The History of Beyond Software

BT Ownership

The earliest casualties of the BT take-over were Bill Delaney and Clive Bailey, who steered the company through the purchase but who then left to set up a new publishing label of their own called Nexus. However, there were already rumblings from within TelecomSoft and BT in general that they had paid over the odds for Beyond. Difficulties with some of the programming teams were causing some friction, and then there was First Star’s ‘Superman’ game, which was believed to have been a major factor in the decision to buy the company.

In hindsight, Dr Ederyn Williams regretted the purchase of Beyond, mainly due to the quality of the ‘Superman’ game that was delivered late. The Commodore 64 original was published via the Beyond label using the familiar Beyond packaging, but it was critically slammed and with good reason. It was a very poor game and a huge waste of an expensive and high profile license. Nobody had a good word to say about it.

TelecomSoft had also only recently launched their premium publishing label Rainbird Software, and it seemed apparent that there was not enough room to cater for yet another new label. Beyond really needed a new captain to steer the ship through this troubled time, and it came in the familiar form of Sales Manager, Francis Lee. His appointment pleased the existing staff, and he grabbed the opportunity to run Beyond with both hands, and was keen to get Beyond back on track.

Beyond was not performing as well as it had previously, and it was felt that something special was needed to lift the label’s reputation. With that in mind they assembled a team of the best programming and design minds who had worked previously with Beyond and put them all to work under the leadership of Mike Singleton, who was keen to design a Star Trek game.

Two ex-members of Denton Design (Graham Everitt and Steve Cain) had just turned freelance and were enticed by Peter Moreland and Herbie Wright (from Firebird) into working on the Star Trek game for Beyond, with contracts signed at the Adelphi hotel in Liverpool.

As the Star Trek license was being concluded with Simon & Schuster in New York, Francis Lee recruited a new Marketing Manager in the form of Marc Peirson, whom Francis had known for a few years before and during his time at EMAP. Marc became an important and enthusiastic part of the new BT-era Beyond team.

Marc got to masquerade as Captain James T. Kirk for three days on the Beyond stand at the 1986 Personal Computer World Show. The stand was dressed up to resemble the bridge of the USS Enterprise, complete with framed digitised pictures of the original Star Trek characters adorning the walls.

Unfortunately, the game was destined to be published for the Atari ST over a year later than planned (on the Firebird rather than Beyond Software label), and it wasn’t quite the mega-game everyone had hoped for. The conversions to the Commodore 64 and the IBM PC also took a further two years to appear.

Another decision that Francis Lee took whilst in charge of Beyond was to generate fresh interest in the soon-to-be released Commodore 64 and Amstrad CPC conversions of ‘Doomdark’s Revenge’.

Francis came up with the idea of taking the novella that came with the original Spectrum version and converting it into a dramatic radio play which would be produced as an audio cassette and given away free with the conversions. This involved actors, special sound effects and music specially written for the project. Many long hours were spent in the recording studio producing the play.

Marc Peirson also has reason to remember this part of Beyond’s history, as he provided the narrator’s voice. The reason he spoke in such a silly fast voice as narrator was because he originally did it in a ‘by the fireside’ comfortable, slow voice and the recording engineer said they didn’t have enough tape on the cassettes to talk at that speed, so Marc had to speed it up by speaking a lot quicker!

As Beyond were now part of a huge telecommunications company, the decision was also taken to make the play available via a premium rate phone number. The audio was sliced up into different chapters, and each chapter could be listened to by dialling a particular number. The play was also included on a cassette bundled with a compilation that BT released later called ‘The Best of Beyond’, with a slightly different collection of games for each platform (Spectrum, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC).

The complete list of Beyond titles published by TelecomSoft included Bounces, Dantes Inferno, Amstrad CPC and Commodore 64 versions of Doomdark’s Revenge and Enigma Force and Mike Singleton’s Quake Minus One (which had briefly been published on Beyond’s sister label ‘Monolith’ before BT bought Beyond from EMAP).

Unfortunately, more of the original Beyond staff decided to leave soon after the move to BT. Francis recalls how difficult it was to acclimatise at BT, and the hard decisions that people had to make. They continued to innovative ideas but it was clear that there were fundamental differences in how they had been doing things at EMAP and how BT expected them to be done. This unfortunately led to most of the EMAP staff leaving.

In the end, only Pete Moreland remained at BT and became part of TelecomSoft’s Product Development department, working on titles for Firebird and Rainbird. Once the games in development had been published, the Beyond label was quietly laid to rest. Star Trek and Mike Singleton’s Dark Sceptre had originally been promoted as Beyond titles, but by the time they were eventually published in 1987, they had been moved to BT’s Firebird label.

Of course, just a few years later the same fate fell upon TelecomSoft…

Superman for the Z80

The Spectrum and Amstrad CPC versions are the only titles published by TelecomSoft without using any of their publishing labels. There must have been a legal reason, but it ended up being a First Star game, simply published by TelecomSoft and using a unique company ID in the barcode (5014293) which doesn’t appear to have been used for anything else.