A few years ago Retro Gamer Magazine published my feature on CRL Group, the 80's software company responsible for such classics as Tau Ceti, Academy, Dracula, Bored of the Rings and Glug Glug. As usual there were a few bits left out.
First of all I submitted four "games to avoid" instead of the usual three, thinking it was an exception in CRL's case (sorry Clem!). Retro Gamer only found room for 3, here's the fourth:-
[Game name] Mandroid (C64)
[Body] The sequel to Cyborg utilised the same engine which unfortunately replicated the same gameplay problems its predecessor had suffered. “The graphics were great but I think I pushed the C64 too far.” says author Andy Stoddart, although the game did once again feature superb music from Jay Derrett.
Secondly, an extra boxout concerning CRL's iconic premises:-
[Title] King’s Yard
[Body] CRL’s second office was set within an idiosyncratic set of buildings on Carpenters Road, Stratford and was originally used by Clarnico, a sweet and chocolate manufacturer. “There was a campaign to save the buildings a few years ago,” says Richard Taylor, “which presumably failed. It was quite a place; at the time I didn’t notice the uniqueness of the Belfast roof trusses that hung above us.” Another campaign to have these magnificent trusses removed prior demolition succeeded, but sadly they have been left neglected since, a slowly decaying reminder of a bygone age.
Carpenters Road then...
...and a few years, an Olympic stadium in-waiting. Photos courtesy of Arran Riddle.
These two images are courtesy of Julian Cheyne
These are all ex-CRL employees I interviewed for the article. Their full interviews are presented below.
Interview with Paul Stoddart
Paul started off his career at CRL programming Spectrum games before moving across to the Commodore 64 and was also involved in some of their infamous horror adventures. He left in 1988 when the distribution dispute between CRL and EA left Clem Chambers with no choice but to close his development department.
Jdanddiet: Firstly, I found a CRL cartoon in Crash. Why did you have a bag over your head?
Paul Stoddart: At the time I was quite shy and did not seek the public gaze. My first game just said "by Paul". Other games had no name at all (except via a backdoor LOL). So when the article was raised by Ian (Ellery) I asked not to have my face shown.
JS: Were you part of the "Zen Room"? If so what was it like working there, including your impressions of the office, colleagues, vibe etc?
PS: I was very much part of the Zen room. Worked for CRL when they used the old fire station as the base of development and management. Got crowded so Clem spun development out to the Zen across from the fire station, where management still operated from. The Zen was a fun place. No doors on some of the rooms so we would drop in and out for chats and suggestions. Clem would hold discussion sessions in the central office/reception area on game ideas and technical ideas. Some of the programmers etc would stay overnight and have movies for ideas and a laugh.
JD: When did you start work for CRL? Was this as a freelance or employee?
PS: April 1984. Studying at college. Top of the class for microprocessor programming. Maths was a bit shaky so my head tutor heard about CRL and suggested I have a look. Two off/on at CRL offices for expenses only. Clem liked my programming and approach so said have a full time job here.
JD: What were your first impressions of Clem Chambers?
PS: Clem in those days was very active and some would say hyper. Really hands on and excited about computer games. Very smart he predicted in my opinion things like jpeg compression where image or data could be reduce by a high margin using powerful maths. So he was always pushing for the programmers to find new techniques for getting more graphics data into the machines. So you can imagine his response on seeing Tau Ceti. Brilliant use of maths to create graphics from very little data. I remember quizzing the programmer (Pete Cooke) on it. Once he explained it was blindly simple.
JD: What was it like working on a "big" license like Blade Runner?
PS: In reality just like another game. You were of course excited that is was a known title. But in terms of engineering etc, no real change. I believe the graphics artists found it less interesting because of being constrained by images already there ie it has to look like Blade Runner. They had more fun when they needed to come up with things from just a title idea or game concept.
JD: What were your thoughts working on the horror adventure titles? They were quite controversial at the time and your animations helped the C64 version achieve Clem's coveted 18 certificate.
PS: The graphics were a real departure for us. They used digitization of real people acting out the horror. The blood etc was then added by the graphic artist (bit like CGI film today). then had to develop animation software to move sprites & bitmaps to bring it to life without using up loads of memory. This why the stuff looks real. Now of cause it is all done this way for POV games etc. Again this idea was Clem's, he was ahead of the curve. It was fun but I think it might have been too successful when we got 18!
JD: When did you stop working for CRL? What did you do afterwards?
PS: There until the end. So the day it (development) was shutdown was my last day. After I got involved with a project setup by Ian Foster & Richard Taylor called Wildfire a contract project with a company called Destiny. It was a big game like Cyborg on three platforms. Speccy 48, C64 and Amstrad CPC. Sadly it all collapsed. There was a big press article with a picture of me, (yes my shyness had gone) Ian, Richard and someone else who was helping with graphics. Richard was doing Speccy 48 and CPC. I was helping on C64 mainly. I did a tiny bit on Speccy as well but mainly Richard's coding. The idea of cause was to lift the code onto the CPC from the Speccy and convert the graphics from the C64. After that I left the game industry found a job in the business world needing Z80 programmer (small ad in the Evening Standard LOL). Blew them away in interview, hired about a week later. Stayed doing that.
JD: Which of the games you worked on were/are you most proud of? Which would you rather forget (if any)?
PS: Tough one. To be honest I'm not proud of Blade Runner. Rocky Horror was great once it had good C64 graphics ie the USA version. I am proud of Magic Roundabout for it being my first game and I think it was a experiment by Clem to have games for a younger market. Again ahead of the time. Death or Glory from a game POV is not great but from a coding POV very good in fact the system was re-used by another coder for Traxxion (I think that is the name). Clem loved the system and technique. The game was developled from the technical experiment by me. I showed Clem the new "scrolling" updating system, so he suggested a straight forward blow everything up game. Mandroid was a nice idea (sequel to Cyborg) but I pushed the C64 too much I believe. The graphics were great though, good use of module system which I simplied from the complex coding of Cyborg (I had to debug some of it for Ian). I was one of the senior programmers at the time so would help out here and there also did mastering of games for loading effects for games.
JD: What are you upto these days?
PS: Sadly not a lot. I worked in the business programming area from 1988-2001. Learned C & Pascal programming. 68000 machine code as well. Ethernet networking etc. But the business went down in 2001 (had been shrinking for awhile). So I stayed at home looking after my kids etc. My wife (who I met at CRL in 1986) started bringing in the bucks. Now I am looking to get back into work. Would love to get back into computers again but unlikely. I do quite a bit of photography. Build my own PC etc.
Interview with Richard Taylor
Richard Taylor began programming in 1981 with a ZX81 game entitled Zaraks. This led to a Spectrum 16k version for Clem Chambers' CRL and the start of a very long and successful career in computer programming. A very small part of Richard's story was detailed in my CRL From the Archives feature which appeared in Retro Gamer Magazine issue 97 - click here to purchase this issue which is still available at time of writing from the Imagine Publishing shop.
Meantime, here is my full interview with Richard, conducted in August of 2011.
Jdanddiet: Hi Richard. When did you join CRL?
Richard Taylor: I joined very early on, I think in 1981 so a massive 30 years ago now. At that time I was 13.
JD: How did you get into computing?
RT: I had just got a ZX81 about 6 months previously, after seeing a ZX80 being used at school in the maths dept. I remember it was £70, don't know what that would be in inflation adjusted figures today but it was a lot of money for me to save up.
JD: How did you afford it then?
RT: I actually earned the money picking and cleaning tulip bulbs at a farm down the road over the Summer. At that time I was living near Spalding Lincolnshire, the Amsterdam of the UK. Come to think of it that was probably the last and only "proper job" I've ever had, been in the computer industry every since.
JD: So what were your thoughts when it arrived?
RT: I sent off my money to Sinclair Research and waiting for the post man every day, way past the 28 days delivery promised. The delivery delays on the ZX81 and Spectrum were legendary. After about 8 weeks it eventually turned up and I was captivated. The 16KB RAM pack was way beyond my means, but hey 1KB is big enough for anyone! The immediate conflict of course was that I needed to use the TV, which was unpopular after my Dad was home from work. So I remember my mum going out and buying me a second hand black and white TV for £6 and
somehow getting it back home on her push bike. I was set up then of course, and didn't re-emerge from my bedroom for quite some time...
JD: Did you start programming at this point?
RT: Yep, I got into Z80 assembly programming pretty quickly. I pretty much taught myself from an opcode list in the ZX81 manual and I spent many weeks hand disassembling the ZX81 ROM and understanding how the whole thing worked. I think in those early days there weren't even assemblers, you had to painstakingly assembly to the opcodes yourself and write a basic program to poke the data values into memory.
JD: Did you use it for games as well?
RT: To be honest, I was never into playing games, I was just fascinated by how it all worked. I was into electronics too and started adding various devices to the ZX81. I think I responded to an advert in "Your Computer" magazine asking for games, to this address of Computer Rentals Ltd in Whitechapel road. Their plan really was to rent computers and when that fell through Clement (Chambers) got into selling games.
JD: What were your initial impressions of Clem Chambers?
RT: Obviously extremely bright, a born entrepreneur. He must have only been 18 when I first met him, but I was an impressionable and not very worldly 13 year programming geek, and he whisked me off into this glamorous world of the games business. I remember he had a pretty flashy red BMW with a personalized number plate "CRL 1". He used to come up to Lincolnshire and take me down to London to the offices pretty regularly, at speed ticket-inducing speeds down the M11. It was all pretty exciting especially at the start as he was trying to cultivate my image as some kind of genius programmer after the Hi-Res on the ZX81 and there were several magazine interviews and other pieces written.
JD: Did you get on well with Clem Chambers and did he influence your career in any way?
RT: We got on really well actually and he has been pretty influential on me. His attitude and influence has probably really impacted my career direction. I think Clement was also just meeting Jay (Derrett), Ian (Ellery), Jeff (Lee) and Andy (Stoddart) at this time who would become the main in-house programmers and would backbone of the Zen room.
JD: Which games did you work on for CRL?
RT: My first game was something called Zaraks on the ZX81 and I immediately converted it to Spectrum although it was rubbish, kind of a rip off of the pac-man concept! I was always more drawn to the more technical challenges and my next project wasn't a game at all but a Hi-resolution toolkit for the ZX81. This allowed the ZX81 to show hi-resolution graphics a bit like the Spectrum, but without the colour, albeit slowly. I then went on to do a games programming kit for the Spectrum called FIFTH (a play on being a step beyond FORTH, at that time seriously mooted as the next big programming language). I did several games after that, some of them licensed tie ins. Clement realized pretty early on the value of this. I developed Terrahawks for the Spectrum, which frankly had little to do with the TV show and the license was an afterthought. I moved onto the Amstrad CPC machine and did a ton of game conversions on that, and finally did BallBreaker and BallBreaker 2.
JD: Any others?
RT: I think there may be some more that I have forgotton, but I didn't really have any real smash hits! I wasn't actually drawn to games that much. I was into vector graphic games, liking the maths of it and spend months writing really highly optimised line drawing routines and hidden surface removal algorithms. However this big project never saw the light of day, and may look a little dated were I to return to it now! I also had a journalistic career writing many articles for Your Computer and had a monthly column for Big K magazine for a while. Usually I was writing around some utility program that was provided for users to type in. I remember doing a primitive windowing environment for the Spectrum in about 1985.
JD: And on the 16-bit's?
RT: I didn't really move onto the 16-bit platforms (ST and Amiga) - I dabbled a bit but pretty much left games in about 1989.
JD: Presumably you were a member of the "Zen Room"? Any specific experiences from that?
RT: The Zen room was basically an industrial warehouse space in Kings Yard. CRL had a main office in a two story building from about 1982 and expanded into the Zen room as well in about 1984 I think. It was pretty bizarre looking back. The place had this strange culture of the business people who would work normally 9-5ish and the programmers who never seemed to do much work at all during those hours.
JD: Were you one of the guys who actually lived there?
RT: I don't know about lived there but I spent some days sleeping on the floor in a sleeping bag in to help get games out of the door, notably with the Spectrum version of Rocky Horror Show. We would have assembly code listings spread over the floor along with sleeping bags, empty coke bottles and fish and chip wrappers. In the old office I'm not sure there was even a shower, personal hygiene was not a high priority. But it was really exciting and I loved it - the intensity of the deadlines and extended debug sessions.
JD: You were still very young - weren't you studying at the same time?
RT: Yes. I used to work in the Zen room quite a lot in the first couple of years of University (86/87) and I'd go over to Stratford in the afternoon do some coding at night and then kip in the office in a sleeping bag and then go in bleary eyed for lectures. Quite frequently not much work would get done, we use to go out for chips down Carpenters Road then frequently rent some kind of bad Sci-Fi movie to get inspired and around about 11pm some work would start, usually with music blaring in darkened rooms with only the glow of monitors. Then people would crash out about 3am or 4am, and would be lying all over the office for the 9-5ers to discover the next morning.
JD: Can't imagine it working like that these days!
RT: Indeed, but there was something pure and creative about it though, and there is still a bit of me that would like to work like that. Even at home as a school kid I often used to pull all night coding sessions and went to bed at 5am, getting up for school at 7am. By the late 80s the games were getting too complex for one person to code and the home computer bubble was dying, being overtaken by the first generation of consoles. Nobody was earning thousands in royalties anymore and there was more discontentment, and some of the original Zen Roomers started to scatter.
JD: What of the buildings themselves?
RT: The Zen Room and CRL offices were in Carpenter's road and have now been completely redeveloped as an Olympic site. Bizarrely a campaign to save Kings Yard itself was started, which I presumed failed. I didn't notice the uniqueness of the Belfast C-20 roof trusses at the time, I'm not that much of a geek!
JD: What have you been upto since?
RT: I had the option of going on and becoming a games programmer full time once I left school, at 16 or 18. However I knew myself that this was a bit of a dead end career and had to have some academic qualifications behind me. So I stayed on and did A-levels and then did Software Engineering at Imperial College to learn how to do things "properly" (although I fear I've been forever contaminated by my assembly programming years as a teenager!). My main interest areas
have also been compiler technology (assembly code and performance optimisation again) and microprocessors. I moved to Edinburgh and worked in a compiler software house for several years, then joined a startup in memory technology for a few years. Back in 2002 I then co-founded my own company called CriticalBlue, a software house specialising in software tools for multicore software development. A lot of its about low level programming and getting the best out of microprocessors, which I think can be attributed right back to my ZX81 programming days. There are a lot of people in my industry of my age that can trace their entry into the business through the home computers of the early 80s, it has had a powerful and lasting economic impact in the UK I think.
For further reading on Richard Taylor and CRL have a look at this article in Crash Magazine: http://www.crashonline.org.uk/19/crl.html
Interview with Jay Derrett
Hi Jay. When did you join CRL?
Difficult to say exactly - I sort of joined in instalmants! I met Clem (Chambers, CRL boss) on a tube train on the way to the PCW show in Earl's Court back in about 1983. A few lads from school had built a Micro Mouse robot and were entering it in the show's competition. In fact, we were still gluing it together on the tube!
Clem spotted us, we had a chat and to cut a long story short, he ended up sponsoring us to build such a robot for CRL. As I was the programmer of the robot's EPROM (it was a bespoke Z80 motherboard), Clem offered me a full time programming job once I left school the following term. I got my first pay check in July of 1984.
What were you initial impressions of Clem?
A thoroughly charming and mad genius. To this day he is still the garrulous, enigmatic, high-octane off-the-wall thinker he always was.
Which games did you work on?
Rocky Horror Show, Spaced Doubt, Traxxion, Orpheus, Tubular Bells, plus some others I've forgotten about I'm sure.
How did you become involved more on the music side of the games?
Initially everyone did everything on their own project (those were the days - JD), but soon after we realised we'd each developed snippets of code that were of use to other coders. It so happened that I had written some interrupt-driven sound effects code for the Spectrum and soon after, that turned into a background music routine.
Other coders borrowed that code and in turn I borrowed stuff like large background scrolling code off another coder. I only had a passing interest in music but ended up working alongside Bob Hartshorne from Clever Music - an advert jingles company CRL hired in to do the proper music work. I translated his scores to my music playing code. Soon after that I wrote some of my own tunes purely because Bob was overloaded with other work from CRL. It kind of took off from there.
You were a member of the famous Zen Room.
That was an odd setup in retrospect. Ian Ellery (CRL operations manager - JD) started that up from Clem's idea. It was basically a warehouse in Hackney Wick with about six or seven programmers, a couple of graphics guys and a project manager (initially Ellery, then Mike Hodges - JD). It was free and easy, no rules, essentially a coding camp. You got paid your salary and you churned out the code, but apart from that, anything went.
It was a great place for barnstorming ideas, copying code off each other, even having peer competitions for creating wacky effects or new features. It was a typically wild Clem idea that had many Utopian plus points but inevitably had practical flaws such as a lack of documentation, effective deadlines, quality control etc, all due to a bunch of creative yet geeky teenagers living in a bubble.
What have you been up to since CRL?
I stayed with CRL for about four years. Not only was I not really cut out for this (my games were really terrible in retrospect), it was clear that as an industry it was not going to see me through until retirement. So I left and started a new career as a trainee programmer in RPG2 on an IBM system/36 at a printing company, then moved up through money-broking systems, then to Dow Jones Telerate. I'm now IT director at private equity house. I still keep in touch with Clem and some of the lads occassionally. They were good days.
Interview with Jeff Lee
Now we have Jeff Lee, the self-proclaimed "production factotum", who nevertheless had several key roles in the development of CRL and proved very helpful in filling in the blanks on a lot of questions I had. Jeff began work at CRL in 1984 and he had this to tell me about the company and the people that worked there.
Clem Chambers (CRL founder and boss)
"The production team didn't always appreciate how smart Clem was at the time. We approached games as if they were artworks, often at the expense of any commercial sensibilities. He was also dogged, staying around during the programming marathons when projects threatened to jeopardise the company with their over-runs. As a former engineer he would keep coders going by patiently going through every routine and questioning how they worked. My lasting memory of him is his constant demands for printouts strewn over tables - "This was how Zilog made theZ80" he would say."
Ian Ellery (Production Manager)
"Ian Ellery showed the power of being economical. He would design games with a few gestures on scraps of paper. These would be enough for artists and programmers to develop their products and his understanding that "no idea=no game" earned him a new motorbike within a few months of joining."
Mike Hodges (General Manager)
"We used to call him "Codges - your Codges, my Codges" and he did much better for himself as a project co-ordinator than an production staff. He was very affable and would press rather than pressurise - sometimes wryly, but always unthreateningly - and this easy-going, yet focused, manner facilitated the good working relations necessary for Clem's ambitious expansion program in 1987."
Paul Stoddart (Programmer)
"Paul was the anchor man right up to the end production in 1988. Whenever projects were in trouble, he pulled them through, whether by taking on a conversion no-one else was available for or rescuing projects that were in trouble. It was this indefatigability coupled with no-one ever witnessing him eat or sleep that gave rise to his Kraft-werkian nickname of "Android"! His project list is long and impressive, including Blade Runner (Spectrum, plus one half of the C64 version), Rocky Horror Show and countless smaller contributions such as plumbing the digitised images to Rod Pike's text adventures.
Paul's final project was a beat-em-up called "I, Ludicrus" which was starting to show off Jon Law's graphics properly - alas, CRL folded, so we'll never know what could have been."
Jay Derrett (Programmer and music composer)
"Jay was responsible for most of the (mainly C64) music for CRL. His schedule was so crammed that we (including Jay himself!) would sometimes do impersonations that mocked the generic quality to his music. His commercial savvy marked him apart from the rest of us. Most coders at the time stayed in the build-it-from-the-ground-up generation whilst he moved on to the emerging vogue of not re-inventing the wheel every time. This approach fitted perfectly into the distribution arrangement we had with Electronic Arts, which had a contractual requirement on us to supply 10 SKU's (single title on a single format) per month. Jay took this pragmatic approach with him as he left to join a broker in the City as an engineer in the newly emerging world of LAN technologies."
Richard Taylor (Programmer)
"Richard was there right from the beginning, writing a program to give high-resolution graphics on the ZX81. He eventually became the main conversion coder for the Amstrad and at one time also had a magazine column called "Taylor Made." Whilst working at CRL he managed to complete a degree and at one point his mother did some secretarial work there as well - CRL was a family affair even beyond the colonisation by the Derretts! Richard was also a kinda technical reference point for Clem (Chambers, CRL boss - JD) whenever he wanted to know what was possible on a format."
Jon Law (Graphic artist)
"Jon was our highly productive graphics guy. He sometimes practically lived in the CRL offices, rattling off loading screen after loading screen, wearing out the UK's short supply of Koala Pads, and all with a boundless energy, singing along to OTT Eighties rock. He also led the overnight-stay culture into a gastronomic abyss, dragging us down from our pot noodles and cornettos to the legendary "pickle pickle sauce sauce" sandwich (sounds lovely - JD).
"Jon left to form a production company outfit with Jules Burt and Jared Derrett."
On The Image System
"Crises were a part of life in the games industry - our big one was Image System. This was a now long-forgotten drawing program (think DPaint but earlier) for the C64 that had a huge order from WHSmith. Clem called it in on this one - half of Europe was involved. I came back early from holiday (February '87) with a neckful of juvenile lovebites. Everyone thought my girlfriend at the time must have been an animal: 'oh yeah' I thought amid the printouts, empty pizza boxes, overflowing ashtrays, and le parfum des hommes fatigues. Slightly exempt to this batchelorhood-gone-rotten was Paul (Andy), the central programming support, who, as ever, was never seen eating or sleeping, and managed to stay ever immaculate in his all-black uniform. The rest of us regressed for the 3 weeks. At a point of no sleep for 72 hours, the team even had to go to the duplication plant to put the master together, something I don't recall ever happening before. I've a feeling that the shower room was installed in the Zen Room after all this."
Ian Foster (Programmer)
"Ian coded the street sequence to the C64 version of Blade Runner and Cyborg and Mandroid in their entireity. He was so in-house that he only sometimes went home. Ian was a dead nice guy; I recently realised I spent more time around him than anybody on account of us working on things at weekends so much.
"Ian went on to start a development company with Paul"
Ace Adventurer Fergus McNeill
Fergus McNeill (Delta 4)
"Fergus wrote a large number of adventure games and a few for CRL. I can imagine him getting easily overlooked because he had his own separate company and adventure games never got the exposure of their arcade counterparts. Yet people like him were the mainstay to the industry - reliable, bread and butter people. His work probably paid for a key staffer or two at CRL."
George Munday (Programmer, Formula One)
"George was the only (freelance) programmer with a flash car - he had a Ferrari! This was not bought with the proceeds from Formula 1 however - he had a day job that paid real money!"
"I joined CRL in 1984 and worked on a number of different projects. The best known game I coded was The Rocky Horror Show on the ZX Spectrum."
"My other games are unworthy of mention. Mine was a general production role that mostly involved assembling coders' raw data into production masters that the duplication plants could use. This is why so many CRL games had customised loaders that animated. CRL's accelerated output also kept me busy with screen-shots for packaging and promotion. It wasn't possible back then to do screen-grabs to file. Instead, it required a slightly Victorian-looking arrangement of plastic shelving, a camera on a tripod, and a black cloth to eliminate reflections on the TV or monitor. So I guess a typical view of me at the Zen Room would be of a pair legs and a stream of expletives emerging from a temporary light-tent. In the evenings I often used the recording gear there to make tasteless music. Looking back, if there was one opportunity missed, it was to team up with Jay and make recordings for b-sides for some of our games. Ah, the benefit of hindsight!"
On Magazine Reviewers
"Whenever reviewers popped in to CRL I used to watch them as they sulked over our new releases in the making and wonder how on earth they ended up doing what they were doing for a living - which is probably what they thought of us!"
"The trusses in the roof of the Zen Room (CRL's in-house development team) were an obvious prescence as you can see from this shot. This is the warehousing space we had on the other side of the offices.
"The Void" - A large area inside CRL's programming den, The Zen Room
"We called this space "The Void". Uses for it included: Jon Law's office, playing table tennis, me getting ambience for 4-track recordings, a trade stand (hence the fabric on the floor) and several slightly drunken and no doubt dangerous variations of hide and seek when freelancers stayed over with the in-house team. It was even occassionally used for storing stuff!
On the abandoned War of the Worlds game
"In the summer of 1985 I started work on the Commodore 64 version of War of the Worlds. In fact, I'm not sure this became public knowledge. The first level involved sailing a warship (from the cover of the Jeff Wayne album, which was what the license was actually based on) whilst shooting the tripods before they destroyed the English countryside.
"A month or so into the project, it was pulled. This was half-expected and several conflicting explanations knocked about but I can't recall what they were and at the time I was distracted by another project."
On the updated 128k version of The Rocky Horror Show
"The original 48k version had music by Jay Derrett, which was more of a tuned-rattle on the original on/off sound chip. The update had the version from the C64 by Rob Hartshorne at Clever Music as the 128k had a similar sound chip to that computer, which we capitalised on. Things that were lost after loading were also possible to keep, such as the dancers at the beginning and an animation of the house taking off was also added for when the counter reached zero. I don't think there were any extra rooms or gameplay as it was a quick turnaround because the UK launch of the 128k was imminent. Sinclair wanted to ship out a few thousand with a games pack, so naturally CRL were keen to jump aboard with one of the first 128k titles!"
The Curious Incident with the Wrecking Ball
"I was asked to do a wrecking ball montage for the release of Ball Breaker (an isometric Arkanoid clone by Richard Taylor - JD). It was a night's work with my limited analogue equipment. I took a lot of promotional shots for CRL and always thought this one was the strangest: pregnant with violent urges, it still seems bizarre that 200 prints of this were sent out to distributors and magazines and I can only presume there were a lot of explanatory phone calls involved! Nowadays, the same job would take minutes to do using Photoshop.
"Given the fate of the CRL building (it was demolished recently as part of the Olympic development - JD), the montage proved to be somewhat prophetic!"
A Room With a View
"This window shot from CRL house was the view that Paul (Stoddart) and I had whilst writing Rocky Horror Show on the Spectrum and C64 respectively. The window was open a lot on account of our regular overnight stays that we all made whilst finishing projects.
On The End of CRL
"There were two endings. In June 1988, half the staff were made redundant because Electronic Arts either held back or completely stopped payment (EA were in dispute with CRL over the their distribution agreement); this was catastrophic because they were our exclusive distributor. In essence the production staff went whilst the administration people were kept on, a difficult but unavoidable decision for Clem, as these were staff who had given a lot to the CRL cause. They continued trading for a couple of years after this and released a handful of titles, moving swiftly to the 16-bits in the process."