If you managed to pay a visit to the European Computer Entertainment Show (formerly the PC Show) at Earls Court in September, then you may have seen Betty Boo and the Boo-pettes 'doing their thang', whilst sporting Renegade T-shirts. What did it all mean? Well, Betty Boo is just one of the artists on Rhythm King Records, and Rhythm King along with the Bitmap Brothers chose the annual industry show to announce their new software label – Renegade.
Martin heath is the head of Rhythm King Records and a computer games nut of the first order. He first got involved in the industry when the Bitmaps approached him wanting Rhythm King artist Bomb The Bass to supply a soundtrack to Xenon 2. Martin began to acquire knowledge of the industry and was dismayed by what he saw. From this dissatisfaction and the conviction that he would be able to run a software label more efficiently – drawing on the Rhythm King experience and multi-media facilities – Renegade was born. Martin is keen for Renegade to offer a better deal to games developers. Erm... how?
HOW DOES RENEGADE GIVE A BETTER DEAL TO GAMES DEVELOPERS?
You wouldn't buy a record because it is on the K-Tel label, would you? And you wouldn't buy a paperback novel because it is published by Virago. Of course not! You'd buy a book because you liked the author and a record because you like the artist. Renegade intends to pursue this policy of promoting programmers over the publisher in its software. So instead of buying a Renegade game – you'll be buying a Bitmaps game.
Eric Mathews from the Bitmap Brothers is rather scathing about the quality of many licensed games. Largely, licensed games are expensive to produce and are frequently rushed out to tie up with the release of the film/book/record or whatever the licence is based on. As we know the Bitmaps have built up a reputation for producing high quality software titles like Xenon 2, Speedball and Cadaver. Eric believes that by establishing this sort of pedigree and then selling games with the programmers names in prominence, Renegade can create a situation where publishing a game by the Bitmaps is the same as publishing a licensed product – except perhaps with more confidence in the quality of the contents. A major part of the Renegade philosophy is to protect the artistic integrity of its developers – in short to give credit where credit's due. The Bitmaps have always been strong exponents of the games developers right to recognition. Eric makes the salient point about the injustice of an employee of a games publishing company getting up to receive a Programmer Of The Year award at software award ceremonies. The ideals of Renegade: recognition, shared responsibility and artistic integrity for developers has been crucial in attracting the Bitmaps to this new label.
The Publisher's Perspective
Martin Heath (remember? He's the head of Rhythm King and the Bitmap Brothers are forming Renegade – 'a new kind of entertainment company') – he's naturally rather excited about the whole venture.
Martin concurs with Eric's views on the way that much of the credit for producing a good piece of software goes not to the developers (the creative input) but to the publishers. From Martin's experience with the music business, he was astounded to learn of some of the deals games programmers were being offered. Martin claims Rhythm King Record's experience will stand Renegade in good stead. He sees much in common between the two industries but say the music biz has had 20 more years to learn the best way of doing things. The record label has video, film, and music recording facilities at its disposal – so it's no stranger to effective packaging and artwork. More importantly Renegade intends to be 'different' in its treatment of games developers, and this doesn't end with promoting programmers over the publisher. Renegade plans to put its money where its mouth is and offer its programmers a profit-sharing deal.
Furthermore the new company aims to encourage new and existing talent into its fold not only with financial incentives and sharing of responsibilities but also with the high esteem in which it holds developers. Just as Rhythm King prides itself on listening to every 'demo tape' they receive, so Renegade promises to be receptive to new material and not rip off people's ideas. A better deal for programmers, more credit where it's due, and more dosh, together with the employment of all the well established machinery of Rhythm King Records should result in better games for us, and that can only be a good thing!
The first Renegade game will be Gods by the Bitmap Brothers. Although its release date is three months away, ZERO had a privileged peek at how it's coming along.
Gods is a side view multi-scrolling arcade adventure which, as you'll see from the ST screenshots is poised to continue the Bitmaps' success story! Gods puts you in the role of a gladiator set to complete four tasks in four worlds in a bid to be rewarded with eternal life (or Le.fi is you're a Billy Graham follower). Each level (as well as having a host of baddies) will be rife with puzzle solving elements. And just look at how much there is for you to pick up! 15 different potions, over 30 different objects per level and over 57 varieties of Baked Beans. (Are you sure about that last one? Ed). In a nutshell, the main character looks like he's fresh from the Speedball pitch and the gameplay is reminiscent of a view from the side of Cadaver (though the puzzles aren't as complex).
Anyway, one of the neatest bits is the level of intelligence coded into the 'aliens'. The further you progress, the 'smarter' the aliens become! Each is attributed to a certain point value for different abilities such as speed, morale, aggression and intelligence. Each is also programmed with a primary and secondary objective, and dependant upon how intelligent they are they act accordingly. More intelligent creatures will also act, er... intelligently taking all the other attributes into consideration. In other words, if a creature's objective is to guard an object, and you pinch it, then it's secondary objective will most likely be to attack you. Now the creature decides whether it 'fancies its chances'. If it's not very strong it may opt for a 'tactical withdrawal'! All this adds to a good deal of realism. Some creatures can actually steal your bonus pick ups. Others can pick bonus weapons and use them against you! A wave of creatures can elect the brightest member as their leader. Kill the leader, or a large number of them and they'll 'leg it' pronto! Brilliant, eh? This translates to all the meanies changing their course of action in direct relation to your decisions! Add to this the rather clever gameplay editor that brings in a startling new feature. Let's call it the 'Crap Factor' (a bit like The Krypton Factor but without Gordon Burns). This basically adjusts to make the game playable no matter how er... crap you are. (Or how good you are. Ed). Gods has a built-in programme that studies your performance. If, for example you've taken two hours to cross three screens, you haven't managed to collect any objects, and you've been trashed to within an inch of your life, then the game will say:
"Hmm... this chap's about as good at computer gaming as Douglas Hurd is at the Luge. If I send in a wave of steel-hide, take-no-prisoners, mean-mutha aliens (each with the IQ of Professor Heinz Wolf) he'll probably get very little 'gameplay' out of his new purchase. Hmm, perhaps I'll drop in a paper-thin 'do you want a game of dominoes?' shandy drinking 'monster' with the IQ of Jeremy Beadle.'
Clever things computers, aren't they? Oh... and don't think you can outsmart the Gods by being completely useless and hoping the game will cheat in your favour – the Bitmaps have that angle covered too. There'll be obviously be a limit to how far you can get without certain objects, and how much leniency the game will allow you. Furthermore the better you do, the more rewards you'll get – which means more treasure and power ups!
Zero, issue 13, November 1990, pp.22-24
Martin 'If Thine Eye Offends Thee, Pluck It Out' Heath demonstrates one of the hundred and one uses for a Renegade sticker.
(Oaooouwwwouach! I felt that. Ed.) Photo by Dylan Martinet