System 3

Status: Preview, Findability: 5/5

Now this is a GTW that has gone down in history as one of the most eagerly wanted games to appear on the C64 in some form. For many years we have been taunted with the fantastic screenshots from Zzap 64 and the infamous Cyberdyne Interviews.

Deadlock was worked on for a number of months over the space of approximately 2 years and promised very much in the way of an Impossible Mission type game crossed with the likes of Trantor and Armalyte (With insights into the game from Zzap 64.).

It’s team was infact Cyberdyne Systems, the very people who did Armalyte. It looked and promised to be a ground breaking game, with stunning visuals from Robin Levy, code from Dan Phillips and music by Reyn Ouwehand. Even there was some sound effects by Martin Walker to add to Reyn’s music.

To say that the game was groundbreaking was an understatement. Deadlock was far ahead of its time and featured some of the most authentic and ambitious graphics and animational detail to feature in a C64 game. We are talking major detail in a game from 1989/1990, from its realistic walking and jumping to its realistic gun recoil and reload animations. It was essentially very much like a 8-bit version of Super Metroid! (Quite scarily actually!) Sadly it was to be the graphics which killed the game stone dead.

Ultimately it all boiled down to the fact that the game had been wrapped up so much in its awesome visuals directed by Robin, that playability was terminal. This was the opinion of Cyberdyne, and they even admit that compared to Armalyte, this game was not fun to work on. Fun was a crucial element in Cyberdyne’s production phases. System 3 at the time were still confident to see this stunning blaster make a release, and even got Reyn to compose a set of tunes which were to be never used (Apart from one being cheekily used in their cartridge version of Myth).

What also didn’t help was the fact that both Dan and Robin were dragged away to work on Last Ninja 3 (Dan on the Intro) and so the whole project was shelved for the time being and overall for the rest of its days. It was mentioned in an interview that the game would likely be resurrected after Last Ninja 3 and turned into a more Shinobi styled game. It never happened…

And so Deadlock, after several dozen previews and incarnations, suffered an unfortunate death and was sentanced to life on its development disks. That is until GTW became live, and Dan Phillips got in contact.

Out of the blue one day back in around 2000, GTW recieved an email from Dan, giving tons of information on his titles and also the last reminants of Armalyte 2. Deadlock was also promised, after permission was gained from System 3. After attempts to gain contact with System 3, no reply was ever heard, and a relaunch later in 2003, Christmas 2003 saw a GTW update which Dan gave permission to GTW to finally distribute the remains of what is a fantastic work of art.

Dan kindly supplied GTW with 4 very different previews of Deadlock (As different as possible) to give you the best possible view of how the game was. Finally you can throw those old screenshots away and check out a slice of Cyberdyne history for yourself, and you may just get a shock at how good those amazing stills move!

In December 2010, GTW preserved some disks from John Kemp and Robin Levy, and found a large number more of early previews and variations. We have added all of these to the download, and the very early previews are quite different!

In addition to this, there are some of the editors used to build the levels and some of the graphics to take a look at.

Finally, the disks themselves had a few labels which included some awesomely drawn bits of art for Deadlock. You can now download all of these labels in the options above. But here is one in particular from Robin:

Brendan Phoenix in recent times found a little leaflet from System 3 which mentioned Deadlock as an up and coming title. Here is is.

In 2013, R0bin Levy designed a loading screen for the game, which we have added to the gallery and that you can also download to run on the real machine.


A lost relic found, and here for you to see…

Contributions: Jazzcat, Phil Davis, Dan Phillips, Robin Levy, Brendan Phoenix, John Kemp

Supporting content

Creator speaks

Dan Phillips and Robin Levy speak about work on Deadlock…

<Extracted from readme with download>

“Deadlock was written over the course of at least a year going through several iterations until it was finally abandoned.

Started in 1989 it died sometime in 1990 RIP.

Rob- “put out of our misery more like” =)

Please be aware that this is not a “fun” “game”. At the time we thought we could take just about any genre and improve upon the leading example. We made several mistakes compared to Armalyte. Firstly there weren’t a lot of good platform based puzzle and shoot’em up games around that we could draw inspiration from, or there were none that we had played for countless hours and could complete on a single 10p (thank you Salamander). The basic essence or mechanic of a good game was lacking, instead we had something that looked very cool. It didn’t have the fine control and maneuverability to make the platform element good, plus it didn’t have the immediate appeal of having lots of moving things on screen that you could wipe out or scrape past at a pinch.

2020 hindsight is a marvelous tool.

We should have stuck to writing Armalyte 2, it would have been so very much more fun to work on.

Rob- “It would have been so very much more fun to work on.”… Is probably the most fundamental point anyone could possibly make… if you aren’t having fun working on the game, how do you expect anyone to have fun playing it? Honestly, thinking back it’s almost as if we were working on this abomination for the sake of working. =(

v0.04 Music taken from Driller (AFAIR) shown to System 3 ?

Colour splits
Sloooow walking only, no keys or security passes
No background animation
Enemies you can shoot

Rob – awful animation— SPACEBAR=enter doorway

Running + sfx (supplied by Martin Walker)
Automatic running up stairs
Shooting slows you down
Security passes
Background animation for doors opening

Rob – Getting there but still quite sucky

Supposed to be parallax scrolling (never did get round to putting that in :))

Rob – This is when we started to worry that things were terminally wrong. Notice the way that bad guys that drop pickups only regenerate after you’ve collected the pickup? This is all down to the ridiculous way I insisted that the main character should be built.

Most complete and nearly a whole level
Last demo
Complete graphical re-design

Keys + tips for the final demo (some of these work on earlier versions)

F1-F2 swap weapon (if you run out of ammo the chain fist is your friend)
F3-F4 grenade mode (bounces until you let go of fire then explodes)
Alt-Gr alter the grenade trajectory (CCS64)
F5 swap between Snap/Auto/Burst depending on weapon selected
F7 reload
Crouch picks up the object your standing over
To use the lift face out of the screen (hold fire to call)
To go though doors face out of the screen and press up
Some doors require security passes/keys (They’ll get used automatically if you have them and they match the required pass when you try and enter them, face out of the screen and press up)
There are switches to open barriers and some force walls that need to be disabled to complete the demo…or you can use the room teleporting below.

“+” and “-” cycle through which room to start in and “p” makes you go to that room (the spaceship/jet fighter launch bay and munitions bay are particularly worth having a gander at, but they are to your right off screen when you get to those rooms so you have to run a bit to see them).

Rob- The Planet surface and the subterranean silo bit were going to be in the next load.
There was one more version of this level after this one which would have been quite promising- the locations tied together more logically, it had some working puzzles and the bad guys were placed better thing is, we were all very skint at this stage so I ended up “deserting” the rest of Cyberdyne to go do LN3 in London and Dan and John got the offer of Armalyte 2, so that was that.

One thing that I can’t help thinking now is how much of a better conceived game Turrican was, I didn’t like it too much at the time but Rainbow Arts made an arcade shooter that worked and was playable. Just goes to show, we (I) knew sod all about good, fun platform games at the time.
Another thing is that we were “inspired” by one good game (impossible mission) and 3 atmospheric but really quite dull games on the Amiga; Obliterator, Baal and Stryx, which seems odd because I remember us enjoying Rick Dangerous and Switchblade far more than the three Psygnosis games.
A few years later, after playing with the SNES and Megadrive I designed the levels for “œRuff n Tumble” on the Amiga, a platformer that I was quite pleased with, small consolation though for the sheer hell of fudging the core design on Deadlock- which honestly should have gone back to the drawing board a month after we started.

Ultimately it was my fault. Most of my design effort was placed on the story not the game play (BIG mistake) and all it would have taken was for me to go away and redo the character in 2 or even 1 sprites for the game to have taken a completely different turn… probably.

Sorry folks. =/

I think Rob is being a bit harsh on himself :).

So there you have it, I hope you can find something in the demos that is at least mildly interesting.
We eventually got over the mistake and went on to work on many other titles, but even now still remember what was known as “œDeadloss”.

Dan Phillips and Robin Levy.

Posted in: GTW64 archive | Tagged: | 2 Comments

2 Responses to Deadlock

  1. This looks astonishing. A pity they didn’t finish the game but the late loading screen makes it up easily. Great stuff.

  2. Dan Phillips was interviewed for Gamestm’s ‘Retrospective’ back in Issue 20, Armalyte II and Deadlock mentioned there.

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