down in the Docklands
CRASH, September 1985
In an office block in the
middle of a windswept plaza in Liverpool's dockland, just
across the way from the deserted and sorry-looking offices
of Bug Byte, is the home of Odin. Not the big cheese Norse
god, but the software house, born of Thor. And the software
house which until recently had Mark Butler as a director.
Odin was brought to life by Paul McKenna, the main man behind
Thor - the publishing company responsible for such games as
Jack and the Beanstalk, Giant's Revenge, and
The House That Jack Built. Thor is a publishing company,
rather than a programming company, concentrating on the marketing
and distribution side of software, rather than on writing
games. Towards the end of last year, when the ideas for Nodes
of Yesod began to take shape, a new company was formed.
Totally separate from Thor, it was set up to produce original
software rather than publish it, and a team of programmers
Mark Butler was made a director of Odin, having worked as
a freelance consultant for Thor - but it wasn't long before
the deal set up between Paul McKenna, Mark Butler and Mark's
friend Heather Lamont went sour. Mark departed at Paul McKenna's
insistence - and Paul is not best pleased with what went on.
Something to do with having the Odin telephones disconnected,
as a result of Mark's call to BT . . . what an Imagine-ation
the lad has! But enough of that.
February this year, work was well under way on Nodes,
and the new company finally got its name, Odin. 'We could
see that Nodes was going to be good from day one,'
Paul McKenna explained, 'for instance there are 64 frames
of animation just for that one character'. And his confidence
was justified - Nodes was a CRASH Smash in the August issue.
One or two magazines, however, have commented that Nodes
of Yesod was a cynical attempt to collect together all
the best features of a range of games and package them together
in one best-selling game. Paul McKenna is not impressed by
this line of thought. 'I refute that. . . sure there are elements
of other games in there', he argues, 'but it's rare for something
to be totally original nowadays. There's nothing wrong with
taking established ideas and implementing them better. It's
a wise thing to do, when you think about it'.
We had to agree. Nodes was a worthy Smash, and the
work that has gone into the graphics and animation, and the
little details like the munching noise made by the mole, add
up to a very slick package indeed. And judging by the screens
under development for the C64 version of the game, our chums
on ZZAP! should be well impressed when it arrives - the same
attention has been paid to details, and full use has been
made of the Commodore's musical capabilities. But enough of
this C64 digression, back to the Spectrum.
Odin has got together a sound team of programming talent.
Some from Software Projects, some from Imagine - and one fellow
from an un-nameable company (v. hush hush!). Nodes is being
converted, in house, for the Amstrad, C64 and MSX (!) while
work is underway on the next release, Robin O' the Wood
[released as Robin Of The Wood]. The third Odin game,
which should see the inside of computer shops during October,
is to be called Kimera. We promised to keep quiet about
Kimera, but let's say it will be a totally novel computer
game. Nuff said.
Robin O' the Wood follows the legend of the famous
green-clad folk-hero of Sherwood - the Saxon hero doing his
bit against the Norman occupation forces. A sort of English
Resistance. Odin's game is set in Sherwood Forest - Robin's
home territory - and the evil Sheriff has arranged an archery
contest with the aim of capturing or killing Robin, thereby
ridding himself of a Lincoln Green thorn in his side, once
and for all. The prize is the silver 'Shaft of Power', an
engraved arrow which is part of the Saxon heritage and is
more important to the Saxon people than the crown of their
kingdom itself. The Sheriff knows that Robin will have no
alternative but to attend the tournament and attempt to win
the arrow, and he has filled the forest with Norman soldiers
under order to shoot on sight. Robin has to find his way to
the Sheriff's castle, so he can compete in the archery tournament.
Naturally, you play the part of Robin in the game, and have
to find your way through the forest, collecting weapons and
killing Normans, as you search for the Sheriff's castle. All
is not sweetness and light, down in Sherwood. You don't start
the game tooled up with a variety of weapons - they have to
be acquired - and apart from little blue marauding Normans
out to kill you, there are a number of hazards on your route
to the castle. Tread on a hedgehog, for instance, and you
are wounded and can't run so fast!
Without giving away too much of the game, the odds are not
stacked totally against you . . . if you are injured in a
fight with a Norman you will be incapacitated, but you can
be healed if you visit the hermit - and a friendly Ent (remember
the walking, talking trees in Lord of the Rings?) can be bribed
to offer you a little assistance in finding the castle. And
of course there is a witch . . . who can be a hindrance, or
a help, depending on what you have to offer her. And the traditional
Robin role can be fulfilled by beating up the fat purple Bishop,
who spends most of his time robbing the poor - duff him over,
get his moneybags and give them to the ENT for redistribution
to the poor.
When we visited Odin, the game was well under way, and with
a bit of gentle arm twisting, we managed to persuade Paul
Salmon - the artist working on the screens for the game -
to let us take a couple of shots. A great deal of effort went
into producing the pictures presented on these pages . . .
Jeremy wielded the camera while Graeme and Paul took off their
coats, stood on chairs and shielded the TV screen from the
rays of Liverpool's setting sun. As can be seen, the effort
was worthwhile. A great deal of care has gone into animating
the characters in the game and the routines for fighting are
quite cunning - for instance, there's no point in trying to
biff a Norman with your quarterstaff if he's across the other
side of the screen, so you'll just have to shoot him with
your bow and arrow - and if you've got one it'll be used automatically
when you attack.
All in all, Robin promises to be an excellent game - look
out for the full review in our October issue . . . meanwhile,
you could have a go at mapping Nodes of Yesod and entering
the Odin competition - you could be among the first people
to have a copy of Robin O' the Wood!