At the beginning of April 2016 Peter Verdi's Magnetic Scrolls Chronicles website went offline. So far all my attempts to contact Peter failed. His site carried some invaluable interviews with former Magnetic Scrolls people. To preserve the work I temporarily uploaded a dump of his site taken in summer of 2015. All you can see below is 100% Peter's work! Hopefully his site will reappear soon! Peter, if you read this, can you contact me?

Remember how it's like to ride on a cloud? How it feels to be squashed by a bus, or how to get that damned gold disc from Micky? Well, here's your chance to relive all these situations.

Have a chat with the devil in THE PAWN, ransack an entire island in THE GUILD OF THIEVES, restore luck itself to a whole country in JINXTER, uncover a conspiracy in CORRUPTION, become an inter-dimensional secret agent in FISH!, an ancient god in MYTH, walk in the footsteps of Alice in WONDERLAND and inherit a haunted mansion in THE LEGACY.
Become a part of the fantasy of Magnetic Scrolls - you certainly won't regret it . . .


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    - Jinxter
    - Corruption
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    - Myth
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       Collection Vol. One
    - The Legacy - Realm
       Of Terror
   Magnetic Interpreter
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A brief history of Magnetic Scrolls and Acorn - Page Four
Article written by Andrew Weston
based on the article that appeared in Issue 284 of Qercus Magazine (© Acorn Publisher) - used with kind permission


Several interesting aspects of the programming set-up during the short lifetime of Magnetic Scrolls can be discerned from the information that is online. Unfortunately however, little can be found out about the dealings of the company and personnel with Acorn computers. Starting with a network of Apples, the small initial team of Anita Sinclair, Ken Gordon and Hugh Steers (the former two having met at an Apple user groups and the latter being one of at least two of Ken Gordon's schoolfriends who joined the company) set about creating a parser and other software essentials for interactive fiction. The initial release of The Pawn was intended for the ill-fated Sinclair QL and from the outset the team were looking to create their own system that could be compiled onto other computer platforms. In fact, the release of the Atari ST as their work developed necessitated the recruitment of an artist for a graphically-enhanced version of the game.

And so it was that the team constructed their own programming language or game "engine" that was interpreted by a custom program for the particular computer platform in question. This was a 68000 machine code compliant language that ran natively on the systems that allowed it (such as the QL and Atari) and was, in effect, emulated on other platforms. Reportedly, however, the programming was eventually done on a UNIX system and compiled onto the various platforms - looking at Wonderland on the Archimedes for example, the game is essentially an "absolute" (compiled) file with a collection of game data files. As it happened, the QL version was released under a Sinclair badge in 1985 but the later release through British Telecom's Rainbird software label on the earlier Sinclair Spectrum sold more copies. The team quickly expanded as specialist programmers were added to implement the Magnetic Scrolls game environment on each platform.

This staggered release and the contract with Rainbird providing funding for multiple titles meant that several games were in concurrent development. The company was evidently also not averse to re-releasing old titles as new hardware became available as the 32-bit Archimedes games were released some time after the initial 8- and 16-bit releases. A former Telecomsoft associate states: "All of the Archimedes versions were published and distributed by Rainbird. I'm guessing (as I wasn't working there in '87) that we retrospectively released games like The Pawn and Guild for the Archie and had therefore played catchup by the time the other Archie titles (Jinxter, Corruption and Fish!) were released in '87 and '88. " Some RISC OS/Acorn owners still have the original Rainbird copies and numerous Acorn copies of these and the later Virgin Mastertronic releases have been sold over the internet over the years since the company's passing away.

The very first Magnetic Scrolls release

The 8-bit machines due to memory restrictions tended to stream much of the data from disc including words, descriptions, graphics and even the Magnetic Scrolls-format code for the game itself. Again, information on the Archimedes version is lacking but with the greater memory of the 16-bit versions, it seems likely that most of the Archimedes games stored much of the game in the initial load and like Wonderland, for example, loaded location graphics when appropriate.


Magnetic Windows and the demise of the company

In a specialised corner of a games market which had to compete with the ever-increasing graphical sophistication of mainstream games, it is probably inevitable that, like their contemporaries Level 9, Magnetic Scrolls would eventually take the genre of text adventures to its limit (or zenith if you like) beyond which point it would metamorphose into something quite different. In fact, Magnetic Scrolls had gone part of the way and Level 9 would release two point-and-click style game as their final works.

Games were becoming more expensive to make as a standalone release and Wonderland had taken a huge amount of effort on the part of a small company. Although, another Magnetic Scrolls collection is rumoured to have been on the cards (and perhaps other so far undocumented projects), it is hard not to reflect and think anything other than the era of the text adventure as a full-price games product had come to a close and with it the major British company producing these games. As Stefan Meier describes it: "Like almost all text oriented game developers Magnetic Scrolls did not survive the start into the multimedia age."

The management team and their staff went their separate ways except for some who were retained by Microprose following their acquisition of the company. Co-founder Ken Gordon registered the domain some years ago but nothing has appeared apart from a logo, yet. I have been sadly unable to find information on the whereabouts of Anita Sinclair and Hugh Steers although the former features in brief comments to Computer and Video Games magazine in 2001. Many programmers went into specialised graphics professions. Others, given the unique nature of adventure games, came from more diverse backgrounds and so eventually entered different lines of work such as the long-time Magnetic Scrolls story-writer and Philosophy-graduate Rob Steggles. Fish! programmer Steve Lacey has a website where he occasionally reminisces about his days at the company. Perhaps there will be further interviews in the future online or even in the retro-gamer magazine sector. It's certainly worth keeping eyes peeled and search engines on standby for that.

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