Matthew Smith (games programmer)

Matthew Smith (games programmer)
Matthew Smith

Matthew Smith, at the Screenplay festival in Nottingham, UK (2005)
Born January 1, 1966 (1966-01-01) (age 45)
Occupation Game designer

Matthew Smith (born 1966) is a British computer game programmer. He is best known for his games Manic Miner and Jet Set Willy for the ZX Spectrum, released in 1983 and 1984 respectively. He is also a playable character in the 2005 mobile game, Jet Set Racing.


Early life

He was born in London, but his family moved around a great deal, finally ending up in Wallasey.

Programming career


He started out programming on a TRS-80. His first commercial game was a Galaxian clone for the TRS-80 called Delta Tower One.[1] He then went on to produce a game on the VIC-20 called Monster Muncher.

He obtained a ZX Spectrum on loan from Bug-Byte Software Ltd. in return for a contract to make three games. The first of these was Styx in 1983.

He wrote Manic Miner in just six weeks and it was an instant success. While some games at the time were quite basic and amateur, Manic Miner was an addictive platform game with in-game music (a first for the ZX Spectrum). The sequel, Jet Set Willy, took considerably longer to write and was an even bigger success. Manic Miner and Jet Set Willy are two of the most famous and popular ZX Spectrum games, reputedly co-wrote with renowned programmer Andrew Dryden.

After the creation of Jet Set Willy he started work on The Mega Tree for publication by his company Software Projects. Unlike his previous two hits The Mega Tree was not developed for the ZX Spectrum but the Commodore 64. The project failed to gain traction and was abandoned three months into development.

In 1987 adverts began appearing in games magazines for a new game Attack of the Mutant Zombie Flesh Eating Chickens From Mars said to have been programmed by Smith, and due for release by Software Projects. It is reported that Smith was unhappy with the finished product and it was never released.[2]


Smith closed Software Projects in 1988 without completing any more programs and "vanished" for a while. He lived in a Dutch commune from around 1995 but was deported from the Netherlands in October 1997 and returned to Britain. He subsequently "reappeared" on the Internet in the late 1990s. He said he was "surprised and flattered"[3] at the amount of attention and speculation he had attracted on the Internet.

Return to gaming industry

In 1999 Smith returned to the UK video game industry by taking a job at Dewsbury-based computer game developer Runecraft. Unfortunately, the company went into receivership and thus only one new game (Scrabble for the Game Boy Color) appeared.

In 2000, he appeared on a British television documentary programme called Thumb Candy about the history of video games in which, in a brief interview, he discussed Manic Miner and his 1980s career with Iain Lee. He has also attended, and given talks at, retrogaming conventions during this decade.

In 2005, a mobile game was released by Numfum, called Jet Set Racing. Smith was featured in the game as a playable character as 'Matt', being the fastest racer of the game.

Smith is working on producing new games, and according to recent interviews, has been involved in mobile versions of his original games.


External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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