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Solar Jetman: Hunt for the Golden Warpship

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Originally called 'Iota', Solar Jetman was a Thrust / Gravitar / Oids / Lunar Lander style gravity based space exploration game, developed by Zippo Games for Rare.

Despite fantastic reviews and internal critical response from publishers and manufacturers, the game was a bit of a flop at retail in the US, but was published by Nintendo in Europe, and bundled with the NES at one point. It was also adapted for Nintendo's NES based Play-Choice 10 arcade system.

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Solar Jetman: Hunt for the Golden Warpship screen shot 1 Solar Jetman: Hunt for the Golden Warpship screen shot 2 Solar Jetman: Hunt for the Golden Warpship screen shot 3 Solar Jetman: Hunt for the Golden Warpship screen shot 4 Solar Jetman: Hunt for the Golden Warpship screen shot 5 Solar Jetman: Hunt for the Golden Warpship screen shot 6

Project details

Started:

Thu, 01 Jun 1989

Development studio:

Zippo Games

Main client / publisher:

Rare

Status:

Finished

Proper Pickford Bros game?

Yes, this is definitely one of our games!

Core studio team:

Steve Hughes

Game Designer, Programmer, Producer

Lyndon Brooke

Graphic Artist

John Pickford

Game Designer, Producer

Ste Pickford

Game Designer, Graphic Artist, Producer

Tim Stamper

Game Design

Mark Betteridge

Sound Effects

Dave Wise

Music

Simon Farmer

QA

Gregg Mayles

QA

Stephen Stamper

QA

Huw Ward

QA

Solar Jetman: Hunt for the Golden Warpship NES EU cover

Platform:

NES

Territory:

Europe

Release date:

Mon, 01 Jan 1990

Title:

Solar Jetman: Hunt for the Golden Warpship

Publisher:

Nintendo

Developer:

Zippo Games

Sales:

100,000

Solar Jetman: Hunt for the Golden Warpship PlayChoice 10 EU cover

Platform:

PlayChoice 10

Territory:

Europe

Release date:

Mon, 01 Jan 1990

Title:

Solar Jetman: Hunt for the Golden Warpship

Publisher:

Nintendo

Developer:

Zippo Games

Sales:

200

Solar Jetman: Hunt for the Golden Warpship NES US cover

Platform:

NES

Territory:

United States

Release date:

Mon, 01 Jan 1990

Title:

Solar Jetman: Hunt for the Golden Warpship

Publisher:

Tradewest

Developer:

Zippo Games

Sales:

50,000

Solar Jetman: Hunt for the Golden Warpship PlayChoice 10 US cover

Platform:

PlayChoice 10

Territory:

United States

Release date:

Mon, 01 Jan 1990

Title:

Solar Jetman: Hunt for the Golden Warpship

Publisher:

Nintendo

Developer:

Zippo Games

Sales:

500

Platform:

ZX Spectrum

Territory:

United Kingdom

Release date:

(Unreleased)

Title:

Solar Jetman: Hunt for the Golden Warpship

Publisher:

Sales Curve

Developer:

Software Creations

Sales:

0

Tony Williams

Spectrum programmer

Platform:

Commodore 64

Territory:

United Kingdom

Release date:

(Unreleased)

Title:

Solar Jetman: Hunt for the Golden Warpship

Publisher:

Sales Curve

Developer:

Software Creations

Sales:

0

Ste Pickford

Projects were based around individual programmers at Zippo Games, and this was Steve's game, after he completed Ironsword. We set the studio up to develop our own original games, so after having to do a sequel for his previous project it was Steve's turn to get to develop his own game idea.

We'd all played Oids on the Atari ST around this time, and Steve tended to design games around programmery-things, so he wanted to develop a gravity / rope type system like in Thrust. I remember that loads of time was spent trying to get the maths and the playability of the rope / payload system working properly, but was never quite right, mainly becuase the NES processor was so feeble that it just wasn't possible to do the maths properly in a 60th of a second.

The game drifted a bit during the first half of development, and I think John and I were mostly concentrating on Fleapit or Wolverine around this time. There came a point where we realised the game wasn't quite working. It was getting a bit over complicated and bogged down. We all sat down (Steve, John and myself) and had a big redesign of the game, simplifying it and making it more like a Nintendo game, and less like a PC game, which had been the direction the game was going in. I joined the team as co-artist and co-level designer, and I think that it was about this time that it changed from Iota to Solar Jetman. At least, this was the time that we added the little Jetman spaceman when your ship was destroyed.

I used to absolutely love a Spectrum game called Scuba Diver - I played it to death - and I tried to capture the same feeling of exploring enormous, silent caverns full of danger and treasure - feeling tense yet relaxed at the same time - in the levels I built.

As I remember it Rare just told us one day it was going to be Solar Jetman from now on, without any discussion about taking over our original game, and they made us put "Concept by Rare" on the end credits, which was plainly untrue.

We all thought the game was going to be a big hit, and because we were paid an absolutely piddlingly small amount of money to develop the game (probably around $30k) we were quite excited at the possibility of making some money in royalties, even though Rare were paying us the not-very-generous sum of 13 cents a copy or something stupidly low like that (they were probably getting more like $3 from the publisher). In the end the game flopped in the US, and Tradewest had a warehouse full of unsold copies which they probably had to dump in the Arizona desert in a hole near to those ET carts, and Rare had taken over the studio by the time the successful European version was released, so we never saw any cash.

 

† Sales Estimates
Almost all sales estimates given are educated guesses. Being lowly developers we rarely had access to the publisher's sales infomation, and in many cases hadno contact with the publisher whatsoever after each game was completed. Even in cases where we were the owners of the development studio and on royalty deals, for various reasonsit was very rare that we received accurate sales figures from the publishers involved. We'd be delighted to correct any errors, or hear more accurate sales figures for any of the titles here.Please email the webmaster if you know something we don't!

Credits
The credits listed are accurate to the best of our recollection, but if we've made any errors or ommissions (quite likely!) please email the webmaster to let us know and we'll try to make a correction as soon as possible.

 

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