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Mythos Game History

By Julian Gollop


Time Lords - Islandia - Nebula - Rebelstar Raiders - Chaos - Rebelstar

Rebelstar II - Laser Squad - Lords Of Chaos - UFO: Enemy Unknown/X-Com: UFO Defense

- X-Com: Terror From The Deep - X-Com: Apocalypse


Selected games are downloadable, but you will need to get a Sinclair ZX Spectrum emulator to play them. See our download page for more details.


  Title: Time Lords

Release date: 1983

Publisher: Redshift

Designed by: Julian Gollop

Programmed by: Andy Greene

Format: BBC model B

My first computer game design was the most original game concept I have created. It was based on a pencil and paper game that I made a year earlier which required a referee to run the game, some awkward bookkeeping and lots of effort with an eraser as the time lines changed. The idea was that each player represented the five main races of the galaxy in an attempt to make their race the rulers of the universe. They could travel in time and space locating important wars and changing the outcome to benefit their race. The universe was represented by five planets and fifteen time zones. Where time lords arrived in the same place and time they could fight each other. The victor would eliminate the opposing time lord and reverse any time changes that he may have instigated in later game turns.

This game was the first title to be published by Redshift, and there was an updated version released about a year later which added companions, various artefacts and more colourful graphics (the original looked like a spreadsheet.) The game had some curious anomalies caused by attempting to simulate time travel and occasionally a circular paradox would occur causing the game to end. Nevertheless, it was a fascinating game and both myself and Andy have always wanted to update this design. However, every time I have proposed a similar game design to a publisher it has always been rejected out of hand. So much for originality.

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  Title: Islandia

Release date: 1984

Publisher: Redshift

Designed by: Julian Gollop

Programmed by: Andy Greene

Format: BBC model B

I designed this game specifically for the BBC computer as a simple four player conquest game. The display consisted of a randomly generated map full of islands. The players started from a central island with an exploration ship carrying soldiers. When a player conquered an island for the first time the resources of the island would be revealed. These resources were wood, iron and food, which varied in price according to supply and demand. These resources were required for building various types of ships and armies.

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  Title: Nebula

Release date: 1984

Publisher: Redshift

Designed and programmed by: Julian Gollop

Format: Sinclair Spectrum 48K

While I was at school I learned to programme on a Sinclair ZX81, plugging it in to the family TV at midnight after everyone had gone to bed. Straight after leaving school I got a Sinclair Spectrum 48k and started to programme my first game, Nebula, a galactic conquest game for one to four players. It was a fairly basic strategy game spiced with a variety of random events. This has to be one of the earliest galactic conquest strategy games which seem to be so popular today. The inspiration came from an SPI board game called ‘The Sword and the Stars’, which was an amazingly original game design, but perhaps a little too complex for its own good.

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  Title: Rebelstar Raiders

Release date: 1984

Publisher: Redshift

Designed and programmed by: Julian Gollop

Format: Sinclair Spectrum 48K

This title was the first in a dynastic succession culminating in the X-Com games. It was a simple two player individual level fire combat game inspired by SPI’s boardgame ‘Sniper’. Unlike Sniper the game had a science fiction theme, and you commanded Corporal Jonlan and his band of raiders through three different scenarios. Although this was Redshift’s most successful title it was the last to be published before I left the company along with my other Redshift colleagues.

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  Title: Chaos

Release date: 1984

Publisher: Games Workshop

Designed and programmed by: Julian Gollop

Format: Sinclair Spectrum 48K

According to some of my colleagues and many other people who have played it this is the best game I have ever done. It was a game of magical combat for one to eight players in which each player controlled a wizard who could summon various creatures and cast all kinds of spells, including such delights as the ‘Gooey Blob’ and ‘Turmoil’ which completely randomised the position of everything in the arena. It was fast paced and good fun, even with eight human players. It was my first attempt at programming assembly language and some of the bugs were interesting enough to be convincingly claimed as ‘features’. This was the first computer game to be published by Games Workshop, the boardgame publisher now famous for interminable (but terminally dull) Warhammer products. Ironically, Chaos was based on a boardgame that I designed in 1982 after seeing (but not playing) ‘Warlock’ which was one of the original four titles published by Games Workshop. I remember thinking that Warlock looked interesting because of the variety of cards used for spells, but the playing board was irrelevant because there was no movement or terrain. The game I made also used cards, but they were laid on a board as creatures were summoned. The creatures could be moved around using traditional wargame conventions. ‘Chaos’ is a fairly faithful reproduction of my earlier boardgame, and was so named because it featured the shifting balance of the universe between ‘Law’ and ‘Chaos’ as various types of spells were cast. The game was later republished by Mirrorsoft on its ‘Firebird’ budget label and has been cover mounted on ‘Your Sinclair’ magazine twice.

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  Title: Rebelstar

Release date: 1986

Publisher: Firebird

Designed and programmed by: Julian Gollop

Format: Sinclair Spectrum and Amstrad CPC

The sequel to ‘Rebelstar raiders’ featured a scrolling map, a computer opponent, exchanging weapons and objects, and an opportunity fire system. However, there was only one scenario and I really wanted to have a game system for which I could supply multiple scenarios to a captive audience. However my resources were minimal and I needed funds quickly so I could continue my college education. It was remarkable that the spectrum and its dual microdrives managed to be reliable enough to finish the project. Firebird persuaded me to do a conversion for the Amstrad home computer which meant having to deal with a completely new video system and it made me appreciate what a nicely designed computer the Spectrum was.

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  Title: Rebelstar II

Release date: 1988

Publisher: Silverbird

Designed and programmed by: Julian Gollop

Additional artwork: Ian Terry

Format: Sinclair Spectrum

This game was a straightforward sequel to Rebelstar using the same code. The scenario was a little more interesting. The Rebelstar raiders had to capture alien eggs from an alien palace and escape in a shuttle which landed nearby at a prearranged time. Before reaching the palace the raiders had to negotiate the dense vegetation of a valley and deal with the various creatures that populated it.

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  Title: Laser Squad

Release date: 1988

Publisher: Target Games/Blade Software

Designed and programmed by: Julian Gollop

Additional artwork and scenario design: Ian Terry

Additional programming: Ian Tory, Nick Gollop

Conversions: Krisalis

Format: Sinclair Spectrum, Amtrad CPC, Commodore 64, Atari ST, Commodore Amiga, IBM PC

‘Laser Squad’ followed on from Rebelstar with many improvements. The interface used a simple joystick system that meant you could sit back from the keyboard. You could choose equipment for your troops before beginning the scenario and the variety of equipment was greater, with the addition of rocket launchers and grenades. Most importantly we implemented the multiple scenario system that would allow us to produce additional scenarios and sell them via mail order. The game was supplied with three scenarios, and a coupon was included in the back of the manual which allowed players to send off for an expansion kit containing a further two scenarios. The idea was great and the mail order business was extremely successful in the long run (we are, in fact, still receiving inquiries about expansion kits). However, it all came too late and we did not have the resources to keep publishing games. We sold the publishing rights to Blade software, part owned by Krisalis who were responsible for the conversions to Atari ST, Amiga and PC. The Blade version of the game included the expansion scenarios, so we produced another two scenarios for the 8-bit formats only.

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  Title: Lords of Chaos

Release Date: 1990

Publisher: Blade Software

Designed by: Julian Gollop

Programming: Nick Gollop, Julian Gollop

Format: Sinclair Spectrum, Amtrad CPC, Commodore 64, Atari ST, Commodore Amiga

‘Lords of Chaos’ was essentially a sequel to the earlier Chaos, but it was a much more sophisticated game with strong role playing elements and multiple scenarios. The wizard designer programme allowed you to create your wizard character and improve both his spell knowledge and characteristics. The game system offered a large variety of actions and spells which made for an interesting playing experience. You could send your creatures out to collect spell ingredients for potions in large cauldrons, and vials could be filled with potions for use later on. Creatures could fly, swim, use weapons, keys and other artefacts depending on each creatures capability. The multiple scenario system was also used in the same way as in Laser Squad, but some of the scenarios were for one player only which required the player to embark on a quest with various puzzles to solve as well as an enemy wizard to defeat. The RPG element of the game allowed you to use your wizard character in each scenario and then spend experience points earned from the conflict to increase spell knowledge and characteristics.

The 8-bit version was followed by our first 16-bit programming effort for the Atari ST. We re-wrote the whole system and enhanced some of the game features. The scenarios were also quite a different from the earlier 8-bit version. The Amiga conversion was done by Krisalis, which was essentially a straight port from the Atari ST with some enhanced music. An expansion kit containing a further two scenarios was made for both the 8-bit and 16-bit versions.

The programming effort involved in this game was immense because of the multiple formats. We produced disk based versions for the 8-bit formats because it made the game easier to play. The wizard designer was a separate programme from the game itself and was a pain to use on tape based systems. At the same time we had to learn 68000 assembler for the Atari ST, and redesign all of the scenarios.

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  Title: UFO:Enemy Unknown / X-COM: UFO Defense

Publisher: MicroProse

Design: Julian Gollop

Programming: Nick Gollop, Julian Gollop

Art: John Reitze, Martin Smillie

We showed a demo of ‘Laser Squad 2’ on the Atari ST to Microprose in 1991. The idea was to produce a sequel to ‘Laser Squad’ but with much neater graphics using an isometric style very similar to Populous. They liked what we had done so far, but they explained that they wanted a ‘big’ game. I said "what do you mean by ‘big’" and they said "well, you know – BIG". They also said that it had to be set on earth, like Civilisation or Railroad Tycoon, because people could relate to it much more. So we went away, scratched our heads and thought about it. Then we came up with the idea of adding on a grand strategic element to the game, very firmly set on earth, in which the player managed an organisation that defended the planet against UFO incursions. I bought quite a few books on UFOs for research purposes so that we could give the game an even more ‘authentic’ basis.

The project started reasonably well with myself and Nick designing and programming, while the art was to be done by John Reitze and martin Smillie at MicroProse. Soon we had some problems because Microprose did not understand our game design and they asked for clarification. Several documents later we were not much better off and I had wasted a lot of time. Certain creature types were removed, including the ‘Men In Black’ and others added. Then the whole project was nearly axed when MicroProse made some cutbacks due to financial difficulties. Everything proceeded reasonably smoothly for a while until Spectrum Holobyte acquired Bill Stealey’s shares in the company. Our producer was made redundant and the game was nearly axed again. Finally we had to spend a couple of months working very long hours at MicroProse in Chipping Sodbury to get the game finished by the end of March in 1994.

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  Title: X-Com: Terror From The Deep

Publisher: MicroProse

After completing UFO MicroProse wanted to do a quick follow up within six months. We said that this was not feasible, and if it were possible it would be little more than the same game with different graphics. Instead we started work on X-Com:Apocalypse, which was much more ambitious. Once UFO/X-Com was clearly known to be a success, MicroProse suggested that we license the code for them to develop their own sequel. The rest is history.

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  Title: X-Com: Apocalypse

Release date: 1997

Publisher: MicroProse

Design: Julian Gollop

Programming: Nick Gollop, Dave Bostock, Thaddaeus Frogley, Andy Greene, Julian Gollop

Art: MicroProse

After completing this game I know how Francis Coppola felt after filming ‘Apocalypse Now’. Just about everything that could go wrong did go wrong, and the amount of effort required to pull it into shape was immense. After three years of hard work and five different producers ‘X-Com: Apocalypse’ finally hit the streets. The initial game design was definitely too ambitious and too complex. The aim was to recreate in some detail the events, organisations and personalities within a futuristic megalopolis. Each corporation had a leader who could be tailed, arrested, interrogated or assassinated. Organisations could buy and sell buildings as their financial fortunes changed. X-Com agents could spy on other organisations to gain valuable information. A sophisticated diplomacy display allowed the player to instigate aggressive or defensive alliances with other organisations. There were multiple alien dimensions, generated pseudo-randomly, and the aliens gradually expanded their empire as the game progressed. The game also featured a scenario generator and multiplayer options using a hotseat turn based system or a real time LAN option. Most of these features were implemented to some degree, but were finally stripped out due to the horrendous amount of work involved in QA and debugging.

We decided right at the start of the project to include an option for real time tactical combat or turn based. This decision alone caused many of the headaches for the programmers, but the final implementation of the real time combat stands up as a truly innovative system.

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