausibility that a date on a reputable third party site has been fabricated is much less likely; particularly when you have multiple of these third-party sites which can corroborate the date in question.

On a final note, there is also Archive.org which although is not reliable in terms of rich media, images, videos, etc. It will back up any text information on a website, usually, it does this automatically but you can also specifically request it to archive particular websites or pages on request.

I have been coming up with game ideas before I could use a computer, I will for the rest of my life enjoy this particular past time and if I did not stand up for myself, people would continue to see me as a weak and vulnerable target. If you stand up for your ideas like I have finally, even if some 12 years late, people will think twice about stealing an idea from you in the future. There are a number of people at Blitz Games Studios who were directly involved in this intellectual property theft who at the time probably thought they were quite smart, however, now those same people are now having to face the fact that they are going to find it very hard to erase any evidence of them having stolen and taken credit for my original game idea and how that will negatively impact their careers in the future to come.

Once you start a lie, you have dug a hole, when you continue that lie you only dig it deeper.

I am still working on my own IP, and to stay true to my word of not keeping it a total secret the most recent idea is called Snowball and it is inspired by the classic Windows game Ski Free and Neverball, it is an IP that I created in June of 2020, I quietly released it in July and finally went public with only last month, the prototype is playable over at https://snowball.mobi I have big plans for this game but not very big pockets (well maybe to imply that I even have pockets is an overstatement), I need people to help me with the 3D graphics and visual effects to fully achieve my vision for future of this very primitive prototype.

If you are interested in getting involved you can email me james@voxdsp.com

Edit 7/12/20:
As you may have noticed I received a response to this article below from the original claim to ownership of this idea James A. Parker former Script Writer at Blitz Games Studios. His response can be read in full here (mirror) and my further response here (mirror).

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