1994 TBA Software
Platform: Acorn Archimedes
Wing Star was the start of a new journey for developer Martin Piper, though he didn’t quite know it at the time. As you might well guess, the game was heavily inspired by the recent release of Star Fox (Star Wing in some places) on the Super Nintendo in 1992.
Owner of an Archimedes, Martin and his childhood friend Alan Peters, decided to see if they could make something similar on the platform and started to create a tech demo in late 1992. It wasn’t planned to be a full on clone of Star Fox, which of course would have resulted in all kinds of legal issues.
The game was indeed inspired, but would expand out and also feature inspirations from other games such as Afterburner.
All in all, the demo would take a few weeks to create. Martin had already been working on a 3D engine with Alan, and this was building upon work that had been carried out over a few years.
Martin and Alan would take a copy of the engine and demo to the 1993 Acorn World event, where TBA Software were very interested in the work that Martin had done. Martin would work with TBA, and eventually becoming the owner. However it was a chance encounter with Argonaut’s Peter Warnes (who worked at the company on the Super FX chip and Star Fox that would be pretty unexpected.
Peter spotted Martin demoing the game, and was interested to see what else he had been working on. Afterwards, Peter suggested that Martin write to Argonaut to ask for a job, which he did. After a few interviews and demoing his various work, he was offered a junior developer role in early 1994.
In the meantime, work continued with TBA to improve the 3D engine (known as the TBA Advanced Graphics Engine), adding more functionality, starting a developer programme and creating more 3D games, as well as taking on games from other developers.
With Wing Star though, it was decided to retire the game, as they clearly couldn’t continue with it being so close to Star Wing. The work was repurposed into a new title called A.R.L, which was to be a 3D futuristic shoot-em-up based more heavily on Afterburner than Star Fox.
The 3D engine was additionally used in a game called Brutal Horse Power, which was a racer heavily inspired by Daytona, but this would be the final game that was built using the engine.
Martin decided to close down TBA in 2000 and move onto pastures new. Work on A.R.L was seemingly never completed as a result either, which is likely a tale for another day.
Thanks to Martin, we are pleased to add a demo of Wing Star that you can check out for yourself. To get the game running, I downloaded RPCemu v0.8.8 and then downloaded and extracted the !TBAFS download below into the “hostfs” subdirectory, as well as extract the demo archive into the same location. Then I ran RPCEmu-Recompiler.exe to boot everything up, and then double click the Wing Star archive to start the game.
It is a great early glimpse of an exciting development, and one which was the start of a fruitful career path for Martin.
With huge thank you to Martin Piper for sharing details about the development and for kindly allowing us to add the demo to the archives.