Programming, Sprite Graphics and Design (Atari ST, Commodore Amiga)
Sprite Graphics and Design (Commodore 64, Sinclair Spectrum, Amstrad CPC464, PC)
Rick Dangerous was an original platform game that spoofed the Indiana Jones genre and was the first game to be developed by the newly formed Core Design.
Rick emerged when Terry Lloyd (my co-artist on the project) and I were asked one afternoon to come up with original game ideas for the newly formed company. We sat down writing a list of game genres and themes discounting those that had been done recently. After about an hour we saw that the only thing that remained on our list was the one that read ‘Indiana Jones/adventurer’ and the more we talked about it the more we realised how few games had explored the theme let alone done it well. Certainly, for us, no one had ever really done an Indiana Jones-style game that got to the heart of what made movies so cool. The arcade conversions based on the films had come and gone, but nothing for us had ever captured the feeling of those first five minutes of Raiders of the Lost Ark with the hero leaping pits, dodging poison darts and being pursued by giant balls of rock.
So, on 3 pieces of A3 paper we wrote up the game design that went something like this:
Rick Dangerous! Vertically scrolling climber game, basically climbing down for the majority of the time. Each level linked with a cartoon sequence to tie story together.
The game follows the adventures of Rick Dangerous (a hero) through numerous Indy Jones style predicaments with numerous bad guys pursuing him (soldiers, Casablanca/Maltese Falcon-type enemies). By having the enemies chasing Rick it is hoped that a more natural feel will be given to the game, with the need for having abstract Jet Set Willy- type floating heads following a constant movement pattern being reduced. Rick may stop his pursuers by many devious means, fundamentally by activating traps around the level using his weapons…
Armed with the brief we’d put together we managed to convince enough people to go for it and set about making what has turned out to be a surprisingly memorable title for many people.
RETRO GAMING WEBSITES
It’s still quite amazing to me that after more than a quarter of a century after it was created, Rick is still remembered fondly by many and is being kept alive by a number of retro-gaming websites. The most interesting that I have found so far are:
The homepage of the extremely talented Pascal Bosquet who has created versions of Rick for the GBA and Megadrive, including a special remix ‘Dangerous Xmas’ which is well worth seeing!
An emulation site that is keeping Rick alive and well. I must admit that seeing a perfect version of Rick, complete with intact high score table and ‘Waaah!’ sound effects being played on a mobile phone really brought the memories flooding back.
Rick’s entry on Wikipedia.
A remake of Rick that you can play in your browser!
This page just gave me a real laugh when I found it. To say that Rick was the great grandfather of a certain more curvaceous adventurer would not be wide of the mark, considering the number of times after Rick was made that I was asked to go back to the tombs and boulders to make yet another platform game.
For those of you visiting this page in search of more info about Rick that very few people would know about (and more could care less about), here are some odd bits of trivia:
- The squashed look of the characters was inspired by the Spectrum game ‘Joe Blade’ and the wondrous art of Argentinian cartoonist Guillermo Mordillo.
- The screen was 32 characters (256 pixels) wide on all formats, including the Amiga and ST versions, since we were so tight on time we could not afford to have different width maps for the different formats.
- Similarly, all sprites were 24 pixels wide by 21 pixels high on all formats – the restriction of the hardware sprites on the Commodore 64 – another time-saving technique.
- Rick’s characteristic ‘Waaaah!’ sound effect was me – recorded on an old tape cassette machine – the result of myself and Terry spending a half-hour making ridiculous noises for the game and picking the funniest.
- The cartoon strip that came boxed with the game was drawn by Ian Gibson – of 2000AD’s Robo Hunter fame. We knew nothing of this until we received boxed copies of the game and it was a great surprise to think that one of my comic artist heroes had illustrated a game that I’d worked on. (The ‘Fat Guy’ who appeared later in Rick Dangerous 2 was entirely a creation of Mr Gibson’s and was such a hit with us that we simply had to bring him in as Rick’s nemesis when it came around to doing the sequel.)
- There were 74 different enemy and trap types in the game, all handled by the same very simple and very small control routine.
- Rick was designed in July 1988 and took four months to create, although it was not released until June of the following year. (Back then it was often the case that you would finish making a game only for it to be held for a period and not three seconds after you had made your final build.)
- The game ran to 85 screens in size on the 8-bit formats, with 50 additional screens on the 16-bit formats.
- One feature that was designed but never implemented was a sequence in which the enemies on a level could capture Rick. The plan was to show an animated sequence in which Rick was carried off tied to a stretcher. He would then be placed in a cell with four exits that the player could choose between. 2 exits would lead to instant deaths, 1 exit would return Rick to the start of the level he was on with the final exit that returning our hero to the last position he was at when captured. Fortunately for us all, this frustrating little feature never saw the light of day.
WHO HAS THE RIGHTS TO RICK NOW?
Since putting together this site I’ve had many queries from Rick fans who have made their own version of Rick for a particular format, asking me if I know who owns the rights to Rick and who they ought to approach in order to get their game published. Well, I’m sorry to say that I don’t exactly know who owns the rights to Rick – I would suspect it is Eidos, the publisher who originally bought Core Design many years ago (and as of April 2009, it is now a part of Square Enix), but that’s only my guess.
To the best of my knowledge, no one has ever managed to track down who actually has the rights, or if they did, they’ve had no further success. If only because, to date, we’ve never seen an officially published version of Rick since the sequel Rick Dangerous 2.
So while I love to hear from fans of Rick and that I am flattered and amazed that people remember Rick at all, that’s all I can say on the matter – I have no ownership whatsoever of Rick, I cannot endorse any remakes and likely know even less than you do about how to get permission to make one. Sorry.
25 YEARS OF BEING DANGEROUS
Having worked on multi-million selling titles over the years, I’m all too aware that Rick is an obscure little platform game that sold a handful of units across Europe. So, I am continually surprised and amazed at the number of people that not only remember Rick fondly but who also go to the trouble to contact me to share their stories of Rick or to ask me questions about the game.
All I can say is that it is a deeply humbling experience and I feel so honoured to have touched so many people’s lives, to have helped build fond memories, and for some folks, helped define a time in their lives when they sat with their best friends, clutching onto joysticks and keyboards, whooping with delight, screaming with frustration and laughing at the ridiculous ‘Waaah!’ sound I recorded in the back office at Saxon House on Friar Gate in Derby one afternoon in 1988.
It’s been an amazing 25 years.
Thanks for stopping by my site, thanks to all the Retro Gaming enthusiasts who keep the memories alive and I promise, I’ll do my best to keep thinking Dangerous thoughts.
And to those of you who have devoted many, many hours of their spare time reverse-engineering our old code and graphics and remaking versions of Rick on different consoles and computers just for the sheer love of doing so, I salute you. You guys ROCK.
ORIGINAL DESIGN NOTES
Here are scans of the original design notes that I made with Terry Lloyd that afternoon in early 1988…
More information on the various formats of the game can be found on Moby Games’ Rick Dangerous page.