A report on the ECTS (European Computer Trade Show) of 1989 was featured by Computer Action magazine in their July/August 1989 issue, with discussion of many forthcoming games.
Inevitably, at least one of these did not come to fruition. Panic Stations from Gremlin is one example – it was also planned for the Spectrum, and probably other computers.
Panic Stations was to be a shoot ’em up in which you play a robot, trying to bring peace to a space station by destroying other robots. You had limited ammo and energy, but could collect a hover-car to travel around in (which sounds intriguing).
The screenshot in Your Sinclair shows a side-on view with a small map at the bottom, although it is not clear exactly how changing directions would be incorporated.
No game fitting the description was ever released on the C64, but graphic artist Andy Elkerton got in touch with GTW64 to confirm that he drew all the graphics in his first ever game project. The game was being developed by John Darnell of Star Paws fame for Gremlin and was actually completed. Andy described the game as pretty light hearted, where you would control a character exploring a space station, blasting away at droids which had gone out of control. There wasn’t too much to it, and not a lot of replay value – so Andy suggests this may well be why Gremlin didn’t release the game in the end.
The question now is if anything has survived of the game, and only John Darnell may now hold the key!
Do you know any more?
Contributions: Peter Weighill, Anders Hansen, Andy Elkerton
Andy Elkerton talks to GTW64 about Panic Stations:
“The programmer/brains behind “Panic Station” was John Darnell, of Star Paws fame (amongst others), and I was the graphic designer on the title. It was my very first job fresh out of art college, and my very first job in the games industry. After that I joined Mike Singleton and the amazing, but sadly hardly ever mentioned, team at Maelstrom Games as their lead artist.
It was very much a case of being thrown into the deep end when I started working with John as I’d no experience whatsoever of working in the games industry when he hired me.
If I remember rightly we didn’t have anything exotic, like Deluxe Paint (!), to do the graphics with; instead I had to settle with a piece of software that John wrote himself. It was basic but did the job well enough
I’ve often wondered what ever happened to “Panic Stations”, and I was amazed to find a site with some info about it. Pity it was never released because even though the entire experience was a steep learning curve for me, the end product looked pretty good and was a great entry point into an industry I spent the next fifteen years of my life in.
Happy days! “
Then after being asked about if the game was completed….
“Yes, “Panic Stations” was completed on the C64. After that I did a more graphically polished version for the Atari ST.
John and I were literally working out of our bedrooms on this game, and as I was an ST and not an Amiga owner, the Amiga version was going to be farmed out to someone else to do the graphics. I notice on your site that you’ve got an article from Your Sinclair, which contains a screengrab from a Speccy version. This had nothing to do with me, and I wasn’t even aware that a Spectrum version was ever going to be released.
The game itself was quite a light-hearted title in which the main character explored his way around a Space Station, blasting away at droids that had gone out of control. To be honest, there was very little substance to it and not much replay value so I guess Gremlin may have just cut their losses and scrapped it because it was too lightweight.
We did the game in ’87/88, when I was around 19 or 20. I’m 46 now, so it’s been 26 years since I last saw or spoke to John.”