KEVIN FOSTER TALKS TO MIKE ANDEREISZ OF ROMIK
Romik are back — that’s the message for Spectrum owners everywhere. The Slough-based software company, whose headquarters are a dingy converted warehouse on an industrial estate, have recently begun producing games for the Spectrum again after a dry spell of almost two years. During that time they were not idle: development of the Commodore 64 and Amstrad computers, and the Touchmaster graphic pad are just a few of the projects undertaken by this ambitious young company. As an indication of their growing stature, Thorn EMI recently agreed to handle Romik’s distribution network — a not inconsiderable scoop for a software house.
Romik came into existence in the middle of 1982, founded by two ex-members of Rabbit, Mike Barton and Steve Clark. With a fiercely independent spirit, the company survived mainly on freelance commission work. Games to their credit for the Spectrum 48K include 3D Monster Chase, Shark Attack, Colour Clash and Spectra Smash. They now possess a full-time programming team for the first time, and the indications from Romik’s Publicity Manager Mike Anderiesz are that the company is all set to go. The emphasis is on making 1985 their year, using the Spectrum as a launching pad.
The first and most obvious question is why were Romik out of the Spectrum market for so long?
In the first instance, ours was a conscious decision to leave the Spectrum market. We felt that it was in a very healthy position indeed and was producing software of a very high standard. It didn’t really need another software house. The Commodore market, however, did, and that’s why we went there. We felt that the Commodore was lacking in imaginative, high quality software. Basically what Romik were looking for was somewhere to make an impact, and we found in the Commodore our best opportunity.
You believe then that the Spectrum market is now in a position where it’s ripe for the picking?
Yes, in my opinion the Spectrum gets a superior quantity of advanced software.
Exactly when will Romik be releasing its new range of software for the Spectrum?
In the Spring of 1985. If they are successful then there will be more games to follow. It depends on the reaction they receive from the market. Obviously, if the games-buying public are impressed by them we will know that the market is ready for more.
How will Romik games differ from all the other games that are currently available to the home computer owner?
We are trying hard to take the computer game away from the arcade clone — the predictable 3D style, etc. Our games will be much more to do with role-playing, multi-player, arcade fantasies. But at the same time they will still be a lot of fun to play. Romik games will also be accurate, with less ferocious big-claims.
What do you mean by that last statement?
Well, look how many products claim to have the best 3D graphics, or title themselves ‘epic arcade adventure games’. Megagames is a term that has been blown out of all proportion. I’m personally very worried by the amount of misrepresentation that goes on in the advertising and packaging of cassettes. I don’t think this is a conscious effort to mislead people, more of a bad habit that packagers and producers seem to have fallen into. When games make these sort of claims for themselves and then fail to live up to them, they are letting standards down quite drastically.
What do you think will be the likely outcome of all this?
I think the market is heading for a few unpleasant surprises. Come next year, for example, when the Christmas boom has died, home computer owners will suddenly find that they need to be a lot more discerning about the games they buy. And advertisers will have to learn to be a lot more particular about the terms they use to describe games. Frankly I’m surprised that the advertising standards authority hasn’t stepped in sooner. All I’m saying is that people are going to be disappointed because some of the things they have been promised will simply not be delivered.
How does Romik intend to avoid the pitfall of misrepresenting games?
Romik will tell the truth about their games. We will be as objective as possible and expect to be crucified if we are wrong. We want to be sure that we deliver what we promise. Romik has a good name to live up to.
Will the games you release next year do justice to that reputation?
Yes, I think so. At the moment we are in the 3rd generation of software games. The 1st generation was typified by games such as Pac Man, the 2nd by Time Gate (for Quicksilva), and the 3rd by Manic Miner, which started a whole stream of amusing and imaginative games. Despite all the promises and all the claims, we’re still in that 3rd generation today. Romik intend to be the first company to bring out 4th generation games, and these will be a considerable extension. I can tell you now that they will be something very special for the Spectrum owner. And while we are softening up the market, our in-house team will be developing the 5th generation of games for most of the major microcomputers. These will be released in the Autumn of 1985, preceded by a big advertising campaign.
You talk of a 4th and now a 5th generation of games. Isn’t there the danger that people will see this as an example of the sort of cheap publicity stunt that you criticised earlier?
Yes, there is, but I hope no one sees this as a cheap publicity stunt. We have the expertise now to produce the sort of games I’ve mentioned, and we’re not confined by the sort of commercial demands that hamper other software houses. Nor are we under any pressure to release games, simply because we’re not totally reliant on them for our survival. We’ve survived this far to date while other companies have gone under, by having a diverse range of activities to be involved in — consumer accounts, development of the Amstrad, and several other business projects that should see us well into next year. It’s a very restricted market and most software houses are milking it dry, but Romik don’t need to do that.
What then is your overall New Year message?
We want to tell Spectrum owners that we haven’t forgotten them and we will not let them down. We could afford to lie low until we were ready to release our products. Now that the time has come, I’m convinced it was well worth waiting for.