Dick Special: The Search for Spook was being written by Sandy White for the Commodore Amiga. Having finished writing I, of the Mask, Sandy spent the next year learning to program in C++ so he could make the leap to 16-bit development.
Angela took a character that she had created in Art College called Eppington Bongo and changed it into a new character called Special Dick. In the end, the possible rude connotations meant the name was changed to ‘Dick Special’ instead. The original idea of the game was that Special Dick was looking for his lost dog, called Spik. The original title would have been Special Dick: The Search for Spik, but Spik (named after his Spiky dog collar) also had to be renamed so as not to upset people from Spain; another connotation that Angela had been unaware of at the time.
Sandy took Angela’s central character and began to animate him. Angela designed a number of backgrounds and objects and together they created part of an old house that Dick Special could walk around. He could also interact with the backgrounds, opening doors and so on, accompanied by appropriate digitised sound effects.
Sadly at this point in the games development, Sandy and Angela were having big disagreements about the design and who should be contributing what to the overall game. These disagreements led to them splitting up, with Angela successfully getting a job at Rainbird Software in central London, the very publisher due to release the game.
With Angela now working for the publisher, Sandy was alone in trying to get ‘Dick Special’ written and finished for publication. Another twelve months of development and very little was really achieved and in the end the money ran out. Angela wanted to take the game as it was and get a different programmer to finish it off, but that wasn’t deemed appropriate by others within TelecomSoft. Years later, Sandy has admitted with hindsight that doing it on his own was too big a job, and that putting together a proper team might have got it finished. In the end, the game just petered out and vanished from the publishing schedule. MicroProse never took the title on when they bought TelecomSoft from BT and so that was that. Game Over.
Technically, ‘Dick Special’ was interesting as it was running in the Amiga’s hold-and-modify (HAM) mode. That caused all sorts of challenges in regards to available memory, speed and so on. Friend and fellow programmer James Hutchby was briefly involved to see if he could perform a similar feet for the planned Atari ST conversion, but it simply wasn’t feasible and became a moot point in the end anyway when the Amiga lead version was abandoned. In simple terms, the ST couldn’t scroll the background fast enough!
I have clear memories of fiddling with a version of ‘Dick Special’ in the TelecomSoft offices. Sampled creaky doors, monsters noises and so on were a novelty back then. The graphics were big and unusual – almost sketchy in style – but there was very little to actually do from what I can recall.
A big thanks to Angela Sutherland for recalling most of the above!
With Angela working at BT and then setting up Teeny Weeny Games and Perfect 10, Sandy White ended up writing server-side Java and lots of other very clever stuff, including the mysterious ‘Crash Lab’!
Of course, I’m still hopeful that Sandy will one day resurrect ‘Dick Special’ and maybe allow me to put it up here (like I did with EPT)!
Other Dick Specials?
Miracle Games (Delvin Sorrell) tried to develop a non-HAM isometric adventure featuring Dick Special a few years late. That version was never finished either!
There are also unsubstantiated reports that Activision had it for a while before Miracle Games, under the name of ‘The Captain is Dead’ but it was abandoned when Activision’s ownership changed hands in late 1991.