A MOMENT WITH
Clive Townsend on remastering Saboteur for a new audience
Do you like Saboteur? Do you have a Switch? Well, we’ve got good news.
Saboteur proved to be a huge hit for Clive Townsend when it was released in 1985, leading to a sequel, Avenging Angel in 1987 and a longgestating third game that Clive is still eager to make. First, though he’s ramping up for a Switch update of his PC remake that appeared in 2015. Here he tells us a little more about it.
What changes have you made over the original Saboteur? Where to start! The new game is about seven times bigger and tells the story leading up to Saboteur II. And both games together reveal plot elements, which converge in Saboteur III and Saboteur IV. People have been asking questions about Saboteur II for 30 years, so hopefully now they’ll have all the answers they need. The original 8-bit games were just the tip of the iceberg.
Are you introducing any new game mechanics?
Plenty! The first bit of the game uses the exact same logic as the 1985 version, so any tricks you remember can still be used. After the first level there’s a lot more plot, leading you to new maps with varied gameplay. Most of the challenges are physical, but logic will be needed, too – especially on the harder difficulty levels.
And if you complete the game on difficulty level nine you’ll find a clue to my favourite 8-bit graphics and my favourite 8-bit music.
Hopefully people will appreciate games can have depth and don’t need to rely on fancy graphics Clive Townsend
Why are you choosing to work with Adam Skorupa for the game’s soundtrack?
I was lucky enough to meet Adam at Pixel Heaven in Poland recently. We talked about Saboteur over a few beers and it turned out he was a big fan. He’s also good friends with Emil Leszczynski at Simfabric (responsible for porting and publishing Saboteur for Nintendo Switch), who suggested that we collaborate on the project. I jumped at the chance to work with such a high-profile musician!
How will this version improve on the 2015 PC version?
Emil from Simfabric plans to make nine language versions for all NS regions, for example: Russian, Japanese, Polish, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, French and maybe more. As well as the new dynamic music, Adam Skorupa is preparing new sound effects and says we’re going to love them. On top of that, part of the Simfabric team are preparing special graphics and artwork for the Switch version, and a brand-new trailer.
Saboteur will be emulated to look like eight different classic systems. How difficult has then been to achieve and which is your favourite?
The game has been written using Unity, which doesn’t support 2D games very well. So even creating a game with sprites has been quite difficult. But the hardest – and most fun – bit of code was the routine to mimic the Spectrum/c64 display. I could have just done a Speccy-style game but I really wanted an authentic attribute system. It’s much more of a challenge creating graphics when you have to avoid colour clash. The Amiga sprites (created by Ricardo Oyón Rodríguez) are exceptional but it’s also amusing to watch the dogs chase you in ZX81 mode! Why do you think there’s still so much interest in the game?
There’s definitely a lot of love for Saboteur in the retro community. The original games came out at the height of the ninja craze so that helped its popularity. And many modern games seem to be style over substance, so hopefully people will appreciate that games can have depth and don’t need to rely on fancy graphics. As well as nostalgia, there’s actually a lot more in these versions, ranging from science fiction to psychology and metaphysics. And you get to flying kick people.
[Switch] Clive promises an authentic experience alongside some new tweaks and extras.
[Switch]the rainbow stripe at the bottom of the screen is a nice touch.
[Switch] The remaster emulates the look of many systems including the ZX81, Spectrum and Amiga.
Clive is currently hard at work on Saboteur SIO (the chemical formula for quartz) which is currently planned for early 2019.