International Karate prototypes

1986 Archer Maclean / System 3

Platform: Commodore 64 (Atari to come)

In late 2023, Games That Weren’t was tasked with trying to preserve all of the late Archer Maclean’s work disks – including Atari and C64 formatted disks. At the time of writing, work is still ongoing, though we have been given permission by Chris Wilkins (Fusion Retro Books) to add any executable/early prototypes to show you that we find along the way.

ikproto large

First up are a small selection of prototypes from the first International Karate game, including a non-playable demo with two fighters interacting, and with no score panels or sound. There is a more advanced second prototype with the same kind of thing, with music and no sound effects.

Perhaps the most interesting of all is the Speech demonstration program, which seems to have been sent to Archer from the Anirog team for potential inclusion within the game. Thanks to Vinny Mainolfi, Darrell Etherington was asked about the demo – but he sadly had no recollection about it at all. He suggested that Ross Mears was probably the only one behind it.

Clearly, Archer didn’t feel the samples were right, so went his own way and produced his own set of samples for the game. There is also a music demo of the main theme, which was sent to Archer by Rob Hubbard.

Finally, we have all known that Archer was a huge fan of Way of The Exploding Fist, which had come out the year before. Archer had wanted to make IK a much faster and smoother experience compared to the Melbourne House title. There is a fantastic documentary here about the making of the IK and IK plus games:

Within one of the early work disks were interestingly some sprite rips from the Melbourne House game, indicating that Archer had been investigating very early on how the fighter sprites worked within that game – possibly to get inspiration for setting his own fighters up for IK.

This is all we have found so far, though check out our page on IK+, which has more significant findings that show how the game grew out of the first game’s engine. We hope to add some A8 content here soon if we find any prototypes. David Simmons and Martin Pugh have also compiled together a special compilation of some of the prototypes with a special Archer Maclean image and menu selector, which you can find within the download.

Finally, we have also produced a short video, where Frank talks through the findings, along with the IK+ prototypes that you can visit at:

With huge thanks to Chris Wilkins (Fusion Retro Books) for the loan of Archer’s disks to preserve and permission to add executables to the site, Dave Simmons and Martin Pugh for putting together a special tribube collection disk for the materials, Vinny Mainolfi and Darrell Etherington for info about the speech demo, Alan Hammerton for hardware help and Mat Allen for the flippy PC drive loan.

In memory of Archer Maclean – 28 January 1962 – 17 December 2022.



3 Responses to International Karate prototypes

  1. There always were rumours some of the IK sprites and animations were taken straight from Exploding Fist. Maybe there was some truth behind those rumours after all…

  2. Great content! Loving that speech demo! The announcements (“Begin” et al) sound good to me, quite clear! The attack cry and the “enemy winded” effect on the other hand..I wonder if he was simply running out of memory and therefore couldn’t include announcements in ANY shape or form?

    • That’s a good point – could well be a space issue. It’s one of those things we may sadly never know, though we hope to hear from one of those who did the speech demo to see if they recall anything.

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