January 1989, and Compute Gazette published two Origin System game adverts, “Times Of Lore” and “2400 AD”. Times Of Lore made it, well known for its amazing Martin Galway music.
Unfortunately, it was not to be for the other game. Even though released on Apple 2 and PC platforms, the C64 version was never to be, apart from some great music by Jeroen Tel that would sneak into the wild.
The game’s development had two separate development teams over time, starting in 1987 with John (Doom) Romero originally kicking things off. John was way into the development, but Origin decided (for reasons unknown) to kill the project. John subsequently left in 1988 to start his own company.
This wasn’t all known at first – it was always believed that John was always the developer for the game. What was odd though for us was looking at the scan shots of the game from the adverts. Notice the name, “Allan Short”?… Well, it was none other than Allan Shortt, who did Arkanoid 2, Athena and others for Ocean Software. After a quick question about his name being in the game, he confirmed that HE was the coder for the game, and not John Romero. With John’s email in 2008, it confirmed the story of two development teams.
Just why the game was reallocated to a UK team, we do not know. However, lets move onto the second development phase…
The second development phase
The game’s development with Allan started in August 1988 (shortly after John Romero had left Origin), and spanned a good few months until the game was pretty much complete. After going back to the UK, Allan tried to go back to the US to carry on with the game but was refused entry due to a cock up with visas. A break down in communications with the producer led to the game sadly being cancelled as a result. No-one seemed to take over the project for reasons unknown.
Allan disclosed that the graphic artist was Phil Meller (who also did work on Bad Blood, though sadly uncredited), so what with Allan not sadly having any of the game code any longer, Phil was the last resort – otherwise the game could be lost forever. Allan sadly passed away some years ago, not too long after we had spoken about the development.
Music was completed during the game’s second phase, with rare unreleased sound effects by Maniacs of Noise later recovered. The tunes done for the game have been in HVSC for some time.
Nowhere to be found
We finally got to speak with Phil in 2013, and sadly the news was not good. Phil confirmed that the game was complete, but hadn’t kept anything of the game at all. Phil described the title as a great looking game. Our last remaining hope could be if Phil uncovers a random disk in the future or someone else comes forward with a rogue copy.
There is off course still the question whether anything of John’s version still exists. Has John kept any of his work, or will this too uncover more bad news?
Contributions: Martin of Stadium 64, SC, Pete Baron, Allan Shortt, Marco(Exile), Ciara Brennan, John Romero, Phil Meller, Paul Hughes
Allan Shortt speaks to GTW about 2400AD…
“Yes I was the only coder on the project, don’t know where John (Romero) was supposed to be in it? Unless he did a version before I started in august 88.
The game got to around 85% complete, I was unable to finish it due to being refused entry back into the US, as visa’s were not correctly sorted. The conversion was shaping up quite well, this was the first time I’d coded the 1541 drive for loading on the fly.
I can’t remember exactly why it was cancelled, but I remeber there was a fair bit of miss communication with the producer (Alan?)
The artist on the game is called Phil Meller. I don’t have any code from the project, but still remember it well ”
Phil Meller talks to GTW64 about work on 2400AD:
What can I remember about 2400 AD? Well its going back some years, that’s for sure. Was back in 88 and Alan had just joined Origin and they wanted a 64 conversion 2400AD so the two of us were paired up.
Worked our asses off for a couple of months and the game was looking sweet then we both had to return back to the UK and finish off the game from Alan’s bedroom. Game was pretty much finished and Alan made his return to the States, hit problems with his stay so he duly got his job back at Ocean within a couple of days after returning.
This is all were it got a bit murky. Alan was pissed at the guys at Origin for some reason so he didn’t give them the finished game. I remember getting a call from Dallas Snell (one of the big cheeses at Origin) pleading with me to try and reason with Alan but that wasn’t gonna work so in the end that was it…Origin just wrote it off which was a shame cos it was a great looking game.
Concerning material, can’t help you out im afraid…all gone…just fading memories im afraid which is a shame cos “Shorty” was one of a kind, that’s for sure.”
John Romero talks about his original work on 2400AD:
“I just saw a short article on the C64 version of 2400 AD. I had no idea that a C64 version was carried on after it was canceled – the project that I was hired to work on at Origin in 1987. I got a ways into it as well, but Origin decided to kill it as well as the Apple II sequel because of bad Apple II sales of the game.
I left Origin in June 1988 to start my second game company, Inside Out Software. Apparently, if your information is correct, Origin decided to resurrect the port with a UK company. Did it ever get finished? 2400 AD was an excellent game and I most definitely worked on the C64 port.”