Virtual Life

Status: Preview, Findability: 3/5

This is a promising looking preview of a game which reminds me slightly of Cyberdyne Warrior. Its a nice preview, with some fair (If jumbled) graphics in places. The main sprite moves very well and in places the graphics look nice, like in the shop screen. The preview features no sound, and it has recently come to light about the game’s existance thanks to its coder, Kevin Murphy.

You may remember Kevin for his game "Thrustaball" which appeared on ZZap’s covertape back in the early 90’s. Kevin created a variety of good quality games, but sadly never got the break he deserved.

After/during the new incarnation of Thrustaball to be sold abroad (Mega Thrustaball), Kevin was working on Thunderzone, which was probably his most ambitious of his game creations. Various levels and bits were created with the intention of probably going Multiload.

As quoted from "Creator Speaks", Kevin describes the game… "The idea of the game, was basically to trudge about the various levels shooting at and blowing up various unstable nuclear reactors, using teleports to zip about the level and shooting aliens and collecting pickups and credits to spend on weapon upgrades in a shop."

The game was sent to Legendary Designs on various occasions in its various forms for playtesting, and feedback was given for improvements etc.

The game got to quite an advanced state, more advanced than what can be seen from this "Very early preview", as Kevin describes it. Later it had a full working shop, fully upgradable weapons, aliens and sfx. There was also a variety of levels created too.

Unfortunately, due to Mega Thrustaball not being sold and Kevin not recieving the payment he was due, he lost heart in the project and scrapped it. So at the time just an advanced preview existed (Near to completion). The game was later to resurface in 1997 under another programmer taking the helm. (This also got scrapped and no further progress was really made).

Kevin sadly does not have any of his work any longer, though there are two places to look.

For one, Legendary Designs will have a later preview if members still exist. A developer called Michael Reichmuth, who worked on Thunderzone and started up the project again in 1997, is also someone else who is likely to have the later versions. Other than that, Kevin mentioned a friend who possibly may have still had copies of all his work… and guess what!…. He DID!….

Jason Steele had very luckily kept all his disks from 20 odd years ago, and still had all of Kevin’s old work and has very kindly backed it all up and preserved it for Kevin!… Kevin has released all of the new work, and now GTW has added the extra bits to the archive

You can now find some new bits in the download link! :-) …. The new version, includes aliens, the ability to purchase new weapons and 2 levels. There were actualy 3 levels designed but Kevin is pretty sure the third level is now lost forever.

Now included in the zip file are 2 new .d64 files. The file T1.d64 contains the game v2.prg file, this is level 2 of the game. The file T2.d64 contains the TZ Demo.prg file and this is a version of level 1 of the game, with player to alien collision detection disabled and maximum credits, so the player can purchase all the weapons and explore the level. There are also editors and bits which were used for the game, and also a logo of somekind for the game.

Some fantastic findings, and we are very glad to add these to the archive with this preview!… A big thanks to Jason Steele for helping preserve more of Kevin’s game!….

Contributions: Kevin Murphy, Michael Reichmuth, Jason Steele

Supporting content

Available downloads

Creator speaks

Kevin Murphy speaks to GTW about work on Thunderzone and his past...

"I had written several games before Thunderzone, trying to break into the games industry but not having much luck. I had written 3 games previously called, Thrusterball, Rainbow Chaser and Zytron.

Having had these games rejected by various publishers i decided to try and sell them myself as a 3 game package via an advert in zzap64.

I made only a handful of sales with that advert at the time but it did introduce me to a company in Belgium called Legendary Designs. A fellow by the name of Ben Hermans wrote to me saying how impressed with the games he was and how he would like to try and improve on Thrusterball by adding some music and a front end and then trying to find a publisher for this new improved version.

This i agreed to and in due course the game enhancements were made and the game was re titled Mega Thrusterball.

After i had completed my version of the game and after being rejected by various publishers i decided to throw away the source code for the game as i thought it wouldn't be needed anymore. This turned out to be a bit of a mistake as Ben Hermans kept writing to me asking for the source code as he needed prove the game was his to sell.

Anyway, after various phone calls and letters back and forth from the UK to Belgium i was eventually informed that a publisher had been found for the game and payment would be forwarded to an account of mine in due course.

This was the last i ever heard from Legendary Designs and Ben Hermans. I didn't see any payment for the game or received any further correspondence. After being rejected by various publishers and now being blatantly ripped off ( as i saw it ) you can imagine i was rather depressed.

During all this correspondence. time with Legendary Design's i was writing a new game which i decided to call Thunderzone. I sent various versions off to legendary Designs for play testing and feedback and they were quite helpful in making suggestions and seemed quite keen on taking the game on and finding a publishing as they did with Thrusterball. I had made several levels for the game which i intended to be a multi load, although i hadn't written any disk or tape IO routines yet.

I consider this game along with another of mine as my best c64 work and my most ambitious.

I idea of the game, was basically to trudge about the various levels shooting at and blowing up various unstable nuclear reactors, using teleports to zip about the level and shooting aliens and collecting pickups and credits to spend on weapon upgrades in a shop. I actually thought the game was a bit monotonous to play, but that's probably due to all the play testing that i did with it but various friends seem to enjoy playing it.

Again i sent off various demo's of the game to publishers and i was met with un interest by most. I remember the most promising feedback i had was from Mastertronic, who just asked me to forward my CV to them which i didn't bother doing. They had rejected my game and that's all i cared about at the time. I had a lot of fun writing the game but as you can imagine i lost interest after the Thrusterball incident and didn't bother completing it.

I don't own any source code for any of my games now but i do have a friend who might. He used to collect all sorts of bit's and pieces and knowing he was a fellow coder too he might still have something. It's a tall order though as many years have passed since writing the game.

And as i recall i placed a cheat mode in the shop section for 9999999 worth of credits to buy any weapon. I think it was simply a case of clicking the cursor on various parts of the shopkeeper, like his eyes etc. Although i've not yet tried it in the version available for download on your site.

The preview version of Thunderzone available on your site is actually a very early version. Probably version 1 i sent to Legendary Designs. The game i remember was at a quite advanced state, with a full working shop, fully upgradable weapons, aliens and sfx and 3 or 4 different levels too. A bit disappointing that only the early version exists at present.

It's quite amazing that in that preview there appears various credits such as Code by Fletch and Doc and copyright Virtual Life etc. LOL, That's all news to me. I've no idea who Fletch and Doc are, i guess the front end coders and i've never heard of Virtual Life either. lol.

I hope that sheds some small amount of light of the game. :)

I am still programming games and demo's on the pc to this day. Just as a hobby. I never did make it into the games industry as a pro. Life takes some funny turns.

And i must praise you on an amazing web site You've brought back a lot of very very good memories for me. Damn i loved the C64. A great machine."

Kevin Murphy.

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