TYNESOFT BOYS CLUB
By Kevin Blake, Winter 2000
A very revealing little piece, this! A behind-the-scenes look at what went on behind closed doors at one of the largest software publishers for the BBC/Electron series - Tynesoft. It contains lots of juicy gossip on some of the more familiar Acorn programmers, all of whom worked for Tynesoft at one stage in their career. But be forewarned that the events depicted in Part Two certainly do border on the extreme ...
Here's a small list of the less risqué things I can talk about at Tynesoft. Better known as Tynesoft Boys Club.
- Gary Partis used to show off his martial arts prowess all the time. One day while jumping and spinning about he jumped into the frame of a door. He was unconscious for at least 5 minutes.
- An artist who shall remain nameless had to spend his days in the stock room because there wasn't any room left for him. Over time, we drilled holes in the adjoining wall and used to watch him. When he wasn't looking we used to use a peashooter to get him. He cracked up after a while!
- As the staff got bigger, the owners tried their best to keep us happy and bought a drinks dispenser. It was great for a while until the water supply became tainted. All the staff except for me and one other programmer/artist (Phil Scott) became infected and had to give a doctor stool samples ...
- One of the programmers (who claimed he was a vampire) was the son of a prominent World War II gestapo officer (no joke, actually real!)
- A little known thing about Tynesoft was that when they went bust, an arsonist struck and burnt the building down. We all know who did it, or paid to have it done. But it was never proved. I always remember turning up after the fire brigade had left and seeing the remaining stock. When you were a child did you ever put a crisp packet in the oven, watch it shrink and then take it out? You get a tiny crisp packet, but perfectly formed ... just like the stock of blue floppy disks in the warehouse. All I can say is that the suspect walked like a penguin. And that's enough for most of the staff to know who I mean.
- Dave Croft did a game which was called Phantom. It had more than a passing resemblence to Gauntlet which US Gold had released. One day a new accountant started work, so we convinced him to pose as a representative of US Gold and that he personally, and Tynesoft, were going to be sued for copyright etc. It was a full 2 hours before we let him in on the joke, by which time he and the bosses were running around like headless chickens.
- One programmer got three of his old titles from another software house, changed the name of the loading screens and title screens and resold them to Tynesoft for £500 each. [Namely SANTA'S DELIVERY, BOZO THE BRAVE & TREK II. All were originally released by Icon Software]
- Some of the backroom staff (box packers etc) were so badly paid they would steal loads of the disks, peel off the labels, then sell them to the programmers as blanks.
- The back of the stockroom had 2 big double doors. One night somebody ramraided the building and stole thousands of copies of a game called 'Zortek and the Microchips'. It was completely useless, and had been left there for years to keep the draught out - they couldn't sell it. They were about to claim thousands in insurance until the police recovered all of them, even the thieves didn't want them.
- One of the programmers had a really bad riding accident in his 20's and badly broke his leg. He was hospitalised for more than a year. Every new recruit to Tynesoft had to stomach seeing his badly disfigured leg and was told to poke it with their finger. People would back off at this point due the oozing substance on the leg (it resembled a shark attack).
- All the staff were offered a bribe that if they finished their stuff before Xmas they would get a free holiday to Florida. At the time it was only worth about £250 (1988). Everybody was late, but didn't tell the bosses. They went ahead and bought the tickets anyway and most of us went. Oh joy!
The night we went to London to fly off to Florida, Gary Partis was at work on Circus Games. He wanted the money instead and was trying to get it finished. Anyway, he'd been working so hard that he was exhausted and fell asleep at his table. Gary was a big Rush fan back then and used to play old LPs on a spare turntable that we had in the office. As he slept, one of the programmers sneaked over to the turntable and put ACE OF SPADES by Motorhead on. He placed each speaker about an inch either side of his head, whacked the volume up to 10 and then switched it on at the wall .... and ran. The look of shock on Gary's face was a picture, he chased the guy down the road for about a mile!
- Gary Partis always overeacted to everything, so became a target for more and more pranks. He used to run everywhere and would always throw himself into his chairs. Until one day, we took every screw, nut, bolt etc. out and waited for the crash. We weren't disappointed.
Gary was a blackbelt etc. and was always a bit highly strung, but a good lad overall. Most programmers are a bit strange, and ALL the ones at Tynesoft were no exception. One day someone put a big dead spider under his telephone receiver. Turns out he has a phobia for spiders. The phone just about went thru the window that day ...
Can't really tell you any more, I'd probably be hunted down and killed!
However, Kevin did reveal four more damning facts. But because of their explicit nature, they may only be viewed AFTER you have made a conscious decision to see them (i.e. clicked the link below).
Under no circumstances should you proceed if you feel such topics as excretion, genital disfigurement and, erm, 'canine stimulation' are likely to offend.
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!
Continue to Part Two
Tynesoft Staff: Image 1
Click here for larger image
I believe I took this picture in 1987. I can vaguely remember Dave Croft asking me to take a picture of him posing in front of his new RX7 sports car ... then everyone wanted to be in on the act. Left to right as follows ...
Mike Landruff aka Mikbox 'I have the girth' (Artist)
Settled down now and living in Cramlington, Northumberland.
Wrote the now infamous Supergran and Rig Attack. After Tynesoft went belly up he moved on to Flair Software, until last year. Now runs a very successful pub called the Sun Inn.
Sacked by Tynesoft but re-hired by Flair (Tynesoft 2) in the mid-nineties for Amiga work. Last seen working for IG (Interactive Games) in Fulham.
Gary Grey aka Gazza (16 bit Programmer)
Left Tynesoft for Audiogenic, then Codemasters. Currently works for Darkblack Entertainment.
Bruce Nesbitt (Programmer)
Did Wizzy's Mansion, Jack the Nipper and lots of 16-bit titles in the 80's. More recently co-authored 'Z' for the Bitmap Brothers ... is about to finish 'Z 2: Steel Soldiers'. Calmed down a lot since the 80's it must be said ....
Paul Drummond (Artist)
Don't know where he is currently, but after Tynesoft worked for Flair Software and on the Simon the Sorceror Games.
Phil Scott (Artist/Programmer)
A mere child in this pic. Went on to Flair, then Rage Software. He started as an artist doing some of the gfx for Indoor Sports, but quickly established himself as a programmer. Currently a leading member of Nvidia's Dev Team.
Gary Partis (Programmer)
Probably the most talented programmer I've ever met especially in hardware application. Moved mainly into the business side of things after Tynesoft, running his own company now, I believe.
Dave Croft (Programmer)
Did tons of stuff for Tynesoft and Icon, then became a manager for Audiogenic. More recently a division head for ST Microelectronics.
Mike Hedley (Atari/Amiga Specialist)
Worked on most of the 16-bit versions of Tynesoft's games. Moved on to Flair after the closure and subsequently on to Rage Software where he now does PS2.
Steve Tall (Atari/Amiga Programmer)
Also worked on most of the 16-bit versions of Tynesoft's games. Moved to the Bitmap Bros and responsible for some of their most successful stuff to date i.e. Gods and Z. Now lives in Las Vegas working for Westwood Studios where he was lead programmer on Command and Conquer Tiberium Sun.
Dave Mann aka Chris Robson (Programmer)
Another Icon refugee like myself and Dave Croft. Well know as a cutting edge programmer of the time - looks no different now than he did then - kinda scarey! Did a lot of quality stuff including Contraption, Mousetrap, Jet Set Willy 1/2.
Tynesoft Staff: Image 2
Click here for larger image
As above to some extent, except:
Brian Jobling (Atari and other 8-bit programmer)
Went on to become the owner of Zepplin Games who then much later became Eutechnix ...
Julian Jameson (C16 programmer)
Did decent conversions of BBC stuff to the C16 and Plus Four. Much better known these days as the programmer of most versions of Cannon Fodder.
Follow up from David Croft:
I've read all the stuff that Kevin Blake has sent you regarding the Tynesoft Boys Club. I'm the David Croft mentioned (although I took my wife's surname of Lloyd when we were married 4 years ago (a women's equality thing!!)).
One thing that Kevin's article seemed to lack, is any juicy tit-bits that referred to himself - more than just an oversight me thinks! Anyway, allow me to paint a picture of Kevin ...
I don't think Kevin has actually ever had a job, he chooses to work on a freelance basis from his bedroom at his parents home in Newcastle. This room is about 10 square metres and packed full of hundreds of DVD's, Videos, games, a BIG TV, Desk, double bed, lots and lots of empty crisp packets (Kevin's staple diet) and hundreds of second hand computer bits which he uses to build PC's. Recently, I offered Kevin a job at the company I now work for as product director, Wanova. After his first day, Kevin missed him mum too much so quit and went home :-(
The first time I worked with Kevin was on a cricket sim - Ian Botham's Test Match (yes the one he's slagged off primarily because he can't play it). Now, although we were supposed to be splitting the proceeds of this 50-50, I ended up doing most of the work as Kevin was also writing a 'Bug Eyes' game at the time. This was to be a conversion of an Australian Cricket sim called 'Hozzat' which ran (in 2 player only mode) on a C64. Our brief was to convert it to the BBC and make it one or two player (remember 64k in the commodore, 32 in the Beeb). Kevin wanted to do a cop out and write it in low res, 4 colour mode but said no, we'll do it in mode 1 (hi res) (I'm hard like that!). We had about 8k to fit in the code and graphics. I knew nothing about cricket (except that you hit a ball and ran) and therefore agreed to handle the coding of the arcade sections and graphics generation whilst Kevin handled the simple scoreboard coding. After 6 weeks, we completed the project with the required 1 or 2 player mode and the addition of a computer v computer mode where the game would play a whole test match against itself - really neat! Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that, for an 8k bit of code, the game was quite an achievement (scoreboard was a bit crap though!).
Well, I guess this article signals the end of my friendship with Kevin so I guess I'd better sign off (for now anyway!)
Photos from Gary Partis: