Clive Townsend created and released Saboteur – with software publishing house Durell Software – back in 1985. Taking on the role of a clad in black Ninja, you had to steal a computer disk and make your way through numerous rooms, filled with guards, lasers and dogs to the helicopter waiting for you on the roof; all before the time runs out. Saboteur was a massive hit back in 1985 and still remains a classic even now, with a playable version available via web browser. Villordsutch recently spoke with Clive about this thirty one year old classic game…
Villordsutch: When it came to creating Saboteur did you at the time feel you were generating a classic game that would ring through the ages or was this to you “just another game”?
Clive Townsend: Saboteur was always more than just work. It grew from a pet project while I was officially working on Death Pit, so it was already something I’d chosen to do, as opposed to being allocated a project by a boss. The huge Ninja trend in the mid-80s was a perfect match for my interest in martial arts, superheroes, and spies. Saboteur was a chance for me to create my own Batman-like hero in a Bond-like story. Over the years the story-line has developed further – so now the original game is just the tip of the iceberg…
V: Saboteur is however a classic game and is now etched in gaming lore – I even read a comment the other day about somebody’s mum completing it but they never did! We read a lot about the 1980’s gaming boom, did Saboteur open doors for you or was it just another dusty day behind the desk? Where you showered in wine and roses or was it Panda Cola and Hollands Pies all around?
CT: Shameful! I hope they’ve now played the remake and regained their lost honour! As Saboteur! was released in 1985 there was no internet as such, so it was hard to get feedback from the game players. I assumed the game was doing well based on letters to magazines and magazine charts. But it was totally unexpected to be the centre of newspaper and TV attention – especially as I was only a teenager. Financially the game did well (I bought a three-bed-roomed house) but the real reward has been seeing how the game is still remembered three decades later.
V: Have you ever had a “I am not Spock!” moment when people see Clive Townsend and start talking Saboteur to you? Have you ever wanted to talk about the weather, their day or current events rather than that game from 1985?
CT: Ha – yes, it does happen. It’s more awkward when people mis-remember things and start telling me ‘facts’ about the games which they’ve just made up… But people do seem to have fond memories of the games so it’s cool when people ask if I’m THE Clive Townsend!
It also helps when I wear my Saboteur! t-shirt 🙂
VL Saboteur – the original version – is now available on the PC & Android for free or £3.99 for the enhanced version. Was it difficult making the game for these platforms? Was it even more difficult resisting temptation to not bring the graphics up to today’s standards for the new generation?
CT: The remake contains the original game, but with enhanced graphics. You can play for free and have enough time to complete the original bit if you’re a skilled player. If you’re signed up at www.clivetownsend.com you can unlock the other 85% of the game with all the new levels, plot, and gameplay. You can collect pickups to unlock other graphics modes, such as Amiga, Game Boy, Amstrad CPC, BBC Micro, Atari 2600, NES, and even ZX81. You can also upload scores to the website, and enter online competitions with real prizes!
Making the new versions has been a real pain. I’ve tried a few times to write the game code, but the platform-specific code kept changing – Java, Xcode, Marmalade, and now Unity. In 2015 I realised that the 30th anniversary was coming up so I took 6 months off work to create the game code, game engine, new plot, graphics, tools, website, database and all the marketing pics. To future-proof the code I made up a language called EZCode which will build the game for Java, Unity, etc. This sped up development time, but there was still a lot of work to do – the new version is 7 times bigger with tons of new graphics. My original plan was to let you switch between Speccy, C64, and modern graphics, but after writing the code to mimic the Spectrum display I got a bit carried away with making the new Speccy graphics. Time was short, so the modern graphics didn’t happen, but the code is still there so maybe one day…
V: Do you have any plans to put Saboteur 2: Avenging Angel out on a similar format? Also do you have any other future games in the pipeline, as the homebrew scene is fairly big and a new Clive Townsend title would be a very nice thing to see?
CT: I have a full game design for Saboteur 3, intended to be a huge 3D game for high-end consoles. But I’d need to work with a large team to make that happen, so I’m waiting for the right deal. This would also involve telling a whole generation of game players about Saboteur 1 and 2 – hence the remake of Saboteur! Sales of Saboteur! go towards funding more work, so yes, the remake of Saboteur 2 is in progress…
Flickering Myth and Villordsutch would like to thank Clive Townsend for taking the time to speak with us about Saboteur and if you want to play the original or the enhanced version of the game you can do so here – www.clivetownsend.com