The Powder Diaries – 3 – A tour in Bologna Hinterland

EinsteinSoft

[NOTE: Names were changed to protect the innocent]

Summer of 1991; Me and Maltese were eager to work in the then promising italian/european games industry, beside working for what will become Powder.

EinsteinSoft was one of the emerging software houses in early nineties,together with MatrixSoft – still in Bologna-and WolfSoft in Milano.

It was also the first software house me and Maltese contacted to try to work in game development beside powder-at the time still unnamed, responding to a “call for talents’ ad appeared on a computer magazine.
At the time EinsteinSoft just released its first game, and was having another couple of games in the work. We got held of one demo through one of our “dealers” and thought we could do better, both in music and in graphics.

So we prepared a couple of demo disks,with some test graphic from m-type and what was still not powder, and I added a disk full of mod files-some made for the occasion and now mostly lost.

After a couple of weeks maltese received a call from Mr.Pinky, musician and supervisor at EinsteinSoft; he was interested in meeting us, but not too much for me and Maltese skills, more for the game we were working on.

Einsteinsoft was located in a small town in Bologna hinterland and,due to having lost the same train that the programmers took, I was a bit late in reaching their office -or better basement. Beside the logo on the doorbell nothing in that two story condo could have announced a software house.

Right next to a washing machine an elder lady pointed me to a door nearby where was a small office with a couple of Amigas and c64,  there were empty boxes for their games ready to be shipped and a couple of mass floppy duplicators.

There I found back Tomas, Nicola, Marco and met in person Mr.Pinky and the producer and owner of EinsteinSoft, Mr.Brain. Mr.Pinky  was a pretty handy, well enthusiast and maybe a bit naive guy dressed casually in jeans and t-shirt: blond,tall, short hair and an acne problem; Mr.Brain was much more business minded and seemingly with interests in more than one activity (i still remember EinsteinSoft calling card was also having in the flip side a video and software duplication service logo), dark curly hair,in a grey suit,red tie and dark shades even indoor.

Talks were on the distribution, royalties (verify) and timelines; a playable demo with at least two levels for an incoming computer fair and then – probably – a contract.

Prototype

The rest of the summer  and early fall 1991 we worked hard to create at least two semi-working level of the game. The choice ended up in the first two levels: sea (now removed) – designed by Maltese and City, designed by me. The game got called provisionally Prototype – which was both a reminder of its provvisional shape and also a pun to R-Type :).

Me and Marco worked on design a logo for the preview in interlaced med-res; was an interestig mix of organic and high tech.

 

PROTOBIG

A work file of the Prototype logo; the final version got lost in a disk error 😦

 

And around that period, the first draft ot the title tune came up: a completely different rhythm from the final one but the base melody was laid down; after a couple of days i put that to rest, since was running short of ideas on how to unravel it.

Music – Powder – Main Theme Music Draft – 1991 (unreleased) from simone bernacchia on Vimeo.

 

Even The gameplay of powder went through several transformations while we were working on the new demo. First we had the idea of keeping all weapons at once with no limitations; however the programmers – especially Nicola that was an hardcore gamer – complained that in that way the game was too easy, so we thought several ways to implement some sort of progressive power up.

One of the ways was to keep transformations available from the beginning but with reduced firepower, then either at the end of the level or halfway to meet a shop – pretty popular in other shooters – where to use the accumulated credits – obtained killing enemies – to purchase upgraded versions of the weapons. To run the store we thought to use a character digitized out of the Spaceballs movie: Vinny (in italian Vincenzo or Vince), the sidekick of the notorious space mobster Pizza the hutt. The moves were almost perfect for a store: how it speaks and turns, the funny nervous tic, how at the end points at you the fingers as to say “you made a good deal,man” not to mention the shady look perfect for a sneaky second-hand weapon dealer! However at the end we decided for a credit system: the more enemies you kill, the more credits you get to change your ship.

Wish i had some screenshots of it, but Maltese lost all amiga material since he moved several times across Europe.

Same time around, had the first draft of the Ruins level boss; was not supposed to migrate in a robot yet but the wicked statue got build up easily. Trivia: its face is (deliberately) reminiscing of a girl that I used to be infatuated of .

MCP-FIORY.2

Somebody in a small city not too far from Fano is having a deja-vu…

And a “little touch” of ego, as big as a mountain top never can miss…

TOSAVE18

Yup, is a Mount-Rushmore-like Devs Mass portrait that one!

Despite we were supposed to release with EinsteinSoft, we felt this game was our pet project, and claimed ownership on it; so at the end we sent the demo of the game to an italian magazine, hoping to produce some hype.

Took some month but It did.

A small article the size of a coupon appeared in the November 1991  issue ;

powder_tgm_preview_ok

The snippet appeared on the magazine

 

The day the magazine came out I remember at first the excitement to find out the small article and the picture of sea: i called all the others on the phone and we were all excited. However the excitement rid not last long. The same day Tomas called for a meeting at his home: Mr.Brain wanted to talk with us.

That afternoon we were all in Tomas den while he and Filippo were talking at the phone with a slightly upset Mr.Brain, that was mentioning how we break its trust and violated ethics talking about the game with the press on our own, that did not liked at all how we were – according to him –  trying to pressure  in publish the game and raising the price by raising the hype and that, in short, he did not want to publish powder anymore.

And so that was the end of our relationship with EinsteinSoft.

Plus, we also convened that using the Prototype name would result in more problems and some stigma, so at the end the name Powder stuck and became final.

Five Bedroom coders in search of a Publisher

That however did not stop us to look for a different publisher for our game. Just remember that those were the early nineties and Internet was still a toy in the universities rather than a mainstream media. Even having a modem and be able to call BBS in 2400+ BPS were still a bit a privilege – not to mention the telematic-unfriendly phone fares in Italy at the time. I remember me and Maltese preparing a couple of demo disks for graphics and music and again trying to submit it to Konami – that at the time was expanding its presence in europe with the Gametek label, dreaming a game related job in London or in UK; however nobody answer us and our written and spoken english at the time was WAY worse than now :/

Around that time Maltese went in touch with Danny, a member of a local computer club located in Pesaro. The so-called club was, in short, a sort of Pirate’s den where games were rented or sold; i still remember the walls covered of wooden shelves with red and yellow floppy disks for Amiga; this was before the piracy laws changed so all operations were legit. However, Danny and the club owners, had some leads about people in Bologna willing to enter the computer game business and interested in publish our game.

Plus, by the end of the year, finally the main theme was done the way we know. mostly. Was missing the final piano solo at the end.

Music – Powder Main Theme (1991) from simone bernacchia on Vimeo.

 

 

 

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