The Mak­ing Of: Res­cue

Ste Cork looks back at one of his first Mastertronic-pub­lished Spec­trum games

Retro Gamer - - CONTENTS - Words by Paul Davies

ans of the game will know that Res­cue is a straight up sci-fi search-and-re­trieve

where our hero takes on an in­fested space sta­tion to res­cue a high-value sci­en­tist and his mag­num opus. All you need to do is get both sci­en­tist and his ex­per­i­ment back to your ship for take­off. What makes this so dif­fi­cult is that you don’t know which, out of eight sci­en­tists, is the right one; this is ran­domly se­lected at the start of the game. The pesky aliens try­ing to de­stroy the place don’t help ei­ther.

“It is dif­fi­cult, and it isn’t.” Ste Cork ex­plains. “Res­cue is rather un­usual in the way you have to meet the win­ning cri­te­ria. You could, in the­ory, just take off with one sci­en­tist and win the game; or you could have seven and still lose. You don’t know un­til you com­mit to press­ing take­off, af­ter adding fuel, too, of course. Then there’s the heart-stop­ping cou­ple of sec­onds while the FX are be­ing played for take­off, be­fore you fi­nally get ei­ther the suc­cess or fail screen. Cer­tainly, to res­cue all eight sci­en­tists, if you set that as a goal, is very hard.”

Af­ter pick­ing up his first Spec­trum in 1984, Ste re­leased his first game Ca­gara just one year later, through budget la­bel Play­ers. He then went on to com­plete his sec­ond game Wib­stars in 1987, through soft­ware house A&F. Af­ter start­ing work for Icon De­sign, Ste be­gan to write the game Colony, this time pub­lished by Mastertronic, who he also ap­proached a year later for the re­lease of Res­cue.

Ste elab­o­rates,

“[Mastertronic] had some good games out, and a lot of games that were rel­a­tively poor. They got bet­ter I think once they’d been around for a while and I think by the time I was ready to re­lease Res­cue they were a 100 per cent de­cent house, so I was happy to ap­proach them. They were the first com­pany I went to, in fact.”

In the era of bed­room pro­gram­mers it wasn’t un­usual that one per­son could end up do­ing ev­ery­thing in­volved in a game’s de­vel­op­ment, though there were times where a lit­tle help­ing hand was needed. In this case, Ste brought in the help of good friend and com­poser Tony ‘Tiny’ Wil­liams. “Tiny and I are re­ally close; I’ve known him since 1986. He was al­ways the guy I’d go to for au­dio work. Very easy to work with, good mu­sic, good solid code, and he was happy to do work for me on the prom­ise of roy­alty cuts later.” Also work­ing on Res­cue was Mark O’neill. “He was a bril­liant artist in the 8-bit days, with that trick of mak­ing things look good in sin­gle-colour sprites, like the Spec­trum was forced to use.”

From a player’s point of view, you’d as­sume Res­cue was hard work to write given its big graph­ics, sharp fast move­ments and ex­quis­ite de­tail. “I had a lot of fun writ­ing it”, says Ste, “and to be hon­est it reused rather a lot of code from Colony. The en­gine sim­i­lar­i­ties are pretty ob­vi­ous once you look. That made it an easy game to write; but of course back then you could get away with things like that. The guys that ran Icon De­sign, Roger Lees and Mike Co­hen, were re­ally re­laxed about those kinds of things.

I had less hours to write things at home of course af­ter a day’s work in the of­fice, but given that most of the code was al­ready writ­ten it wouldn’t have re­quired as much ex­tra do­ing to it. I didn’t re­ally have a life out­side of com­put­ers in those days. The clas­sic geek, I sup­pose.”

If you men­tion Res­cue to cer­tain Spec­trum fans, there’s a chance that one of them will quickly say Har­ri­son Ford back to you. Well, take a look at its cover and you may well find out. Some may say that the cover star was a rip off Han Solo looka­like, oth­ers say co­in­ci­dence. “I didn’t even see the cover un­til I got mailed a free­bie copy,” Ste re­calls, “I didn’t see the re­sem­blance, but I sup­pose once it’s pointed out I can just about see it. If I squint a bit.”

Another talk­ing point apart from the game­play is the load­ing screen; or in­deed the lack of one. You’d think, given the qual­ity of the game it­self, it de­served a screen to do it jus­tice. Ap­par­ently Mastertronic didn’t. “I as­sumed they would paint some­thing then slap a load­ing screen on them­selves. In the end they didn’t bother.” Ste ex­plains. “The first I saw of the bor­ing ‘Res­cue is load­ing…’ screen was when I got my free copy. It was too late to do any­thing by then. If they’d asked me what I wanted for the screen, or even to sup­ply one, I could have got an in-house artist to do some­thing, but they never did.”

Af­ter Res­cue, Ste went on pro­duc­ing games for the Spec­trum over the next few years, be­fore mov­ing on to games for the Amiga, Atari ST and then PC, with the game Overkill be­ing one of his favourites on that for­mat. Ste con­tin­ues to work in the in­dus­try and has many cred­its in no­table games such as X-men: Leg­ends, Quake 4, Mar­vel: Ul­ti­mate Al­liance and Call of Duty: Black Ops III.

Speccy fans will ar­gue, though, that noth­ing beats the sim­plic­ity of an 8-bit shoot-‘em-up. Res­cue is one that will stay long in the mem­ory for many of fans, not least in Ste’s.

“Res­cue had peo­ple writ­ing into mag­a­zines about it and map­ping out the ship. I was chuffed. That was re­ally nice to see for some­thing I’d just put to­gether in my bed­room.”

» [ZX Spec­trum] Ste’s game has some im­pres­sive vi­su­als and it moves along at a nice pace.

» [ZX Spec­trum] Wanted: ex­pe­ri­enced sci­en­tist im­mu­nity to bul­lets is es­sen­tial. Free boots pro­vided.

» [ZX Spec­trum] “My ammo. My beau­ti­ful, beau­ti­ful ammo. You should haven take me in­stead.”

» [ZX Spec­trum] These aliens are on the hunt, so it’s best to try and avoid them.

» Ste Cork is still in the in­dus­try to­day work­ing on triple-a block­busters such as Call Of Duty.

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