Mystery solving has been something we’ve been doing for years now, though there are many times that we hit dead ends and just cannot progress any further. Solving the mystery of who the 80’s development group “Softeam” were exactly is of those dead ends that we have recently hit.
You may not recognize the name, and with good reason – they only seemingly produced two titles in total around 1986-88, and then completely disappeared (likely disbanding). First off, the infamous group developed the title Pulsator for Martech on the C64, Spectrum and Amstrad – though only the latter two were of course released as you can find out more about here. The C64 edition likely not being released due to poor sales of the other two formats.
A year or so later, the engine from Pulsator was pretty much lifted and re-used on a new game for Addictive Games/Prism called Metaplex for the same formats as Pulsator. This time the C64 edition was released – and comparing the graphics to Pulsator’s C64 shots show the exact same dimensions – meaning it is likely that both games have the same developer.
But who played the role of developer and artist across all the formats? Unfortunately, we have contacted everyone we can from the Martech days (including Dave Martin) who cannot recall who the team were exactly. John Gibbons also helped a lot by contacting all his Martech contacts, who knew nothing apart from that Dave got Softeam in externally to do the game and may have been based in the Brighton/East Sussex area.
Mark Alexander (credited on the Spectrum edition), only did the music for the Spectrum game, and was not part of the Softeam. However, Mark was also credited for the Amstrad CPC edition of Metaplex, so we feel that Mark was commissioned by Softeam for both pieces of music. We hope to hear back from Mark soon to confirm this theory and see if there is any chance he can recall who may have spoken to him.
Similarly we had no joy with Addictive Games – with no-one recalling who they were for Metaplex. We are hoping to get hold of Prism Leisure’s Geoff Young to see if they might know any more.
We even got Jason Kelk to check if the Spectrum loading screens contained any hidden text to disclose who did any work (as inspired by this page), but there was nothing sadly.
Then a few people (including contributor Nicholas Campbell) have flagged up that Cascade released two games called Activator and Questor – which seem to use the exact same engine again as Metaplex and Pulsator!
The games were only released on the Amstrad CPC, and the dates suggest that these came before Pulsator. We’re just waiting to hear if the Cascade Games owners can recall any details.
What is interesting about these last two games is that they begin to give more clues away to who may have been behind Softeam. The high score tables on both have the same set of names (whereas the other games are completely different):
John and Ian swap at being top between the two games – so were they perhaps the minds behind Softeam? Additionally, one magazine talked of Softeam coming from nowhere, and being from near Cardiff way.
We did consider that John and Ian could have been John Edginton and Ian McArdle, who started off at Martech early on – but the Cardiff link then doesn’t really make any sense.
Digging through all the code hasn’t revealed anything, but within the disk for Activator are some names which may mean something more:
Any potential dev names there? Steve Allman or Fred Allman perhaps? There were no such names in any of the other releases. Perhaps this was a slip for their first release?
Then in Metaplex, there is something rather odd. Take a look at the map of the game:
It spells out “DRINK AT PINKIES WINE BAR”. Checking the map for Pulsator, it doesn’t seem to spell anything for any of the levels. At a stretch there are letters/numbers in there. But what is Pinkies Wine Bar and could that give leads to the town/city that Softeam were based? The bar is likely long gone years ago, so this makes it much trickier to narrow down.
There are sadly no maps for Activator and Questor – could they spell anything more out?
It seems that Softeam may have been a one trick pony with the engine they had and made some quick money off the games perhaps? We’re not sure, but they seemed to disappear for good after Metaplex.
But why the urgency to find them? Well, of course – it would be good to find out what happened to the C64 conversion of Pulsator, but it is very possible that finding the game will lead to finding possibly the last piece of missing Rob Hubbard music on the C64. It is hoped that it can be found in time for Project Hubbard, which is being ran by Chris Abbott.
If you know anything about Softeam, or were even part of the group – please contact us!