Kai Temple was written on the 48k Spectrum by teenage school-mates Ian Wright and Philip Greenwood. Ian designed the backdrops and wrote the Z80 code (having recently coded an unpublished Robotron clone), whilst Philip created the graphics since he had a good eye for detail and animation.
Ian and Philip used to scrape together enough money to periodically travel to Brighton and visit the arcades. One of their favourite games at the time was the Konami arcade coin-op Shao-Lin’s Road, and this game proved to be a large inspiration when they began creating their own.
Ian and Philip also took technical inspiration from the recently released Ultimate classic game, Knight Lore, which managed to get sprites to move over a background without the typical distortion that usually resulted from using XOR (Exclusive OR). Ian worked out that the effect could be achieved by using a double screen buffer technique with background masks for every sprite, so he went ahead and wrote his own routines based upon this approach.
Kai Temple took about three months to write after school, created without the aid of a debugger. This meant that if the game crashed, there were no helpful error messages to give Ian clues as to the cause of the problem. It might not have been a particularly efficient method, but it certainly gave Ian a good grounding in the intricacies of pure Z80 coding!
Despite being extremely pleased with their hard work, Ian and Philip knew that the game wasn’t good enough to be considered full-price so they then had to decide who to approach. At the time, the main budget publishers were Mastertronic, Firebird and Code Masters. Ian particularly liked the design of the Firebird logo, and so posted a copy of the game to TelecomSoft.
Firebird evaluated the game, and initially rejected it due to a slow framerate. Ian was crestfallen, but his mum suggested that they take on board the constructive criticism and make some improvements, so they tried again and Kai Temple was accepted by Firebird second time round.