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.
Well the ‘friend’ was none-other than producer Graham Stafford, who was working at Psygnosis at the time and was tasked with trying to bring in new titles at Psygnosis in early 1993. Graham had originally converted Tir Na Nog to the Commodore 64 in the mid-1980s for Gargoyle, so was in touch with Greg Follis and Roy Carter. He rang them to see if they’d be interested in doing a PC version of the game, and they were!
Unfortunately, it would take some time to get off the ground, as Greg and Roy at the time were heavily involved in the development of PsyQu and other apps at the time. However, Greg produced an impressive specification document for the new Tir Na Nog, which had convinced Psygnosis to go ahead with the development.
After a while, Graham handed over the development to Nik Wild (Which producer Richard Browne had informed us recently), who knew Greg and Roy from his days at Newsfield. Greg would work on the title for around two years, and Graham suggests that Roy was working with him too. During the early days, it was just Greg and Roy, though an article on the game would suggest that they were later helped by two other artists and a programmer.
No-one at the moment can recall who these three people were and research is still ongoing. Sadly Nik has also gone off the radar, and those who were in touch with him back in the day (including Richard) have not seen him since the early 2000’s. We have a couple of potential leads which are being followed up to see if we can find Nik to shed some light.
Attempts to speak to Greg and Roy about their past works also has proved tricky, as they don’t seem to be keen at looking at the past and they have remained pretty much off the grid too. It is hoped that some day they may change their mind and open up about some of their works.
Overall, the game was 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.
As a result 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 makes sense, as Graham recalls there being delays to get started – so maybe there was only ever 6 months worth of work?
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. John Pickford suggested as well that Sony were very down on 2D during the early days of the PlayStation (famously rejecting Worms on the platform), so this may have been a contributing factor too.
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 of it, please let us know.
With thanks to @email@example.com for initially flagging up to cover, Graham Stafford and Richard Browne for info about the development, Anonymous for the contribution suggestions, Squakenet.com for the additional scans, John Pickford for input and fix suggestions, Mike Clarke for input from a Psygnosis perspective and archive.org for the scans.