Working at Mandarin Software

At Europress we had a games publishing side, so I felt this needed another brand as it made no sense to sell these products under Database or Europress Software.

A guy called Peter Holmes was brought in by Meash Meakin, managing director of the Europress Group, to source new products on the games and productivity side. He used to work for Argus Publications and Software and had plenty of contacts, plus the energy and determination to bring lots of ideas and potential products to the table.

So I sat with my trusty Thesaurus one afternoon and spent an hour coming up with different names. I eventually settled on Mandarin Software, and Meash and others approved. Here is a photo from a launch party we held in London, masterminded by bearded Mike Cowley in this photo. Peter Holmes’s glasses look bigger than I remember. My moustache looks very crooked!…

Mike-Cowley-Peter-Holmes-Chris-Payne-Mandarin-Software-660

Here is a story on the launch of Mandarin in The Micro User magazine which was dedicated to news about the BBC Micro, created by Acorn Computers…

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We had minor success with the game Icarus, featured in that story…

Icarus-Mandarin-Software-ad-660

We also published versions of Starquake for different computers…

Starquake-ad-May-88-660

…and a game called Pioneer Plague for the Amiga…

Pioneer Plague ad Dec 88 Amiga Computing-660

We had some good success with a game called Lombard RAC Rally for the Atari ST, Commodore Amiga and PC. The programming was done by a team in Manchester called Red Rat Software…

Lombard RAC Rally Jan 89 Amiga Computing-660

We really liked the 3 brothers, Mike Austin, Nicholas Austin and Pete Austin, who made up the company Level 9 Computing which produced adventure games for a whole range of computers. We marketed their product Time and Magik, which brought together 3 of their most popular titles into one package, with added digitised pictures for many of the locations. Mike Ellis and team, who I’d employed while I was at Superior Software, created the artwork for the packaging…

Time-and-Magik-box

…and I wrote this ad…

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Level 9 offered us a new game they were working on too, called Lancelot. The Level 9 team built a series of puzzle into it, and the idea was to see which purchaser of the game would get to the end and solve the puzzles. Someone came up with the idea for a prize: crafting a replica of the Holy Grail, made of solid silver, encrusted with semi-precious stones (amethysts, garnets and opals), with the inside to be plated in 22-carat gold.

We had this made, and the craftsman delivered it to our offices in a velvet-lined box. For some bizarre reason there were a few marks inside where, when he had attached a stone, it had pushed out the silver on the inside of the cup. I didn’t have the heart to tell him to do the job again as it had taken him so long, so I let this go. I think we paid about £2,500 for it to be made, so with a shop mark-up of 100% we felt that we could promote it as being worth £5,000. Mike Ellis’s team created the airbrushed artwork…

Lancelot-Level-9-Mandarin-ad-660

We launched it in October 1988 and knew that we could get great publicity from putting on this competition, including this piece…

Lancelot-BBC-Micro-News-Nov-88-cropped

Several months later, around June 1989, a guy called John Sweeney, a systems analyst with IBM, who had a lifelong interest in the legend of King Arthur, solved the puzzles…

Lancelot-game-solved-June-89-cropped

John later took the chalice to a local jeweller who valued at less than £5,000 and so he wasn’t best pleased, but we somehow managed to placate him.

The game won an award too…

Chris-Payne-collects-award-for-Lancelot-cropped

See this page for info about STOS and AMOS: the game creator programs.

Credits: magazine pages scanned by Dave at Acorn Electron World.

You can contact me about this page here.