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Terry Greer

Me - What I've done

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Artwork

Pandora

Spectrum animated cartoons

Adventure game graphics

Last Ninja 2

Xenomorph.

Microprose Misc (Pizza Tycoon/Navy Strike.

XCom - Terror from the deep

XCom - Apocalypse

XCom - Alliance

Citizens (Ghosts of games that never were)

Master of Orion 2

Kismet

Firewarrior

Flaklypa Grand prix

Blitz Pitches (Ghosts of games that never were)

Blitz Tech

Scarlotti

 

Xenomorph

Arkypelago and Lasers and Labyrinths

Around 1989 I had the chance of working on creating an original game idea, design and graphics for a game I called Arkypelago. My then agent Jaqui Lyons managed to get Activision interested in financing and publishing it, along with a company called Mindware interested in programming it.

 

Arkypelago was to be a Science fiction adventure game set aboard a generation spacecraft whose descendents had forgotten everything and had regressed to a primitive existance. It was set aboard a massive rama-like spaceship.

 

Both the setting and plot had been partly inspired by stories such as Brian Aldiss’ ‘Non Stop’ and Jame’s Blish’s ‘Surface Tension’, and it was to be a graphical adventure with thousands of locations – everyone of which had a North/South/East and West view that was unique.

This was attained by using a procedural approach to image creation. I love this sort of approach and I designed a language for doing this which gave good results, and a set of simple subroutines to be called for different terrain types. The game was to be a PC, Atari ST and Amiga title.

 

Unfortunately as Arkypelago was approaching Alpha Mindware had cash flow problems (their first game Tracker) hadn’t sold well and they had contractual problems with ‘Firebird’ (another large publisher of the day) over a game called ‘Lasers and Labyrinths’ - a ‘Dungeon Master’ style game that I had also started doing the graphics for. Firebird cancelled Lasers and Labyrinths and this led to Mindware ceasing trading with the consequence that this also closed down Arkypelago.

Apart from some printouts everything about Arkypelago is now lost – but it remains a theme I want to revisit one day.

 

However I still had the initial demo graphics from it, and while touting  for buisness at a company called ‘Interceptor Micro’s’ (that I had previously created cover art for) I showed them the demo disk for the graphics I'd done and they wanted a game based on those - so Xenomorph was born.

Xenomorph

While the graphics from lasers and Labyrinths provided a great starting point they weren’t even enough at that stage for more than a single game level, and they still didn’t include much in the way of UI screens or game specific assets, so I still had to create everything else.

 

I had great fun creating a backstory for the whole game (influenced a little by Robert F Temple’s ‘The Sirius Mystery’) and decided to make Xenomorph a sort of RPG, but where the stats didn’t really change that much and  it was more about building an inventory. Rather than have a group of characters the player would control a single ‘everyman’ someone not a hero and who would therefore be easy to identify with. Aliens was also an influence, but so were many other movies and stories.

 

Xenomorph had lots of novel ideas within it. Vending machines for supplies, aliens with a life cycle and readable messages from those that had died. We also had computer consoles to interact with, computer chips to salvage from circuit boards throughout the mining complex (to repair your own onboard systems with) and a motion detector that could detect undergound burrowing creatures. All this long before similar games such as system shock.

 

Xenomorph was also fairly sophisticated from a construction point of view. Each location was made up a floor type, ceiling type, 4 wall types and 4 corner pieces – this allowed us to mix and match in a way other dungeon games hadn’t tried. We even had caverns with barriers and glass walls.

 

Originally it had been our intent to build levels using multiple block sets, but memory limits meant that we had to abandon that and in most cases have only one or two wall types per level.

 

The inventory screen allowed you to see a thumbnail of the main view (and still move around). And a very nice touch was that turning left or right scrolled one view off while the other was scrolled on – it was an illusion that made you feel as if you were actually turning that other games hadn’t bothered with.

All this was coded by one individual - David Neale.

 

Interceptor put a lot of pressure on for a fixed release date, which meant that we simply ran out of time to do everything we wanted to do. This meant that despite many late nights (and all nighters - we physically moved into the office and slept there) some items were never fully implemented. The AI wasn’t particularly clever (actually it just randomly chose a direction to go in when it reached a junction) and the communicator didn’t do anything (we rationalised that there was nobody to talk to – but I had originally intended for there to be some purpose to it).

There was also one great big bug which meant that the green blobs that inhabit some of the tunnels become invulnerable after being frozen once. We had planned much more complicated behaviour – allowing a big one to be fragmented into several small ones for example (and vice versa) but again time wasn’t on our side. There was also too much disk swapping, which we would have liked to have fixed.

 

Originally we had planned to let the player have the choice of a number of male and female characters – but memory constraints and lack of time to develop the interface that would allow the player that choice at the start of the game prevented that (though you can still see a female character in some of the early screenshots).

Although it never made it into the final game I did create an animated intro and outro for the game using Cyber studio.

This showed the Mombassa Oak arriving at Artargatis and then taking off again at the end, but there wasn’t space on the disk for it – which was a shame as it looked pretty good for the time.

Overall music and audio also had nowhere near enough time and space spent on it – but we were a small team.

It’s worth saying that many of the pieces for the levels were initially modelled in cyberstudio to get the perspective right, though they had to be heavily touched up and recoloured afterwards.

 

I was responsible for all the Graphics and Game/level design with David Neale doing the programming. Sound was by Nick reeve and Ray Edwards was the producer and worked on the manual.

The brilliant novella that accompanied the game was written by my friend Steve Hatherley.

 

Ian Denny did the Commodore 64 conversion of Xenomorph - and did a damn fine job at getting it all into the machine's much smaller memory. To do it he did make some changes, such as making it a little more linear, but he also managed to add some of the features we didin't squeeze in (such as multiple characters) and fixing some of the bugs.

Chris Sawyer (of Rollercoaster fame) programmed the PC version - he also fixed some of the bugs in the Atari and ST version.

 

Xenomorph was well received and obtained some great reviews praising its atmosphere.

 

Unfortunately financially Xenomorph was a disaster for me. I received a small fee per month while working on the game, with a promise of good royalties and a retainer for the next game. The game garnered good reviews and sold reasonably well, unfortunately Interceptor Micro’s went into liquidation before they got around to actually paying me the royalties they promised or the retainer. I was left broke and ended up leaving the industry for a while to get a proper job.

 

Despite the problems I’m very fond of what we produced and I’m seriously considering a Kickstarter project to recreate it in the same way that ‘Legend of Grimrock’ revised Dungeon Master.

 

Below are a few screenshots from the game. All graphics had to be done in a 16 colour mode (for the Atari ST and Amiga),

There was also a CGA version for the PC.

CGA was a particularly nasty graphics mode where you could choose a set of 4 colours - but had no choice over what colours were in that set - and every combination was terrible.

 

We used an automatic conversion of the screen after rendering and the example screen to the right used a mode that just had : red green yellow and black.

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, a screenshot from the Commodore  64 version.

(Note the brick-shaped pixels that half the horizontal resolution.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Below is an example of the game being played.