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

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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....

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