Just over ten years after its original release on the ZX Spectrum, Psygnosis planned to release an update to the classic adventure game for PC users back in 1995.
The gameplay would consist of hand-to-hand combat, puzzle solving and exploration, where the main protagonist, Cuchulainn, will encounter many strange beasts on their travels. Psygnosis described the game as a strategy role-playing title with a mixture of humour and atmosphere.
You would be able to use up to 150 commands (all clickable via a mouse), which could be used to form a sentence to instruct what to do next in the game. There would be no arcade action sequences, with everything being executed by the instructions constructed from the commands.
Revived by the same team who worked on the original – the game would also consist of hand painted visuals, which looked amazing for the time in their SVGA mode, and would be rife with visual gags to help with the humour stakes. The main character would be as much as four times larger than the original character on screen too.
The sheer detail in the graphics and large world (consisting of over 200 richly detailed locations) would mean that the title would be CD ROM based and covering up to 2 CD’s in total.
The development team was “A Jovial Crew”, which consisted of Greg Follis who worked on the original game. Greg would speak with Next Generation magazine in April 1995, where he revealed that he had produced many of the scenes using collage techniques – taking photographs, then drawing and painting on them and scanning them back in. Character animations would be done via mostly videotaping and then taking drawings of the snap frames.
As well as some decent looking graphics, the game was to feature some unusual use of sounds, with a few in-game songs too throughout. Basically, Greg explained that the development was a complete re-write of the original story, and much more than just a re-tread of the original game.
The game was Greg’s step back into game development, after taking a break to do application development (feeling the game’s industry had peaked). A friend at Psygnosis got Greg working back in the industry, first working on PsyQu before being asked if he’d like to do a new version of Tir Na Nog.
Overall, Greg had been working on the title for around 2 years by April/May 1995 with the help of two other artists and a programmer. It isn’t clear if Roy Carter was working on the game at all.
Featured and previewed in a large number of magazines at the time, and although the title was due for publication in August 1995, the game would disappear without a trace. We’re not entirely sure at this stage why this was – but potentially the game became too complex and costly to release.
Greg and Roy are hard to speak with these days about their past works, so we hope to learn more via those who worked at Psygnosis about what happened. Mike Clarke remembered it being in development, but doesn’t recall seeing it in action. He was also surprised that it was in development for two years, and thought it was only around 6 months. This suggests it may have been worked on for some time before Psygnosis got involved.
Mike couldn’t say why it was cancelled, but once speculated that it was around the time that Psygnosis was sold to Sony, and that most projects not related to the PlayStation were cancelled. So Tir Na Nog could have been a casualty due to that.
Additionally, Mike found an old Google Usenet post, where someone suggests back in December 1995 that they had read an interview with Psygnosis which said the game was finished and very playable but not up to modern standards in graphics and music, and that is why they decided not to release it. We haven’t yet been able to find the magazine article in question.
If you know anything more, please do let us know.
With thanks to @firstname.lastname@example.org for flagging up, Mike Clarke for some input and archive.org for the scans.