1991 U.S. Gold
Platforms: Atari Lynx and Atari Panther
It was intended to cover at least one Atari Lynx title in detail, and at one point it was looking like Strider 2 (which itself was originally to be a game called TOR) was going to be that title. However, there wasn’t enough detail to warrant doing a full piece on the game from our initial investigations. Here is what we managed to find out though (including the revelation that it was going to be converted to the unreleased Atari Panther console too), with magazine information provided thanks to Ross Sillifant.
First of all, the game was claimed by RAZE magazine to be around 50% complete overall at the time and well under development. A US newsletter, the US based Portable Addiction suggested they saw it too, and graphics were not only a giant leap forward for the Lynx, but were better than the Amiga version too. Here is what they had to say in full:
It’s nice to see more and more companies supporting the Lynx. Now US Gold has joined as well. If this game will remain under the US Gold label is yet unknown, as US Gold may yet sell the game to Atari.
Strider II follows the same plot as the desk top versions. The female world leader has been kidnapped and take to a secret location. It is the usual “You’re the only one who can save the day” story from here on, so you set out to rescue her. This takes you through five levels: a forest, the planet’s outer defences, underground caverns, the generating station and the kidnappers’ space craft.
The graphics look terrific and are a GREAT leap forward for the Lynx. In fact the whole game looks better than, say, the Amiga version! MEGA! From what we’ve seen it should be a very playable, if a little small, game. However, a lot can change during development of games so we hold our breath and hope for a good game. But then again, this game would be worth buying anyway, if only it was for the graphics!
How true was all of this? It seems RAZE magazine were fibbing a little – especially with the screenshots, which were actually from the Amiga version. See https://youtu.be/DhhBU2fwaGo?t=136 and compare it to the RAZE scan below.
We started some investigations to see who might have been behind the Lynx development and find out more for ourselves. Our first point of contact was the developer of the C64 edition of Strider 2 – Paul Cole. He suggested that it was a chap called Paul Gill, who would later confirm that he was indeed the developer.
Paul told GTW that it was just himself and artist Steve Harding who worked on the game overall. Sadly Steve could only recall brief memories of the development. Paul very kindly agreed to answer some questions about his time on the development:
1) When roughly you would have started on Strider 2? The July 1991 issue of RAZE suggests that the game was at about 50% complete when they previewed the game, if that helps as a guide?
Looking at my diary from 1991 – I started the game in January and was finished by May. The game was with our testers at this point. I went back to the game occasionally during the summer to fix the odd bug and add requests from Atari (a continue game option, a silent game option etc).
2) You’ve mentioned that Steve worked on the graphics. Was there a musician assigned at that point too?
I converted the music and sound effects from the ST version which I seem to remember was really easy.
3) Also, was there anyone overseeing/project managing the conversion at Tiertex?
There was no producer or project manager as such, other than us showing the bosses a new version every now and again. Basically, it was just me and Steve for those 5 months.
4) During those 5 months, would you and Steve worked closely together for the entire period of the project?
Yes; me coding and him supplying the graphics and maps.
5) How was the development in general from what you can recall? Was it a relatively smooth process, or were there many obstacles that you encountered or limitations with the hardware that you had to get around?
It was one of the smoothly run projects I’ve ever worked on. All credit to Atari whose documentation for the machine was wonderful and clear. They supplied a lot of test code which meant you were up and running very quickly.
6) It sounds like it was a very promising development overall and that you were proud of it?
I honestly think it was a neat game that worked well on the device.
7) Was the code being based on anything you had previously done, or was it all done from scratch from what you can recall?
We didn’t reuse code back in those days; every new project was started from scratch. Rather daft in hindsight.
8) How about using a particular version as your basis to work from? I assume probably either the Amiga/ST edition was used as your reference? Possibly from a game design document or specification?
There was never a game design as such. These were very much the days of make-it-up-as-you-go-along. All I did was play a bit of the Amiga version and take it from there. Steve supplied the art and maps which were taken from the Amiga version but that was about it.
9) What was your development environment like? I assume it was some kind of PDS setup with a cable that squirted code down to an actual Lynx to test? The Vindicators/Rolling Thunder developers said they were working on Commodore Amiga’s, much to Atari’s disgruntlement 🙂
I’ve very little memory of the set up other than we coded on- I think- an ST then after compiling sent it to the Lynx device.
10) Some Lynx games were actually improved on over the original – was that the case with Strider 2? i.e storyline added to or style of game play extended.
The Lynx had quite a few neat graphical tricks which I added and I seem to remember we put in a secret level. My main thing was to make the game easier than the previous versions which I always thought was way too difficult. Saying that, by today’s standards I bet it was still rock hard.
11) It sounds like the game was very close to completion then, especially as it was with the testers?
Frustratingly, the game was totally finished; it had been tested and gone through Atari’s approval system.
12) Wow, that is amazing to hear. Something pretty dramatic must have happened though for the game to then be canned? What happened?
Atari were very keen on the game. They supplied lots of feedback then gave the go-ahead for me to develop a version for their forthcoming new Panther console.
I’m not entirely clear why the game never got released. I know that the last version I built I was told to put the text ‘Demo Purposes Only’ to be displayed throughout the game. Somewhere between Tiertex, U.S. Gold and Atari things broke down. I can only assume it was between the latter two as Tiertex and U.S. Gold continued working with each other for years to come.
13) I’d imagine it was Atari who messed things up, considering their track record at that time. What happened to the Panther version you were asked to develop?
The Panther console was canned soon after. So maybe Atari were having their own problems at the time. That’s just conjecture.
14) It’s suggested Tiertex was a bit of a constant factory for just churning out games. As a result, were you pissed off that the game never got a release, or was this common place at the time and a case of just swiftly moving onto the next project?
I was quite miffed when the game got initially postponed as I thought it was a really good game. By the time ‘postponed’ became ‘cancelled’ I was deep into writing my next project (Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade on the Megadrive) and had no desire to go back to it.
15) Was anything salvaged from the project and re-used elsewhere at all? Maybe in another Lynx title?
No. We never developed on the Lynx again- a shame because it was a great device- and the code was in 6502 which we were moving on from by then.
16) One thing people will ask and want to know is about the chances are of finding something of the game and seeing something of it digitally preserved?
Absolutely zero. The backups and any EPROMS would have been put in a desk drawer and forgotten about. I never bothered keeping personal backups. It’s a shame as I’d love to see it again!
That’s terrible to hear – hopefully we can find something of it in the future, as it sounds amazing. Thanks Paul!
So that was that. The chances of finding a copy of the final development may now rest with the hope that a tester or someone from U.S. Gold or Tiertex kept a copy. Paul may even some day find something that he has forgotten about, as strange things can happen.