I still remember those early days when SDR started to move towards real production. I was producing pencil sketches of Nigel's bedroom (based on the bedroom of a musician friend of mine who lived in Chatteris, Cambridgeshire) that would eventually define the hand-drawn style of all the backgrounds in the game so brilliantly created by John Laws (now at Frontier Developments). We changed a few details along the way. Nigel's name was changed to Nigel Stanleyforth Smithe, and we moved the scenario to Bognor Regis and more emphasis was placed on Nigel's slow ascent through the local music ranks in very grungy surroundings. Nigel also started to get involved in pimping during this period. Now living in his van, he could haul girls in off the streets and sedate them with drugs as he pimped them out to anyone who fancied a good time in the back of his van.
The band was called The Subverts.
SDR fitted perfectly into the left-field half of Sensible's established formula of putting out a mixture of straight games like Sensible Soccer, Cannon Fodder and Microprose Soccer with left-field games like Wizball, Wizkid and Mega lo Mania. This was a formula which had thus far proven to be very successful.
1995: Sensible was riding the crest of a wave, everything we touched turned to gold, and in retrospect it was at this point that we should have sold the company. Anyway, we didn't want to sell our company, we wanted to do what the hell we wanted creatively and amazingly we got our way. Warner Interactive (who had recently bought Renegade, the publisher of Sensible Soccer), signed us up a three-game deal, with Sensible for Sex 'n' Drugs 'n' Rock 'n' Roll, Have A Nice Day and a new version of Sensible Soccer. This was a multi-million pound deal, which was almost unheard of in the UK at this time, and amazingly in its eagerness to sign up the new version of Sensible's perennial best-selling Soccer game, Warner had agreed to pay a seven-figure sum for Sensible's ultimate joke game: the over-indulgent fantasy with very British humour that was Sex 'n' Drugs 'n' Rock 'n' Roll.
I cannot tell you how much of a dream this was to me: over one million pounds to make my creative fantasy come true. This was much more interesting to me than the new Sensible Soccer, and was something I had wanted to do for 10 years. This was my chance to prove myself as a media visionary, this was going to be a piece of art the likes of which the industry had never seen before. A marriage of games, music, TV and live performance. The shape of things to come.
And even better than that, it was such a fantastic excuse to write music. I had written music with Richard Joseph for the previous five years for all of Sensible's Amiga games. Richard and I were natural creative partners, as well as very close friends. In my career I have nearly always worked best in partnerships so I really appreciated the special working relationship that Richard and I had. We gave him a very good budget for the sound work on SDR as well us all of our other projects signed to Warner (between us by the end of the project we had written and produced over 30 pieces of music for the game).
Various changes happened to the game plot in 1995. At Warner's behest, we got rid of the pimping angle in the game and also his total reliance on his seven drug habits. His drug-taking had now become recreational rather than dependent. How trendy.
We decided that more people could relate to a rock star than a guy who wanted to be a rockstar, so we changed the plot to make sure that he had a record deal signed up and was jetting off to LA within the first few scenes of the game.
We also ditched the paying back the Hell's Angels part of the story and changed it so that they just beat him up because he accidentally got signed up to their record deal by mistake. The band's name was changed from Out Of The Frying Pan Into The Necropolis to Black Magic to simply Magic as the game progressed.
We also developed the plot a lot more. It took in 63 separate settings and traced the band's journey through many different musical phases such as Punk, Glam, Space Rock, Sitar-backed folk, Disco and Serious Stadium Rock. Also the band travelled all over the world to the US, Amsterdam, Japan and Mexico as well as the UK. In total, the game was to include 150 characters - all of whom were earmarked for 3D modelling, and this would later become a serious reason for the problems that later ensued - not just for SDR, but for all of the games signed under the new Warner deal.