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The Ones That Got Away

These are the games that never quite made it - a few ideas I threw together to get people interested, or to keep myself busy during the lean periods. I'm putting them here for the same reason I put a lot of things on the 'Web - because I keep losing them otherwise!
Some notes before looking at this page. Dates are approximate - the earliest datestamp on any file for a project gives me my starting date. Some of the images presented here at half original size due to low original resolution. I could compensate, but they'd look blocky on modern machines, and take up more room. Also, you may notice a lot of images have a horrid pink background - this was due to it being so naff a colour it was banned from appearing in any of my games (a trick I picked up from Jason Tribbeck), and so was ideal for being masked out of existence!
Everything here © me unless otherwise stated. If you want to use any of this stuff in your own game, first seek professional medical help, and if that doesn't cure you then contact me.

Untitled scans (1991?)

Taken from a recently rediscovered notebook, these images were just bits and pieces I picked up on as I was looking through some computer games magazines. Some of the earlier pages appear to be missing, but at some point I started grouping the sketches together - is this where I decided that, instead of all the other things that I'd been doing up until then, I might give computer graphics a go?
These images have been heavily cleaned - the colours have become muddy over the years, and there's a lot of transfer, especially when facing pages have been used. However, crossings out and scribbled text have been left in, as they're quite informative. Apparently there were to be five planets - one and two are something of a mystery, as they are not named, but probably included an organic world as per the first level of the Bitmap Brother's classic Xenon II, and maybe an ancient world, with Aztec and Egyptian influences. The ancient levels would later be completed in Cyber Ape, including clues written with hieroglyphs. The other three worlds are listed on page 3 of the scans, "Globulon", "Militaris" and "Technon". Page one, with its technologically advanced space ships, is tentatively entitled "Planet 5" at the top, but by page 5 the "Militaris" name is writ large. The design on the Militaris page seems to have influenced the unknown test images, and so by extension possibly Underkill; plus the 'plane looks very similar to the one in the Time Pilot sprites...
The game itself appears to be a vertically scrolling shoot-em-up, again similar to Xenon II, and including other similar elements like things in the walls that shot out blobs, vehicles that scrolled down to shoot at you, and power ups. However, there seems to be the added disadvantage of things that pop out and block your way, such as tanks or electric arcs, and strangely some of the images make it appear that the player's vehicle would be near the top, scrolling down, rather than the more usual bottom-up style.
Scan page 1 Scan page 2 Scan page 3 and 4 Scan page 5 Scan page 6

War Games (1992)

My first proper attempt to map out my own game. Back then all I had access to was a greyscale video digitiser and a video camera, so some of the images are pencil sketches of staff from my old college, and some are frame grabs of my mate Pete Wakeling. There's a document file with these images that maps out some kind of Star Trek-style adventure game - you're a bridge commander and have to listen to advice from all of your staff, scan external objects and read data files about them, and, oh yes, blow shit up. There are also full bios of the crew, including physical attributes and commendations; fleet regulations with punishment levels; a recent history of battles and incidents; and a briefing from the Commodore.
War Games 1 War Games 2 War Games characters War Games faces

Twisted Helix (1992)

An isometric game where the player must escape from a ship full of rioting prisoners before it crashes into a planet. I guess the prisoners were psychopathic scum, but none too bright. A kind of Con Air in space, if you will. The Twisted Helix of the title refers to strands of DNA, although the Twisted part has several meanings, one being that you started on a prison ship chock full of psychos. Another meaning concerned a machine which could alter your DNA to take on the appearance of other characters you came across - so long as they were dead. For instance, to gain access to the bridge or escape pods you might need to jump into the skin of the dead captain; to get to his body, you'd need access to the cells - via another officer - but to pass through the rioters you'd need to look like a prisoner. A female officer was smaller and faster than a male one, so to get through the fan ducts you'd need to get past the prisoners guarding the shuttle bay to find the dead woman. You get the idea.
Most of the mock-ups were done in a simple vector package, and the few bitmaps obviously took so much time to do with conventional software that plans for a new isometric paint package were included in the archive.
Twisted Helix map Twisted Helix doc Twisted Helix paint Twisted Helix Twisted Helix doors Twisted helix character

Unknown test images (1992?)

Dunno where these guys came from, but the vehicle bears an uncanny resemblance to one on the "Militaris" notebook scan at the top of this page. My first foray into proper bitmap game graphics? Also there are the beginnings of the style that will manifest again in Underkill - the vehicle has that two-colour stripe over what might otherwise be a dull bit of bodywork.
I do remember one thing about these images now I come to look at them - if the car was about to blow up due to excessive damage, the little guy could leg it and find another vehicle.
Car test Lil guys

Darkside (1992)

Finally starting to get into bitmap image design. This was a fairly standard side-on platform game, but the hook was that you (or you and a friend) controlled two characters that were linked by a rope. So, if one of you fell down a hole, if the other was quick enough he could stop you falling. Basically it seems to have been designed to be an enforced co-op mode, if one guy was looking for treasure the other was forced to watch his back for treasure guardians and so forth.
Darkside pipe demo

Underkill (1993)

Underkill title
The name is a play on "overkill" and some kind of underground complex beneath those mountains in the title screen. This went from a test of blending in a vector package (the mountains) to a semi-serious attempt to map out an Alien Breed-style shooter - little dude wanders around in glorious eight-direction-o-vision, shooting anything that moves. There looks like there was some work done on morphing this guy (cyborg? robot?) into a hovertank, which looks similar to the craft in Miniskirts. One of the test images has both the guy and the tank onscreen at the same time, but I think this is misleading. It was two (or more) players by the look of it though, as the main character comes in three colour variations.
Underkill test 1 Underkill test 2 Underkill level completeUnderkill rotations
The end of level screen features a semi-realistic vector image of some kind of dropship, possibly the first time I'd used ArtWorks to such good effect. The bitmap stuff has also improved, so it looks like I finally got hold of QPaint, a clone of the Amiga DPaint package for RISC OS games design. QPaint was never officially released due to contractual stuff, but if you knew the right people it was... available.

Journeyman (1993)

Elite addict that I was back then, I worked on some rules on writing a sequel. The name Journeyman was supposed to denote a rank, skilful like élite but a bit more working class. Or something. There's lots of different cockpit mock-ups (something I obviously enjoyed coming back to again and again), some storyboarding of space station-based character interaction, plus pages and pages of rules for generating planets, trade, even a Men In Black type story about what happens if you land on a low-tech planet. This latter bit of frivolity I later expanded and got published in a small sci-fi magazine. I think the name "journeyman" has since been used by another game; oh, and Hatch Industries "Mongoose" was originally designed by Toby Hatch, a fellow Elite nut who also played the original RPG, Traveller, and so bears his name to honour his input. Mongooses, it should be noted, can kill snakes, and all the ships in Elite were named after snakes.
Hey look! The House of Mabel monkey mascot even makes an appearance!
Docs 1 Docs 2 Docs 3 Docs 4
Cockpit 1
Cockpit 2 Cockpit 3 Cockpit 4 Cockpit 5 Cockpit 6 Bar scene
Hyperspace Solar systems
Mongoose views

Cutting Edge (1993)

Despite the name, this was never anything but a collection of rough sketches describing a sword fighting game. I grew tired of Streetfighter-style fighting games, loved the first Highlander film, and thought I could get someone to take fighting games to the next level. I was wrong. Some ideas were quite nice, like hits to various body parts having different effects - leg hits would slow the player down, arm or chest hits lower strength and so on. Some cheesy character back stories though. And that cave - surely I couldn't have been so clichéd as to suggest fighting skeletons in an ancient temple, Ray Harryhausen-stylee?
Cutting Edge cave Cutting Edge gym Cutting Edge rooftop Cutting Edge docs 2 Cutting Edge docs 1

Miniskirts (1995)

Miniskirts iconWell, what else would you call a game about small hovercraft with female pilots? Looks fairly similar to Underkill, although that might just be down to the style I seemed to be developing at the time. Has a copyright logo of TBA '95 on the scoreboard, so looks like I was trying to get the same guys who published Cyber Ape interested. The hook for this game was that hovercraft don't move like regular vehicles, so you could have fun with the physics - extreme sliding around corners, explosions that push the vehicle off course and so on. Shooting, racing, chasing - and cute girlies. No cute girly pics included, but I think Dee might have been from around the same time.
Miniskirts set 1 detail
Miniskirts test Miniskirts craft
The test designs for some of the craft didn't really work -
one looks like a spring onion on a slice of cheese on toast!
Miniskirts footsoldiers Miniskirts set 1

Tank Game (1994)

I think these simple tank game sprites, or something very much like them, did eventually get used in a game by Mark Johnston; if it's the one I'm thinking of it was on an Acorn User coverdisc. But possibly not in 1994, which is when these were first created; this might have been the game that was in limbo for years, or it might be something completely different. Basically I'm clueless, so I'm dumping it on this page! The palette is a mere 16 colours (minus the mask gives 15), which accounts for the beige edge to the grey walls.

Med (1995)

Presumably short for "medieval". No explanatory text was found with these, so I don't know what they were for; looks like an Underkill-style Alien Breed rip off, and the date stamps are around the same time as Miniskirts (1995), but I think this was a separate if similar project rather than a medieval level for Underkill or Miniskirts. Terrible, terrible water texture.
Med backgrounds Med tester

Time Pilot-style game (1995)

Fairly bog-standard Time Pilot, Sinistar style game, with power ups like rocket pods and invisibility. Didn't even get round to thinking up a decent name.
Time pilot

Letts Educational Books (1995)

By this point computer graphics and DTP were starting to become a job rather than computing being a hobby, and this project was a commission - of sorts. It's a demo of an interactive book, and unusually I've found the completed program. Not sure if this should be classified as "one that got away" in that it was completed and used in a sales pitch, or even if it counts as a game in the context of these other, more violent, neighbours, but hey, this page is as good as any. I do know that no-one got paid, what with it being for a pitch that didn't pan out.
There's a loading screen, with a custom bit of music supplied by Leaf Garland. Press a key and the music fades; you get a title screen (Task 4, Boats), and then it's in to the game. A (random) number of blue and red boats are (randomly) placed around the screen - they shouldn't overlap, but it is in BASIC, so the machine might get in to a loop working this out. It is a rough demo, after all. A voice asks how many red boats - press a number, and hit return. You get a "yay!" and a smiley face if you're correct. The same happens for the blue boats. The voice is mine, speeded up to 200% on purpose so it sounds cute (i.e. it's not like my usual voice at all!). The waiting between words is a bit screwed on modern hardware; I've tried to compensate, but it might still be odd.
Letts strongmanLetts boats
Download demo (100 KB)

Cracker (1996)

Little CrackerThis came after working on the Thames Water/James Pond educational game. The educational resources for that project had been written by someone who was also working on the novelisations of Cracker, an extremely popular TV show starring Robbie Coltrane as a hard drinking/smoking/gambling police psychologist. You know, the program where a skinheaded Robert Carlisle stabbed Christopher Eccleston. Anyway, the company that did the Thames project (GamesWare) had also ported Simon the Sorcerer to RISC OS. Putting these two contacts together, the owner of GamesWare decided to try to get the rights for a Cracker game, using the Simon the Sorcerer point-and-click adventure game engine.
I knocked up some example graphics, including a mock-up of Robbie Coltrane walking across a room (although I can't remember if this was a diagram or a proper animation, I know the room was quite detailed with bookshelves etc.). There was also a loading screen - a vector graphics version of the iconic Cracker ident, a black and white photograph of Robbie Coltrane's face, smoking cigarette in hand. I had to draw this because I couldn't afford a scanner at the time, and a print shop refused point blank to scan it for me as it was a copyrighted image. I was quite proud of the result - it really looked like Robbie Coltrane. OK, I cocked up part of the hand and due to a tight schedule had to move the title lettering to cover this, but still, the face was good! ;)
Unfortunately the finished data for this project was lost when my computer was stolen - I'd moved to Chichester to work full time at ArgoNet, and in my first week I left the window open after working late. That sucking up tactic really worked, didn't it? Two items were stolen - my computer, which was my own property, and a printer; this despite the fact that there was several hundred grand's worth of equipment in the next room that thankfully didn't get touched, as the insurance wouldn't pay up as the window wasn't forced. I had some backups of most things, but not current enough to recreate this project. I guess GamesWare might have had a copy, but seeing as I was working for someone else I guess I didn't have the guts to ask!
Cracker Coltrane face (unfinished)
Cracker photoSome early animation tests for the in-game graphics, and the barely-started vector of Robbie Coltrane's face. All that's left of the Cracker game. The photo is included as a comparison.

Aqueduct Pups (1996)

After seeing Reservoir Dogs and playing Loaded on the Playstation, I thought hey, wouldn't it be great to combine the two...? I got as far as knocking up the title screen to get people interested, and it turned out to be pretty groovy. Picture a white screen. On the right, a Reservoir Dogs "Let's got to work" vignette - but unlike Tarrantino's masterpiece, mine had real dogs. The black suited figures had the heads of canines such as the Bulldog, Rottweiller, a shaggy Old English Sheepdog, and by their feet a comedy Chiwawa toting a huge gun. To the left, a large bloody splatter, chillingly liquid against the white (with the help of some blurring tools). Inside the splatter, the game title in a ransom note font. But the really good bit was that the lettering was masked off, revealing a moving water effect underneath; the combination of the movement and the difference in colour between the red blood and blue water caused the optical effect of having the lettering recessed several centimetres back in to the screen. Stu Tyrrell helped me out by adding proper bank switching. Alas I can't find any trace of this artwork, and can only conclude it was lost in the Great Computer Theft of 1996.

Baby game (1996)

I think this was a Usenet joke. Remember Usenet newsgroups? That's where we did our arguing before web forums were invented.
Baby game

Gauntlet-style game (1997?)

Gaultlet swordThe datestamp says 1997; I'm not convinced that's accurate. A bunch of background sprites for a Gauntlet-style running-around-a-dungeon type game. Not sure if these got used or not - they look complete. Click on the sword to view the full page. Anybody recognise them?
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