Rob Steggles and Hugh Steers collaborated on writing Corruption whilst the rest of Magnetic Scrolls were busy finishing Jinxter.
Rob was keen to write a thriller, and decided on setting it in contemporary London and wrapping it around a plot that involved fraud in the financial sector. It meant a change in direction for Magnetic Scrolls, who up until then had only written fantasy-based adventures. They hoped the different genre would appeal to an older audience, expanding their brand’s appeal.
Rob and Hugh worked on the game design for nine months, collaborating with the two graphic artists Alan Hunnisett and Richard Selby. For a while, the game had the working title of Upon Westminster Bridge, no doubt inspired by the short poem written by William Wordsworth.
Whilst the Magnetic Scrolls game engine remained the same, it was tweaked to suit the game. The 16-bit versions’ drop-down menus beneath the graphic window were changed from scrolls to filofax pages for this one adventure. Also added was a ‘one valid action equals one minute’ situation, essential to the game considering that timing was everything if you were to solve the adventure.
The initial release of the ST version of Corruption contained a bug which we (the testers at Rainbird) managed to miss before it went to the duplicators. At one point in the game, you end up in hospital. If you leave your jacket in the cabinet by your bed, the game would crash when you escaped the hospital. We spotted this bug the very next day and it was thankfully fixed within 24 hours and a new master disk was produced.
However, there was another bug which Magnetic Scrolls never did fix, and I only ever saw it happen once. In the latter stages of the game you have to present various items of evidence to a police detective to prove that you (Derek Rogers) are innocent. At one point during the interview, the detective asked me to produce a corridor as evidence!
I can also clearly remember giving Graeme Boxall – the game’s Project Manager at Rainbird – a bit of a fright (if only for a few seconds!) when I urgently called him into the testing room to see a problem I said I had just discovered. Graeme peered at the ST monitor trying to see the bug, when I said “Look, there’s Corruption all over the screen!”.
Corruption was very well received upon release, and it went on to win the then prestigious Personal Computer World (PCW) Game of the Year award in 1988.
It was also quite fortunate that the game was released when Oliver Stone’s film Wall Street was still fresh in people’s minds, making the general subject matter extremely topical.
Some uncharitable players grumbled that the only way to solve the game involved an awful lot of missing events at specific times and then having to re-load or start again, but then that was fairly typical of many text adventures back then!
Although technically not a bug, I did spot a flaw in the plot of the game as it was in the final stages of testing. Basically, the police were aware of a fact relating to the crime which they simply couldn’t have known.
I pointed this out in my testing report, and Magnetic Scrolls slipped in an extra few lines for the detective to say which explained it all away.