The Making Of: Renegade III
Renegade swapped the III brilliant thuggery backstreet of the first an two ill-conceived games for Martyn romp through time. out how Carroll ‘The finds Final Chapter’ Final became Insult’ ‘The fans of the series for
Ivan Horn explains why the third Renegade game failed to make the same impact as its predecessors
You have to feel for the folk that made Renegade III. They spent eight weeks making a game almost 30 years ago and they’re still getting beef about it. A while back the game’s graphic artist Ivan Horn popped up on the World Of Spectrum forums to address a question about a different game entirely and the thread quickly turned into a Renegade III interrogation. “What happened?
What were you thinking? Just why!”
Ivan didn’t reply and never posted again, but after some coaxing he agreed to chat to us about the much-maligned third game. The obvious question is why did Ocean decide to change a winning formula by introducing a time-travelling backstory and an overall lighter tone? “From what I remember the decision for the time-travelling element of the game came from somewhere in management,” he says. “I’m not certain if this came from Gary Bracey or someone else though.” Ocean’s Mr Bracey is reticent on the subject and cannot recall the details, although he believes it was a case of trying something new. The original coin-op conversion had already received an excellent if opportunistic sequel in Target: Renegade, so if Ocean was going to take another trip to the well it felt obliged to try a fresh approach.
Ivan teamed up with his regular coding partner Andrew Deakin on the Z80 versions of the game (the Spectrum was the lead version and the CPC and MSX releases were based on that, while the C64 version was developed separately by Zach Townsend). “Andrew Deakin was very good to work with,” says Ivan. “We’d been friends since we were about 15 years old so we worked well together.” Indeed, the pair had already produced a string of conversions for Ocean, including Athena, Combat School and Operation Wolf. One of the biggest criticisms levelled at the game was the lack of fighting moves compared to the first two titles.
This was largely due to the sheer number of different sprites used. Whereas before the thugs shared the same ‘legs’ and other characteristics, the new range of enemies (dinosaurs, knights, robots and so on) varied in size and shape and this ate up
a lot of valuable memory. “Looking at the animations now I can see they’re quite limited, so possibly we sacrificed the variety of actions for the variety of characters. I can also see that we were taking a few liberties, from the obvious Captain Caveman rip-off to the Karloff-style mummies!”
Another criticism was the lack of colour in the Spectrum version. “Andrew and I tended to make scrolling games using monochrome graphics, which allowed for smoother scrolling and avoided the need to hide the colour attributes setup on the Spectrum. I think that we were so used to making monochrome games with scrolling that I went ahead with the graphics for it that way. Possibly there was a plan early on to have scrolling instead of flick-screen which would be an explanation.” All this compromise does beg the question: why didn’t the team adapt the code from Target: Renegade? “Back then there was very little use of other people’s code. I guess it had something to do with there being typically one coder per project, so there was more of an ‘all my own work’ ethos,” he says. A further grievance is the absence of the second game’s celebrated co-op mode. “I don’t actually know why that change was made compared with the previous game,” concedes Ivan. “My guess would be that it was dropped to simplify things.”
The game’s soundtrack was written by Ocean’s musician Jonathan Dunn who provided suitable tunes for the different ‘ages’. “It was good fun to have such definite themes to follow,” he recalls. “I’d had a few ideas knocking around which suited some of the time zones, so it was good to be able to use them.” Jonathan was quoted in a preview of the game that appeared in Sinclair User magazine. Speaking for the team, Jonathan of 1989 said: “We think we’ve done a pretty good sequel. It’s a bit tongue in cheek but a bit of humour doesn’t hurt does it?” To us that sounds like faint praise. “I doubt this was faint praise,” he says, looking back. “At the time I’m sure we were all proud of what we’d achieved. As always the game was done incredibly quickly to a very tight deadline.”
The game may get roasted by fans, but let’s not forget that it reviewed well on release. It received a Crash Smash (91%) and a Zzap Sizzler
(90%). The consensus was that Renegade III was a fun and novel twist on the typical beat-’em-up formula. And that right there was the problem – it wasn’t a Renegade game, and had it been called something generic like Time Warrior (or maybe Smack To The Future) then it would have been overlooked and long forgotten.
“Neither of us had worked on a fighting game before and it felt like it was an unnecessary follow-up to the two previous games,” says Ivan, mitigating. “It’s not one of my favourite games that I worked on, put it that way.” Don’t worry Ivan, it’s fine. After all, no actual childhoods were ruined by Renegade III.
at » Ivan Horn worked on various games Ocean, including Operation Wolf. » [ZX Spectrum] The game introduced platforming elements that merely added to the misery. » [Amstrad CPC] Oh mummy! Our hero brings his brand of street justice to Ancient Egypt.
» [ZX Spectrum] A 2015 mod by Renegade fan Rafal Miazga improves the game by adding more colour. » [C64] This was the only version where you could smash baddies in the face with a weapon. » [Amiga] A 16-bit version was advertised but never released....