Many of you will remember the rather bizarre game by the title of "Deus Ex Machina", created by Mel Croucher and coded on the C64 by Colin Jones. This was a game of life, and wasn’t like anything really seen before.
The game won several awards, and this inspired a game with very similiar strangeness and new idea.
Darkness At Dawn was the brainchild of Colin Jones, and was to be developed for the NU WAVE label back in 1986.
The whole game was unlike anything seen before, and was essentially a game without the need for graphics or text. The whole game was based on SOUND, and required careful listening to play the game properly. Essentially the game was set within a text adventure environment, which was believed to be developed in The Quill.
Mel developed the audio for the game, in the same way he developed the audio tape for Deus Ex Machina. This also included a recording by George Harrison and a track by Mel himself.
The game was fully completed, and they touted the game around to labels such as ARGUS PRESS. Both companies loved the game, but never published it and got Colin to work on other projects. Just why NU WAVE never released it, is unknown. This may have just been a rumour.
Unfortunately the companies didn’t think a game with a lack of graphics and text would sell particularly well, and maybe the game was just a little ahead of its time. Of course, they didn’t see a potential which was evident with Deus Ex Machina, and the potentiality of another award winning title.
So the game gathered dust and remained on Colin’s work disks until this day. Mel went on to use some of the ideas in later work.
Colin believes he still has the game on disk in his attic, though large commitments mean that Colin may not be able to look for the game for quite some time. Mel additionally still has the original Audio tracks for the game. Quite possibly sometime in the future, we could see the game for the first time along with the Audio tracks (Excluding the copyrighted track of George Harrison).
Time will tell, and hopefully one day Colin and Mel will help find their lost work of art once more and gain the credit that they never recieved for their hard work.
A complete game tucked away for the time being…
Contributions: Mel Croucher, Colin Jones, Danner
Mel Croucher speaks about work on Darkness At Dawn...
"Darkness at Dawn was the brainchild of Colin Jones, who programmed a number of well-received computer entertainments for me about 20 years ago.
I'm afraid I can't remember how far we got with it, but I know that I finished the music soundtrack because I've got a master tape gathering dust. The precept was that the colours of the spectrum had been stolen, and the gameplay involved winning them back one by one in the context of a graphic adventure - starting with a totally black screen.
I also worked on an extension of this idea to produce a game where there were no images at all, and no text - only sound. The idea was to involve players who had been excluded from my previous productions, such as the blind, the dyslexic, and those who can only speak Lithuanian or Klingon. The whole thing was to be played via headphones and a joystick, starting in silence, and then moving off with the first audio footfall around a 5-dimensional audio world ...
(3D: left, right, up, down, forward, back. 4D: speed, time, season, epoch. 5D: the whole environment affected by your own actions)
I used most of the sound effects in a couple of products called Klik & Play, and Klik & Create for Europress Software. Then I archived everything into digital format when the technology became available. This idea is not dead, and now that the technology has advanced to catch up with the concept, I reckon that a universal soundscape can be achieved to explore in real time.
But running My-Reputation.com is a full time business, and writing for the magazines and churning out fiction is also a full time business, and growing old disgracefully is similarly a full time business. So I'm a bit stretched."
Colin Jones speaks about work on Darkness At Dawn...
"This was a funny one. I’d been working with Mel Croucher on a number of projects, and had a few published games under my belt. Mel and I were both keen to expand the market for computer entertainment to include more experimental stuff. We later produced the world’s first interactive pop videos together, also unreleased. The trouble was, of course, that both Mel and myself were catering to a mature, experimental market which simply did not exist. We weren’t so much ahead of our time, as I say in my weblog (www.colin-jones.com), since the market never really matured. So we were out of our time.
I had some free time after programming the C64 Deus ex Machina, regarded by many as the first interactive movie, and had this idea for a computer game without text or graphics. This became the adventure game Darkness at Dawn on the C64. The C64 had the best sound chip at the time, and so was the natural selection.
Each location, character or object in the game had a sound effect of piece of music associated with it. You could turn all the text off and play to a blank screen. It was possible to play the game just by ear; incredible, I thought.
Or incredibly stupid, because no-one thought that such a game could be a commercial success, I later realised. But it opened quite a few doors for me. Clement Chambers of CRL liked it, I remember, and signed Mel and myself to write ‘ID’ for the label. They never did release ‘Darkness at Dawn’, I don’t know why.
Mel had also recorded two audio tracks for the game, which we planned to put on the b-side of the cassette. One was ‘Beware of Darkness’, a George Harrison song, the other an original composition..
I touted the game around the software houses, Argus Press liked it and gave me some game design work (Grange Hill) as a consequence. Again they didn’t want to release the game.
I think the game also helped me to get in contact with Codemasters, who game me free reign to work on my hit ‘Rock Star ate my Hamster’ which got banned from the multiples, and which I loved.
That’s about it really. I guess that I’ve got a copy of the game somewhere in the attic, although to be honest I couldn’t really say. It’s a pity that the game never saw the light of day, maybe things would be different if it had. Maybe not though; people seem to like mediocrity, after all. "
Colin Jones .