Saturday, 1 March 2014

This week: "Randy Roofer" for the Commodore 64 (1985)

Randy Roofer was a game created by Mark Burrows an 1985 for the Commodore 64.

The game follows the daily life of a roofer called "Randy". Players are given a brief intro of the streets Randy must work before we see Randy set off in his work's van.

The aim of the game is for Randy to make as much money as possible repairing roofs in his town. The player is set against a clock, so they know how much time they have to complete the jobs.

The game starts with Randy driving down his main road looking for work. As the van moves along automatically, it is up to the player to press the fire button to stop the van. This decision though is not random. As Randy must spot the speech bubble that appears with his name inside "RANDY!"

On stopping, Randy begins his work. Along the bottom of the screen is Randy's inventory of tools. These being ladders, nails, tiles, etc. For each job Randy selects all the items and tries to predict quantity for the likes of nails and slates. Then Randy climbs his ladder via joystick movement and competes the actions using fire.

The sub plot of the game would see Randy busy on a roof when a "wolf whistle" would be heard. Randy would have to quickly descend his ladder then go in the house. The player would be presented with a bar across the bottom of the screen. The joystick would then have to be wiggled to quickly to fill Randy's "Bonk Bar".  Once full an "AAARGH!" noise would be heard before Randy would complete his job.

The game progressed like this over many enjoyable levels. As each roof was complete Randy would receive cash in his account. And as his wolf whistle was answered, Randy's "Happy Bar" went up.

This was until of course players got to level 50. Level 50 was the most difficult of them all and was practically impossible to complete. The timer was short. The jobs were many. And answering all the wolf whistles and filling the bar was palm destroying. But it was possible.

Late in the year a young gamer named Simon Stamp wrote to Score Lord Magazine. With his letter Simon had posted a high score photo and questions. The editors of Score Lord were impressed with his score but confused by the 10 year old gamers questions. These questions were thus:

1. Why does Randy slow down after level 50?

2. Why does Randy not climb his ladder in level 51?

3. Why does Randy not get out of the van in level 52?

With these questions Score Lord's best players decided to investigate further. After many hours of hand numbing play, one finally managed to complete the almost impossible level 50. What came next was a little surprising for the seasoned gamers. Level 51 started as every other but there was startling differences.

Firstly Randy's glowing pink face and red cheeks were now off white. Adding to this he moved slowly to his van to start his day. His van then moved off normally and as he approached his first house the ever present "RANDY!" speech bubble was seen. With this the gamer pressed the fire button to make Randy stop. Nothing happened. Again another house was passed with the call and still no stopping. Eventually after minutes of button mashing, Randy pulled over.

Randy sluggishly checked his inventory. But instead of the healthy supply numbers, all that could be seen was random symbols like: £$%&. The gamers played on despite the set back and began fixing the roof. As expected the wolf whistle was heard and Randy descended slowly to complete the task as familiar through every level. When presented with the "Bonk Bar" though it was not red, but green.

The Bonk Bar was practically impossible to fill, but was completed after a hand shredding, 10 minute, marathon. One of the gamers decided to pass over to another game writer as he was spent. Level completed, it was now onto Level 52.

This level was odd. Randy walked to his van before, what appeared to be falling? He got up and set off in his van. Again the calls to him were made but he did not stop. At this point the gamers checked the controller ports and even changed the joystick. But Randy would not stop. The game was switched off and the Score Lord writers decided to contact Mark Burrows for an explanation.

An interview was not granted by Burrows, but he did write a letter to Score Lord. A letter which was never published.

"Dear Score Lord

Thanks for playing Randy Roofer, I'm very proud of it. Oh and well done for getting passed level 50!
I thought nobody would manage it really! What was wrong with the game then?

Well nothing. Everything is correct and there is no glitches or problems. I play tested it to death before its release. I guess I have to explain what the so called "issues" are then I suppose.

Well it was too difficult to put every aspect in the game, but I'm sure you could figure it out. Thing is, is that Randy was working hard and servicing the women, but level 51 is his change right? He starts having it off with the poofs you see and gets that dirty AIDS disease!

Ha, ha, the dirty bastard! He had all that fanny on a plate and the goes and does that! I was trying to point out what's going on now in this country. That lot are putting it everywhere and they need stopping.

My game was just about showing people that if you're it right, you know with women and that, you'll be safe.

If you let him run his van for a good 15 minutes, you'll see the end



With this awful letter Score Lord did indeed finish the game. At the end of Level 52, Randy just keeps on driving. Until he stops.

Here the gamer is confronted by a cemetery. Randy slowly wonders over to an open grave and falls in!

The end titles then read "Stay on the STRAIGHT and narrow and you won't dies like them lot!"

Mark Burrows was said to have died of an AIDS related disease, some 5 years later

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

This week: The song I Am Aren't Listening To

"Sky Dish fall"

This is the end
I can't believe the dish has fallen off again
Straight passed the patio window and then
Hear my temper burst again

For this is the end
I was just watching Glee then the signal went
So overdue I rang them
£40 quid a month they've stolen

Why'd the Sky dish fall?
When it crumbles
Will Sky stand tall?
Face it all together?

Why'd the Sky dish fall?
When it crumbles
 Will Sky stand tall?
Face it all together?
 Sky dish falls
Sky dish falls

Sky dish fall was just the start
A thousand emails and poles apart
Where worlds collide and screens are dark
You may have my customer number, you can take my name
But you'll never have my renewal

Why'd the Sky dish fall? (why'd the Sky dish fall?)
When it crumbles (when it crumbles)
 Will Sky stand tall? (Will Sky stand tall)
Face it all together? (Face it all together?)
 Sky dish falls
Sky dish falls

Why'd the Sky dish fall? (why'd the Sky dish fall?)
When it crumbles (when it crumbles)
 Will Sky stand tall? (Will Sky stand tall)
Face it all together? (Face it all together?)
 Sky dish falls

(Why'd the Sky dish fall?
When it crumbles
We Sky stand tall?)

Where you go I go
What you see I don't see
I know I'd never be me
Without the Sky security
Of your channel charms
Keeping me from harm
Put the remote in my hand
And we'll stand

Why'd the Sky dish fall? (why'd the Sky dish fall?)
When it crumbles (when it crumbles)
 Will Sky stand tall? (Will Sky stand tall)
Face it all together? (Face it all together?)
 Sky dish falls

Why'd the Sky dish fall? (why'd the Sky dish fall?)
When it crumbles (when it crumbles)
 Will Sky stand tall? (Will Sky stand tall)
Face it all together? (Face it all together?)
 Sky dish falls

Let the Sky dish fall
Will Sky stand tall?
As Sky dish falls
Oh shit!

Monday, 7 January 2013

This week:Reginald Gardener's Encrypted Passwords

Reginald Gardener's Encrypted Passwords was a game created in the 1996 for a never released system, The  Rothchester Smythe Ellipse 5.

The game its self centred around the adventures of the title character "Reginald Gardener".
In the game you are tasked with locating all the lost passwords that Reginald has has forgotten due to an unfortunate accident.

The game starts as our protagonist leaves his office at the keyring, gonk, factory. The thought bubble above Reginald's head states "WHAT A TERRIBLE DAY AT THE KEYRING GONK FACTORY!" and in the next: "AND NOW IT'S DARK AND STARTED RAINING!" Reginald then begins to make his way home in the rain, flustered and tired.

As Reginald is guided down the street by the player, he passes a local fast food restaurant called "OdOnallds". Outside there appears to be 3 teenage lads "fooling around" in a food fight. Reg' pays no head and continues home. But without warning, one of the Chicken Nuggets being thrown, misses its target and strikes Reg' on the back of the head!

The screen fades to black, then fades back in to see our hero sitting on the curb dazed. As Reg' rubs his head the thought bubble reads "WHA.. WHAT HAPPENED?" then another reads "OH NO THE NUGGET! MY FRAGILE MIND! THE ENCRYPTED PASSWORDS FOR THE KEYRING GONK FACTORY!"

So begins an adventure of a top down view point, in an 8 bit universe. From here on in Reg' will be tasked with visiting a vast universe comprised of important levels like "Mothers Maiden Name" and "First School Attended".

The game its self was created by twins John and Kevin Syllabus, along with the Ellipse 5 in there porta cabin workshop in Hyde. Bitz Bytez and Knobbly Bits magazine interviewed them at the time to see what they had created. Impressed as the reporter was with the game and the machine, he was unnerved by the brothers being "conjoined twins".

The twins themselves refused to be photographed for fear of being mocked, but did let the machine and game to be photographed. As much as companies and individuals showed interest, the machine never saw production.

It was as late as 2005 that reporter Daniel Jackson5 decided to compose a "Where are they now?" story for the brothers. Upon visiting the porta cabin, he found a very run down site with over grown ivy and little signs of life. On entering the open door, he spotted a figure sitting on the floor, wrapped in a blanket. The figure sat amongst the dishevelled work shop junk, playing a game.

The reporter never completed the assignment, and only after his suicide in 2012 (run over himself with a steam roller), the story and suicide note were found in his house. It tells of the fateful night he visited the twins. How the figure never turned away from the game, and only sAID ON THING:


The hunched figure dropped the blanket to reveal a bearded John, connected to a skeleton.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

This Week: A Competition I Am Aren't Entering

The year was 1976 and an ageing star was making a come back on kids tv show Swap Shop.
Cliff Richards was not only performing a come back hit "Devil Woman", but announcing a competition.

To aid Cliff's self promotion he announced that he was seeking a bride to be for his come back. Cliff told the viewers that he would hold open auditions the length and breadth of the country for 3 weeks solid. The proposed talent would be whittled down over the weeks with live tv shows. Each round would be judged by Cliff and two other stars, Jimmy Saville and Bruce Forsythe.

A the the televised rounds commenced the British public were transfixed, and viewing figures went through the roof. As Cliff was warm and engaging, Bruce was witty and sometimes flirtatious. Saville on the other hand was down right nasty and mean. This was topped one week when he referred to a lady from Bournemouth as "looking like a plate of offal rolled in a sleeping bag of sick".

As the rounds continued the competition moved to the countries capital. It was in this round that something unexpected happened. As the panel waited, unaware of what the next contestant looked like. Out walked A balding, ginger haired, spectacle wearing man. With a large object under a cloth. This man announced himself businessman and inventor "Clive Sinclair". Under the cloth, he revealed his "hermanoid": "Elsie".

Initially the crowd burst into laughter. Saville puffed on his cigar declaring this as "balderdash and flim flam". Forsythe saying "this is cyboring more than anything else!" But as the room quietened, one person in the theatre was falling in love. Cliff was mesmerised even before Clive switched Elsie on. Clive showed the audience how Elsie could sing and dance. Elsie knew all Cliff's back catalogue and even sang his current hit "Devil Woman" in it's clunky, robotic, voice.

With the performance concluding the judges gave their opinions. Bruce said he was "amused and intrigued" by Elsie's talents. Saville bemoaned the robot temptress saying "guys is guys, gals is gals. That's just a bean tin!" But Cliff gave the deciding vote: "You've led me to love Elsie, you're my bride!" The crowd applauded in the theatre and across the country. Cliff declared he would marry in the morning!

As the huge wedding went on, the eyes of the world watched the televised event. As Cliff declared "I do!" Elsie declared "syntax error", until the Sinclair (always near by) corrected the error. The passing months saw Cliff and Elsie honey moon around the world (with Sinclair in the back ground of every camera shot).
But by time the Wimbledon Tennis Tournament arrived, it appeared there was trouble in paradise. Spotted at the finals was Cliff and Clive, but no Elsie.

Cliff shrugged off the questions after the men's final, declaring "okay, Elsie is a little unwell. Clive will have it sorted pretty soon. Thanks!" As Cliff continued his ascension of the charts, he also released "Miss You Nights". With a performance on Top of the Pops. The back ground image being the face of Elsie.

As the year was concluding, rumours began to circulate that Cliff and Elsie had split. Indeed, media vultures pictured Cliff and Clive arguing on Hampstead Heath. By the new year, Cliff announced all ties with Clive and Elsie were cut. Nobody really found out what went in those fleeting days but Cliff managed to resurrect his career and never dabbled with robot love again. Clive went on to marry and have children of his own. Much to Cliff's managements surprise.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

This Week: Owen Hargreaves Soccer Playstation 3

With the transfer of Owen Hargreaves from Bayern Munich in 2007, Owen Hargreaves agent saw fit to promote his player's standing for his new club.
Of the many self promoting exploits Hargreaves ventured into, a video game seemed a worthy asset to his profile. With the new Playstation system hitting the shops, Hargreaves's agent: Helmet Worn decided to capitalize on this.
Approaching Sony regarding this, Worn agreed a deal to launch a game based on Hargreaves's exploits as a Manchester United player. Hargreaves was brought in early to discuss his routine at the club and also to "motion capture" his playing style.
Sony worked strenuously to capture everything that would occur in the players day to help immerse the player of the video game. It was so impressive, that Sony included Alex Ferguson himself in the game!
Once the game was released, sales were excellent. Fans declared the game to be the "next level" in football simulation. But after 3 months, gamers started to gather on internet forums to excitedly talk of how the game became really strange!
As Sony had worked so hard to programme all the elements that made Hargreaves the talented player he was. They also created a programme that was self aware! As Hargreaves became injured, the excitement of the crowds and goals lessened. These were swapped for treadmills and laps alone, on a training pitch. As this became tiresome for the gamer, it became a point of anger for the CPU Alex Ferguson!
As Hargreaves worked on the weights in the gym, a voice would be heard saying: "Off there new Own, I need yee ta do a few jorbs!" The CPU Ferguson had decided that if Hargreaves would no play, then he would earn his crust as an odd job man!
The player became dumbfounded by new tasks he where given. Painting walls, building fences, fitting windows. Even cleaning boots! As the game had morphed into the bizarre world, so had the computer Ferguson. As tasks were finished Sir Alex would arrive to give barely a whisper of credit. Owen's character started to become disillusioned as a footballer. Ferguson though, only became more demanding. More tasks were thrown at Hargreaves and his reliability slipped. It became a regular occurrence for the player to here Ferguson scream: "NOWEN,WHA' YA DOOON!" as Hargreaves errors increased.
Gamers also began to become sick of the Ribenna faced, hair trigger tempered, jock appearing. Many decided to sell the game rather feel the apoplectic rage of the unapologetic bastard. For those who stayed on, a new phrase was born: "Leave it to Hargreaves" as many cited the games mutation akin to a Norman Wisdom film.
In the end, the sadomasachistic few that clung on were rewarded with a get out. With Hargreaves stat's at an all time low, a get out clause arrived as Ferguson became bored of the "lilly livered odd job man". The player made a youtube video of Hargreaves work out and the game ended as Owen left for Manchester City.
Hargreaves himself was asked about the game's similarity to his own real time at United, with Hargreaves declaring: "no comment!"

Friday, 23 March 2012

This week: A TV Show I Am Aren't Watching: "Fathom" ITV 1987

Fathom was an ITV quiz show that ran for only five episodes in 1987.
Early in 1985, ITV bosses had become increasingly frustrated with their dwindling viewer figures, and the strength of the BBC quiz shows.
With this in mind, bosses worked closely with companies willing to invest heavily in a new show which would in turn show their goods in the ad breaks. The bosses devised a new idea that would be based around a generic quiz show format, but under the sea! This idea would be known as "Fathom".
In Fathom, celebrity contestants would be taken by submarine to an underwater base, were they would answer questions about the sea and general maritime events. The base itself was a large domed affair, which was anchored near the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. This base was manned by five full time aquatic experts and ten tv crew members.
The opening titles of Fathom showed the three celebrity contestants entering the sub and taking their seats. This was interspersed with pre-recorded footage of the contestants saying how they felt about going on the quiz. The screen would then cut the the live footage of the celebrities entering the quiz dome and taking their seats.
The show was hosted by Fred Dineage with additional support from the super computer "Depth Charge". Dineage was dressed as a ship's captain, complete with hat and jacket. Depth Charge was a cabinet style super computer with rows of flashing lights that made up a face. It was not uncommon for Depth Charge to "but in" on Dineage's questions, often causing Dineage to bite his lip before saying "thank you Depth Charge, speak when spoken to!"
Each of the five rounds would have a nautical title such as "Salty Sea Dog" which involved tasting and guessing the sea food. Or "Down Periscope" which involved a periscope dropping down for the contestant to guess the partially blurred, sea based, item. At the end of the quiz the contestant with the most points would win the "Captains Wheel" trophy before leaving with the other contestants.
Viewing figures for Depth Charge were exceptional. Bosses were elated that it was such a success. But into episode five, disaster struck. The three contestants this week were: Keith Harris and Orville, Matthew Kelly and Dave Lee Travis. The journey to the base went without error, and all contestants were excited and as Orville put it: "a little bit scared". The rounds went to plan but near the final round disaster struck.
Through one of the many viewing, port holes, a tv camera man saw to his amazement, a Hunter Class Russian Submarine colliding with the base! A large bang was heard and many staff members fell to the ground. Dineage was seen by millions to be visibly shook, but like the professional he was. carried on.
Viewers at home sat in stunned silence as the situation worsened quickly. As Dineage asked Depth Charge for the scores, another lighter bang could be heard. As the camera spun round it was apparent that one of the periscopes above Keith Harris's head, had dropped down and knocked the children's entertainer clean out!
More unsettling was that as Harris lay motionless with his head on the desk, Orville continued to speak! "I want my mummy, I want my mummy!" Screamed the duck. As Dineage stumbled for a reply, Depth Charge could clearly be heard saying "well I didn't see that coming!" As the set slowly descended into chaos, crew could be seen racing across the studio towards the away sub. The cameras kept rolling though and as one hand held camera man filmed the staff leaving, another filmed the dramatic proceedings in the dome. Matthew Kelly could be seen strangling Dave Lee Travis as Dineage pleaded for calm. Depth Charge began praying to God and then sobbing and cursing God for not giving him wheels and leaving him to die. By now the away sub was full, all but for one more place. Dineage was waving a spear gun at the other contestants as he made good his escape.
As a large crack appeared in the dome and water came cascading in, viewers could see Orville singing on his own: "I wish I could swim, right out of this bin, but I can't!"
Then the screen went blank.
ITV bosses made a 30 second apology announcement the next day, citing the incident and loss of four lives was down to the Russian submarine being off course. The shows developers never went to sea again.
Six months later, a green bearded, dishevelled Orville was rescued from a remote island in the Atlantic. His subsequent multi million selling book made his fortune. The book concept was then bought up and turned into Castaway starring Tom Hanks.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

This week: Motorway Commodore 64 1986

Motorway was a game produced by Turbo Fire Studios in 1986.
The game took 2 years to develop in the bedroom of Kevin and Barry Foam in Birmingham.
The idea of the game was to drive from one destination to the next. Kevin (the elder of the two brothers) convinced his younger brother Barry, that the game should not contain elements of other games, such as count down timers, chasing/being chased by other vehicles. Not even crashes.

Instead the game would be accomplished by driving from point A to B on a map from the first screen. Once the root had been plotted, the view switched to an in car view of a Mini Metro. The controls were the first stumbling point for first time players as they were vast. The "phone book" sized manual informed players that not only would the joystick be used for control of speed and direction. Virtually every key on the keyboard would be used also!

Some of the many keyboards commands were as follows: "Space bar" would work the wind screen wipers when it rained. Simple enough it would seem, but for the wipers to stay on the space bar had to be held down! If a player found this a problem then it was just the tip of the iceberg. For instance the "Z" key controlled the car's choke. The choke had to be set before the car could even be started. Gamers found themselves quite often "flooding" the engine by leaving it open too long. It was often found the young gamers enlisted the help of dad to start the car. Unfortunately this also lead to many fathers informing sons that "if we want to make it to Stoke son, we'll have to let me do the driving!" and sons returning to their fathers complaining "are we there yet?"

Many gamers actually thought the game flawed as some of the commands never worked. In fact this was not the case. Barry Foam stated in an interview some years later: "Kevin was such a control freak, he just ignored many of my ideas, I had to do something. So basically I made it so the car was continually knackered and needed you to limp through the game or break down!" Such things as faulty window wipers, faulty lights, brakes, and worst of all, a radio that when switched on could not be switched off!

Though the game became quite tiresome after hours of play, Barry managed to sneak in some more enjoyable elements. Firstly was the petrol stop. Although Kevin knew of this, and indeed helped Barry develop this part. He did not know how Barry had changed it. For starters Barry had made the fuel gauge highly unreliable. This meant that depending on how fast you were going, the needle was pointed to "full" then suddenly "empty". Gamers became worried sick looking for the turn off for services, to the point many developed back pain and nervous ticks.

When gamers did fuel up, they found the first of Barry's surprises. First was the ability to simply fuel up and drive off! Indeed many found this to be more fun than anything! The second was the toilet stop. Barry had quite mischievously made a point of a player icon that filled up a yellow and brown colour at once! Gamers raced their character to toilets to find "out of order" signs and blocked lavatories. If all was well they could use urinals to fire a jet of urine at a cigarette but, walking the length of the urinal to "sink the battle ship".

When the game finally came out, most gamers were intrigued by the elements Barry had installed. It sold progressively well leading to a sequel: More Motorway. It was at this "junction" the brothers split in gaming became apparent. Kevin was angry with Barry's betrayal of his idea of gaming and this lead to solo development. As Barry's eye for the ridiculous lead him to games like Dick Spring's: Cow Tipper and Archibald Fallon's Magical Markers. His brother faired less well with Bus Que and Gas Meter.

Sadly penniless and jealous of his brother's fame, Kevin went on to work for the highways agency, designing contraflow systems.