“GAMBYS” – 1993/95 – THE FIRST PROFESSIONALLY PRODUCED PORTUGUESE PC GAME – Video Games History / Retro Gaming : A look back in time.
A long, long time ago…
In the year 1993, a couple years before the Internet really took off as we know it, in a time where 486 PCs at 66MHZ where the rule, the first PC Portuguese Video game was planned by a little group of people who didn´t knew any better.
Windows 95 was yet to be ( yes kids, no (real) windows either back then ), the DOS operating system drove people crazy with all those written commands that most no one had any clue about what they meant and 3D-STUDIO had just been released and was heading for version 2.0; in DOS of course. Yes, you read it well, 3D Studio 2.0 for DOS.
3D modelling, rendering and animation were still very limited back then if you tried to create something “home-made style” but nevertheless we went through with the project despite that sometimes a single frame could take more than 48 hours to render on an old 486 PC at 33MHZ back then. Now imagine my task of having to create about 20 animations with about 15 seconds ! You don´t wanna know…
GAMBYS took about three years to make also because of this. Nowadays we could do it in a couple of months.
Here´s a gallery with some of the frames taken out of the animations I did back then; crap by today´s standarts but at the time getting this out of the hardware we had back then was an achievment because no one was using 3D images as we were trying to do. We soon learn why too.
We tried to use 3D Studio to create the most we could although the in game graphics were done pixel by pixel in DPaint by me also…frame by frame, pixel by pixel.
It was a small team, just me for the graphics, concept art, animation, graphic design, about three or four programmers and a few in-house beta-testers.
Back then, no online videos, no facebook, no social media, no internet.
Just PC computers that a couple years back only had those pre-historic green screens but back in 1993 they were starting to handle 256 colors ! Wow ! A PC computer with a color screen ! How crazy was that !!
And we even had CD Roms and everything !!
Games on CDs ! Damn !!
Photoshop was just a name as the software was less known than Deluxe Paint for DOS, no Instagram, no Facebook, no World of Warcraft, no game consoles and not even a third wheel on the pc mouse yet. Yes, a mouse with two buttons only !
These were the times, when Portuguese programmers Carlos Leote and Rui Tito, which had played and created ZX Spectrum computer video games with good video game reviews back in the 80´s started to experiment with game programming for the Pc.
I joined the team for the Gambys project, but I had played many of these ZX Spectrum games without ever knowing they had been made not only in Portugal but in my own hometown. Mainly, games like Krall and Alien Evolution.
But by 1993/94, ZX Spectrum had been dead for a while, PCs were starting to emerge as game machines and Lemmings the videogame was the latest craze in 256 colors.
2D puzzle games were about what PCs could technicaly handle and so the natural idea within our group as to create something like that as the first Portuguese PC Videogame.
Getting professional with GAMBYS
So ©Gambys was the first serious and 100% professional attempt by friends who invented games in Portugal, to create computer video games that could compare to the best that was coming from England in the PC Puzzle area at the time; mainly from Psygnosis and Virgin Games. The objective was to make the most professional game we could do with the little resources we had and not a great amount of money from the company wich was investing on the project to work with.
It was also a technical challenge because, at the time GAMBYS was aiming to be the first, or one of the first games in the world of PC gaming, to display 65.000 colors on screen, as the norm was still the old 256 colors. And it did that in the end.
The game was going to be released outside Portugal , either by Virgin Games or Psygnosis at the time, as we had several meetings with people the companies sent to check out our work in-house but unffortunely we completed the game right at the time that WINDOWS 95 came out and suddenly nobody wanted to release DOS Games anymore as there was that new thing called Windows and so we ended up releasing the game only in Portugal and Spain. Good reviews though, got to be game of the month in several magazines and all that but Windows was really a big proble for us.
The game made its money back but the company went into hospitality software for the next years as bussiness software was easier to do and a lot more immediate when it comes to money results and so GAMBYS ended up becoming not only the first Portuguese PC game ever produced professionally in Portugal but also the only game we did at the time.
Also the Internet was still in the begining and so no social media to promote games, and for a small independent company really far from Lisbon the Portuguese capital it was almost impossible to promote a project like this.
What is GAMBYS ?
©GAMBYS, looks like a puzzle video game at first glance, but it´s really an arcade game where the puzzle bit is just what makes things move in the gameplay.
A gameplay unique up to this day.
Many puzzle games have appeared before and after but, I never found anything similar to what we´ve achieved here with GAMBYS on the many years of gaming around.
Also by reading the many emails I still get about this project to this day, ( a few dozens a year sometimes ) it seems the opinion remains a generalized one among those who have played and to this day people still blog about it (Pt).
It´s dificult to explain what´s this game about. Here are the main characters:
Can be considered the leader of the Gambys as its the character wich can give you the most effective help when you need to uncover all the puzzle pieces in the game.
Depending on the color combination of magic potions you can grab with your mouse and give to him, this Gamby Wizard will cast a different spell wich will help you to complete each stage.
This guy is probably the Gamby you want to keep around all the time.
Once you get a piece of a puzzle by clicking on your right mouse button, you can click on Gamby Mover with the left one and he will take your puzzle piece and he´ll place it at the exact right spot for you.
This one is very useful because once you click on him after getting a piece of the puzzle keep your eyes on his path because Gamby Finder will point to the exact location of where each piece of the puzzle is located.
It´s not as easy as it seems because, remember you still have to deal with all the other stuff that happens in the same time in the game, but it helps.
Some evil creatures sometimes leave lots of bombs around wich when they explode, will cover all the pieces of the puzzle you´ve worked so hard to clear in the
first place. So this Gamby, defuses these bombs when point him to one of those.
The first of the warrior Gambys.
There are three Gamby fighters that will help you to remove the evil characters out of screen. Each warrior Gamby has its own strenght and fighting skill.
Gamby Knight is the strong one and the one who causes more damage on the evil dudes.
You use this Gambys to defend the life of the ones who help you to solve the puzzle.
Probably my favorite fighting Gamby.
Not too strong but enough to prevent the evil dudes from attacking the other Gambys that are there to help you with the puzzle pieces. Click on Gamby Rocky and then click on a bad guy and this dude will punch it away.
Not much to say about this one. Another of the little Gamby warriors wich will help you scare away the evil guys. Each warrior everytime it fights looses a bit of its strenght so don´t forget to feed all your Gambys with all the nice juicy fruits or candy you can find on screen to replenish their energy.
This gamby female is considered a sort of a neutral character in the game.It won´t help you in solving the puzzles or attack the evil character, but each time she passes by and a male Gamby sees her, he might forget what he was doing for you in the first place and go crazy for a couple of seconds wich ususaly ends up in him forgeting the last command.
If you haven´t played it or never got at least past the intro levels which are just there to help you understand what each character does, you probably won´t believe GAMBYS is trully an addictive arcade video game lost in video game history.
Despite the excelent video game reviews it got in its 1995 release, it´s not one of those games that is reflected well on a video. You have to play it to really grasp it.
Watching videos without having played GAMBYS probably will leave you confused and believing this to have some sort of random empty gameplay.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
As many people who have played it can testify, you have to really play it past the first few tutorial levels to get hooked, but once you´re caught you´re doomed and you find yourself having to play just one more level of this insane unknown classic arcade video game.
Every person is diferent, but I can almost guarantee that a good percentage of you guys and girls who have read the excelent video game reviews it received at the time and played it back then 15 years ago, still remember and miss ©GAMBYS. In fact, over the years, I´ve been getting emails by people who asked me how could they run this old DOS game on their new Windows machines.
Still ALIVE !
Myself and the game programmers, were convinced that GAMBYS was technicaly a dead old DOS used video game and was never to be seen moving on the screen ever again. But then…
In this little “secluded Gambys fan club” that generated spontaneously over the years, there were people wich actualy have put togheter “new” old 486 just to play ©GAMBYS again if you can believe that because up untill now no DOS Box (or similar video game emulators) could run GAMBYS on modern computers. Among those, there were a couple of computer video games Gamby fans who didn´t gave up on trying to bring the game back to life on new machines and so now, thanks to “Haruka Tavares“, with the use of “Virtual Machine” I can announce that today GAMBYS, can still be played on your laptop if you´re searching to download old video games.
Many thanks also to Nelson/”Chaos” (who designed the game levels), for providing me with all the stuff to be able to also run the video game in an alternate way, based on the technical original info sent to us by Haruka.
I´ll be providing a download link for the game as soon as I can find a server to host the three zip files. Also in the future I´ll post all the instructions on how to run the game when I make it available of course.
Stay tuned. GAMBYS news soon.
There will be news about this in the near future but don´t tell anyone yet. 😉
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