UK Games Industry: Beyond Software

Monolith

One of the first things Bill Delaney did after being placed in charge at Beyond was to introduce a second publishing label called Monolith. The idea was to have all adventure and strategy titles published by Beyond and the more arcade-style games to appear via the new Monolith label.

Unfortunately not all of the Beyond staff were convinced by this argument, and neither were the retailers when they saw the packaging which was slim, tall, black with no artwork, no screenshots, and no name or logo on the side of the box to tell different Monolith titles apart. The box was also made from very flimsy cardboard which was easily crushed in transit.

The debut games for the new label were Mike Singleton’s Quake Minus One for the Commodore 64, Denton Design’s Bounces and First Star’s Boulderdash sequel, Rockford’s Riot, which was bundled with the original game as a bonus.

Monolith turned out to be an ill-conceived idea which was fated to have a very short life span thanks to EMAP’s decision to sell Beyond to BT.

Nexus

The Nexus publishing label was set up by Paul Voysey, Tayo Olowu, Bill Delaney and Clive Bailey after Beyond had been sold to BT. The label published a handful of C64 titles, including the eponymous Nexus game itself (which was originally going to be published by Beyond but hadn’t actually been signed), Warrior II (sequel to Psi- Warrior), Assault Machine, Blazer and Hades Nebula (all Commodore 64 only titles).

C&VG connections

Almost all of the first batch of titles published by Beyond were written by programmers who had previously provided type-in game listings for Computer & Video Games magazine, including Pat Norris (Pirates & Polyps, Diamond Draughts, Roborun, Space War), Mike Singleton (Interstellar Intrigue, Treachery), Ron Potkin (Beacon Star Wars) and Simon Goodwin (converted Pirates & Polyps for the 48k Atari amongst others).

Office moves

Beyond moved offices a couple of times during its EMAP tenure, but each move never strayed very far from Farringdon Road in North London, where EMAP’s main offices were located.

Achilles Heel

One early Beyond title that Simon didn’t need to assess for Beyond was S.S. Achilles for the 48k Atari.

“I was coding S.S. Achilles on the Atari for fun with a work colleague called Dave Muncer before I joined Beyond. It was a nice little game which Terry Pratt then opted to add to the Beyond stable. The game was written specifically for disk at a time when disk drives were very uncommon and everyone was still using cassettes.

To be honest me and Dave both hated the Atari tape unit, and we couldn’t be bothered to take what we felt would have been a retrograde step to try and make a cassette version work”.
This particular decision drastically limited sales of the game, as disk only releases in the UK were almost unheard of and were also more expensive to buy than games available on tape. The Atari was also nowhere near as popular as the Commodore 64 or the Sinclair Spectrum in the UK.

Demos

Psytron included a slideshow of early screens from The Lords of Midnight (which showed much more descriptive text than the final version did!) on the flip-side of the tape, whilst The Lords of Midnight included a running demo of Psytron that allowed the player to interact with some of the stats, before telling them to go out and buy the real thing!

Games started under EMAP and finished under BT:

Superman
Romper Room
Shadowforce (CPC)
Enigma Force (CPC)
Infodroid (CPC)
Dante’s Inferno
Dark Sceptre

Mindscape (US)

Beyond were one of the first UK software publishers to license their wares to the US, striking a deal with Illinois based Mindscape, Inc. to release Shadowfire, The Lords of Midnight and Quake Minus One for the Commodore 64 on disk.

Z80 Superman

The Spectrum and Amstrad conversions were eventually distributed by Prism Leisure and became the first and last titles to be simply ‘Published by Telecomsoft’ rather than via a recognised publishing label.

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