Bubba ‘n’ Stix

March 1994

Core Design

Core Design

Design, Background Graphics and Utilities Programming (Commodore Amiga, Commodore CD32)
Design, Background and Effects Graphics (SEGA MEGA-CD, SEGA Megadrive)

The origin of Bubba ‘n’ Stix is one of those odd little stories that reminds me how much the games industry has changed.

In October of 1992, I had returned from holiday to be asked to do a game that was moody, dark and atmospheric. It was to use sprites that were rotoscoped from real human reference and featured what could only be described as being a kind of Indiana Jones-style adventurer that was armed with a stick and who could do loads of really cool moves and actions with it.

I mulled it over for a number of weeks and began squiggling down a number of doodles about what could be done with a stick. It became really apparent that realism and sticks did not quite go together – if the stick was long enough to pole-vault with, it sure would be too long to use as a snorkel. (Plus, having spent nearly two years doing ‘dark and moody’ on my previous project, Wolfchild I was not exactly keen on going straight back there.)

Then one Tuesday evening, Billy ‘Bli’ Allison (my collaborator on the project) and I, went back to my house and began brainstorming about what could be done with a stick. As the night went on, pages of A3 began getting covered with the most outlandish and madcap ideas that could possibly be done with a stick. Most of them breaking the laws of physics and some of them, probably illegal.

Satisfied that we had exhausted the ‘Man With A Stick’ idea we presented the drawings, never expecting them to be taken seriously. Sure, there were 30 or 40 cool things you could do with a stick, but they were quite frankly insane and the world away from that realistic Indiana Jones style adventurer that had been asked for. Well, whatever it was about the drawings, something hit a chord – we were asked to go ahead and make the game.

Bubba encounters Waldo in the first level of the game

A little tweaking of the central character – first – a long-necked-green alien, then, a gangly inhabitant of Lancashire in a flat cap and string vest named Elvis and finally: Bubba – a hapless handyman. The plot: Bubba gets kidnapped by Waldo – an intergalactic big-game hunter who then crash lands his ship on an alien planet allowing Bubba to escape and befriend a sentient twig called Stix.

There were five levels in all in this platform-puzzler: an alien forest full of man-eating shrubbery, the inside of Waldo’s downed spaceship, a volcano (itself a giant balloon factory cranking out a flat-pack inflatable robot invasion fleet), a submerged alien temple and a spaceport. And to say that it was off-the-wall is an understatement with puzzles that required the player to use Stix as a pool cue, boomerang, stirrer, temporary platform, snorkel, wrecking bar, baseball bat and general-purpose prodding device.

One of Stix’ many uses

The game, although not a massive commercial success proved to be a critical hit and did sport one slightly odd promotional tie-in in the US – with Bubblicious Bubble Gum that required us to add ‘idle’ animations to the game with Bubba standing around chewing the stuff and blowing bubbles.

This project was a real joy to work on, thanks to the insanity of my co-conspirators on this flight of delightful madness.12