Big Apple Entertainment

Status: No Download, Findability: 2/5

A very quick entry for a title which had a very quick mention in a PC Show 88 document given away with The Games Machine issue 10.

The game was to be released by Big Apple Entertainment in 1988, and was promised to be an epic shoot’em up for the Spectrum, C64, Amiga and ST.

Sadly the game never quite made it on any platform. The only Big Apple game to surface was Oops! Did the company go under before it could release anything else?

Well, Nick Fitzsimons who was working on the PC and ST ports of Oops said that his conversions never made it due to Big Appel getting taken over by a larger conglomerate, and getting closed down swiftly afterwards due to not making any profit.

Thanks to contributor Bugjam, we learn that Sarah Jane Avory was the developer and seems to still have the game in some form. It seems that it got quite far, and there is a possibility that it could even be finished for release in the future.

You can read more at and more recently in 2020 at

Fabrizio Bartoloni also highlighted that Sarah gave this update recently:

I’ve been thinking about Delphian, an old finished but unreleased #C64 game of mine, and how to make it work on a 512k cartridge. Can make it run much faster than the original by using lots of ROM tables:

Original #C64 Delphian was a 3D space trader using large resizing sprites. You could land on planets and walk around, even entering shops to buy items. It’s on my #C64 to-do list.

Exciting times!

Contributions: Iain Black, Nick Fitzsimons, Bugjam, Fabrizio Bartoloni, The Universe of the Commodore 64

Supporting content

Creator speaks

From Sarah’s blog (see links in main piece):

“Delphian was a C64 space trader game I coded back in the 80s while working at Orpheus. Sadly, although the game was completed, Orpheus was closed down before the game could be released. And so it was lost to history, forgotten by the world…

But not forgotten by me.

I’ve always wanted to resurrect the game, so I think I will. Although all the original code and data has been lost, I still have some of the original paperwork, even notes for a sequel that was designed to run on an Amiga.

The original version (before I joined Orpheus) was a disk based game. But as tape games were popular at the time, I had to drop the disk idea and redesign the game to be a single load. Wasn’t easy to cram everything into 64k RAM, but I managed it with just 3 bytes of memory spare.

So fast forward to now. Instead of tape or even disk, I now have a 512k cartridge at my disposal, and that makes a massive difference!

But what is Delphian? Well, the following will detail my ideas for the new game.

Delphian is a space trader in which the player flies a spaceship that can be upgraded. At the start of the game, you are given the ship by your dying father on your home planet. At first the ship is just a shell, but the player has enough money to buy essential items from a nearby settlement.

The player starts on foot and has to explore shops and other places for all the items they need. The view is a 3D view using software resized sprites. Although the update can be a little slow, all the movement code is driven by a 50hz interrupt so that control response is unaffected.

Stepping up to a shop takes the player inside where the view changes to a hires image. Here, items can be purchased or sold. After leaving a shop upon purchasing items, a hover shuttle flies back to the player’s ship to fit the item. There are a large range of items to buy, ranging from energy systems, drive systems, shields, and of course weapons. There are many types of lasers, as well as missile and rocket pods. Commodities can also be traded, and is the main way to make money. Other items aid exploration (such as ground vehicles or special sensors) as some of the more powerful items are hard to reach.

Danger lies on some planets (rogue droids or ancient defence systems), so the player can purchase a sidearm. Some planets are hazardous, so an armoured envirosuit is also needed, complete with an oxygen supply.

Stepping up to the player’s ship will take them aboard. From here, star charts of explored systems can be examined, as well as lists of installed items and the ship’s inventory. There is also an info-computer, giving detailed information about all discovered items (by choosing an item code), including how to use them. Activating the ship’s anti-grav drive will raise the ship off the ground and prepare it for flight.

The player can fly their ship across the planet surface, either navigating to another place to land, or gaining altitude. At a high enough altitude the ship leaves the atmosphere and enters space. Better drive systems give greater speed, but can also affect energy recharge rates.

Once in space, the view changes to a moving starfield, with resizing sprite objects using 16 frames for different angles. There can be other ships (some friendly, others hostile), asteroids, as well as other phenomenon to be discovered in the far corners of the galaxy… The original game only had a few things to discover, but with much more space, I can add a lot more!”

Then earlier in 2017:

“While coding my C64 RPG, I came across a reference to an old game of mine, one named Delphian. Sure brought back some memories!

You see, a long time ago during the C64 days before I started working, I had written a few games at home, one based upon Star Force, one of my favourites arcade games of the time. Another was based upon an old cartoon series named Centurions, and the last was a space/trader named Delphian.

Now Delphian was planned as a disc-only game (being written just for fun and because I owned a C1541 drive at the time). I had all sorts of ideas for it, and had parts working before something amazing happened in my life.

I got a job.

I can still remember that first interview at Orpheus, wondering if my little demos were good enough to impress anyone. Well, they were, and it was only long afterwards when the boss told me he was blown away by what I had presented. Guess that explains why on the day of the interview he asked me when I could start work.

So Orpheus wanted to publish all three of my games. Two of them were easy, both being relatively simple one-load games.

But Delphian was something else.

The idea of a disc-only game was quickly rejected, so I had to write the game as a single load tape game. Now, that caused quite a few headaches!

As for the game, Delphian worked similar to the game Elite in many ways, but my execution was quite different. I had 256 star-systems, each with 4 planets, and every planet could be flown to and landed upon. Every system had an Earth-like world, the others being inhospitable.

The player started on an Earth-like world, but to reach others they had to purchase oxygen tanks so they could walk upon the surface. Most planets had shops you could visit to purchase equipment and upgrades for your ship, items such as faster drives, longer range hyperdrives, better laser weapons, missiles and rocket pods.

The graphics style I used was resizing software sprites drawn onto a hires screen. Now, the C64 wasn’t renown for is speed, so the update rate could be slow at times. I countered this by driving the control inputs by a v-blank IRQ, updating the player position every 50th of a second. The result mean it was actually quite playable! So on the planet surface I used a raster interrupt to split the screen for the sky/ground.

Memory was a major problem! I opted to use tricks like setting the colour RAM to black so I could use on-screen RAM to store data/graphics. To further save RAM, I used an off-screen buffer for rendering, then copied it to the main hires screen. Not the fastest method, but it saved a lot of RAM!

Out in space I used resizing sprites for the enemy spaceships and missiles, as well as using hardware sprites for the player’s weapons. I also used sprites for the planetary approach, locking the planet to the middle of the screen and switching to using the hires screen when you were close enough. The view then switched to flying over the surface, following the blips on a radar scanner to find the outpost to land at. I did allow the screen to tilt a little during this phase, although the sprites on the ground didn’t.

Once landed, you could leave your ship (and see it parked on the ground). Then you could walk around and visit the various shops, one being a commodity market for trading. Also on the planet surface there were also robot droids chasing you! You had a hand laser for shooting and destroying them.

Trading was the main way to make money, and by acquiring credits you could buy all sorts of upgrades: better weapons. The final upgrade was a galaxy drive, the only way to escape the galaxy and win the game. Along the way you had to find clues to the name of the planet you had to go to to purchase the galaxy drive. Some of the planets could not be reached normally, so you had to use teleportation gates on the surface to reach them.

Code-wise, I had space for 8K of code. At the time the assembler I was using was called Rapid Assembler System (RAS). I’d butchered RAS quite a bit, adding my own upgrades like a full-screen editor, (plus lots of disc commands and other stuff I don’t remember). RAS assembled code to fit into the 4K chunk of RAM from $C000 – $CFFF. So, for my game, I assembled the code as two 4K chunks, each using a jump table at the start so that each block of code could safely access the other block through known addresses.

All other memory was filled with graphics and data, plus VRAM needed for the screen and the few sprites I allowed myself to use. Memory was so tight, I had to de-optimise the code several times just to claw back some RAM for code! The final time left me with 3 bytes of RAM left. I even clobbered a large chunk of stack space, as well as every available bit of zero-page (the first 256 bytes of RAM).

But at the end of all the hard work and bug-fixing, the game was complete, and a deal struck with a company named The Big Apple.

Unfortunately, before the game could be published, the plug was pulled on Orpheus by its owner, so Delphian never did see the light of day…

I feel sad at times that Delphian was never released. I had a lot of fun coding it, and the emotions at the end knowing it fitted into RAM… A mixture of relief and elation I seem to recall…

But right now, after so many years, I’m back to coding C64 games. Currently working on my Briley Witch RPG, a game based upon my novels, but I have this little voice inside my head that’s suggesting one day I should resurrect Delphian and let it see the light of day once more.

I have a strong feeling people would enjoy playing the game, so if anyone thinks I should, please leave a message of encouragement…”

Update history

  • 17/02/24 – Link to another post about the game.
  • 17/10/20 – Update from the author.
  • 29/11/17 – Contribution to confirm coder + link about the development
Posted in: GTW64 archive | Tagged: | 9 Comments

9 Responses to Delphian

  1. There is couple tweets from her:

    “I’ve been thinking about Delphian, an old finished but unreleased #C64 game of mine, and how to make it work on a 512k cartridge. Can make it run much faster than the original by using lots of ROM tables…”:

    Original #C64 Delphian was a 3D space trader using large resizing sprites. You could land on planets and walk around, even entering shops to buy items. It’s on my #C64 to-do list…

  2. I can confirm that Big Apple closed before releasing anything other than “Oops!”, and not even all versions of that. I worked for a company that did cross-platform conversions under contract to a number of publishers including Big Apple, and I coded the PC and ST ports of “Oops!” while a colleague did the Amiga port. I don’t think any of those three ports ever made it to market.

    Big Apple was a sideline of a large holding company with fingers in many pies. As I recollect, the parent company was itself taken over by a larger conglomerate, and Big Apple was closed immediately as it hadn’t yet generated any profits.

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