In 1988, Andy "Cosmium" Beale finished work on his ZX Spectrum game, but its publisher canned it at the last minute and it never came out.
Now, 30 years later, Beale has finally released the game he'd finished what felt like a lifetime ago and, he tells Eurogamer, it "seemed like an old friend!"
Beale's game is called Quadron, a "new" retro 48K ZX Spectrum arcade game that's currently available on itch.io priced $4.99. It draws inspiration from 1980s Williams classics such as Defender and Robotron: 2084, and features fast arcade-style gameplay, with loads of weapons, enemies, power-ups and collectables.
Beale wrote the game in the assembler development tool over the course of two years and completed it back in 1988. But then its publisher, London-based Palace Software (Barbarian and Cauldron), pulled the plug towards the end of development, and the game remained unreleased - along with its plans for an Amstrad CPC conversion.
"They were really excited about it when I first showed them my work in progress at their London office," Beale said of the now defunct Palace Software. "Then towards the end of development the producer came round and told me there wasn't such demand for this type of game anymore. I was hit pretty hard by that."
Beale moved on to working on the Amiga ("loved it"), and then, while at Populous developer Bullfrog in the mid-nineties, worked on the Mega Drive version of Theme Park and the Sega Saturn version of racing game HiOctane.
In 1997, Beale moved to sunnier climes in California to work at a startup. When his project was cancelled he moved to Universal Studios' video game division to work on games for the PlayStation. Eventually, Beale found himself at Namco's United States development house, working on the original Xbox, PS2 and GameCube versions of 2002 action game Dead to Rights. After that, burnt out by crunch and with a family to consider, Beale left the video game industry. He only returned in the last few months to work on Quadron after Retro Gamer magazine got in touch about a profile piece that ran earlier in 2018.
"I hadn't realised the retro scene had become such a big thing," he said. "I'm really happy that it has."
Beale didn't have access to the original source code for Quadron, but he did have a "snapshot" he played occasionally. So, to prepare for its release, he worked with the disassembly toolkit and his original notes to "kind of reverse engineer the whole thing".
"I also spotted some bugs and tweaks to address along the way and five months later, it's finally out!"
Now Quadron is available 30 years after he finished it, Beale said he's "really pleased".
"What I love about the 8-bit system is that you can do it all yourself," he said. "It's so refreshing from being a 'cog in the machine' programming big games on modern hardware.
"I enjoyed making these changes and revisiting the Z80. Seemed like an old friend! It seemed apt to release the game on its 30th anniversary too!"