Sketches, concept art, and other Plok related material
Plok was a video game character John and I came up with in the late eighties. I think John's starting point was a character wearing a hangman's hood (the reason for which I can no longer remember), and I have a vivid memory that the name of the character came about by accident when John was messing around randomly sticking the letters from a video cassette label onto his mouse.
After around eight years in the business, and having designed, developed and brought to market over a dozen orignal video games, Plok represented a major milestone for the Pickford Brothers - this was the first time we managed to officially retain ownership of the intellectual property rights to our design and our character. Its a feat we've not often managed to replicate since. In common with other popular media - movies, music etc., the video game industry does not like its creators to retain ownership or control of their creations.
For us, Plok was a game we'd been working on and trying to get made for over five years, since the late eighties, but the great cute-character-platform-game apocalypse of '92 hit us hard!
The general idea of a colourful, cute character jumping around in a scrolling platform environment, and even some of the specific gameplay ideas in Plok, were no longer as fresh as they were when we concieved them. While we were struggling to get Plok off the ground plenty of other developers and publishers with more resources than us (and in some cases the benefit of sneak previews of Fleapit) had similar ideas, and while we were finally getting Plok close to completion on the SNES a wave of cute character based platform games hit the market; Zool, Rayman, Sonic, Bubsy the Bobcat etc. Bubsy seemed to be the one that turned the tide as far as the market was concerned. "Not another bloody cute character platformer," seemed to be the general response. Plok was released a few months after Bubsy, and despite some great reviews, I think it was percieved as yet another bandwagon jumping cute platformer and didn't achieve the commercial success we were hoping for.
Curse you, Bubsy the Bobcat!
We still think it was a great game, with some great ideas, and only a few flaws in the implementation (*cough* no password *cough*) and perhaps a little too hard by todays standards. We've spotted bits on Plok ripped off here and there in quite a few other games, which is great, and we still get the occasional fan mail and requests for a sequel in our inboxes, which is even better. Cute, colourful platformers will probably never become fashionable again, and I bet it would be hard to convince people that we didn't steal from Rayman if we made a new game based around a character who throws his arms and legs, but we had plenty of ideas for Plok which never made it into the first game, so maybe one day we'll get round to developing another outing for the red and yellow spud.
Some of the design work for Plok is presented here.
Ste Pickford, 14th October 2004
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