Vol 5 Issue 1+2
Thalion Software News
by Richard Karsmakers
I would like to use this article to write something about the games that the company where I now work, Thalion, makes. I will not award any ratings there, though (though one surely can't expect me to be all too objective).
The Chambers of Shaolin
The first product launched by the new German software company Thalion is "The Chambers of Shaolin", a martial arts game with more to it than meets the eye. Since Thalion intends to produce and to keep on producing high quality games with high playability, the excellent graphics, animation, sounds and music are only logical to expect and are therefore very obvious throughout the game. Actually, "The Chambers of Shaolin" is the first game that uses the lower border for irrelevant graphics ('irrelevant' since not all monitors can display the lower border as much as others), as well as true 'hardware scrolling' in a stunning end sequence - a trick recently discovered by one of the Thalion programmers.
The thing with "The Chambers of Shaolin" is, that it is no typical martial arts game: Before you actually start to fight the sequence of four fiersome opponents, you have to train a character in the six chambers of Shaolin. This means testing your strength, speed, agility, and much more. "The Chambers of Shaolin" breaks new ground even in the market of martial arts games. Well done, Thalion.
The seven gates of Jambala
What happens when a wizard's apprentice gets naughty and his wizard gets angry? Find out in the second Thalion release, a smoothly horizontally scrolling jump'n'run game where young Dravion enters the place only full-fledged wizards dare to challenge: "The seven gates of Jambala". Again, this game features some stunning soundtracks (one for each of the seven levels) and great graphics, adding up to a massive load of monsters to challenge (including some pretty vicious and sizable endmonsters). Examine the many rooms to find extra weapons, vital information or extra points... but don't get lost in the intricate labyrinths!
This game, the third and final Thalion release in 1989 in the form of a mazed "Space Pilot" variant, should be ready as you read this. As usual, it's got some great soundtracks and stunning graphics, and its technical brilliance is quite stunning, too: It features the first ever 16-way smooth scrolling on the ST! The earth is occupied by the Myrons and you have to conquer all Myron installations on all of our solar system's planets to free the earth. After getting used to the controls, this is a very nice game to play. A full review can be found in an older ST NEWS issue: Volume 4 Issue 1.
This game will be the technological revolution of the nineties, setting trends for those who follow. It will be a vertically scrolling shoot 'em up, comparable with a futuristic version of "Ikari Warriors". What makes the game stand out among others is the enormous load of screens (over 130 totally different screens!) and the fact that it is the smoothest game ever seen on the ST: It updates the whole screen 50 times per second (compare with "Bubble Bobble" - 25 times per second - and "Blood Money" - sometimes even 10 times per second)! This is the first game that will fully feature vertical 'hardware scrolling' (which scrolls the entire screen - all four planes - in about 50 scanlines time, if that means anything to you). It will be zany, it will be absurd, it will be humorous, it will be difficult, it will be addictive, and it will have a giga-endmonster called "Ronny". Due for release in January, programmed by the frontrunner of a new generation of 16-bit whizkids, Michael Bittner (who also did "Warp", by the way).
No Second Prize
The fastest 3D graphics ever seen on the ST are about to enter your screen in the autumn of 1990 when "No Second Prize" hits the market. All existing games, including "Hawk", "Bomber" and "Interphase", will seem slow by comparison. With a display rate of 20 to 40 frames per second, "No Second Prize" is destined to be the fastest 3D action game ever made, programmed by a remarkable Swiss talent, Christian Jungen. When seeing this demo, even Jez San (who did "Starglider II") was stunned and lost control over all of his lower jaw muscles. This futuristic, action packed racing simulation will stun the world, rest assure!
The already incredibly famous 3D vector game "No Second Prize" won't take long any more, either. Actually, the concept has been changed so it will now be a kind of motorcycle simulator. Since I am barely involved in this project, there is not much more I can tell you about it. Apart from the fact that it's extremely fast and will beat the living daylight out of all other 3D games currently on the market (probably including quite a substantial amount that will be on the market at the time of its release), it should also be very playable. You will have to see it yourself to be able to judge about it.
One of the most impressive role playing games ever to be launched will no doubt be "Dragonflight". You lead a party of four, that have to find magic lost and dragons fled. The graphics and animations are incredibly smooth and varying, and there are a lot of subquests, too. This game will have taken three years of programming when it's ready, and will easily enter the ranks of the "Ultima" series. Due for release in January 1990.
Gosh. Finally, many, many months after the official final release date, all versions are now finished. These include a German, a French and an English version (entire manual and all program texts are translated, which is quite unique). I am somewhat proud to say that the manual also contains a fourty-page novel written by yours truly, and that the actual game is something not to be missed either. If you're a role playing fanatic, that is. I am not going to tell much more about this game. All the press has written endlessly about it in the recent three years, including ST NEWS.
Of course, Thalion is working on some more titles. One of them is another role playing game called "Amberstar" (first of a set of two, so I'm told). All I know is that the designer works with me in one room and that it's set to be big. And there's even going to be a sequel. A game that I am designing myself is provisionally called "A Prehistoric Tale". It will be an incredibly addictive platform game that will combine everything you ever wanted in a platform game - plus lots more! Giant animated dinosaurs, hundreds of bonuses and 128 levels (plus some hidden rooms and bonus levels) are just waiting to be conquered. In my dreams, I envision this game to be the Christmas hit for 1990 - and it is therefore set to be released in autumn of that year.
And there will be more! Just a couple of the titles will be "Jambala II" (16-way smooth scrolling platform game that scrolls the whole screen in all colours), "Spellbinder" (working title for a vertical shoot-'em-up that will bring more zapping than any title before) and probably some more.
I couldn't resist to write something about Thalion games again. After all, I'm about as hot as you can get on this subject. I will, however, again do not award any of them with a rating. I will try to be as objective as I can - though I can't promise anything as we do happen to be making some pretty interesting stuff at the moment.
A Prehistoric Tale
Lovingly called "A Prehistoric Turd" by its developers, this will be my first true (and 100%) spiritual child at Thalion, which is being programmed by Lost Boys Development. Though the title isn't definite yet, this is the game I envision to become the Christmas hit of 1990 on Atari ST (and Amiga... sorry guys, it wasn't my idea to do this conversion but we've got to think of finances as well...). I do not know if it will succeed to get there with all those damn licenses on the market at that time, but we will surely try (at the moment that I write, the program is in development). The game's a platform concept where you basically find yourself collecting eggs and dinosaur hatchlings, saving them from disaster because of extensive earthquakes that are drawing nigher and nigher. If you don't save them, the dinosaur race might die out before they actually get a chance to supply some decent kind of offspring (meaning that mankind will actually never have evolved if they don't). Littered with loadsa bonuses, hidden screens, between-level-chunk-games (very nice ones, actually) and all stuff you need in a real good game, I hope it will beat the shit out of many of the platform romps that now top the charts (though I will refrain myself from mentioning any names here). It will have a two-player option as well, of course. We'll just have to see how the press people and the consumers react to it. I can't wait for it to be finished... If you like ST NEWS (and if you think you would like to do me a favour), please get this game as soon as you can - preferably at Christmas, so that we can teach the major license companies a lesson or two!
Wings of Death
If there is any Thalion game that can possibly beat the shit out of "A Prehistoric Tale", it will surely be "Wings of Death". It's a vertical shoot-'em-up with graphics that are so good that you will have to see it to believe it. The further you get, the better the graphics will be - and, of course, the more dangerous the total of over one thousand enemy attacks will become. There are seven levels which scroll smoothly and have up to 90 shapes on the screen simultaneously. The game has five totally different weapon systems (we're not talking about simple bolting on some different extra lasers here!), additional bolt-on weaponry, chunky animated endmonsters, over fifteen bonus types, over one megabyte of graphics and another megabyte of digitized music and sound effects, optimal use of any ST configuration (meaning that the game will improve when you have a blitter or four megabytes of memory or STE sound...), support of low-cost centronics port DA converters (like "ST Replay", for example), up to 512 colours on the screen, digital speech during the game, and a hiscore table that can be saved to disk. If you add to this that it is immensely playable and that the infamous learning curve is very steep but not too steep, you get what may enter history as the best shoot'-em-up ever. And I have not forgotten about "Xenon II" if you may think this. A hit this will have to be, otherwise something's wrong with me. It's out on the ST already.
"Enchanted Land", of which you may already have heard something under its working title "Jambala II", is another game that will surely become a tremendous seller. Its most striking feature is the fact that it makes the ST do what only consoles and arcades can: Scroll the whole screen at 50 Hz in all possible directions. No blocky scroller, that is. True arcade quality scrolling on the ST has never before been seen to such extend in any ST games - it has so far only been seen in several ST demos. This scrolling, which is called 'hardware scrolling' or 'sync scrolling' (but which doesn't need any additional hardware!) has been developed by the game's author, Niclas Thisell from Sweden. It's a platform game playing in the land of Damiran where some kind of evil sorcerer called Plogthor had destroyed something called the 'Heart of Gold'. In the old days, this relic used to contain all magic of the land which is now spread literally all over the place since its destruction. Kurghan, the main character in this game, will have to scavenge the five breathtaking levels on the search for all these magical items. There's 600 KB of graphics and about 500 screens to explore. This may jolly well turn into another hit for Thalion!
|This text was published in the Atari ST diskmag "ST News" and is used by kind permission of Richard Karsmakers. Source for this article: http://www.st-news.com|