I briefly mention a game from my distant 8-bit youth in the latest issue of the Cane and Rinse podcast: ElektraGlide.
On doing my research for that first Burnout show I learned that one of those enigmatic, god-like names from the glowing phosphor TV of my childhood – in this case Adam Billyard – had gone on to co-found Criterion Games with the likes of Alex Ward, Fiona Sperry and David Lau-Kee. Specifically, Billyard authored Criterion’s magnificent middleware.
As we discuss on the show, RenderWare was obviously a powerful and flexible utility and was used by a number of developers (including Rockstar North) that were looking to take some of the pain and cost out of building worlds for sixth-generation machines.
Anyway, as well as this futuristic racer blowing my tiny mind back in the mid 1980s with its smooth, fast graphics I was also completely hooked on the accompanying tune, apparently composed and programmed by Billyard himself.
Looking at the game in action now I’m sure it will be a struggle for many to imagine this, but as a 13 year old I found the experience powerfully immersive, blasting through these eerily coloured deserts, set upon by mysterious bouncing spheres and hovering cubes as I tried to reach the next checkpoint without coming a cropper and running out of time (just like Burnout really).
Only in the age of YouTube videos did I finally discover that I hadn’t been making some horrible mistake causing an arbitrary game over scenario – that sudden halt and fade to black accompanied by ominous jungle really was the signal that the player had ‘completed’ the course.
Thanks to YouTube user 1xWertzui we can hear how composer David Whittaker remixed and expanded upon the original composition for its appearance on Amstrad CPC and Commodore 64:
Nostalgia dictates that I have the most fondness for the Atari version (complete here with rumbling background engine noise) but I must say the Amstrad version is particularly impressive as I generally remember the musicians of the time struggling with the tinny sound chip of Lord Sir Alan’s machine.
Billyard was also responsible for technically accomplished titles like 8-bit Karate Champ clone Chop Suey and later, mind-boggling 3D pool sim Q-Ball on the Atari ST, before going on to Criterion (and therefore ultimately EA).