1988 Firebird Software

Platform: PC DOS

Thrust was a brilliant budget title from the mind of the late Jeremy Smith back in 1986, developed first for the BBC Micro (released via Superior Software), then converted to a large number of platforms by Firebird Software to great acclaim from all magazines.

Oddly (as a side note), according to Richard Hewison who worked at TelecomSoft, the Firebird C64 version got released before the BBC version by a matter of months. Although it looked very simple, the game was an extremely playable gravity-based title, and still holds up very well today!

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The game even later saw an unofficial conversion to the Atari 2600 in later years. However, PC users were lacking a conversion for their platform … or were they?

Speaking with Carleton Handley back in 2022, he mentioned casually that there was a PC DOS version of Thrust in development at Walking Circles when he was there, being done for Firebird around 1988/1989. He suggested getting in touch with Graham Stafford to find out more about it.

After a quick exchange of messages, Graham firstly confirmed that a PC version did indeed exist, and it was written by Lee Smithies, who had done a number of other PC conversions around that time. It was confirmed also that the game was in fact complete, but it was unclear if it ever saw a proper release.

It was now time to find Lee, which thankfully didn’t take long, with emails and pleasantries being exchanged in no time at all. Lee confirmed his involvement on the project, and also that it was fully complete. He also had no idea at all if it had been released or not, explaining that he had left Walking Circles about a year later.

At the same time, we also checked in with Richard Hewison, who was working at TelecomSoft back in the day and would have known about any PC conversion. He was completely surprised to learn that one existed, and never saw anything of it during his time there.

Richard suggests that the game may have been earmarked for the Silverbird £9.95 label after the ST edition was done, but it wouldn’t be too long until BT would put the company up for sale. This seems the most likely reason why the game never saw a release.

So, the big question was whether Lee still had anything of the game after all this time, after Graham sadly confirmed having nothing. Thankfully – he still had a floppy disk with the game on, but wasn’t sure where it was at the time. If he found it, it would be passed over to Games That Weren’t.

Then, in September 2023, Lee finally found the disk and thankfully it was still reading. He backed up everything and sent it over. With DOSBox, we were able to get the game up and running easily and see what looked like a pretty decent conversion for early PCs.

It’s not quite as smooth as the C64 edition in some places, lacks Rob Hubbard’s famous tune and doesn’t have the same variety of colour schemes – but it plays perfectly well and Lee has done a great job with the conversion overall.

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PC owners would have been happy with the title for sure, which makes it a shame that it didn’t quite sneak out the doors before the sale of TelecomSoft. But now finally after around 35 years, you can play the game as intended, and show that Lee’s efforts were not all for nothing.

We were intrigued about what the DEMO file was that sits with the EXE, and it seems to be a small piece of code that does the automatic demonstration in the game. If you remove this file and start the game, you can press a few keys to get to the menu, start the demonstration and the ship will do nothing.

Anyway, enough talking. Here is another lost title found and preserved, and more for you to check out and play. Enjoy!

With thanks to Lee Smithies for digging out his disks, Richard Hewison, Graham Stafford and Carleton Handley for various information about the conversion and confirmations and John J. Hoare for the prompt about the BBC Micro edition being first via Superior Software.



6 Responses to Thrust

  1. Excellent work Frank, really glad you could follow this up. I’ve not seen Lee since the 80s, good to hear he seems to doing alright.

      • Cheers. Lee was always a curio at Walking Circles, he was stuck in a little office on his own for most of the time and didn’t really mingle so much with the rest of us. I mostly remember him as a pretty shy lad who was really into his coding.

    • Sorry to hear that Gareth!

      I’m using DosBox 0.74 on Windows 10 and looking at my dosbox config, I had these settings: xms = true, ems = false, umb = true. machine = svga_s3.

      I was able to run just via:

      mount c

      … then typing c: and then THRUST.EXE. Hope this helps.

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