Obliterator

Psygnosis

Status: No Download, Findability: 2/5

Now I bet you didn’t expect to learn that Obliterator was also a planned C64 title?… No?… Well, if you’re an Amstrad user you have probably played it already, where as us C64 users have suffered without a conversion of this popular Amiga classic.

There was always the odd rumour that Obliterator was being worked on, but we never got to see or hear anything of the title. That is, until Lee Cawley set the record straight and with some hard evidence.

Obliterator was in production at Lothlorien with Chris Caress (Coder of Bosconian) and Lee Cawley (Graphics man for Motos and Bosconian). This was at a time when Lothlorien was on its last legs and production became an uncertainty as staff were not paid. In particular, Lee was not paid and started working at home at one point.

Chris confirmed that the game was complete as far as the maps were concerned, with collisions and room to room transitions working.  The main player was complete, fully animated and bullets were done as well as the collision detection. The Amiga edition had terrible scrolling, and for the C64 it was requested to make it smooth scrolling. This was achieved, but was quite slow and made the gameplay much more tedious according to Chris.

None of the enemy logic was in place, but Lee had got all the artwork complete and animations working. There was also music, but no sound effects.  So overall, it was almost finished and was shaping up to be a very faithful conversion, featuring almost nigh perfect porting of the main character, and only some compromises had to be made to the squeezing in of the enemies.

Sadly, as Lothlorien went downwards, they got rid of Lee to try and save the business and the game was supposedly going to make it out.. though it never did.

15 years after the cancellation, Lee dug out his old disks in the hope of finding more of this enigmatic conversion. He found the loading screen, which for the first time can be seen in the shots page, but nothing was found of the rest of the game. This is the first and merest of glimpses you will see of Obliterator at the moment, which you can download below.

Chris Caress was later traced thanks to Lee, and he was been asked the big question about the game’s final existence. Chris spent some time checking his old Einstein disks which would have had the code on, but sadly it seems that there were only mere scraps of source code remaining and nothing to really show to the world. The only remaining hope now seems to be with Lee Cawley and if he manages to find anything else of the game – its been so many years now that it is seeming more and more unlikely.

Rumour has it that the musician Mark Wilson converted the music, but was not paid for it. We have added the tunes which Mark did, which could well have been officially asked for, and would have been used in the official game. Chris does recall there being music in the game – so it is plausible that it could have been Mark’s music. Mark himself could not recall if the music was sent to Melbourne House for use in the game, but hasn’t ruled out that this happened.

Why was the game never released? Well, it was never properly finished, and because of the troubles at Lothlorien – development was stopped and never resumed. A shame, as it was looking pretty good.

Contributions: Lee Cawley, Chris Caress, Mark Wilson, Martin/Stadium64

Supporting content

Creator speaks

Chris Caress talks to GTW about development work on Obliterator and trying to find the game:

“Sadly I have not been able to recover much data from my Einstein disks, although I have pondered if Tatung here in Taiwan could do so, but never had chance to get back to the UK long enough to dig the disks from my loft ;-)

The game was completed as far the maps were concerned, we started that task (if memory serves) because it was large conversion effort due to our limited memory. We had all the wall collisions in place and room to room transitions done. The player character was complete and fully animated and the players bullets were done as well as the collision detection.

I do not recall if I mentioned it before but the Amiga version had a horrible scroll full of terrible terrible tearing when you went room to room, on this C64 version they wanted smooth scrolling, this need to be straight line coded to be fast enough in a single frame (load and store operations for the whole screen and colour map vs a loop) but it was huge, so we actually generated the code in real time as you hit the wall which allowed for a very smooth scroll.

The downside it was much slower than the glitchy Amiga version making (for me at least) the gameplay much more tedious. We had not got any of the enemy logic in but Lee had done the artwork and the animations for them. I recall we had music  but no sound effects.

Odd I still remember this, mostly because I was excited working on a Psygnosis game as they were so cool at the time, especially the artwork and the Amiga was such a step up in graphics we were all eager to work on it.”

Chris Caress.

Lee Cawley speaks to GTW about his graphical work on Obliterator:

“One of the biggest creations I worked on that never saw the light of day was Obliterator.

The game was finished as far as I was aware but it must have got canned. It was finished around the time that Lothlorien was closing down. I had spent a couple of months working from home because there were no wages being paid. At that time very little information was filtering out about what was happening so anything could have happened to it.

I have attached something <Referring to E-mailed shot of Obliterator> that I suspect very few people have ever seen; the loading screen for Obliterator on the C64. I apologise for the quality but the s-vhs lead I made is producing a really poor picture so I have taken these with my digital camera. If I get my lead sorted out, I will send better pics.

This is how close it (Obliterator) actually got to be released. The picture itself carries a bit of a tale… after spending about 12 hours drawing the picture, the disk I had it saved on got corrupted somehow. I had a choice of redrawing the whole thing or doing the extreme. I actually rebuilt the picture sector by sector off the disk by manually tracking the file-links. It almost took me as long as it did to draw the picture so I don’t know which was worse in the end.

Obliterator was coded by a good friend of mine Chris Caress, the programmer of Bosconian on the C64. Chris later became a co-partner in a software house we formed, unfortunately, we lasted a year as the game we wrote ended up unwanted by most of the software houses. It wasn’t a bad game, it just happened to be a shoot-em-up at the same time as IO and Armalyte, stiff competition I’m sure you’ll agree. Chris moved to Barcrest as a fruit machine programmer and is still there now.

It was a mammoth task trying to squeeze Obliterator into the C64 and some compromises had to be made, namely on the enemies. All the screens were there, all the frames of animation for the main character were there but the enemies were changed to fit into the C64 limited resources. As far as the 64 was capable, Obliterator was a faithful conversion. It had some very clever routines that generated screen scroll routines as you played as there was so much information to scroll, character data and colour information for nearly a full screen.

As far as I can remember, the game was going through final tweaks as I was made redundant from Lothlorien. As far as I knew, the game was being released but as time went on, it never happened. I’m not sure if I actually have any of the in-game graphics, I will keep looking. If not, then maybe this is the only evidence remaining along with the music; that Obliterator ever existed on the C64.”

Lee Cawley.

Update history

  • 27/04/21 – Chris Caress talks about the game, and we update the write up.
  • 27/03/17 – New screens and scans added thanks to Martin / Stadium64
  • 15/02/14 – Details from Mark Wilson on the music.

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