UK Games Industry: Beyond Software

More Lords

“Tag and Malcolm worked well as a team”, says Simon. “Tag was the Spectrum expert and Malcolm knew the Commodore 64, meaning they were good at converting games in either direction”. They were therefore the obvious candidates to handle the Commodore 64 conversion of The Lords of Midnight, which had been such a huge hit on the Spectrum the previous year.

“Mike Singleton had fresh ideas he wanted to pursue and he wasn’t really interested in writing the conversion himself” offers Simon, explaining Mike’s reasons for passing on the conversion. Mike’s fresh ideas included writing Doomdark’s Revenge – the much anticipated sequel – which was effectively more of the same but with a larger map and some extra enhancements. Doomdark was just as successful, and only wetted people’s appetite for the concluding part of the trilogy, called Eye of the Moon. Sadly, the third part was destined never to be completed as circumstances and other games continually got in the way.

A new recruit also began working at Beyond in 1984. Peter Moreland was hired to look after production, which freed Simon Goodwin to concentrate more on software development. Pete already had a good grounding in the industry, having worked for a tape and disk duplication company and he also co-created the 8-bit text adventure Mordon’s Quest (with Abersoft’s John Jones-Steele) which published by Melbourne House. Pete’s skills eventually lead him to become a Project Manager for Beyond.

Moving on

About a year after Beyond’s launch, Terry Pratt was offered a much bigger role heading up one of EMAP’s Magazine divisions, which meant going from a company with six or seven members of staff at Beyond to being responsible for ten times that number back in EMAP’s mainstream business. It was an offer that Terry couldn’t really refuse, but he was still able to keep an eye on Beyond’s progress from afar. Bill Delaney succeeded Terry Pratt, ensuring continuity and minimum disruption to the day-to-day business.

Denton Designs

Denton Designs was a development company formed from the still smouldering ashes of the original Imagine label. The new company originally consisted of Steve Cain, Ian Weatherburn (who departed just before Denton signed a contract with Beyond), John Gibson, Ally Noble, Karen Davies and Graham ‘Kenny’ Everitt.

The company was set up to create games for other publishers to release, freeing Denton from the responsibilities of marketing and production. Steve Cain had been very impressed with The Lords of Midnight, and a half hour conversation with Bill Delaney convinced him that Denton should be working with Beyond. This decision pleased Simon Goodwin in particular.

“We all seemed to hit it off straight away, resulting in an on-going relationship. We were all singing from the same hymn book.”

The first fruits of their labour came with the release of Shadowfire, which was the first of an initial two-product deal. According to the back of the box, Shadowfire was the ‘First adventure game without text”. It made extensive use of icons and was a slick looking action strategy game, which Somin Goodwin was very impressed with.

“I often went to see the Denton Design team in Liverpool whilst Shadowfire was being developed. The game was much more in keeping with our concept of what made a Beyond game, and it had some great graphics and great music”.

Shadowfire required the player to fully utilise the different skills provided by the six members of the Enigma team, as they moved through General Zoff’s spaceship in search of the captured Ambassador Kryxix.

The game was released in mid-1985 with the Commodore 64 version on one side of the cassette, and the Spectrum version on the other. This dual-format approach was only repeated once more, when Beyond published the Amstrad CPC version of Spy vs Spy with the Atari 48k version on the flip side.

Shadowfire proved to be another hit for Beyond, who seemingly could do no wrong. Denton immediately started work on a sequel called Enigma Force, which was more real-time in its approach and used a different graphical perspective than its predecessor. The game still used an icon interface, but it wasn’t quite as impressive or successful when it was released in early 1986.

Denton’s next full game was Bounces (originally called Bouncers). The game involved trying to throw a ball into a goal above the players’ heads whilst being tethered to the wall by elastic. Just to add to the bizarre flavour, the two players were dressed up as a medieval knight in full armour and a Viking!

“Personally I loved it”, remembers Pete Moreland. “It was hilarious to play!”

Whilst Denton were quite proud of the Commodore 64 original, in hindsight they weren’t so happy with the game on the Spectrum, citing a rushed development with little testing time as the main reason for a disappointing implementation.

Infodroid was an arcade strategy game which was available for the Commodore 64 and the Amstrad CPC but oddly, not for the ZX Spectrum.

Denton’s final game for Beyond was an arcade adventure called Dante’s Inferno, based on the famous poem by Dante Alighieri. The game took a literal interpretation of the poem, with the player assuming the role of the Pilgrim, travelling through the nine circles of Hell.

Originally intended to be available for the Commodore 64, Sinclair Spectrum and the Amstrad CPC, issues during the Commodore 64’s development severely hampered the Amstrad CPC conversion being written by Philip Taglione (brother of Anthony Taglione) and it was never finished. It’s unconfirmed whether the advertised Spectrum conversion was ever started.

Shadowing Midnight

Teenagers Nick Eatock and Simon Welland began writing a Spectrum game called Elindor whilst they were still at High School in the mid 80s, as Nick explains.

“We wrote the game whilst we were still at school, having been inspired by Mike’s Lords of Midnight. Once finished we walked into Beyond’s offices without an appointment and asked them to look at the game. We were kept waiting in reception for what felt like a couple of hours and we were then invited in to show what we’d put together.”

Simon Goodwin picks up the story.

“We liked what we saw but it presented us with a problem, being so similar to Lords of Midnight. We didn’t want Beyond to get typecast, so we gave it a lot of thought but decided it was good enough in its own right to be added to the range, and hoped it would appeal to Midnight fans.”

The game featured landscaping very similar to Mike Singleton’s two games, but featured rolling clouds and a text input interface to communicate with characters and enter typical adventure commands like examine urn or take sword.

Beyond did make a couple of changes to the game after it was signed. Francis Lee changed the title to ‘Sorderon’s Shadow’ and another constructive suggestion was made to give the game a little more polish, as Nick elaborates.

“The only other thing that changed were the graphics. Denton Designs did a great job on this and definitely lifted the product to another level. Overall I thought
we had a good underlying narrative in Sorderon’s Shadow and I’m still proud of it today”.

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