Imagine Software’s about to make you their bitch…with Psyclapse and Bandersnatch.
When John Romero left id software in 1996, the world was his oyster. He’d co-created Doom and Quake, two pioneering video games, and was inundated with offers to continue his good work. Together with another ex-id employee, Tom Hall, he founded Ion Storm and set to work on what would eventually become Daikatana. As laid out in the excellent book Masters of Doom, the production process was brutal because of the pressure on Romero to deliver another game-changing…erm, game.
As Daikatana missed its first few release dates, Romero needed to keep up the hype, and managed to do so with this poster in 1997:
Says it all, really: Romero’s unchecked ego splashed across all manner of gaming press in his own unique way. It certainly didn’t help that the game took three more years to finish, and was pretty bloody awful when it finally did.
But during my research into 1980s computer gaming history in the UK – with Grand Thieves and Tomb Raiders serving as an excellent starting point – I came across this poster from a company called Imagine Software.
Obviously there are some key differences between this subtle poster for the two forthcoming Imagine “Mega Games”, Psyclapse and Bandersnatch, and Romero’s own personal assurance that you will become subservient to his every whim once Daikatana was released, but the lofty claims are there nonetheless.
“The two most sensational, mind boggling games ever imagined,” it says. “Can you control your patience?” it asks, twice, slightly different words each time. I love this poster. It is both very British AND very 1980s. While a turn-of-the-millennium Ion Storm threatens you for your attention, these rather dorky-looking gents are coughing politely from a decade and a half before, asking gently if you wouldn’t mind hanging on a bit longer.
But the main thing these two rather boastful press ads have in common about how amazing their upcoming games are going to be is, well, they don’t show them to you.
And the reasons why are rather similar, too. Just as Romero put the cart, wheels, wood and nails before the horse, so too did Imagine Software, whose cunning release plans were foiled by the fact that they went out of business in July 1984 – owing among other sums, £50,000 in unpaid advertising bills ironically enough.
Imagine were aiming to sell these Mega Games at an astonishing price of nearly £40 – between four and eight times the average price of a computer game in 1984. Now that really is Mega. It would’ve been packaged with additional hardware so that the game would’ve been playable on a ZX Spectrum, such was its alleged potential, but that’s a pretty tough sell now let alone in the early 80s.
So there you have it: three games. Two posters of (relatively) outlandish hype. Two rather different outlooks on games production companies in big trouble and trying to keep things very much ‘on the boil’ as one of the Imagine top brass puts it in the TV documentary filmed during their collapse.
Which poster do you prefer?