After flicking through some old C64 magazines, Commodore Computing International (January 1988) highlighted a rather strange preview shot of Rastan on the C64.
Hold on… that main character looks a heck of a lot more like the arcade character – with all the gear and long black hair. The eventual C64 release had a character which looked like an animating turd in comparison (Although it still looked a good sprite).
Indeed after some comparisons – we seem to have got a rather different looking Rastan conversion than we could have done. The preview shot in CCI and also on the main advert from Ocean (The differing sprites are clear to be seen) additionally shows some vastly different mountain peaks – generally looking slightly better than the final version. What can only be assumed was that they hit problems with colour selection and character data, and had to have a rework. Recently added in 2013 was another large shot discovered in ACE magazine issue 4.
Well, we found out from the man himself, John Meegan, who had the following recollections:
“I believe Jane Lowe did one version and Martin McDonald. The change of palette was an technical choice. The problem was you only had three colours for all the sprites, and two of these were fixed for all sprites displayed. So whereas the first Rastan looked great, everything other NCP looked nothing like that in the arcade game.
The original was also too greedy on sprite usage using a combo of five and 4 sprites depending on the animation frame. The problem was when the sword / chain was in attack, that used 3 horizontal sprites and our multiplexer made the sprites tear horribly. It also chewed through memory. So for technical reasons, this was not viable.
I now remember the day the demo screenshots were taken. During an open day then, I had an extremely cringing interview with Commodore International who could see the development was in deep trouble. The game was very rough then as it had only been in development for 10 weeks and we were at an impasse due the inability to display more than two monsters or projectiles at the same time without horrendous tearing or drop out. You will notice there are no monsters or projectiles on either screenshot!
I hate to say it but Rastan was by far my least enjoyable project for Ocean Software. I didn’t like the arcade game to start with, scrolling aside it was not suited to the C64 hardware and the maps were so huge. Triggering the baddies was a real pain as we only had 32 control characters in the character set to select what type of baddy came in, their behaviour type or whether these were deadly blocks etc…
BTW – Jane was an excellent artist, but this was her first game and she didn’t understand technical restrictions. And the game needed an artist who was very technically minded. She left shortly after Rastan finished which was a shame as she definitely had the talent. But I know she found the experience just as painful as I did.
And while the c64 Rastan was a pretty poor interpretation the arcade game, it was superior to the Spectrum and Amstrad versions. I just found the core gameplay monotonous and with the restrictions knew I could not do the title any justice.
I kept no demos of the work at all. Storage was unreliable and once you’ve move house once or twice you can’t be arsed keeping all the old stuff. I don’t have any code from the games either as I didn’t believe there would be any need or interest later.”
So now we know the story behind this earlier version. Sadly John does not have anything of the earlier version, but then Jane or Martin could yet hold the key. Some big developments for this earlier version.
More soon we hope…
Contributions: John Meegan