Macsen Software

Status: No Download, Findability: 1/5

Not sure how we managed to miss this one, but at some point there were plans for a Commodore 64 game based on the UK soap EastEnders, to be published by Macsen Software around 1987 time. The game eventually saw release on the ZX Spectrum and was panned by all for being a terrible game. C64 users were seemingly lucky and didn’t see anything released.

The question is whether anything was ever started at all, and does anything still survive of the game? It may not be great, but we’re still curious! Perhaps the game was being developed by Huw Ford, who had done some other titles by Macsen? That was our initial thought anyway.

Contributor Professor Chaos found a link to the game via Julie Dunn’s archived website, which suggests that she could well have done music for Macsen. Sadly nothing has surfaced of the music at this stage – but if the game can be found, there might be some long lost music from Julie to be recovered too.

Interestingly, the Amstrad CPC and BBC Micro platforms also have their versions missing too. So what happened overall? Was it the poor reception of the Spectrum version that killed the others?

Shortly after adding this entry, contributor Edwin Drost found a competition in Software Choice Guide – December 1986, where you win a copy of the game on the C64. Also, the advert actually features a boxed edition of the Commodore 64 game! (See scans for blown up version of the case).

Surely this must have got quite far along? Did it even see a very limited release perhaps? Gaz Spence found via MobyGames that Macsen Software closed in 1987 after owing around £350,000. It seems most likely that the C64, Amstrad and Beeb editions got caught up because of that.

On the ZX Spectrum edition, there are no credits apart from creators named as “Towers Associates”. The only game it seems they ever did was Eastenders.

Well, an Anthony Roberts got in touch with GTW and informed us that he was part of a two man programming team. He confirmed that he was holed up in a Welsh hotel for about 3 weeks before Christmas, after being commissioned by Macsen to produce the game from scratch.

The second part of the team was a Paul Towers, who was the proprietor of Towers Associates. Anthony was part of a 3-man band involved in electronic product design and development for many kinds of customers.

Both were doing all the designing and coding of the game on an Apple Mac in assembly language, then downloading to their Z80 (Zilog) for compilation, and then onto the Spectrum or C64 target using debugging tools that they had to create from scratch. This was without any real knowledge of either platform.

That’s right – the same team were creating the C64 edition too – and it was all based off the same code base. Essentially, development work was a code porting exercise from the Z80 with all the “BIOS” stuff re-written. With this C64 edition though, a 3rd person was involved by the name of Derek Laws, one of Paul’s friends who had his own software company (of which we don’t know the name).

It was confirmed that Macsen going bust was indeed why the C64 edition (and Amstrad + BBC Micro editions) never saw the light of day. Macsen went bust just as EastEnders was released, meaning they sadly never saw a penny for their efforts.

The C64 edition had only got as far as a basic version working, but was nowhere near finished according to Anthony. When asked about the chances of recovering anything, it looked very bleak. Anthony also confirmed that they had no involvement on Amstrad or BBC Micro editions.

Anthony said there was no change of recovering anything from him and he no longer had anything. He also informed that Paul Towers and Derek Laws are sadly no longer with us, and he feels as a result that nothing has survived.

This would be Anthony’s first and last venture into game development – he felt it wasn’t really his thing, as he was involved in embedded software engineering, so doing this project was way out of his comfort zone. The fact they got something done in 3 weeks was quite a shock to them.

At the very least, we may find something of the music produced for the game – but it seems unlikely that much can now be saved. If you look at the ZX Spectrum version though, that is essentially what the C64 version would have been like.

Interestingly this game was 1 of 2 parts that were planned, with a 2nd part believed to have been a text adventure game. Anthony says that they had no involvement on part 2, but there was a spoof game called “Deadenders” released – could this have been originally intended as the “Part 2” game?

Contributions: Einar Saukas, Professor Chaos, Edwin Drost, Fabrizio Bartoloni, Gaz Spence, Anthony Roberts

Supporting content

Update history

  • 12/06/24 – Coder details and lots of new info!
  • 10/09/23 – Confirmation about Macsen collapsing in 1987.
  • 09/09/23 – Added details of BBC Micro and Amstrad versions thanks to Fabrizio.
  • 28/06/23 – Edwin Drost provides a copy of competition page with the C64 version shown.
Posted in: GTW64 archive | Tagged: | 11 Comments

11 Responses to EastEnders

  1. Hi Guys,
    Let me introduce myself! I was part of a 2 main programming team that brought this Wonderful game to the Spectrum (and C64, although that one never made it to production!). We were holed up in a Welsh Hotel for 3 weeks prior to Christmas, after being commisioned by Macsen to produce this game from scratch. I have no idea where the music came from, it was given to us as a module we just called into as required. Macsen did indeed go bust, just as the game was released, and we never received a penny for our efforts!

    For what its worth, if you could see past the awful graphics, (and lack of joystick control!!!), as a strategy game it was oddly captivating.

    Hope this confirms a few thoughts.

  2. I think the most likely thing was that the company folded closely after the Spectrum release of Eastenders and the other versions did not make it out before the doors were shut. The Mobygames entry for Macsen Software states that in 1987 the “Company closed owing around £350,000”.

  3. While reviewing a similarly themed games on CPC (Deadenders, that is) the reviewer wrote: “In the UK there is a long-running soap opera (some may say too long) on TV called Eastenders. There was a game adaptation of this released on other formats, but it was never released for the CPC, and that’s despite a famous episode or two featuring product placements for the GX4000!”. So the CPC version could be a further lead.

  4. Interestingly enough, there was a Macsen Software competition in “Software Choice Guide” in December 1986. As you can see here the C64 version could be won: https://ibb.co/LZs2qZJ

    PS:If the screenshot is too fuzzy, I will make another.

    • Great spot! Thanks Professor Chaos! Will update now quickly and put in a credit. I think its very likely that she was brought in to do the music.

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