by Beat Suter
LineEL – a Swiss Game Publisher:
Part 1 – A comprehensive list of LINEL’S games
Part 2 – Collaborations and unreleased games
Part 3 – Working for LINEL – is in progress
LINEL was a software developer and publisher based in Switzerland. It had its headquarters in St.Gallen, Liechtenstein and Appenzell. The label was active from 1987 to 1995. LINEL was founded by seven or eight young Swiss developers in 1987. They focused on programming on Amiga and Atari ST but did some Commodore 64 ports and later DOS ports as well. Overall, 20 games were published with the label LINEL. Often, it was cooperation with other developer studios and publishers in the UK and in Germany.
LINEL had some connections to other developers and publishers abroad from start on. Among the young developers, it was common practice to exchange information and visit each other and show what you were working on. Early on, the young Argovian devs around Heinz Lüem had invited devs for an exchange, and they came from the UK, Sweden, USA and Germany (Interview with Heinz Lüem by Larissa Wild and David Krummenacher, 2023). Likewise from 1989 on, Markus Grimmer invited many young devs to Appenzell, where he discussed concepts with them, and they worked on several games at the same time and helped each other out (Interview with Guido Henkel by Christian Schmidt und Gunnar Lott). For Grimmer, it was important to get deals with foreign publishers that could guarantee distribution of the games in countries like the UK, USA and D. So, it is not a surprise that cooperation with other studios and publishers took place almost from start on. And in later projects, LINEL always worked in mixed teams with devs from England, Germany; Scandinavia and Switzerland.
Mostly for publishing and distributing purposes, there were collaborations with the following companies (incomplete lists).
Frequent publisher collaborators:
Hewson Consultants Ltd. (UK) – Exolon (1987), Eliminator (1987)
Players Software (UK) – Eliminator (1987)
Merit Software (USA) – Traders: The Intergalactic Trading Game (1991), The Neverending Story II: The Arcade Game (1991)
Software 2000 (D) – Der Schatz im Silbersee (1993)
Softgold Computerspiele GmbH (D) – Kaiser Deluxe (1995)
Clockwork Games Ltd. (UK) – Necronom (1991)
Micro Deal Ltd. (UK) – Insanity Fight (1987)
Pantheon Software (USA) – The Champ (1988)
SYSTEM 4 de Espana S.A. (E) – The Champ (1988)
Pactronics (AUS) – The Champ (1988)
CCD (D) – Kaiser (1988)
Codemasters (UK) – Maze Patrol (1987)
Frequent developer collaborators:
Dragonware Games (UK) – Exolon (1987)
Nightrider Software (CH) – Dugger (1988), Crown (1989)
1001 Software Developments (NL) – Baby Bug (1989), Skate of the Art (1989)
Lunatic Software (UK) – Necronom (1991)
Cybervision (D) – Der Schatz im Silbersee (1993)
Some of the cooperation with other publishers and other dev teams didn’t work out. While we know of 20 games that were published with the label LINEL (See part 1) on many platforms, there were some games and projects that didn’t make it in the stores.
Is it already difficult to find and get information on some of LINEL’s published games that were done in collaboration with foreign publishers or international dev teams, it seems to be even harder to get enough information on abandoned game projects. But there are some announcements and in odd cases previews of prototype versions of planned releases that present enough information to list the games as unreleased LINEL projects.
An incomplete list:
Maze Patrol (1987) Dragonslayer (1988)
Ice & Fire (1989)
Drachen von Laas (1989)
Neverending Story II: Das Adventure (1991)
Der Schatz im Silbersee (1994) Amiga version
Durch die Wüste (1994)
Maze Patrol (1987) was a Commodore 64 game, that was due to be released by LINEL in 1987. Markus Grimmer commissioned the prolific Austrian Listing games designer Roland Mayer with a game that is said to be somewhat like his own Hungry Hoodlum (1987) game that was published by Tronic Verlag GmbH in Compute mit for C64 earlier in 1987. Mayer says that he received a call from Switzerland and was promised that his game would be published by LINEL for a good fee. He developed the game in Assembler, completed it and painted a title cover for Maze Patrol. It was a rather elaborate work that took him many weeks. But the game was never released by LINEL, nor was it released by Codemasters, a well-known English C64 publisher, LINEL tried to cooperate with at the time. Mayer does not know why the game wasn’t released. And he did not get any money either for his extensive work. Musician Helmut Melcher confirmed to researcher Lenny Bronstein (Games that weren’t: 64) in 2020 that they did a composition for Maze Patrol. “In the years 1987 – 1989, I did a few programming and games music jobs for LinEl. In April 4th 1987, I sent the music and music coding to Ronald. I still have a copy of the letter, and a printout of code and data. So: The music and its coding for MazePatrol on C64 stems from me.” (Melcher 2020) A copy of the game has not been found so far.
DragonSlayer (1988) by Christian A. Weber was a LINEL project that was announced for January 1989. French previews saw it as an extremely promising title by LINEL. Presentations were delayed and its first screens were finally revealed in November 1989. While gamers‘ expectations were high, the game’s incessant postponements put them to the test. The project was very ambitious. Again in 1990 french media announced the immediate release of DragonSlayer on Amiga, Atari ST and C64, but after that there was silence. It appears that some Dragon sequences have been used in a C64 demo of Rings of Medusa (1989). A few parts from the unreleased game were later used in the follow-up Rings of Medusa Gold. After LINEL had abandoned the project, Starbyte took over, assigned Chris Haller and Roland Petermann to the task and intended to make a Barbarian clone with the title Warrior of Darkness out of the DragonSlayer idea. But Warrior of Darkness faced the same fate at Starbyte and remained unreleased as well. However, Christian A. Weber managed to put a playable demo together on Amiga in 1991. And finally, Starbyte integrated a lot of material into its Rings of Medusa Gold (1994) Amiga version.
Ice & Fire (1989) was also announced in the Dugger booklet together with Dragonslayer as soon to follow release. The French magazine Generation 4 knows in its issue No.6 that the game is expected on Amiga and Atari ST. It had been announced as an adventure game with many original features such as offering several good endings.
Crown (1989) had been announced by the same French magazine Generation 4 as a strategy game reminiscent of Seven Cities Of Gold. “With almost 58 colors, the game, due for release on ST and Amiga in February 89, promises to be excellent.” The magazine prints one screen with a isometric map view of a city called Dead City showing the LINEL Logo as well as the title Crown.
Solaria (1989) was intended for release in March 1989. Again, the French magazine Generation 4 knows that it is a game that is based on an Aztec sport. Information on Solaria, Crown and Ice & Fire are sparse. Hopefully, there is more to find.
Drachen von Laas (not released in 1989) – a text adventure. The game was completed by the two German devs Guido Henkel and Hans-Jürgen Brändle, prior to signing a contract with Markus Grimmer, manager of LINEL. But the Swiss publisher favored the development of other games and delayed the release of Drachen von Laas over a year amidst money problems. After working on other projects, Henkel had enough in mid 1990 and annulated the contract with Grimmer. Although times were over for selling text adventures well and gamers wanted point’n’click adventures with visuals instead. The text adventure was eventually published by Henkel and Brändle themselves with their new label Attic Entertainment in 1991 for DOS, Amiga and Atari ST.
The release of Neverending Story II: the Arcade Game (1991) in early 1991 in German on Commodore 64 was followed by Amiga, Atari ST and PC versions in French, Italian and English. But the LINEL crew also worked on a a second installment, that was called Neverending Story II – the Adventure. This should have been the start of a classic adventure series. The development of this second game was going to be based on the new MACS engine (Modular Adventure Control System) that Arndt Hasch had developed for LINEL as an answer to Lucas Arts SCUM engine. Unfortunately, there was only a demo version, that made it to PC Joker and was previewed in their 6/91 issue. The reviewers were quite impressed by graphics and especially sound, but the game with the interface that looked rather similar to the classis Scum point’n’click adventures was never finished. Later, the MACS-engine was used for the game Der Schatz im Silbersee (1993).
Der Schatz im Silbersee (Amiga version, not released in 1993/94). The PC-Version was released in 1993 with Software 2000 as publisher. LINEL and Cybervision were the two developer teams, Markus Grimmer was the producer. Michael Tschögl did the animations. According to Mobygames, an Amiga version was developed, but never released. There is a demo version available in the internet. The German magazine Amiga Joker received a test-version and wrote a preview in its 3/94 issue and gave it a good rating of 74%. A first progess report was already written by Hans Ippisch in Amiga Joker 8/93. He visited LINEL and knew that the Amiga version will be similar to the PC-version, and it will come in 256 color graphics (for Amiga 1200). Ippisch’s progress report is worth reading since he describes in detail how script, storyboard and visuals were made. And he also gives some insights about contract negotiations at the Nürnberg book fair of 1992 between the head of the Karl-May-Verlag (books) and LINEL. Der Schatz im Silbersee was the first game by the German publisher Software 2000 of a planned Karl May Edition, a series of Karl May adventures that should have been developed with LINEL.
Durch die Wüste (announced but not released in 1994),would have been the second game in a series of three (or four) adventure games about Karl May. The magazine ASM received a sample version for PC, tested it and wrote a preview for its 6/94 issue. It mentions LINEL as developer and announces an Amiga version as well. The sample was from publisher Software 2000. The magazine knows that Durch die Wüste was structured in four episodes, in which the player as Kara Ben Nemsis together with his servant Ben Hadschi has to survive four different adventures. ASM also says that the graphics that it had seen so far leave it hoping for the best. It prints two screenshots from the game and praises the great scenery of which the game contains around 80, says that both characters can be controlled individually as player avatars. And the game contains many full-screen video sequences. Finally, it hopefully announces the release of a PC and an Amiga version for summer 1994. Sound programmer Matthias Steinwachs composed the music for the game. He got his assignment from LINEL-boss Markus Grimmer, who told him, the music for Durch die Wüste should sound oriental, but still oriented to western listening habits. Steinwachs did a thorough research and worked on it for several weeks. He was quite happy with his part and was waiting for the video sequences to finish his project. Unfortunately, they didn’t come – and the game was never released, and the series was abandoned.
Besides the 20 games, that Swiss publisher LINEL with temporary headquarters in St.Gallen, Arbon, Vaduz and Herisau had published under its own label in the years 1987 – 1995, there were at least nine more games or projects that had been completed but not released, or were in progress at some point and could be tested as prototypes, but did not make it further than being demo versions for the gaming mags. These games did not find their way onto the Software market.
Recommended citation: Beat Suter, “LINEL – a Swiss Game Publisher 2: Collaborations and Unreleased Games”, in: Confoederatio Ludens, https://chludens.hypotheses.org/1296, 19.10.2023.