Electric Dreams/Activision seemed to have a bit of a knack of having cancellations, but also games which when eventually released, looked far different to the preview screenshots shown in the press early on.
Like with Time Scanner and R-Type, you perhaps won’t be too shocked to learn that Karnov followed a similar scenario by featuring preview shots in magazines which looked a heck of a lot different to the final released version.
Karnov ended up as a very poor port of the ZX Spectrum game, very slow and buggy overall. A shame, as the Spectrum version was actually superb. However, things could have been very very different. Although one disgruntled fan of the arcade mocked up his own C64 shots for Zzap!64’s letter pages, there was a real full multi-coloured version in production at one stage – albeit, very briefly as we are about to learn.
Both Commodore User and Zzap both printed early preview shots, which you can check out for yourself in the scans area. Although not painting a picture of how the game actually would have played, it certainly looked decent enough.
Greg Duddle (programmer of the released version) didn’t know anything about another version, but we believed that it was Greg’s team that had worked on a proper C64 conversion at some stage. So we pressed on and attempted to contact others from that time.
We eventually got in touch with Don McDermott, who worked on a number of conversions in Greg’s team. He confirmed that Mr Micro at the time was overworked with projects, and there were not enough people to work on them.
Mr Micro had done the ZX Spectrum conversion first, with just Don on artwork, with Dave Jones doing the loading screen/main menu artwork (before leaving shortly afterwards). Once this was complete, the team knew that they had to get swiftly onto the C64 and Amstrad versions afterwards.
They assumed that enough time had been allocated to do the work – but nope, the team had just weeks , with the work having to be done whilst juggling other projects that had already been committed to. As a result, the hard decision was made for the C64 version to be a straight Spectrum port.
However, C64 sprites and backgrounds (as seen early on in magazines) had already been started by Don for Level 1, but were chucked away when the decision was made to do a port. Don knew the outcome wasn’t great, but the team had no choice due to the deadlines set from Activision and the limited team size.
The screens seen were Don’s graphics being ran through either a quick port of the ZX Spectrum engine or the very early beginnings of a proper C64 conversion. There was very little in the way of playable code at this stage before the decision was made to just port the ZX Spectrum code over.
Don sadly also doesn’t have anything of the early prototype work, so it could be a miracle for anything to be found or seen of this early version. If you happen to chance across anything of it, please do get in touch.
Contributions: Don McDermott, Greg Duddle, Vinny Mainolfi