Virgin Atlantic Challenge

Virgin

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Virgin Atlantic Challenge was to be an arcade game based on Richard Branson’s attempt to break the transatlantic speed record in a boat. So, not the same game which was released later on with the rather cool Rob Hubbard tune.

The game was infact released on the Spectrum and Amstrad… but sadly as what usually happens, the C64 version ran into a few troubles on deck.

According to Ian Munro, the game was actually written up by two different people. The first version (by whom we do not know) was actually scrapped because it didn’t quite cut the grade. Ian recalls – “I think Virgin weren’t happy with with the way the C64 version was looking / working. It looked a lot different to the way the Spectrum and Amstrad versions looked. From what I remember it was quite grey in colour, it was a side view of the inside of a boat. I’m sure it had two levels (or platforms) and may have scrolled left and right. There was definitely a “ships cat” walking about. ”

Commodore User magazine ran a big preview feature on the game, which also details a lot about the game and its features.  See the gallery below for those scans.  They mention the C64 version of course, and show screenshots – but from the Amstrad version (naughty!)

The game was then offered to Millside to do, after doing good conversions on the Amstrad and Spectrum. Jullian Cooper re-did all the graphics for the game and got them finished and ready to use by the programmer to pick up the project. Millside employed a programmer straight from school from an agency (Whom is believed to be Paul Smith). But after 4-5 weeks of work, the programmer left and the game was incomplete. There were still a number of bugs to be fixed, but Millside couldn’t get anyone to fix these.

By this time, Virgin had already been marketing the game on the Spectrum and Amstrad, and due to the heavy delays… Virgin decided to cancel the C64 version and put it to rest before any more money was wasted on the title.

The game itself was believed to be almost complete, but we cannot confirm this. Both Paul and Ian sadly had nothing of the C64 version, but suggested that the company directors could still have something of the C64 conversions that never were. We are now looking into finding both directors in the hope that they kept all the Millside work disks from that era.

For now the search goes on, but check out the Spectrum and Amstrad links above to get an idea of what was going to be…

Will the journey for this game be successful?…

Contributions: Unknown, Paul Smith and Ian Munro

Supporting content

Paul Smith speaks about work on Virgin Atlantic Challenge…

“I wrote the C64 conversion of the virgin game “Virgin Atlantic Challange” which as far as i’m aware was never released.

I worked for small company around the summer of 1986 based in Bishop’s Stortford, who were sub contracted to Virgin, they had already done the Spectrum & Amstrad versions when I joined them and had done the graphics for the C64 version. I worked on the C64 version for about 4 weeks, during this time i know a version was sent to Virgin as one of their programmers passed a comment back.

The game I wrote had Richard Branson driving a boat across the atlantic. I’ve had a look for anything i still had but all my C64 stuff was given away a long time ago.

I also can’t remember the names of the two people who worked on the spectrum, amstrad versions or the person who did the graphics for the C64 version as i only met them a few times. The coding was done over about 5 weeks in which time i probably only met them about 3 times to show them the progress being made”

Paul Smith.

Ian Munro recollects what he remembers about the game…

“I used to work for Millside Software in Bishops Stortford in Hertfordshire. I was working on the ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC versions of “Virgin Atlantic Challenge”. I actually saw 2 different versions for the Commodore 64. Unfortunately neither saw the light of day. The two directors may have the old disks, although the company stopped trading many years ago. Their names are Ian McIvor and Julian Cooper

I’ll tell you what I remember with regards to Virgin Atlantic Challenge on the C64.

Millside software was setup by two people (Ian McIver and Julian Cooper). I was brought in to produce the Spectrum and Amstrad versions but the C64 was given to another company. After a few months I think Virgin weren’t happy with with the way the C64 version was looking / working. It looked a lot different to the way the Spectrum and Amstrad versions looked. From what I remember it was quite grey in colour, it was a side view of the inside of a boat. I’m sure it had two levels (or platforms) and may have scrolled left and right. There was definitely a “ships cat” walking about.

Virgin then offered the C64 version for Millside to do. We got a programmer (a kid just out of school) through an agency based in Sawbridgworth. He produced a version that looked similar to the other two with Julian drawing the graphics. After a few weeks it was obvious that the stress was getting too much for the lad. He gave us a “final” version and quit. Unfortunately it was bug ridden and we no longer had a programmer to finish it. The Spectrum and Amstrad versions were finished and Virgin had been advertising (and taking orders) for several weeks. I’m guessing that Virgin decided to drop the C64 release as releasing it months after the other 8bit versions was probably seen as bad marketing.

I kept hold of some of the Spectrum stuff but the C64 disks will be with one of the directors (if they kept them).

I lost contact with both directors almost 20 years ago. I mention their names in news groups and forums but so far I’ve not been able to trace them. If I can find out any more I’ll pass on the details.”

Ian Munro.

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