Beyond Software

Beyond Software was originally part of the EMAP Business and Computing Publications empire. Set up in 1983, Beyond's first released game was Space Station Zebra. It wasn't an enormous success, but Beyond games after the initial few releases stood out from the crowd, mainly due to their very distinctive (and very bright!) A5 sized yellow cardboard slip cases with red logos.

Ankh C64 - Front Doomdarks Revenge Spectrum - Front Lords of Midnight Spectrum - Front Superman C64 - Front Sorderons Shadow Spectrum - Front Spy vs Spy Spectrum - Front Shadowfire C64 and Spectrum - Front

Beyond's next few releases included Spellbound and Psytron, but the game that catapulted the company into a major publishing force in the UK was The Lords of Midnight, written by Mike Singleton and published in late 1984 for the Sinclair Spectrum. This game is still considered by many (admittedly now much older!) Spectrum owners as a classic. It was unique in many ways, and there are plenty of web sites dedicated to the game and it's inevitable sequel, Doomdark's Revenge (published in 1985). With a plot heavily influenced by J.R.R. Tolkien, this war game featured a new 'landscaping' game engine that had never been seen before.

Beyond bought the rights to publish and convert a number of games for the UK market from US developer First Star, including Spy vs Spy (converted to the Spectrum by Tag and the kid). They also followed up the success of the two 'midnight' games with Shadowfire and it's sequel Enigma Force from Denton Designs. Sorderon's Shadow utilised a landscaping engine similar to the 'midnight' games but had a text adventure system thrown in, and character graphics from Denton Designs.

Other Beyond games included My Chess II, Psi Warrior, Ankh, Aztec, and Mr Robot, with a fair number of them only ever appearing on the C64. Beyond then introduced a new label, called Monolith in 1985. Amongst other titles, Monolith published Denton Designs' arcade sports game Bounces. Mike Singleton started work on the final part of his 'midnight' series to be called Eye of the Moon, but he got diverted to help out another Beyond project Quake Minus One (C64 only).

In late 1985, Telecomsoft bought Beyond from EMAP. At the time, Bill Delaney, managing director of Beyond said: "We have no qualms about going to BT and are happy that they've taken us on. There won't be any significant changes in Beyond. We will continue with our planned range of products". Telecomsoft were flush with the success of the Elite conversions at the time, and they allegedly paid a six figure sum for the company. Some of the management within British Telecom felt that they paid over the odds for the company.

Quake Minus One C64 - Front Doomdarks Revenge CPC - Front Best of Beyond - Front Infodroid C64 - Front

Telecomsoft's ownership of Beyond saw them publish the Amstrad CPC conversions of Doomdark's Revenge and Enigma Force, C64 only games Quake Minus One and Infodroid, and release a compilation called The Best of Beyond in 1986, which contained Doomdark's Revenge, Shadowfire, Enigma Force and Sorderon's Shadow for the Spectrum, or Shadowfire, Enigma Force, Quake Minus One and Psi Warrior for the C64. It also included the audio dramatisation of Mike Singleton's short Doomdark's Revenge novella which had been commissioned by Francis Lee when BT bought the company from EMAP.

Superman vs Darkseid - Front

First Star's Superman game was originally considered a key title in Beyond's portfolio, and was one of the reasons why BT bought Beyond from EMAP. Initially released by BT in the UK for the C64 on the Beyond label, it was soon realised that the game was (to put it bluntly) awful. Anthony Taglione's Spectrum conversion was therefore released as a budget title (at £2.99) under the First Star label but published by Telecomsoft in a double-cassette jewel case (unusual for a budget release) and distributed by Prism Leisure.

Telecomsoft didn't do much with Beyond once the titles that had been in development were completed. Star Trek: The Rebel Universe was initiated to mark Beyond's ownership under BT. That title, along with Mike Singleton's Dark Sceptre were originally due to be published under the Beyond label, but ultimately they appeared as part of the Firebird range instead. By then, the third part of the 'midnight' trilogy was in limbo on the Spectrum. 8-bit sales were on the decline, and Mike Singleton became too busy with other projects.

One computer magazine (ZX Computing or possibly Big K) did publish a development screen from Eye of the Moon but that was the only glimpse the public ever saw of it, until Domark published Lords of Midnight - The Citadel for the PC in 1995. I was fortunate enough to write the manual and help play-test the final installment in the 'midnight' trilogy, but with hindsight I believe that the 8-bit games published by Beyond were better.

Eye of the Moon Spectrum - Face Editor

Although staff moved from EMAP to BT as part of the deal, almost all of them left within a year or so, including Managing Director Bill Delaney, Marketing Director Clive Bailey and Francis Lee. Pete Moreland was one of the few who stayed up until he left to join MicroProse just months before Telecomsoft was put up for sale by BT and subsequent sold to MicroProse UK Ltd.

Issue 64 of the UK Retro Gamer magazine featured an article written by me about Beyond Software. If you go to the download section, you will find a longer version of the article in PDF format.