Bad news from the camp of dizzybuilding - it seems that a special version of the wonderful game Wonderful Dizzy for ZX Spectrum Next will not be released. At least its two main developers - Evgeniy Barsky and Dmitry Ponomarev - publicly declared, that they are not going to work on it anymore. So, they did everything they promised The Oliver Twins — released an excellent game for classic Spectrum and consider their mission accomplished.
Let's remind that the initial plans were as follows: right after the release of the classic 128 Kbytes version, the work on the Next-adaptation will start, and after a while the owners of that machine will get an even more colorful version of Wonderful Dizzy without the clashing attributes. Alas, these plans are unlikely to come true, and we have a very small, but very toxic group of excessively active and aggressive owners of Next and, to a much lesser extent, the team that created this wonderful computer to thank for that.
The stumbling block was the so-called "exclusive version of Wonderful Dizzy for Next", which Henrique Olifiers and comrades promised to all people who supported the computer on Kickstarter. By the way not least because of this crowdfunding campaign, the idea for a new Dizzy was born. The Oliver twins agreed on it with Henrique after the kickstarter launch, and introduction to the 2017 remake of Crystal Kingdom Dizzy convinced the brothers that the project was feasible. As a result, Wonderful Dizzy became one of the additional fundraising goals for the release of Next, though the campaign was already quite successful by then.
Where the word "exclusive" came from, it is impossible to figure out now. Henrique himself says that he got this impression after his conversation with the Olivers, and he learned about the opposite just a year and a half ago, and during all that time nobody asked him to correct anything. But Olivers claimed that it wasn't about any exclusives: they made it clear from the very beginning that first they would develop a version for 128K and then an extended version for Next. At the same time on the official Next website there's an entry from May 30, 2017 by Henrique himself, where it is written in black and white: "As soon as the 128K version is released, work will start on the extended Next version". We contacted Henrique to clarify this point, and this is what he said:
In November 2020, I got a message from the Olivers telling me that the word 'exclusive' in one of our articles on SpecNext was misleading, and that the team working on the game was getting heat from it. This is why the article on the SpecNext site mentions that there will be a 128KB version and that a Next one would follow soon: once I got the request in November, I edited the original article written in 2017 to correct the fact by removing the 'exclusive' wording and explaining the current plan.
We checked those words just in case, and they certainly turned out to be true - a snapshot of an August 30, 2019 article in "Internet Archive" reads, "This new Dizzy title will be made exclusively for the Spectrum Next, taking advantage of its features, graphics modes and sound."
The potential conflict could have been nipped in the bud by some post explaining that there is no exclusivity and it was not planned originally, but that the developers will definitely make a beautiful version for Next. However, Henrique, having learned back in 2019 about Wonderful Dizzy's non-exclusivity, saw no problem with it:
Some time later I learned there was a 128KB version in the works, but quite frankly this didn't bother me in the slightest: the more people getting access to a new game, the better. As long as there was a Next version, as far as I'm concerned it was all great, and I didn't look into it any further.
In general, the Next team obviously had a better opinion of humanity, and obviously for nothing - as it turned out later, not everyone was happy about the 128K-version. Henrique says that he had no personal contacts with the developers, and all the information reached him through second hands. This is why, in his opinion, there was a misunderstanding. "We should have kept track of the situation more closely and put more effort to understand the evolving situation," he writes.
And in 2020, when it became clear that Wonderful Dizzy, the development of which was also delayed, would soon see the light of day, some owners of the Next began to notice that screenshots from the "classic" version occasionally appear, but there's still no word about the "extended Next-version". Moreover, it "turned out" that the game is not an exclusive for Next, although the authors of the crowdfunding campaign promised them exactly that. Some expressed their regret calmly, and some - very loudly, blaming the developers of Wonderful Dizzy: if they promised an exclusive, then be so kind to make it!
Dmitry and Evgeniy endured it, but the yelling of the fans, silence of the Next team and fatigue from the three years of development took their toll. The last straw was the Cancelled status, that appeared on Wonderful Dizzy page on official Spectrum Next web-site. You could chalk it up to some bug, but in the screenshot above, you can see that the last paragraph says "No idea what is happening with this title. It was supposed to be a Next exclusive and it didn't work out that way..."
As a result, shortly after the game's release Dmitry published a post on the Spectrum Computing forum where he explained the Wonderful Dizzy authors' position regarding the Next-version and said that they weren't going to participate in its creation. And here's what he added specifically for idpixel.ru:
In an environment where we had to actively explain ourselves on the subject of non-exclusivity in the announcement comments, we expected the Next team to be more proactive and communicative. Instead we saw a note on the official site that the game was canceled, its fate is not known, because it was supposed to be an exclusive, but wasn't. It gave the unpleasant impression that the Next team is distancing themselves from the problem and thus instead of communicating with the backers actually shifting the blame on us. Such slovenliness and the subsequent confusing explanations finally deprived us of the motivation to develop an additional release.
We asked Henrique about this as well, and he clarified the situation:
Come late December, I heard the team was cancelling the Next version altogether because of the game entry on our system listed as 'cancelled'. This was a genuine mistake from our end. We have been building the database of Next games in our spare time, and writing the description for many titles ourselves. In the body of the text we usually left notes for one another, so we could correct the information later -- and this is what happened when I wrote 'Im not sure what's happening with the game as it was supposed to be a Next exclusive' -- the idea was that someone in the team would complete the information and remove the note, but unfortunately the database went live with the note in it instead, and the status of 'cancelled'.
Well, that sounds pretty logical.
At the same time we found out what we've lost - it turns out, the developers planned to paint the backgrounds according to ULANext palette and make some changes in graphics, make the music 6-channel, make the sprites hardware to avoid attributes' clashing, and get rid of loading from the tape (even if it's only one). What's more - we found out that a couple of years ago there were some tests with hardware sprites (but the process was paused because Next's firmware kept changing), and artist Jarrod Bentley made a color sprite for Dizzy and even animated it. We got in touch with the authors of Wonderful Dizzy and asked to see this sprite, but instead Dmitry took five minutes and made some sketches in Photoshop to show us how approximately the game could look like on Next. Spoiler - very cool!
Henrique Olifiers promptly responded to Dmitry's post - he personally apologized on the same forum and published a post on the official ZX Spectrum Next Facebook. In his post he explained why he and his colleagues sincerely thought that Wonderful Dizzy was going to be released exclusively on Next. The main thing, though, was to ask people not to get mad at the Dizzy authors for something that wasn't their fault, asked for their support, thanked them for the great game, expressed hope that the Next-version would be released and, of course, took the blame for the blown exclusive. At the moment, the Next-team is deciding how to close their debt to the backers - it will obviously be a brand new exclusive game. We'd like to believe it's at least remotely of the same caliber as Wonderful Dizzy.
It's nice and quiet in the comments to the post - everybody understands everything, nobody blames anybody for anything, everybody wishes each other only the best, praises the authors of Wonderful Dizzy and comforts Henrique. Even Philip Oliver himself came and thanked Olifiers for the post, once again complaining that there are still hysterical squirrels on the Spectrum scene, ready to criticize the developers who had been making the game for over three years for free. Evgeniy Barsky also stopped by, thanking Enrique and the whole Next-team for this post and for the opportunity to work on the official Dizzy game. All in all, everyone made up, but the Next version didn't get any closer to us from that. Also Evgeniy gave the following comment to idpixel.ru:
The Next team knew for a long time that Wonderful Dizzy was being made primarily for 128K, because Mike Cadwallader periodically asked about the status of the game, and I gave him screenshots, a picture for the box, and so on. It felt like: we helped the guys achieve an additional goal, and they gave up on us. As for the appearance of Wonderful Dizzy for Next, I personally wanted to make color per pixel and bring the graphics up to the level of Melkhior's Mansion. That said, the sprites were implemented two of three years ago - everything was already working, all that was left to do was to color all the graphics and update the code for the new Next kernel:
Well, it all makes more sense now, although it doesn't make the situation any better. However, even if Evgeniy and Dmitry will not suddenly change their minds after some time (which is unlikely) and will not get back to work again (now on Next), there are still chances of getting a full version for ZX Spectrum Next. But only if the Olivers find an artist and a programmer who are ready to work on the Next version of the game for free. Otherwise, alas, the project can be considered closed. On the other hand, we have already received a new official part of "Dizzy", and for the vast majority of Speccy users this is more than enough.
Finally, let's give Enrique the floor one more time:
To be clear, we take complete responsibility for the situation, this is not the team's fault nor should the team be subjected to any criticism from the community. (...) I understand why the team is disappointed with this situation, but there was no ill-intent from anyone in this story. The fact is that between we discussing it the first time and the game coming to completion, three years elapsed. We forgot things, we were distracted by other issues, and only when it all became very serious is that we started to properly look into it and try to address it as best as we could. We shouldn't blame the Olivers, the Dizzy team, and quite frankly neither the Next team -- it was no one's fault, the project evolved, things didn't get checked well, and this is where we ended. I just hope people have fun playing the excellent game that's Wonderful Dizzy.
And to complete the picture, we asked the Oliver twins to comment on the situation. After a short discussion, Philip Oliver published an entire post on his official Facebook, which we will quote here:
Regarding Wonderful Dizzy - who knew that so much effort given freely to could lead to upset? Sadly it’s come to our attention that there are now negative comments on social media directed at Henrique and the amazing team behind Spectrum Next regarding the confusion around if Wonderful Dizzy was to be exclusive to Spectrum Next or not. We really don’t like this and only wanted to spread fun with a new Dizzy game that was produced entirely for free by everyone involved and given away for free.
An innocent mistake was made using the word ‘exclusive’, which seemed minor at the time and may have in fact been true, since when written it was a prediction of the future, but this seems to have really upset a small minority. When we made the decision to support the classic Spectrum 128k first, followed by the Next version, it was made for technical reasons, and we did so thinking it was good to spread more fun not to upset anyone. Those that backed the Kickstarter made it happen. We want to give a big thank you to them, without their support for the Kickstarter campaign nobody would have got Spectrum NEXTs, all the amazing new games on the platform or a new Dizzy game. We know that the vast majority of people are fine with this.
So, to those few who are angry and writing negative comments about the dev team, us, Henrique or the people behind Spectrum Next – please don’t. Everyone has done an amazing job and you have all these people to thank for that. If a bunch of other people who did not back the campaign, for their own financial reasons, also got to play a new Dizzy game for free, please free good about the fact that you helped give them joy.
It's Christmas, a time of love, giving and forgiveness. Wishing you all the very best, and a Happy New Year. Philip (& Andrew)