Broadsword was a 16-bit isometric fantasy Role Playing Game (RPG) being developed by The Electronic Pencil Company (EPC), set within the confines of a castle and its grounds.
H. Wing Lai was doing the bulk of the programming with Benni Notarianni, and Anna Williams and Aisha Wilcock created the graphics.
There was a strong desire from EPC to avoid the usual arcade elements found in most isometric games, like pushing objects around and avoiding monsters. They wanted much more depth to the gameplay, including a real sense of exploration and adventure.
The player would have controlled not just one character, but a party of adventurers, directly controlling one at a time or sending different members off on mini-quests of their own, using an icon-based command system.
Behind this command system was a powerful scripting language, which could trigger events based upon the player’s actions. For example, if a player examined an object or entered a new section of the game, the scripting language would raise an event and execute new routines to spawn monsters, activate traps, alert guards, and so on.
The castle floor-plans for Broadsword were initially based upon the real-life Warkworth Castle in Northumberland, which was located quite close to where EPC were based in the North-East corner of England.
Unfortunately, Broadsword ultimately proved to be far too ambitious for a developer the size of EPC. They didn’t have the resources to complete things the way they had originally envisaged. They certainly didn’t give up on it lightly, as they were all genuinely enthusiastic about the game design, but in the end it was not to be.
Sadly, the demise of Broadsword turned out to be the demise of EPC as well. Their agent, Jacqui Lyons managed to interest Activision to take the game on in an effort to keep the company going, but by then it was already too late and the various members of EPC went their separate ways. Benni Notarianni and Anna Williams tried to continue working on the project, but it was too big a task.
Like RAIL before it, Broadsword was one of those Rainbird titles that many of us in Product Development were really looking forward to testing and having some input. It was a real disappointment when it failed to materialise as it would have been one of the first isometric RPG’s to appear on the ST and Amiga.
Many thanks to Ben Notarianni and Anna Williams for their memories!
The images on this page are screenshots from a Swedish TV show called ‘Bit by Bit’ which aired in 1989. Split across two episodes of the show was a feature on EPC and the development of Broadsword.
Although the title Broadsword has strong RPG and adventure connotations, it was actually chosen because Benni Notarianni liked the name of a Jethro Tull song called 'Broadsword' which appeared on an early 1980's album called 'The Broadsword and the Beast'!