Palace Software

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Palace Software started as a division of the Palace Video company, which had a large shop in London and distribution rights to several horror films. This included The Evil Dead, and Palace’s first game was based on that film. However, with the press full of stories about “video nasties” and campaigner Mary Whitehouse urging the Government to clamp down on such titles, another Palace project was cancelled – Halloween, based on the John Carpenter film.

Chris Neary, who also did the graphics for The Evil Dead, talks about the cancellation.

“I did the graphics in about 1983 for The Evil Dead (Don’t laugh!) I was working on Halloween (from the film) and had it half finished when it was cancelled. Mary Whitehouse was doing a thing about XXX rated films so the distributers didn’t order many copies of The Evil Dead.

I remember a discussion in the office about purposefully making the game ‘cute’ rather than horrifying to avoid the X rated association. You have to remember the times, the games industry was in its infancy and the graphics were really limited. I don’t think that any company could have created a truly X rated game if they had wanted to. If you consider the graphic X rating of the games that are available these days to kids these days any 1980’s game was ‘cute’.

Sadly when the Halloween project was terminated I was under contract to return all the data back to the company and/or destroy that which I had. There was one hard copy of the programming that I wrote for it which I discovered in my parents loft about ten years ago, however it had faded quite badly and would not have had any of the graphics in it. I spent about 4 months developing Halloween but it never got past the project stage.”

Richard Leinfellner helped design Halloween, but in the end there was no game. Thinking about Halloween in general, he started work on a new idea – a game that would become Cauldron. As Chris points out:

“Interestingly a couple of the sprite graphics that I created for Halloween were reworked and appeared in Cauldron, which I’m sure you’re familiar with. Richard Leinfellner went on to greater things (he’s VP of EA now), but I eventually gave up programming in about 1988.”

As for what remains, Chris is not hopeful.

“It would only be code. Back then there weren’t any games development teams as such. Programmers were individuals, they created the code, the storyline, the AI, the graphics and the sound. Being the least favourite (at least for me), sound and graphics was usually left till last. Since the game was not completed there wouldn’t be much to look at.”

Thanks to a games historian, it was revealed that Steve Brown had worked on Halloween, when it was revealed in an interview with him in Retro Gamer Issue 23, where the following was recalled:

Palace had acquired the rights to the Halloween films, so Steve Brown’s first job was to design a tie-in game. “I worked on concepts and designs,” he says, “but a tiny eight-pixel high Michael Myers trundling around the screen with a kitchen knife just didn’t make much of a game. However, the pumpkins I’d drawn looked really cool and gave me the idea to take the game in a completely different direction.”

So, did Steve just do an early concept and then Chris take over later on? We hope to learn more in the future. This could be a tough one to find, but yet another Palace game to hunt for. Do you know any more about this game?…

Contributions: Chris Neary, Roberto Nicoletti

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