Bits, Bytes, RAM, ROM and Red Dwarf.

Back in the dawn of time I penned an article for Better Than Life, a magazine produced by the Official Red Dwarf Fan Club about the shows stars, and their appearances in videogame format.

The article was written in September of 2002. For posterity and accuracy I’ve left in the website links and other bits and bobs at the foot of the page. Hey, they may still work Smeghead!


 

The transition from celluloid to software is a well-trodden path. There has been a plethora of motion pictures and TV programmes finding their way onto computers and gaming consoles since the advent of video gaming. From Star Trek to Star Wars, Indiana Jones to Batman the list is endless and the gaming industry’s obsession seems to be never-ending.

In recent history we have seen a massive explosion in the power of home computers that has led to the blending of the lines between interactive games and traditional movies. This has led to a more remarkable phenomena where computer games are becoming the source material for the next box office smash at the local MegaScreen complex – stand up and take a bow; Street Fighter, Tomb Raider, Mortal Kombat and Resident Evil to name but four.

With this overwhelming popularity, especially in converting popular Sci-Fi Movie and TV smashes, I was sure that Red Dwarf must have featured somewhere in this history? Out there the hand of Sinclair, Commodore, Apple or Bill Gates must have reached out and embraced the series, one of the cast members or interfaced with a scutter.

The Feeble Files

I was right. Whilst trawling through the myriad of classic computer games I owned, lying on top of my wardrobe gathering dust, an out-sized box depicting the black boggle eyes and remote green face of an alien. The alien is called “Feeble” and the box contained a 1997 PC computer game called “The Feeble Files”, published by Adventuresoft.

Febble

Of interest to all reading this, is that the voice of “Feeble” is provided by a certain Mr Robert Llewellyn, starring in his first and to this day, only computer game!

The Feeble Files is a 2D cartoon comedy adventure from the same genre as classic LucasArts games such as Indiana Jones, Monkey Island and Sam n Max. It’s cleverly written, well drawn, beautifully animated and contains superb voice acting.

Mr Llewellyn plays Feeble, a galaxy saving rebel from the planet Grenelon who lives in a society controlled by an entity known as the OmniBrain – an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-seeing big brother who balances the planet’s lifestyles into OmniCommunities.

His portrayal of Feeble (and a number of incidental characters) is superb and he brings the character to life with the right degree of bewilderment, irony and a good dose of British humour. As a bonus for Sci-Fi buffs, the voice of The Oracle (a piece of equipment designed to remember and manage all of Feeble’s experiences and objects) is provided by Peter Tuddenham from Cult TV Series Blake’s 7.

The Feeble Files comes on a massive 4 CDs, jammed packed full of colourful graphics and adventure which sees you getting thrown in prison, dressing up in women’s clothes, and even being interrogated by rubber-clad space vixens (but not necessarily in that order).

Simon The Sorcerer I

The discovery of Feeble led me to approach Andrew Brazier of Adventuresoft, who informed me that the connection with Red Dwarf ran deeper than it’s service mechanoid: In an even earlier software title called Simon The Sorcerer, Simon was voiced by the great man himself, Chris Barrie!

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Anyone who loves magical lands, and cute little people with pointy hats, will find Simon irresistible. He’s a twelve year old who made a wish at his birthday party that backfired. Hence he was magically zapped away to a land of fearsome goblins and yokel wizards where he was charged with the task of rescuing the good Wizard Calypso from the evil clutches of Sordid the Sorcerer.

Simon the Sorcerer is beautifully drawn, giving the story a magical, fairy tale quality. The point and click interface will be familiar to anyone who has played the LucasArts’ classics such as Monkey Island or Day Of The Tentacle.

Renowned for his voice acting, Chris gives a stellar performance as Simon with a rapier wit, innocence and a hidden wisdom as his character requires.

Andrew outlines his love for Red Dwarf and cites this as the primary reason for choosing Chris and Robert to provide voices for the games: “it is simply because we liked Red Dwarf and thought their voices would suit the particular role we were after (Simon the Sorcerer – teenage wizard with an attitude and penchant for insulting people, and Feeble – mild-mannered put-upon alien who finds himself unwillingly embroiled in an inter galactic revolution).”

Dogs of War

If Kryten had dared to dip his toe into this new world then I was sure that some of the other, more irresponsible members of the crew had also taken the plunge. Sure enough, after scouring the net I found that Craig Charles had provided the voice-over talent for Talonsoft’s Dogs Of War.

Dogs of War, is a real time action tactics game set in a full 3d environment. Battle takes place with up to 200 individual units split between 3 opposing forces, across sprawling battlefields of up to 10 square kilometres.

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There are more than 40 different unit types to command, including infantry, mechanised units and alien creatures, and a diverse range of camera modes including long-range strategic and 3rd person views.

Adding to a rocking game soundtrack by Fat Boy Slim (the very same!), providing the story voice-overs and playing the role of a central character to the game, Craig the WarMonkey, is Mr Craig Charles himself. Craig leads you through every aspect of the game with colourful dialogue and quips such as “twenty-four hours in a day, twenty-four beers in a case, it can’t just be a coincidence”.

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I was interested in the connection between Craig and Talonsoft, so I caught up with Dene Landucci, PR Manager at Silicon Dreams – the Development House that produced the in-game code for Dogs Of War and recorded the voice-over and commentary contributions made by Craig. Dene kindly put us in touch with the Producer of the game; Darren Drabwell and I took the opportunity to question him about his experiences with Mr Lister:

TORDFC: What were your decisions for choosing Craig Charles as the voiceover actor for Dogs of War?

DD: I wanted someone who had a proven track record in the Sci-Fi world, I also wanted someone with street cred – add those two ingredients together and you get Craig.

TORDFC: I see! Did you consider any other Red Dwarf cast members, for example Chris Barrie and his Ace Rimmer character?

DD: No, I only ever considered Craig as he is by far the most handsome of the crew of Red Dwarf and beauty is very important when hiring a voice actor …

TORDFC: What are the favourite Red Dwarf episodes of the TalonSoft/Silicon Dreams team?

DD: I love Queeg. The moment Holly’s jape is revealed is pure magic, I’ve seen it more times than Rimmer’s failed his navigation exams and I still laugh every time.

TORDFC: It seems the commentary and voice over work was very Red Dwarfish, was this originally planned or did Craig add his own personal touches to the script?

DD: Being a huge Dwarf fan, yes, I did make some of the script Dwarfish, but Craig added a lot of his own little touches. I remembered being scared to use the word “smeg” for legal reasons, but when Craig just came out with it, a huge smile spread across my face – what a guy!

TORDFC: Lister is renowned in the series for being a trickster and joker. Did Craig live up to this reputation and get up to any practical jokes or was he a consummate professional?

DD: He was 100% professional and a great actor to work with. Well, Craig only has a 3 second attention span so he will have stopped reading this answer by now, so I can tell you the truth ….

TORDFC: Do you plan to use any other Red Dwarf cast members for future games development?

DD: No plans at the moment, but you can be sure if I can shoe-horn one in, then I will.

TORDFC: What else can we expect from TalonSoft/Silicon Dreams in the near future?

DD: We are working on lots of great games, check out our website for the latest news: http://www.kaboomstudios.com.
TORDFC: Any other snippets that you might think will be of interest to Red Dwarf fans?

DD: I can say that since meeting Craig to work on DOW, we have seen each other a few times socially and we went to Glastonbury together. He is a top chap and looks hot in a cowboy hat ….

TORDFC: Indeed!

Thanks to Dene and Darren for taking the time to provide me with such an insight into working with Craig! Cheers.

Robot Wars

The other blindingly obvious choice for a possible appearance by Craig was staring at me from the TV Guide pages of the daily newspaper: Back for a new series is Robot Wars and to coincide with this the BBC have released several new Robot Wars computer games.

The game works just as the TV series; you buy the parts for your robot in a shop or look for it in the scrap yard where they’re cheap but more unreliable. Using these pieces you construct a robot and pick a fight from lots of difference competitions.

Unfortunately, the dab overtones of Mister Lister’s voice were not to be heard throughout the game. The in-bout narration is provided by Johnathon Pearce – he of enthusiastic Channel 5 football commentary, and of course, Robot Wars on BBC2.

A damp squib?

So, there we have it. After eight TV series, infinite repeats of episodes on UK Gold and a motion picture in production, Red Dwarf has influenced a meagre two video game titles! Nevertheless, we mustn’t be downhearted. Red Dwarf communities on the internet are thriving, and with worldwide sales of consoles topping 70 million and nearly 1 in 5 of homes owning a computer of some description we can be sure that if the movie is box office gold we’ll be swamped with multimedia goodies that’ll keep us entertained for 10 minutes after the pub.

For more information on DOW then visit Silicon Dream’s website (http://www.kaboomstudios.com) or the official game website at Silicon Dreams at http://www.sdreams.co.uk/warmonkeys/index.htm or Talonsoft at http://www.talonsoft.com/dogsofwar/index.html.

 You can purchase Simon The Sorcerer and The Feeble Files from the Adventuresoft website, www.adventuresoft.com. Note that because of the age of the software titles they will only work on Windows 95 and Windows 98 based machines.

 Roboteers can direct their browsers over to the official BBC Robot Wars web sites at http://www.bbcworldwide.com/multimedia/.

 You might even want to consider hunting down a cheap copy of the games from one of the online auction and second hand sites such as eBay (www.ebay.co.uk), QXL (www.qxl.co.uk) or Loot (www.loot.co.uk). Since Simon, Feeble and DOW are quite old you might have some luck.

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