An early days entry for a title which was being written by Glyn Williams, who wrote Cholo and Starglider on the C64.
This title was a currently unknown Helicopter game which was to be released by Island Logic (a short-lived software arm of Island Records) back around 1985.
The game was to use a technology called Polyscan, which was developed by the mathematically brilliant Caspar Bowden. He had created a proof of concept on the BBC Micro, which showed solid-filled 3D polygons. He managed to get Island Logic to pay him for the technology.
Glyn Williams had just graduated from University, and was brought in along with Joey Headen to take the technology and turn it into a game. “The Helecopter Game” was born as a game design document and the two worked on trying to get the game working on a C64.
Unfortunately the algorithm wasn’t that efficient, solving the hidden surface issues in an expensive way. It meant that Glyn and Joey didn’t get any further than technical demos, rendering a Channel-4 style ident with a handful of polygonal shapes was painful according to Glyn.
Joey suggests in a Sinclair User that Island decided they didn’t want to spend any more money and closed it down. Joey confirmed to us that Glyn and himself estimated how long and how much the game would cost to make, but the board thought that it was too much and cancelled the project. They then let Glyn and Joey go also. Joey does not recall the game ever having a title.
Glyn and Joey developed Advanced Music System software for Rainbird on the C64, with Joey developing the MIDI section. Glyn clarified that as the Polyscan technology was unworkable, they abandoned it when setting up his own company with Joey to produce games.
They however switched to a wireframe based approach, and took advantage of some of the 3D tricks they had learnt. This would help to produce Cholo and Starglider on the C64.
Sadly, both Glyn and Joey have nothing of the Helicopter game in any shape or form. It would really be a miracle if something was to surface after almost 40 years. So its almost very much a case closed for this one.
Contributions: Ross Sillifant, Joey Headen, Glyn Williams, Max Mirni
Joey Headen speaks about the Helecopter game:
“Polyscan was started by someone called Caspar Bowden [probably the MS guy from a google search] and mostly programmed by Glyn and Brian Jones. After Brian left to go to Phillips and I finished the MIDI section of AMS, I worked with Glyn to turn it into something practical. We estimated how long and how much the fully 3D helicopter game would cost, but the board thought that was too much and cancelled the project and let Glyn and I go. I don’t recall the game having a title.
They did however lend us some equipment and we started our own company, and secured a contract to do Cholo, a 3D wireframe game [with no helicoptors].
The Island Logic board was Chris Blackwell, Jean Pigozzi and Steve Jobs [as far as I recall]. There is no mention of IL in Jobs autobiography or on the internet – but his DoD travel records for 1985 show 3 trips to London which correlates with my memory, and a 1984 trip to Jamaica – probably to Goldeneye – which was a perk of working for Island, free board at Goldeneye.”
Article snippet from Sinclair User 57 with Glyn Williams:
“Joey is a man of mystery. He uses no surname! Along with his mate, Glyn Williams, he set up Solid Image one year ago. Since then, well, exactly what have they been doing?
Both studied computer science, and then Joey then became involved with ex-Buzzcock Pete Shelley, whose album he enhanced with a computer program which added graphics in time with the beat. From there, Joey moved to Bug Byte software for a while, and settled – temporarily at least-with Island Logic, the people behind the much revered Music System. Joey worked on the C64 Midi.
Next came the Polyscan Project. Sounding like a top secret government operation – actually, not a million miles away … it involved Joey and Glyn working away for months and months in order to produce three-dimensional rotating objects on 8-bit computers.
“Yes, it’s a bit of a tall order,” Joey admits “and after a few months, Island decided that they just didn’t want to spend any more money, and so they closed it down.”
Joey first began programming as a break from studying Law at university. “Someone said there was money in it, but don’t believe it.” I don’t believe it.
Solid Image find that they are only now beginning to make a name in the industry, and as a result their work involves quite a lot of doing the round of companies, seeing if anyone was interested in what they had to offer.
Cholo is their first big break. It’s a wire-frame graphics epic being produced for Firebird. They produced a vaguely Elite-style 3D graphics system, whcih could create both indoor and outdoor scenes, and then visited various people. Firebird were very interested and that’s how it happened. That was about six months ago. At the moment, the finishing touches are still being added.”
- 28/01/20 – Glyn Williams talks about the game and sheds some light. Write up updated.
- 19/05/14 – Joey Headen talks about the Helecopter game.