In a never-to-be-forgotten journey, Phil Manchester breached the icy wastes of the south, in search of the legendary halls of Valhalla and the chariots of the gods - only to find a clapped-out Porsche ...
And in those times were
sorcerers who wrought
magnificent adventures from
machines of sand and
copper. with mystic writings
and cunning they made
works to seduce the eye and
occupy the thoughts for
endless hours. Their wares
were spread far and wide by
pedlars who traversed the
In the southland, on the fringes of civilisation, one of these sorcerers forged a mighty adventure with all manner of possibilities - and his name was PeeL And scribes came from far and wide to hear his wisdom and write it down in the language of that time. Here follows the writings of one of those scribes.
You are in an icy wasteland in Hell. You can go south or west.
South - to Purley. Catch the Iron Way from London Bridge and the great diesel dragon will carry you through the southern wastes of the metropolis to the neat suburbia of Croydon. Beyond that - before you reach the wilderness - you hit Purley.
Taxis are in short supply and it meant your humble author was about an hour late arriving at the Italian restaurant in Purley where I was to meet John and Jan Peel, the people behind Valhalla.
Thor brings the wine. Thor give me the wine. You drink the wine.
For those that do not know Valhalla, it's an adventure game with animated action. John Peel calls it a piece of 'Movie Software' and claims it breaks new ground in computer games. "The Hobbit was a milestone in commercial terms but until Valhalla came along there was nothing new", he said.
It may be coincidence that the dialogue between you as the player and the Valhalla program is just a little like 'Janet and John' books. I never broached the subject with either Jan or John. But Janet and Johnish it is. The come-on in the adverts and images surrounding the game is aimed very much at the sort of person you might find
in a second-hand record shop
looking for old Genesis
records; the software
equivalent of heavy metal
music with visions of a
fantasy world where
everything is either good or
bad - binary morality. |
"You start midway between good and evil", explains Jan, the person responsible for what she calls the characterisation of Valhalla. "You have toconvince the goodies that you are worth helping. But you can take another route and be thoroughly bad and get the help of the baddies. There are lots of possibilities."
Thor brings the food. Thor give me the food. You eat the food.
The Peels are quick to refute any accusations that Valhalla exploits the less savoury side of human nature and the image of the game is, if anything, an incorrect reflection of what it's about. "You can take an absolute baddy like Loki and change him into a goody - that sort of thing does not need to be there commercially", Jan emphasised.
John readily admits that the product 'fuels fantasy' and draws parallels with television soap operas. "We are looking for TV quality images coupled with the interactive potential of a home computer", he said. "We're on the point of a revolution in leisure arts and Valhalla is one way it can go," adds Jan.
The choice of the Spectrum as the machine to accompany the first version of Valhalla was a calculated one. "It was obvious that the Spectrum was going to be a success when it was launched. We wanted to cash in on the arrival of a mature micro", John explained.
But he is far from satisfied with the current standard of home micros. "The history of microcomputing is the history of the adoption of appallingstandards. Take graphics, for instance. People want good graphics for games and other things and it takes a lot of memory. Despite that, the
software people working on
products have done an
amazing job with what's
there", he added. |
You attack the dragon. You defeat the dragon. The dragon leaves.
In the end, like anyone else in the software game, the Peels are out to make money and Valhalla promises to be a source of great riches to them. They estimate that 'at the end of the day' it will gross about £5 million worldwide. This means that they can now afford the trappings and status symbols of successful software entrepreneurs - including the mandatory black Porsche. "It only has a few miles on the clock because we've had trouble with it since we bought it. We'll have to keep our old Datsun on the road for a bit longer", John moaned.
Looking to the future, their formula to buy more Porsches is to look to ever more sophisticated software for use with home computers - incorporating things like speech recognition when it comes along. "People dismiss games as trivia, when in fact they are great source of funding. We can see great potential beyond the sort of game that's sold at present and that's what we are going for," enthused John.
Thor brings the taxi. You take taxi. Thank you Thor.
And so it came to pass that the scribe departed from the land beyond the great river and journeyed north on the Iron Way. As he pondered on what that had been revealed to him by the wizards of Legend he wondered if he was real - or just an animated special character in a computer game.
When, some days later he was wearing the magic sweatshirt given to him by the wizards, embossed with the word 'VALHALLA', and a passer-by asked "Who are Valhalla - some sort of rock band?", the scribe merely smiled, for he knew then that he was real.