Odin Computer Graphics Ltd

Founded By:Paul McKenna
Location:Liverpool, UK
Year Started:1985
Year Wound Up:1987
Titles in Database:15
Rights Now With:Odin Computer Graphics
Odin Computer Graphics started as an offspring from Paul's other company, Thor, which itself was a publisher of individual programmers' games. These early Thor games were considered real disappointments, so McKenna decided to built a software house where he could control the quality of the games produced.

In 1985, Telecomsoft offered Odin a deal to develop 10 titles in 12 months, which they did. Thor was resurrected a little later to act as publisher of budget titles.

By 1987, Odin had been having problems expanding the team while maintaining quality output, and following a lot of key programmers leaving to join other software houses, Odin shut its doors.

Statistics

Titles per Year
Breakdown by Genre
Breakdown by Platform

Company History


Added: 28 May 2011
What went wrong?

Even though we were based in refurbished Bug-Byte offices (with a nice river scene through the windows, pleasant secretaries / receptionists, and a phone system from the future) we were all so very young (I was sixteen when I joined, and eighteen when I left). Most of us were naive, innocent of money matters, just after partying full-time and/or not working too hard. We were totally unmanaged: there was no proper management structure in place, the strategy/sense of purpose was vacuous (it was to make Paul McKenna rich), there was no resourcing of projects, no proper plans or design, no clear measurable objectives and milestones (deadlines), no clear roles within the company (except Paul McKenna was in charge), no responsibilities or accountabilities, the initial teamwork (that created successes like Nodes and Robin) died out, there was no communication from Paul McKenna or between programmers, hardly any input and no feedback, there was absolutely no respect for others opinions, everyone took a very short-term perspective, and when the going got tough everyone left (I admit I was first). We did produce some colourful game specs through. Thinking back ten years, I'm surprised the company lasted as long as it did.

Added: 28 May 2011
Stoo:
Colin Grunes and myself, Stuart Fotheringham, produced most of the OCG graphics. The exception was Robin O' The Wood where Paul Salmon produced the majority of the Speccy version graphics. Steve Wetherill wrote the code for all the major Speccy titles.

Odin won the "Golden Joystick Awards" Best Advertisement Award for 1985 and 1986. A local commercial artist called Gerry Fisher painted them.

Added: 28 May 2011
Steve:
Odin was signed by BT shortly after shipping the Spectrum version of Nodes. We had a deal to deliver 10 titles in one year for a six figure sum. I think we just about delivered 10 titles, but only barely. By the time the last title was delivered there were very few people left and it was obvious the place was falling apart. I'm sure that this was a very similar situation to a lot of other small development houses back in the 80's.

I could tell many a tale about Odin. Like when a certain artist tried to summon a demon to "get" one of the programmers; or when an nameless party barfed in the sink in the kitchen after a particularly heavy lunchtime session, only to discover that the sink was not actually plumbed-in yet; or when an advert appeared in on of the Odin windows: "Fit Girls Apply Within" which lead to one of the programmers getting married. Needless to say, it was a young company with very young employees and these types of antics were only to be expected!

Added: 28 May 2011
Colin Grunes:
In the beginning there was Thor, a software house that bought its games from "bedroom" programmers; it released an endless catalogue of poor quality, mainly Speccy, software (the only, debatable, exceptions being the Jack and the Beanstalk trilogy).

Thor became Odin Computer Graphics (O.C.G.) for three key reasons:

* All games to be produced in-house, a new start and break with the past;

* Odin wanted to be mistaken for Ashby Computer Graphics (A.C.G.), or "Ultimate Play the Game" as they were commonly known, as much as possible; [Crash once described them as "would-be Ultimates"]

* Thor had a bad reputation for very poor quality software.

After the initial successes of Nodes and Robin under the O.C.G. label, the powers that be decided to bring Thor back from the dead, but it's name was changed to Thor Computer Software (T.C.S.). It was to be a sister company to O.C.G., with the purpose of publishing "budget" (Ł7.95 as opposed to Ł9.99) Odin games.

Added: 28 May 2011
Stuart Fotheringham:
Yes, I admit it! I was actually the main Commodore 64 artist and Colin Grunes was the main Speccy artist, however, I did occasionally load Melbourne Draw from micro-drive and get stuck into some speccy graphics (very significantly in Nodes and Arc, some bits and pieces on Robin and I.C.C.U.P.S., possibly one or two small pixels in Heartland and most of the loading screens). This explains why the hero of the Yesod games was Charlie Fotheringham-Grunes, if you ever find the packaging.

Added: 28 May 2011
Steve Wetherill:
Odin consisted of up to 15 people at any one time and had rather smart offices right opposite the Albert Dock in Liverpool (home of This Morning and Richard and Judy, although they might have been taken off the air and incarcerated by now for all I know).

There were 4 main artists - Paul Salmon, Stoo Fotheringham, Colin Grunes and Andy R??. The programmers that I remember were Robbie Tinman, Mark Dawson, Keith Robinson, George Barnes, Tommy Laningan, Derrick Rowson, Steve P., and myself. There was a musician, Keith Tinman plus a receptionist and secretary. Paul McKenna was the MD.

Added: 28 May 2011
Odin consisted of managing director Paul McKenna; programmers Steve Wetherill, Robbie Tinman, Mark Dawson, Keith Robinson, George Barnes, Tommy Laningan, Derrick Rowson, and Stefan Walker; artists Paul Salmon, Stuart Fotheringham, and Colin Grunes; and musician Keith Tinman.[1] Bernie Duggs[2] and musician Fred Gray[3] are also credited.

Prior to the release of their debut title, Nodes of Yesod, in 1985, Odin had previously released a number of games under the name Thor. Although they developed a couple of in-house titles as Thor, they mainly acquired the publishing rights to homegrown titles from anonymous bedroom programmers. These early titles were mostly regarded as critical disappointments but not commercial failures. When Thor decided to switch to in-house development, Paul McKenna (Managing Director & Owner) thought it appropriate to form a new company, hence Odin Computer Graphics was born.

Odin made a very deliberate attempt to ensure they were mistaken for Ultimate Play The Game, one of the most critically acclaimed game developers of the 1980s[1]. As well as establishing a very similar name (Odin Computer Graphics vs. Ashby Computer Graphics), many of their games were heavily inspired by Ultimate's output (Odin's Nodes of Yesod certainly owes a considerable debt to Ultimate's Underwurlde). The advertisements for Odin's games, which won many acclaimed awards such as Golden Joystick Awards for best advertising in 1985 and 1986, were reminiscent of 1980s popular print retailer Athena and also bore some resemblance to the highly stylised, airbrushed artwork that graced the adverts for Ultimate's games.

Just prior to the Telecom deal, Paul McKenna, on behalf of Odin, had secured a major contract with Capcom to develop Robin Hood for coin operated arcade machines and Capcom's Gun.Smoke for the home computer format. Unfortunately the contracts arrived a day late. Paul McKenna still has the original contracts from Capcom in his possession.

Nodes of Yesod became an instant critical and commercial success, prompting Telecomsoft (the software division of British Telecom) to offer them a six-figure contract to develop ten games within a 12 month period. While Odin's later games (including Robin of the Wood and Heartland) were very well received, some later titles failed to live up to expected BT standards.

In 1987, Odin finally closed their doors, mainly due to an inability to expand the size of their teams while maintaining the quality that had put the company on the map in the first place. Although they delivered more than all the necessary titles to fulfill their contract, Telecomsoft deemed several of them to be not worthy of release. By this time many of Odin's core programmers and artists had already jumped ship. Several ex-Odin staff initially joined Denton Designs, another Liverpool-based games developer, before going their separate ways.

During the Telecomsoft era, the warehouse area attached to the Odin studio was used by Telecomsoft as a distribution warehouse and to store thousands of copies of games on their Firebird, Rainbird and Beyond labels.


Softography

The Bird Sanctuary
Added: 20 Sep 2016
Lusitania

Lusitania was another of Odin’s unfinished titles for TelecomSoft. This Amstrad CPC game was coded by Robbie Tinman, with graphics by Paul Salmon and music by Keith Tinman.

Firebird produced a slideshow demo on cassette for Amstrad Action’s sixteenth issue in early 1987 which featured a screenshot and some marketing blurb about Odin’s Lusitania game.

Lucitania - Amstrad CPC

The blurb says …

There’s this wacking great ship lying in the deep dark and murky depths of the ocean floor, the watery grave of MILLIONS of DOLLARS of GOLD BULLION. And aren’t you the lucky one!! You’ve been volunteered to go and get it! All you have to do is dive down in your diving bell, collect all the gold and return to your ship. Of course, that’s assuming your air supply doesn’t run out or you don’t hit an unexploded mine and them nasty little sea monsters you’ve heard about, don’t get you first.

A piece of cake for your intrepid hero but what about you? Think you can handle it? Then good fishing! Available soon from Odin Computer Graphics ÂŁ9.95 on cassette and ÂŁ14.95 on disc.


Added: 28 May 2011
Did you try anything off the wall?

Stoo & Colin:
Before the Telecomsoft deal...

We were interested in LaserDisc games so much that we bought a Space Ace arcade machine (free-play all day), a converter kit and LDs to play Dragon's Lair, and the first two commercially available LD players outside Japan (only because they were shipped from Tokyo) that could be controlled by an external computer (via an RS-232 interface). One of the LD players was later sold to Software Projects (with the Dragon's Lair LDs) to help them develop Dragon's Lair for the Spectrum, C64, etc.

We commissioned the techie who designed the Psyclapse and Bandersnatch mega-games' hardware for Imagine to design an add-on for the Speccy. This enabled every pixel to be displayed in 8-bit colour from a 24-bit palette, and to give the Speccy a lot more RAM. You may not be surprised to learn it was much too expensive to produce commercially.

We tried to talk a major Japanese arcade game manufacturer into letting us write a game (Robin of the Wood arcade version) for them. However, they just wanted us to convert their arcade games to the fledgling console market (Nintendo Entertainment System and Sega Master System); we believed there was no future in these systems so we declined.

We tried to get movie licences for the film The Terminator and Dune (that coincidentally were out at the cinema then), but both film studios seemed to think video-games were too trivia and would demean their product; how times change.

We tried for the longest time to get speech in Spectrum Nodes, but it worked out well in the end (even if it was Mark Butler speaking). We had calls from many C64 owners asking why there was no speech in their version; but they did have a Nodes super-speed re-mix on the flip-side of the cassette.

After the Telecomsoft deal...

We became a warehouse for a while as Telecomsoft didn't have the storage space for its unsold Rainbird, Firebird, Beyond or budget ranges of software (the Odin offices had warehouse space built in), for a fee.

Added: 28 May 2011
Steve:
Nodes and Arc (in the Spectrum 48k versions) were somewhat of a team effort. I completely deny any involvement in [I.C.C.U.P.S., Gunpowder and P.L.O.D.], and would like to apologise to anyone who might have seen them - I'm sorry, we didn't mean it and it won't happen again . . . . !

The Enterprise version of Nodes was interesting. On the Enterprise you had a copper-list sort of affair. This made it possible to specify the start address of each pixel line and its attributes. I was able to set up a Spectrum screen (with only minor differences in the attributes) and once that was done the rest was plain sailing!

Most of these titles were also released on C64, but we're not bothered about that, right? ;-)

Added: 28 May 2011
Who produced what?

* Stairways
o Publisher: Thor (last game before re-branding)
o Code: Marc Dawson (C64)
o Graphics: Stuart Fotheringham (C64)
o Music: Fred Grey

* Nodes of Yesod (Working Title: "Moon Munching Moles From Mars")
o Publisher: Odin Computer Graphics
o Code: Steve Wetherill, Keith Robinson, Dave ??? (Spectrum, Spectrum 128); Keith Robinson (C64); Stephan Walker (Amstrad CPC); Steve Wetherill (Enterprise Elan); Robbie Tinman (BBC Micro - cancelled); George Barns (MSX - cancelled)
o Graphics: Stuart Fotheringham (Spectrum, etc); Colin Grunes (Spectrum, etc); Paul Salmon (Spectrum, etc)
o Music: Fred Grey

* Robin of the Wood (Working Title: "Robin o' the Wood")
o Publisher: Odin Computer Graphics
o Code: Steve Wetherill (Spectrum, Spectrum 128); Marc Dawson (C64); Laurence ???, Stephan Walker (Amstrad CPC - cancelled)
o Graphics: Paul Salmon (Spectrum); Stuart Fotheringham (C64); Paul Salmon (Amstrad CPC)
o Music: Fred Grey

* Arc of Yesod
o Publisher: Thor Computer Software
o Code: Steve Wetherill (Spectrum, Spectrum 128); Robbie Tinman (C64)
o Graphics: Colin Grunes (Spectrum, C64); Stuart Fotheringham (C64, Spectrum)
o Music: Keith Tinman

* I.C.C.U.P.S. - International Commision for Universal Problem Solving
o Publisher: Thor Computer Software (Telecomsoft)
o Code: Tommy Lannigan, Steve Parry (Spectrum); Robbie Tinman (C64)
o Graphics: Stuart Fotheringham (Spectrum, C64)
o Music: Keith Tinman

* Mission A.D. -- [unreleased]
o Publisher: Odin Computer Graphics (Telecomsoft)
o Code: Marc Dawson (C64)
o Graphics: Stuart Fotheringham (C64)
o Music: Keith Tinman

* Heartland
o Publisher: Odin Computer Graphics (Telecomsoft)
o Code: Steve Wetherill (Spectrum, Amstrad CPC tape, Amstrad CPC disc); Keith Robinson (C64)
o Graphics: Colin Grunes (Spectrum, Amstrad, C64)
o Music: Steve Wetherill

* On The Tiles (Working Title: "Black Cat Game") -- [unreleased]
o Publisher: Odin Computer Graphics (Telecomsoft)
o Code: Robbie Tinman (C64)
o Graphics: Andy R?? (C64)
o Music: Keith Tinman

* Sidewize
o Publisher: Odin Computer Graphics (Telecomsoft)
o Code: Steve Wetherill (Spectrum)
o Graphics: Colin Grunes (Spectrum)
o Music: Steve Wetherill

* U.F.O. (Working Title: "Invaders '86") -- [unreleased]
o Publisher: Unreleased (Telecomsoft)
o Code: Robbie Tinman (C64)
o Graphics: Andy R?? (C64)
o Music: Keith Tinman

* Working Title: "Gladiator Fighting Game" -- [unreleased]
o Publisher: Unreleased (Telecomsoft)
o Coded: Derek Rowson (Amstrad CPC)
o Graphics: Paul Salmon (Amstrad CPC)
o Music: Keith Tinman

* The Gunpowder Plot -- [unreleased]
o Publisher: Unreleased (Telecomsoft)
o Code: Derek Rowson (Spectrum)
o Graphics: Paul Salmon (Spectrum)
o Music: Keith Tinman

* Working Title: "Tank Game" -- [unreleased]
o Publisher: Unreleased (Telecomsoft)
o Code: Steve Perry (Spectrum)
o Graphics: Colin Grunes (Spectrum)
o Music: Keith Tinman

* P.L.O.D. -- [unreleased]
o Publisher: Unreleased (Telecomsoft)
o Code: Tommy Lannigan (Spectrum)
o Graphics: Andy R?? (Spectrum)
o Music: Keith Tinman

* Lusitania (Working Title: "Sunken Ship Game") -- [unreleased]
o Publisher: Unreleased (Telecomsoft)
o Coded: Robbie Tinman (C64)
o Graphics: Paul S
The Retro Isle team
Added: 30 Mar 2017
Click here to view a list of titles we have in the database here at Retro Isle.


From Then To Now


Added: 28 May 2011
What did you do after you left?

Most of us ended up working for Denton Designs (a Liverpool based software development company) who were then made up from ex-Imagine people. We didn't stay very long and then went our separate way: freelancing, setting up business, being unemployed, et cetera.

Today Colin and I work for the same international management consultancy company producing business graphics using Apple Macintosh computers; we work in many countries around the world, and live in hotels (but get great air-miles). Steve Wetherill is the research and development director of an American games software company [Westwood Studios] based in Las Vegas. Marc Dawson is a manager for a games software house in Manchester (Barbie - The Game is his latest title). Paul Salmon was last heard of on the dole still in Liverpool. Keith Tinman is the in-house musician at Ocean Software. Paul McKenna has gone back to the construction industry. I don't know what anyone else is up to.

(Colin was the only Liverpudlian).

Added: 28 May 2011
In 2005, Paul McKenna reformed Odin Computer Graphics Ltd, to develop and produce new titles and convert Nodes of Yesod, Arc of Yesod, Heartland and Robin of the Wood on the Mobile Phone formats.

In 2010, Odin Computer Graphics, Ltd., in conjunction with Uztek Games, Inc., released Nodes Of Yesod for the iPhone. A web browser version built with Adobe Flash was also released in the same year.


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