Next level drama, and it was called Bandersnatch

18.01.2023 0 By admin

In 1984 a game was promised that would be so significant, so ground breaking, that it would change the world of not just gaming,but computing as well.

This heralded piece of software was teased through an array of clever advertising, news stories, and even made it’s way onto a TV show.

Even if you didn’t own a computer, this
was exciting stuff, but if you did, this was

next level drama, and it was called Bandersnatch.

Now for UK Netflix viewers, this might sound
familiar, given an interactive TV show that

riffed on the idea was screened just a few
years back, but for anyone else, it may just

be a myth, a legend, a fictional character
from Lewis Carroll’s 1871 Through the Looking

Glass, or even an entire book itself; Bandersnatch,
an adventure story by Desmond Lowden, released

in 1969.

Whatever your connection, it’s time to get
to the bottom of it;

1980 was the infancy of the UK micro-computer
scene.

It was the year that Sinclair released what
was widely considered to be the first affordable

home computer, the ZX80.

It was the year that Sinclair’s main rival
launched their Atom computer.

It was also the year that a company Bug-Byte
was formed, to capitalise on this new craze

of hardware, which of course, needed software.

Founded by Tony Baden and Tony Milner it was
a pioneering force for developing games on

these early machines, but really, this was
just the beginning.

By 1982 the computing scene had advanced rapidly,
Acorn had produced the BBC Micro, Sinclair

had introduced the ZX81, Commodore the VIC20
and on the horizon was the C64, along with

another Sinclair product, the ZX Spectrum,
which would truly transform Britain from a

quaint little island, to a digital beacon
packed with home micros.

Naturally more software houses would pop up
to meet this demand, with three members of

Bug-Byte; Mark Butler, David Lawson and Eugene
Evans forming one of these; Imagine Software

on 17th September 1982.

As a Bug-Byte Sales Manager and Programmer
respectively, Butler and Lawson would run

the company with Evans brought on board also
for his programming finesse.

Working out of Liverpool studios, from the
go, Imagine had a different feel to other

software houses.

Games like Arcadia (which was actually written
by David Lawson) were an instant hit, offering

a fun, fast frantic experience, whilst Alchemist
offered chunky sprites and shipped on a glorious

gold cassette.

Quirky titles like this quickly put Imagine
at the forefront of the UK’s game industry,

and that’s despite some of their other games
being somewhat rushed, buggy affairs.

But Imagine also had time on their side; they
were one of the first companies to start developing

for the ZX Spectrum and therefore, faced less
competition in the market.

It was this early, pioneering success then
which led to this;

[FAST CARS]

Very early on, Imagine employees were known
for leading lavish lifestyles, and that was

never more true than with founding member
Eugene Evans.

As one of Imagines’ leading -and reportedly
best paid- software engineers, he was involved

in some of their pioneering titles and was
heralded as a poster boy for bedroom programmers,

who also wanted to live a fast life, driving
fast cars, whilst creating the thing they

loved already…

video games.

But Evans hadn’t stumbled into this world
by luck, in 1980 he secured a job at Microdigital;

one of the first computer retailers in the
UK.

At this point he was a mere assistant, but
it spurred his passion and also allowed him

to meet Bruce Everiss.

As Microdigital’s founder and Managing Director,
Everiss had a wealth of experience; experience

that would be key to Imagines ongoing success,
and so, lured with Imagines’ initial work,

was brought on as Operations Director before
1982 was out.

By 1983 Imagine were so successful that their
payroll would peak at 125 employees.

For a software company focussing on the ZX
Spectrum so early in it’s life, this felt

like an insane number of people.

One of those coders was John Gibson.

“At the back of mind all the time is whether
it’s going to be as good as the last one,

because people expect it of you, they do really…
and the critics in the magazines; the first

thing they’ll say if it’s not as good as the
last one is, it’s not as good as the last

one!”

Having completed one of the Analyst Programmer
Course that the government were pushing to

try and create a computer literate population,
he snagged a job at Imagine because he’d

also taught himself ZX81 machine code on the
side.

At the age of 35, he was known as “Grandad”
among his younger co-workers.

He was an exception in a sea of inexperienced
youth, and in an interview with The Retro

Hour he recalls how Imagine were growing at
such a pace that they had already moved into

their third office, without bothering to stop
paying rent on the previous two.

It’s obvious at this early stage that Imagine
cared more about their image than their finances.

You see, whereas a lot of early 8 bit software
was made by lone coders, Imagine dreamt of

a world with dedicated teams for graphics,
sound, gameplay and ideas.

More than coders, this was a film studio for
games, and really they were ahead of their

time.

Some of the titles they released this year
would offer glimmers into this world…

whilst others, well, they were pretty naff
to be honest.

Gibson recalls how 1983 had a lot going on;
but it was an £11million deal with Marshall

Cavendish (who created this unforgettable
series) and their computer magazine, Input,

to produce cover tapes which really made Imagine
swell at the seams, but at the same time there

was a secret deal with Atari in the works,
and the whole of 1984 to plan games for.

So to people both in and out of Imagine, everything
looked exciting & hunky dory on the surface.

The constant stream of job adverts in the
press just compounded that.

However, problems were already starting to
develop behind the scenes.

Imagine had grown at such a frenetic rate
that some of the more mundane, administration

work had perhaps fallen between the cracks,
and those cracks were starting to widen.

[OMINOUS DARK TONES]

By 1984 Imagine were in every publication
thanks to the huge sprawling ads created by

Stephen Blower from Imagine’s offshoot design
arm, Studio Sting.

Blower himself also held a stake in Imagine
and so worked in it’s best interests.

To the outside they looked unstoppable.

But game advertising wasn’t their only trick,
their main PR win was actually down to Bruce

Everiss’s decision to also promote the people
of the company, rather than the product, in

the same guise as pop stars.

“Name a business where your talents could
be worth a million pound deal.

Where your products sold by the thousand and
earned you fanmail from all over the world…”

One of his master strokes was to hire a PR
firm to make the main guys seem glamorous

and sexy.

Of course this was backed up by the firm’s
sponsorship decisions and those expensive

cars; Eugene Evans had a Lotus and people
like John Gibson would often be seen driving

the company’s Porsche about.

But not all that glitters is gold, and with
gloom on the horizon, the veneer was about

to be tested.

You see, in 1984 the video game market exploded,
but not in a good way, this was an explosion

of software PIRACY.

Yep, using a simple double cassette deck like
this one, you could insert your mate’s game,

pop in a blank cassette and within 5 minutes,
have a perfect working duplicate…

well, maybe after a few attempts.

But it was this which got the Imagine management
worried, especially when unscrupulous traders

realised they could create thousands of virtually
identical game copies and sell them down the

market, leaving Imagine completely out of
pocket.

“This is a commercially pirated copy, as opposed
to something somebody’s made at home.

Now with this kind of situation we obviously
suffer a commercial loss, because the total

number of programs sold is dramatically affected
by the fact that we’re not making all the

programs sold.

I think our real problem in the industry is
people making copies for gain on a large scale”

Up until now, they thought they were indestructible,
that the money would just keep coming in,

but, as things started to slow, the issues
of paying their outstanding bills, their outstanding

TAX and their outstanding VAT (which we’ll
get to) all of which fell to Finance Director

Ian Hetherington, became more and more of
a problem.

The solution they came up with was a Dongle.

A device that would sit in the back of the
ZX Spectrum, or even Commodore 64 and prevent

their games from running without it.

So, even if Johnny from across the road copied
your version of Zip Zap, they’d still need

to have the Dongle to play it.

Imagine postulated that, as long as they kept
creating unmissable games, they could start

shipping them with a Dongle, and both their
piracy and therefore cash-flow woes would

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be solved.

This Dongle would essentially be a simple
resistor array.

The game would poke some pins on the expansion
slot, look for the correct response, and then

only load if it got one.

But quickly, the team realised the greater
potential here.

If they could slip another, say 64KB of RAM
into the dongle too, which could be bank switched

with the Speccy’s own 48KB, then they could
make a game grander than anything witnessed

before.

They could virtually guarantee that their
games were a cut above the rest, and therefore

well and truly unmissable.

This then was the dawn of THE MEGA GAME.

It was also around this time that the BBC
were looking to create a new episode of Commercial

Breaks; a series which examined pioneering
companies trying to break into new markets;

with the personal computer so new, it seemed
like an obvious avenue to go down.

It also seemed obvious to pick Imagine Software
for this task, given the hype surrounding

their brand, and so, Paul Andersen, the show’s
director approached David Lawson who immediately

saw the marketing potential of documenting
this new chapter in Imagine’s story.

“Do you get much feedback from your customers?”

-“Yes, we get a lot of letters.

A lot of letters praising the games, and asking
for autographs”

“They want the autographs of the author of
the game?”

-“Yes (chuckles)”

The series is based in Imagine’s spacious
third -and final- office.

It shows the cars.

It shows board meetings, but crucially it
also shows John Gibson working on a ZX Spectrum

game called Bandersnatch.

[Bandersnatch clips]

Now, far from the game Charlie Brooker would
have you believe on that multiple choice Netflix

production, the actual Bandersnatch was a
side scrolling platformer, but it was being

designed with elements never witnessed in
the world of gaming before, and possibly since.

Here’s Mark Butler explaining the concept
in incredibly vague detail;

“Well if you look at a normal cassette game,
at the moment, or as it was, we’ve come

to the limits of the machine.

Whatever machine it was, we cannot go any
further, so you’ve 480 software houses in

Britain, producing the same version of the
same game.

Although it might look slightly different,
they call it another name, it’s still all

the same.

We want to do, as we said two years ago, something
different”

“and this is it, Bandersnatch, which when
finished, Imagine claim, will take you into

a fantasy world”

Now I don’t know about you, but the way
Butler describes it, even here, is insane.

He’s calling every game the same thing,
and claiming this new one will be different,

simply because it’s got access to more memory,
seen here in a prototype stage, across several

development boards.

What that memory allowed, Imagine claimed,
was for Bandersnatch to offer a world with

more depth than anything experienced before…
a bit like the keys on that keyboard.

Corrr, listen to the clunk on those bad boys,
which by the way are the SAGE IV development

systems Imagine used alongside Apple II’s
to write the game.

“we’ve done things like, we’ve got cartoon
animation in the game – which you couldn’t

do in an ordinary computer.

We’ve got real sound, we’ve got real control
and we’ve got a real life animated figure,

which you can do literally anything you want
with”

But even at this stage, the game was beginning
to drain Imagine’s already limited resources.

Both in terms of staffing and in terms of
having the memory boosting add-on put together

out in China.

“The investment we have to make is approximately
2 million pounds”

A figure that, according to Commercial Breaks,
was double Imagine’s profit for 1983.

But given they’d only recently signed an
£11million deal with Marshall Cavendish,

surely this would be no real problem…. would
it?…

[BLEAK MUSIC]

Away from the rolling cameras pre-booked adverts
starting appearing in all the main gaming

magazines; Sinclair User, Personal Computer
Games, Your Computer, and of course Crash,

and as usual, Imagine were up to their tricks
of building hype around its people.

“THEY MAY BE SMILING NOW, BUT THEY ARE ABOUT
TO ENCOUNTER…..

PSYCLAPSE & BANDERSNATCH”

“When such computer wizards as Ian Weatherburn,
Mike Glover, John Gibson and Eugene Evans

are locked away for weeks on end anything
can happen”… as they stand illuminated

by light pouring from a screen symbolic of
the ground breaking adventures they’re creating.

This Advert was first seen in February 1984
editions of magazines.

By March an update was out.

“PROGRESS REPORT….

it was only a few weeks ago that…(the aforementioned)
were given their original brief….

Produce the two most exhilarating computer
games ever…..

Rumours abound they’re adventure games,
they’re arcade games, they’re completely

original concepts in computer entertainment….

CAN YOU CONTAIN YOUR PATIENCE”

Absolute classic anticipation building Boulderdash…
sorry, I mean Bandersnatch.

What these adverts contained was zero details,
but lots of excitement.

The following month, was another teaser.

This time “Reinforcements arrive!”

in the guise of the graphics and audio people;
Steve Cain, Ally Noble, Dawn Jones, Abdul

Ibrahim and Fred Fray.

But again, absolutely devoid of any details.

And that’s because Imagine just didn’t
have any substance to give.

Any journalist who asked was met with the
same response;

“Questions like “what is the objective
of the game?” tend to earn an odd stare

at Imagine from people who prefer to talk
about the “concepts” involved in the “mega”

games.”

(C&VG August 84)

According to Bruce Everiss, the guys were
put into teams of two, but the only game which

seemed to be advancing was Bandersnatch, and
that’s because John Gibson was working hard

on it, adapting the engine from one of his
earlier games; Zzoom, to fit the new requirements.

From Gibson’s perspective though, he didn’t
really have anything to work with either…

“The pixel graphics were beautifully drawn
by Ally and Steven,

some of the other artists, but you know, they
had tonnes of frames

of animation, and these giant sprites… and
although the render

engine could handle it, the memory couldn’t.

So we ran
out of memory almost before we started it.”

Ironically, what Imagine did have, was a lot
of the guff to go around the game.

A big box, reminiscent of games sold in America.

Box art.

Instruction art.

Story boards.

Even the outline of a story itself.

In 2015, an auction for the Bandersnatch concept
art went up for grabs.

Unfortunately I must have been asleep, because
it passed me by, but it didn’t pass legendary

Ocean graphics man Mark Jones up, who managed
to get some scans from the seller before it

sold.

What we see here then is representative of
what would have been in the Bandersnatch box,

and it’s those words “Free Format Games
Concept” which is really at the heart of

the Mega Games idea.

“The location for the game will be a distant
space colony on the outer edge of a large

galaxy.

The idea is that this is a new-moon like world
which has been colonized mainly because of

its rich content of a new crystal….

However the planet is not heavily populated
since it is a totally airless world with only

one small spaceport, and life is only possible
in one of the 8 citydomes scattered over the

light side of the moon….

You enter the scene as a well-known criminal
on the run from the Galactic Police….

Playing the game will be as described in the
concept above, with no single task to make

up the game.

Some of the ways to play the game could include
amassing money by gambling/stealing, trying

to destroy the domes by exposing the crystals
to the air, or simply trying to survive and

avoid capture by the Galactic Police Force”

Further documents note that you’d be able
to talk in real time through speech bubbles

to a wealth of characters, you’d be able
to perform a number of actions at any time,

you’d be able to pick up and collect whatever
you wanted, walk through any doors available,

even decorate your own spaces with trophies,
or anything else you’d collected.

Bandersnatch was really geared up to be one
of the very first sandbox games.

Almost like an online role playing adventure,
just without the online aspect, and instead

some crude AI.

And it would all be controlled through the
joystick.

The player could access speech bubble commands,
open up a window to see their inventory or

even open up an Enquiry window to perform
various commands.

The scope of the game was truly immense.

As for Psyclapse.

Well even by the Summer of 1984, it was still
very much in the planning stage, and this

wasn’t going unnoticed, especially with
a release date of just a few weeks time.

With the Speccy dominating UK sales Commodore
owners had always been an afterthought at

Imagine, and this hadn’t really changed.

You see, it turns out that Eugene Evans, who’d
written some Vic20 software, wasn’t actually

a star programmer as the PR team would make
out.

You might note earlier that I said he was
involved with some of their pioneering titles,

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and he was, just not the main person behind
them.

Sure, he was great at being a front man, great
at talking to the press and he was great at

helping out here and there, but the bulk of
the work was done by Gibson and other coders

who were starting to be in short supply.

Even the lotus wasn’t owned by Evans, it
was leased to him from the company.

Imagine’s mask was starting to fall.

According to John Gibson barely any programming
work was ever done on Psyclapse itself, and

really it was always on the back burner unless
Bandersnatch could actually be pulled off.

From a fan perspective, all the magazine articles
served up was vague outlines of a story;

“The game introduces anoth- er hero but
this one is from Planet Earth and is from

this century.

Johnny Lamb is a vet- eran of the Vietnamese
war and, just like Veil in Bander- snatch,

his only definite aim in life is to survive.”

Cool.

Sounds great.

Which is also what distributers were starting
to say sarcastically in June 1984 when approached

by Imagine’s sales manager, Sylvia Jones.

With the rising costs of the Mega Games, Imagine
started trying to bulk out the idea with all

sorts of added gumf; T-Shirts, stickers, keyrings,
audio tapes anything that could potentially

fill out the box and justify the eye-watering
retail price of £40, about 10 times the cost

of a typical game at the time.

“Sylvia has come to see Imagine’s Birmingham
distributer.

He wants to discuss the slow selling old games,
but Sylvia would rather interest him in the

Bandersnatch mega game”
-Good to see you again”

“When are we going to see it Sylvia?

Bandersnatcher?”

-“Probably about 4 weeks”
“How are we seeing it?

Are you going to send us samples?”

-“We’re going to give you a preview”
-“I can tell you there’s 25, possibly 30 items

in the box…”

“That sounds complicated”
-“It’s going to retail at about 40 pounds…

£39.95”
“Everytime I speak to you it goes it”

-“It goes up, yeah… you’ll get used to it
though”

You’ll note how they touched on Imagine’s
slower selling older games there, and how

Chris Hedges of Express Marketing was more
interested in that.

Well this is where things truly start to crumble
for

the company.

[OMINOUS TONES INTENSIFY]

If we just roll back a year, to the Autumn
of 1983, we land in Imagine’s, and indeed

the industry’s, peak selling period – Imagine
had claimed to have made £6 million in the

first 6 months alone – and given their success,
Imagine had a trick.

According to Crash magazine, who reported
on the whole debacle, that trick was to book

the entire duplicating capacity of Kiltdale;
one the the biggest cassette duplicators in

the software business.

The premise essentially was to push other
publishers out, and flood the shelves with

Imagine titles, meaning punters would have
little choice than to buy their software.

Industrial sabotage if you will.

However the reality was Imagine were then
left with hundreds of thousands of tapes,

which had already cost them 50p each to duplicate,
but also now not only needed costly storage,

but could no longer be sold in the quieter
post Christmas period of 1984.

Everiss had predicated that the market would
just double every year, but in 1984, it shrank,

and not only that, competition from the likes
of Ultimate Play the Game were hotting up

the market.

Imagine’s solution was then to lower the
price of their software, which might sound

great on the surface, but meant retailers
now had Imagine stock which had cost them

more than the new RRP…. and this wasn’t
the best time for Imagine to be making enemies.

You can see why Chris Hedges was to keen to
know more about this situation rather than

the Mega Games which were starting to feel
like a distraction more than anything else.

By this point, even the pre-booked adverts
for the games had turned to nothing more than

a white page and some titles designed by Roger
Dean.

But enemies weren’t just being made outside
of the company.

Within it, it’s reported that personality
clashes and factions had emerged, often working

against each other rather than in the company’s
best interests.

At the very top Ian Hetherington and Dave
Lawson sat on one side, whilst Bruce Everiss

and Mark Butler on the other.

To the left, Studio Sting, the advertising
and design offspring of Imagine run by Stephen

Blower was clashing with all the top brass
over unpaid advertising debts; or at least,

they wanted it to look like that.

And to the right, the game designers were
splitting into their own alliances.

These factions were disputed by Bruce Everiss
in a 2017 interview, but this is certainly

the vibe felt by some employees and reporters
on the office floor.

And then we move onto even worse problems.

Remember that deal with Marshall Cavendish?

Well, with Imagine unable to keep on all their
staff, and the remainder tied up with Mega

Games, the cover-tape games promised simply
weren’t being delivered.

So Marshall Cavendish had decided to pull
out of the deal, leaving an £11 million hole

in Imagine’s finances.

Combine this with the fact that cash hadn’t
been controlled well at the company for the

past couple of years, with lavish spending
on cars, an Isle of Man TT team and anything

else that the young executives found exciting,
whilst at the same time VAT returns were left

unfiled, despite being well overdue, and you
can probably see why during the filming of

Commercial Breaks, on the 29th June 1984,
just after lunch, this happened;

“And when some of the staff come back from
lunch, there’s an unexpected welcome”

“oh, oh no”
-“you’ll leave the room please”

“why?

Can you tell us why?”

-“you’ll get off that…

please”
-“You will not”

-“Thank youuuu”

Moments prior, Bruce Everiss had issued these
doomed words to the film crew;

“This company cannot continue trading for
another week, unless there’s a cash injection

of, I’d say, half a million pounds”

And then moments after, he had resigned as
Marketing Director, stating in a Retro Hour

interview that “he couldn’t handle Mark
and David’s attitude”.

“You can’t get in”
-“Why not?”

“Because they’re not allowing you”
-“Who isn’t?”

“They’re not”

VNU Business Press and Cornhill Publications
had both petitioned the High Court for Imagine

Software Ltd to be wound up, for non-payment
of advertising debts, and with no opposition

from the company, the receivers, overseen
by the local police, were moving in.

John Gibson recalls how to a lot of staff,
this came as an utter shock…

“No, that’s the crazy thing.

It came as a complete and utter suprise to
me.

I think other people knew about it; Imagine
was moving on hard times, but I was

so busy writing Bandersnatch that I was just
in a world of my own, and I didn’t

even think anything of one month we got paid
in cash, because Dave Lawson and

Mark Butler had gone around all the cash machines
in Liverpool to draw up

enough cash to pay everybody.

It wasn’t until the baliffs turned up
that I realised something not very nice was

happening…”

But where was Mark Butler, David Lawson and
Ian Hetherington during this?

Well, according to Everiss and their own accounts,
Butler had gone TT racing and the other two

had actually nipped off to America to try
and secure more funding from Silicon Valley.

They were hoping that a company such as Atari,
who they’d already been speaking to with

that secret project, might offer up some investment.

However, Atari, recently under the management
of Jack Tramiel, was now a very different

place to when Time Warner owned it just months
prior, and they came back empty handed.

As for Butler, he literally came back in bandages
after crashing one of the TT bikes.

Imagine were doomed, and so were the Mega
Games…. or… were they?

[SUNNY MUSIC PLAYS as September plays out]

Well Psyclapse certainly was.

Commodore 64 owners barely got a whiff of
their Mega Game.

A few years ago GamesThatWeren’t did however
manage to upload the contents of a disk owned

by artist Stu Fotheringham which contained
a demo sprite.

There were even rumours that code existed
of this character walking through a castle

landscape, which sounds quite different from
the story given at the time.

Documents salvaged since also talk of a storyline
“revolving around a mighty overlord who

after years of traveling through time and
space has seen and done it all, and settled

down in a solitary castle, occupying a section
of space at all moments of time”.

It actually sounds like an interesting premise
where the castle around you could be plunged

into different moments of time, leaving you
with different scenarios and foes to vanquish.

But sadly, that’s all we got.

But thanks to the work already completed Bandersnatch
was a very different story.

As you might imagine, the receivers were hoping
to grab every valuable asset they could find,

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including the garage of sports cars below
the building, and even attempted to seize

the BBC’s camera equipment, mainly so creditors
like Kiltdale could claw some money back.

Commercial Breaks actually caught the managing
Director of Kiltdale waiting in Imagine’s

lobby to speak to someone regarding his owed
£50k

John recalls the receiver asking if the Bandersnatch
work was worth anything, responding;

“I don’t think so because development
hasn’t gone very far and it’ll have to

be started again”

Before actually breaking back into the Imagine
offices with Eugene Evans and sneaking the

SAGE IV development kits out of the toilet
window to the safety of Dave Lawson’s house.

A house from which they had already formed
a company called Finchspeed.

The aim of Finchspeed was really to acquire
all of Imagine’s most valuable IPs, and

that included Bandersnatch and the Psyclapse
work.

Dave Lawson and Ian Hetherington may have
been somewhat colluding, but they weren’t

stupid, and had been funnelling assets across
to Finchspeed well before the receivers stepped

foot in Imagine’s offices.

Initially they planned to do this with Mark
Butler’s help, but having caught whiff on

it, was also brought into the fold.

With this in mind, it also feels more appropriate
that the trip to America was actually to raise

capital for Finchspeed, rather than Imagine.

The only problem was, no one wanted to touch
Finchspeed with a barge pole.

This may have been a brand new company, but
it was made up of the same people who owed

publishers, marketers and distributers huge
sums of money.

Whisperings quickly spread around the industry
to avoid them like the plague, leaving them

really, in a state not much better than a
few weeks prior.

The only person who didn’t seem to get that
memo was Clive Sinclair, owner of Sinclair

Research and creator of the ZX Spectrum.

At the time Sinclair was keen to promote his
new QL computer; the successor to the Spectrum;

the only problem was, there wasn’t any decent
software for it.

But Bandersnatch seemed perfect.

By this point, Finchspeed was no more, mainly
due to it’s problematic reception, and a

new company Fireiron took over the reigns;
virtually the same but in name, with a plan

for Bandersnatch to arrive on the QL in the
new year, on the dreaded Microdrive format,

with a certain royalty from each sale then
being returned to Imagine’s liquidators.

Keeping everyone happy…. and for a while,
that certainly seemed to be what was happening,

with prototype builds of the game surfacing
a few years back.

However, Fireiron quickly fell into Imagine’s
ways, missing deadlines with Sinclair until

the deal was called off in Spring 1985.

The group disbanded seeking fresh beginnings
with Sinclair itself following not long after.

These prototypes then are really a last vestigial
of the original Spectrum game.

Posted by Outsoft on qlforum.co.uk, two versions
were retrieved from a vast haul of Microdrive

cartridges, and thanks to the work of members
like QLObi and RWAP we can peek into a world

that could have been.

First we have this Mode 8 version which seems
to be based heavily on the original Spectrum

version.

Unfortunately, we can’t leave the initial
screen, and even that is glitchy as hell;

microdrive tape wasn’t reliable at the time,
so you can imagine how they tend to corrupt

over time; but more exploration can be performed
in the later build…

although not much else.

Utilising the machine’s higher resolution
mode, this seems to be where the QL version

was headed, and actually, it looks quite decent.

But fear not, because this is not where this
tale ends….

[Aftermath music]

Many of the ex Imagine staff would end up
at Ocean.

Ocean had ridden the storm of 1984 much better
than Imagine.

They had sturdy finances, sturdy controls
and a sturdy emphasis on quality games, including

a new focus on budget releases.

It was with partial assistance from Ocean
that saw people like John Gibson, Ian Weatherburn,

Ally Noble, Karen Davies, Steve Cain and Kenny
Everett moving to a new developer called Denton

Designs.

It was then Denton Designs that created a
game called Gift of the Gods.

A Game featuring big chunky sprites, impressive
graphics, and naturally, a lot of the source

code from Bandersnatch.

With the talents of that team, it’s actually
a pretty decent game, and possibly the best

that could be extracted from the Mega Game
grave.

Dave Lawson and Ian Hetherington at around
the same time would launch a little company

called Psygnosis thanks to financing from
Liverpool business magnet Richard Talbot Smith,

and a steady financial lead from Jonathan
Ellis; exactly what they had been lacking.

This new company soon after would also use
a label called Psyclapse to sell their titles,

in a nod which seemingly demonstrated that
they both felt there was still something to

be had from it, in the name at least.

Then in 1986, Psygnosis launched a game called
Brataccas in a big box, with glorious artwork

by Roger Dean.

But this time on the new, shiny and powerful
Commodore Amiga and Atari ST machines.

Brataccas featured a big chunky sprite, it
featured a protagonist on a moon base, it

featured a free-roam environment and it featured
speech bubbles to interact with people.

You even get the aforementioned in game currency
for all that gambling.

Talking of digital currency… and let’s be
honest, all currency is digital fiat currency

nowadays….

I have been fascinated by Cryptopocurreny
since, well, since I made that video about

Beans.

But most likely you have recently heard a
lot about the cryptо being a kind of scam,

due to the collapse of one of the biggest
exchanges FTХ, and that isn’t to be taken

lightly.

But, FTX and other similar exchanges are just
banks on the blockchain.

And the same as in a brick and mortar bank,
you are not the true owner of your money.

So if you are thinking about entering crypto,
then maybe you should.

But perhaps keep your eyes fixed exclusively
to DeFi.

With this setup, then the premise is it’s
you, not the bank that should be the owner

of your funds.

That’s something DeFi makes possible.

And that’s also why when sponsor 1inch dropped
me a line, I was intrigued.

With 1inch, only you keep all the keys to
the wallet, and no one can manage your finances.

Of course I cannot give you advice, I’m
in no way an expert and you should do your

own research.

But with DeFi neither the CEO of the exchange,
nor the bank accountant, nor anyone else has

access.

And this is how decentralisation works.

Helping to keep your funds safe.

On 1inch you can do whatever you want with
your crypto in a few minutes.

All you need to have to start is your basic
debit or credit card.

The aim is, by using 1inch you shouldn’t
lose anything, but you should gain some financial

freedom.

So if you are intrigued like me, check out
1inch with a link below or use the QR code

on the screen.

This then, was the original Bandersnatch formula.

It had been ported from the Spectrum to the
QL and, thanks to similarities in the QL’s

architecture now the Motorola cored ST and
Amiga, and it lived on.

Psygnosis even hired Eugene Evans to serve
as a company spokesperson for the Personal

Computer World Show where the game was demonstrated.

Sure Brataccas isn’t as grand as Bandersnatch
was supposed to be, which is somewhat of a

disappointment, especially on machines which
really had the resources to pull off the original

scope.

But at least it meant that the game did finally
arrive in some form, and it arrived early

enough on the 16 bit machines that it still
stuck to it’s roots somewhat; this was a

game, the like of which had not been seen
before; it’s just a shame that it doesn’t

really live up to the name of MEGA GAME.

It lacks the promised soul, it lacks the promised
wonder and it lacks the promised all encompassing

adventure of a lifetime, which really could
only have lived in the minds of a 1984 game

publisher desperate for something to keep
it alive.

Imagine were so desperate to stay alive that
this premise also spread into the Imaginations

of countless British gamers in the mid 80s,
and stayed there till this very day.

Apt then, that they were called Imagine.

Ocean would buy up the Imagine label, and
continue to sell titles under it throughout

the 80s, some of which incidentally, were
great, and gave the name a fitting end.

Psygnosis would turn out to be the one company
that worked for the original Imagine guys,

helping them live out their Imagine dreams
in full.

But the real Imagine software, it died in
1984.

It died young, but BOY, did it live fast.

[Car speeds off]