Sometimes there’s just a bigger story to be told.
Bitmap Books has just released a second, much larger edition of its Commodore 64 visual guide. Commodore 64: A Visual Compendium Expanded Edition is now available to the general public, after being shipped to backers at the beginning of August. The compendium is a chronological celebration of the C64’s games and artwork. It was the first book published by Bitmap, and, being met with an unanticipated level of support, it became the first book in a series. A 424-page tome on the Amiga came next, and in comparison, the 230-page C64 one felt a bit small to buyers and to the books’ creator.
“It wasn’t really thin but it wasn’t a really, really fat book… It was relative to the amount of funding that it received,” Sam Dyer said in January on the Super Gamer Podcast.
Dyer is a veteran graphic designer, a C64 mega-fan, and the founder of Bitmap Books. Wowed by loading screen images as a kid, his love of C64 pixel art is what led him down his career path. He says 8-bit graphics are his favourite, and he’s a huge fan of retro gaming (the most recent console he owns is a PlayStation 2). He never intended to make a series of retro gaming books, but it’s snowballed since the original product.
Dyer’s first C64 compendium raised £35,594 ($60,667 CAD) through 903 backers on Kickstarter in 2014. The new version raised £77,533 ($132,148 CAD) through 2,032 backers on Kickstarter earlier this year. Its goal was £25,000 ($42,610 CAD).
The expanded edition comes with an extra 260 pages, giving space for games and graphics not featured in the original. There were plenty of games from which to choose.
“Filling it with games is the easy part (because) there’s so many great games on the Commodore 64. The hard part is actually trying to narrow it down. And to seek out the people who made the games to write about them, that’s the hardest part,” says Dyer in a recent interview. He says he did have some feedback asking that some text-based games be represented, but he had to politely explain it’s a visual compendium.
Speaking of text, one of the criticisms Dyer had of the first book was its lack of copy, so he’s also added interviews with C64 pixel artists and developer profiles. There’s a section on the demo scene and one on unreleased games, as well.
“It’s just as much pixel art to look at but there’s also more to read.”
On Super Gamer, he said he always wanted the pixel art to be the focal point, but he understands now there’s a balance.
There are two options for buyers: the full book in hardcover or, for people who already own the first edition, a softcover version of just the new content that comes with a hardback slipcase that fits both books. You can buy it here, and here, and presumably other places too.
Hardcore fans will want to keep an eye on Bitmap Books’ next project to get in on a ton of exclusive shwag. Kickstarter backers for Commodore 64: A Visual Commpendium Expanded Edition were rewarded with stretch goals that included: an exclusive game, a screen saver, a USB in the shape of a cover tape (think demo disc), music, video, and more. Five backers even got to write a mini-review for a game in the book.
Dyer says he couldn’t make the books without help. He has several content contributors but names Andy Roberts, Matthew Wilshire, Steve Jarratt, Matt Wilsher, and Robin Levy as his core team on this book. Pixel artist Craig Stevenson is usually a part of that team, but not this time around. Dyer says he doesn’t like listing people because he says he always misses someone.
The extended edition has been out since Monday. Andy Pearson, general manager at FunstockRetro.co.uk, says the original book is one of their top sellers.
Mark McAvoy is a contributor to AYBOnline. He is also the host of the Super Gamer Podcast, so, like, he was there, man. (Pictures from bitmapbooks.co.uk)