Darlings of the games industry

A wave of nostalgia this morning, with the news that David and Richard Darling, games developers and founders of the Codemasters label, have been awarded the CBE for services to the computer games industry

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By  Mark Sutton Published  June 15, 2008

A wave of nostalgia this morning, with the news that David and Richard Darling, games developers and founders of the Codemasters label, have been awarded the CBE for services to the computer games industry.

For anyone who grew up playing PC games in earliest days of home computing, particularly before the industry went global, the Darling brothers were something of a legend, going on to become responsible for titles including Micro Machines, Sensi Soccer and the Colin McRae rally series, but its their earliest efforts that I remember most fondly.

The brothers founded Codemasters way back in the 1980s, and churned out some highly entertaining games for platforms like the ZX Spectrum, Acorn and Commodore 64. More importantly, for a long time, the games they made were almost all available on budget labels like Mastertronic, and Codemasters itself.

The Darling's epitomised the early days of bedroom development, with a couple of amatuer coders putting together great games in a matter of months. Games were published on small labels that somehow managed to get to market, often through odd retailers like independent newsagents, pharmacies and service stations, outlets where you'd never expect to see games today!

Even better, these budget labels offered hours of fun on a bog-standard C60 cassette tape, usually priced at £1.99 - that's less than $4. Oddly, the budget labels existed in parallel with 'full price' developers who usually charged £7-8 for games that mostly looked and played no better than their cheapy cousins.

Of course the industry has moved on, and while there is still backroom development and talented coders working in their spare time,  the major labels are no longer putting out games for less than the price of lunch, and development cycles are no longer measured in weeks. But the ethos is still there, with hobby developers and small amatuer stables turning out games online, winning a whole new audience of casual gamers, and its thanks to pioneers like the Darling Brothers that cheap and cheerful gaming is still alive today.

Darlings - we salute you!

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