With my first game Knight Driver
successfully on sale, it was time for ideas for the next project. At
the major Computer Exhibition at the Barbican Centre in London, I had
the good fortune to speak to the guys on the Quicksilva stand (a
major publisher). They invited me to join them for an evening meal at
a French Restaurant in Holborn. Wonderful bunch of people - fun
evening - discussed ideas for my next game. They even said that they
would have published Knight Driver had it been ready six months
earlier - I was just a little too late. Anyway, I had such a great
and engrossing evening with the Quicksilva (The Game Lords - as their
title went) team, that I completely lost track of time and missed the
last train back to Kent. On such a high, waiting in Victoria Station
for the 3.00AM milk train, it didn't seem much of a problem, even
though it was back to work the following day!
I spend about a couple of months
working the design for the game, but only achieved a controllable
hovercraft that effectively bumped as it travelled along. Looked
good, but I could not see a game developing out of it and abandoned
the project. This was a little disheartening and without any firm
ideas, I felt the need to be doing something and developed what would
be the opening screen for TEFB. Just a simple picture of a forward
view through a space ship, a la Star Wars. It looked good at the
time, but was simply a single static picture. This suggested the next
stage of developing a game and the animated asteroids took a lot of
work. This gave the element of the first part of the game, dodge the
incoming asteroids and if overwhelmed, fire one of the four wipe out
everything in view missiles. The most difficult part of the
programming was creating the pseudo moving star fields, relative to
your inverse movement, a nice effect, though barley noticeable when
playing. With that part of the game wrapped up, it became clear that
there was just not enough content for it alone.
Collecting a core from a space mine
Reverting back to Knight Driver
style programming, I came up with the idea of an additional maze
containing items to be collected without being hit by the baddies in
the maze. With this element complete, in five different levels, I
approached Hewson Consultants (publishers of Knight Driver) and had a
meeting with them in Oxford. Andrew Hewson felt that something was
missing and suggested that there should be a third stage with
additional gates that could be opened when successful in the second
stage. If these gates were randomly set, the variations on different
games would be a good thing. I managed to implement this third stage
quite quickly and was pleased with the result - I felt at last, that
I had a complete balanced saleable game.
Open gates for stage three
Choose next space mine
As it turned out, Hewson
Consultants declined the option, so I then sent the game to several
publishers for consideration. Virgin Games invited me to their office
to demonstrate the game, but eventually declined. I had made the
mistake of making a last minute tweak, making the game far too
difficult - even for me!! Not a good idea if you are going to demo
your game to someone. Artic Computing also showed an interest but
with no contract in sight, I eventually signed a rather poor contract
that offered no payment up front, It's only saving grace was, if not
published within 30 days, I had the option to revoke the contract.
Shortly after signing and posting this contract, John Maxwell from
Mastertronic showed an interest and we arranged a meeting just after
the 30 day waiting period. At the meeting, he agreed to take the
product onboard, subject to me being able to revoke the other
contract. I met Jim Darling ( father of the Darling boys who went on
to form Codemasters ), who reviewed my contract documents and letter
of revocation. We signed up there and then, £250.00 up front and
10p per copy sold! Thus began, my relationship with Mastertronic,
whom were to publish two more of my games.
My original working title for the
game was Airwolf 2000, The Airwolf TV show was doing rather well at
that time. Mastertronic came up with the name change to something
that sounded like a Star Wars game. Mastertronic were very good at marketing!
As an aside, I was offered a
contract from a company called Mirage Software, but their comment
that they did not expect to receive any offerings so good, didn't
exactly inspire my confidence in their intended range and output. As
it turned out, Mirage Software never actually published anything -
must have been a mirage!
Three intergalactic wars during
the past Millennium have weakened the Empire which is now fighting to
regain it's power and status. A rebel colony of mutants have taken
over an old warship and are seeding the galaxy with deadly space
mines in an attempt to gain control over the Empire.
You have been selected to pilot
the miniature space craft Air Wolf 2000 and must enter the massive
space mines to disable their control cores. Unfortunately, you have
limited energy, so during your trips to the space mines try to avoid
contact with the meteorites and stay on course (centre of the radar
scanner). Inside the mines you must control your own robot to clear
the cores and can only survive by understanding the movement patterns
of the service drones.
Following clearing the cores, you
arrive at the Central Control where you need to connect with first,
the lower Boss Head, then finally the upper Boss Head. This maze has
5 numbered gates that open when you have successfully cleared the
cores for that level. Avoid touching the patrolling drones, it's not
There is a single time and score
counter where you can gain points for doing well.
Flying through space, try to avoid
the incoming meteorites, but make sure that your position dot doesn't
stray off screen . Bonus points are awarded for as long as your
position dot stays in the central flashing area. You have four
meteorite seeking rocket bursts (Fire Button), though there are bonus
points for those that are not deployed.
In the Space Mines you need to
locate the number of cores (the same quantity as the level number)
without touching any service drones which reset your location and
deduct points. You can hold the Fire Button to freeze their movement,
but there is a heavy loss of points for doing this. If you collect
all the Cores, this will open the same numbered gates in the Central Control.
As more Core levels are
deactivated, their corresponding gates are opened in the Central
Control. Pressing fire ends your stay in the Central Control and you
are back ready to select your next level. When you have opened enough
gates, first, connect with the Lower Boss Head then the final Top
Boss Head to complete the game and set your high score. If you don't
complete the game, it will end when your score timer reaches zero.
Note, after you have connected
with the lower Boss Head, now, touching a service drone will send you
back to the beginning!!
To boost your Timer /Score
In space, try to avoid using the
fire button, return your position dot to the middle, and don't let it
stray off screen. Avoid the meteorites hitting you.
In the Cores, don't let the
service drones hit you and use the Fire Button (freeze) sparingly.
In the Boss Head level, your
Time/Score is always decreasing, don't stay there (Fire) if you don't
have enough gates open. Avoid touching the service drones.
Pokes kindly reproduced from
Infinite Lives & no asteroids