Sex 'n' Drugs 'n' Rock 'n' Roll

Jon Hare's account of a historical monument to over-ambition.  

Once upon a time, before Atari ST, before Sony PlayStation, before Sonic the Hedgehog, even before the internet as we know it, Chris Yates and Jon Hare (that's me) were killing time in Chelmsford Essex when they dreamed up a crazy computer game about a wannabe rockstar called Nigel Staniforth Smythe.

23 years later, that idea has mutated into a downloadable 52-minute knocked-together 'concept' album and a handful of dated-looking videos that can be found on this website. [Nigel, Tommy, Creamy Dreamy Lady, and a Eurogamer TV Show - Ed]

Why anyone should care about anything that looks so ancient and sounds so cheesy, badly acted and variable in production quality is probably not immediately obvious to anyone, including me. But via the few remnants that you find on this website today it's found its place in the pantheon of computer games folklore simply because it never came out.

It is also the project that has caused me the most grief and the most joy that I have experienced in my entire career. To tell the story of the entire project we must first timewarp back to 1985 and Thatcher's Britain, where it all began.

Chris and I had been to school together and played in a band together since we were 15. Now at the very grown-up age of 18, and both having dropped out of college during our A levels, we were hanging out a lot together. In between writing songs and devising board games on his Dad's wallpaper table (we literally drew on it in coloured pencils) we were also writing the odd throwaway joke computer game - Escape from Sainsbury's, for example - on a very old handheld device, the name of which I don't remember. During this time we came up with this idea for a game called Drugged-Out Hippy.


It was designed as a Leisure Suit Larry-style point-and-click adventure game about the singer Nigel Staniforth Smythe. Nigel had borrowed 2,000 pounds off of some Hell's Angels to buy himself a beaten-up old van so that he could go touring with his trashy rock band. He was claiming benefits, so to supplement his income he had to play gigs and deal drugs.

Drugs were quite a problem for Nigel as he had seven separate drug habits - all of which needed to be supported simultaneously. These drugs were core to the gameplay as speed made the game speed up, heroin made the game slow down, acid made him see things that weren't there and cocaine made him talk s***, etc. - all great gameplay mechanics. The other little problem for Nigel was that the Hell's Angels were quite keen on getting their money back. In fact, Nigel only had two weeks left before they lost their patience and came round to his house to kick the s*** out of him - GAME OVER.

Around about this time, Chris started to pick up some programming work from a local games company called LT software, and I soon joined him there as an artist. The Drugged-Out Hippy idea was rejected by us as another bout of self-indulgent uncommercial nonsense.

1986: We formed Sensible Software on a government enterprise scheme, after spending less than one year at LT software writing Spectrum games.

Between 1986 and 1994, Sensible Software became one of the biggest game developers in Europe on the Commodore 64 and Commodore Amiga, and we were also hugely successful on SEGA Megadrive and PC. The games included seven number one hits (in Europe only) and others such as Parallax, Wizball, Shoot-'Em-Up Construction Kit, Microprose Soccer, Mega lo Mania, Sensible Soccer, Cannon Fodder and Sensible World of Soccer.

1994: Sensible had just completed Cannon Fodder 2 and SWOS, and after six years of virtually non-stop success, we were now looking for the next projects to turn our attention to. Chris and I remembered two old game ideas that we had discussed in the past - ideas that might now be fully realisable with the new GBP 40,000 CGI Graphics machines that were all the rage and the talk of the industry (although 3D studio and Maya proved to be a lot more cost effective in the end).

The two ideas that we discussed were Office Chair Massacre and an old idea we once had called Drugged-Out Hippy. The former was a light-hearted game about office politics and blasting people to bits in wheely office chairs and that became known as Have A Nice Day and the latter became Sex 'n' Drugs 'n' Rock 'n' Roll, and Chris started to plan the future of Have A Nice Day on the Sony PlayStation (a new format for Sensible), while I started to sketch out some early plans regarding the look and structure of Sex 'n' Drugs 'n' Rock 'n' Roll (also known as SDR for short) which was to be written on the PC (also a new format to Sensible to handle internally).

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Jon Hare

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