Reimagined cover image for Necronom (1991) by Gilles Sulzberger

Case Study: Necronom (Lunatic Software/Linel, 1991, Amiga)

by Aurelia Brandenburg, Adrian Demleitner, Arno Görgen, Addrich Mauch, and Eugen Pfister

Monsters, space, and guns all wrapped up in a shoot-em-up – Necronom, published by Linel in 1991, first got high praises in 1990, but then never took off the way first reports in the press anticipated. With this case study, our team tried to trace the game’s development, its strange course of reception and its contents itself.


Table of Contents

    1. Introduction
    2. Production
    3. Product
      1. Narrative
      2. Game Mechanics
      3. Graphic Design
      4. Music
    4. Reception
    5. Political Mythologies
      1. The Dangerous Other
      2. The Dangerous Frontier
      3. Techno-Futures and Retro-Politics
    6. Synthesis
    7. References
      1. Primary Sources
      2. Secondary Sources

Introduction

“The year is 3257 and Mars shines as bright red as ever. The walls of the Octagon, the interplanetary rebel headquarters that has been based in the Valley of Secrets for centuries, give you a feeling of strength and self-confidence.”

This is how the story of Necronom (Lunatic Software/Linel, 1991, Amiga) begins in the manual. Regardless of that description, when starting the game, you will find yourself in a small spaceship in a hostile environment without any further explanation. Necronom is a horizontally scrolling space shoot ’em up (shmup for short), released for the Amiga in 1991. It was published by the Swiss publisher Linel and developed by the English developer Team Lunatic Software, namely Martin Hall and James Thomas with the collaboration of Michael Tschögl from Vorarlberg, Austria. The game stands in the tradition of other successful Shoot’em Ups of the time, R-Type (Irem/Irem, 1987, Arcade) in particular, which first as an arcade in 1987 and ported to the Amiga by Factor 5 in 1989, and Xenon II (The Bitmap Brothers/Image Works, 1989, Amiga a.o.), another inspiration to Necronom, published on the Amiga in 1989.

In the following study we will take an analytical look at the production conditions, the product itself (i.e. the narrative, the game mechanics, the graphic design and the music), as well as the reception of the game based on the HGP-analysis model. In a next step, we search for political mythologies and ideas and ask which statements can be made about Necronom as a Swiss game, in terms of content and production methods.

Production

Luke McMillan, a senior lecturer in Game Design at the SAE institute, has defined the genre of the shoot’em up in great detail in his history of the genre.1 The abundance of detailed descriptions of the genre is already an indication of its long history, but also its success. In fact, few game genres are so formalised and homogeneous. The genre goes back to the early arcade games Space Invaders (Taito/Taito, 1979, Arcade) and Galaga (Namco/Namco, 1981, Arcade), which, however, still had to make do without scrolling. This changed with games like Defender (Williams Electronics, 1981, Arcade), which introduced horizontal scrolling, and games like River Raid (Activision/Activiosn, 1982, Atari), which introduced vertical scrolling. In the horizontally scrolling shoot-em-up Gradius (Konami/Konami, 1985, Arcade), power-ups were introduced, a feature that would later become central to the genre. A particularly successful representative of the genre was R-Type, released in 1987 on the 16-bit M72 arcade system, which for a long time became the benchmark for all successors. While R-Type did not reinvent anything, it refined the familiar gameplay to a very high level and became the model for many games to come. R-Type’s intricate graphic design was particularly striking, apparently oriented towards the film Alien (USA; UK, Ridley Scott, 1979) and the drawings by H. R. Giger.

Collage showing the evolution of Shoot'em Ups through Screenshots of Space Invaders, Defender, and Gradius.
Evolution of the Shoot’em Up: Space Invaders, Defender, Gradius.

While taking obvious inspiration from the original R-Type, there are several elements of Necronom that distinguish it as a “euroshmup”.

“The term usually refers to a certain set of design choices common among European shoot-em-up games (and can be applied to games developed outside of Europe like Tyrian), usually the ones released on Amiga and PC to contrast them with the arcade-style shmups.”2

This regional – essentially European – sub-genre is characterised by the lack of clear enemy bullet patterns, underpowered player weapons and extremely strong enemies. Aesthetically, euroshmups have also developed their own design language. They made extensive use of shading and gradations for their sprites to achieve a special pseudo-3d look.3 Originally used with a pejorative connotation, the term emerged in the 1980s, when shmups produced in Europe were typically developed for the Amiga by very young people, often originating from the demo scene. Japanese and US shmups on the other hand were a huge and professionalised industry.4 Due to the special ecosystem in Europe that was rather concentrating on personal computers than on Arcade systems, euroshmups however featured some unique and well produced titles like Apydia (Kaiko/Play Byte, 1992, Amiga) or Battle Squadron (Cope-Com/Innerprise Software Electronic Arts, 1989, Amiga a.o.).5

Necronom was published in 1991 for the Amiga by Linel and developed by Lunatic Software. Unfortunately, only little information can be found online about the developer, as well as Linel. Lunatic Software was an English studio, which at the time of the development of Necronom probably only consisted of the programming duo Martin Hall and James Thomas6. According to our research, Necronom was the first game from Lunatic Software, which developed two more games for the Amiga. Later in 1995, the studio developed games under the name Clockwork Games, first for MS-DOS and then for Windows. They achieved some fame with their first game for DOS, namely Lemmings 3D (Clockwork Games Perfect Entertainment/Psygnosis, 1995, DOS). Both programmers are still working on the development of digital games at different companies today. Nevertheless, Linel was actively involved in the development of the game through Michael Tschögl.

Music, sound FX and graphics were created by Tschögl. He had formerly worked on The Neverending Story II (Linel/Linel, 1990, Amiga; Commodore 64; a.o.) for Linel. Tschögl was 21 years old at the time, a trained graphic designer from Vorarlberg, Austria. According to an interview he gave to the German magazine Amiga Joker, Tschögl worked more than five months on the game. He further recounts in the interview that Linel initially thought of asking H.R. Giger to design the graphics of the game: “And so they initially wanted to engage the famous Swiss painter H.R. Giger for the graphics – the creator of the famous original film monster Alien, after all. However, he had imagined drawing game graphics to be considerably less time-consuming, with him it would have been far too expensive. So Linel fell back on me …”7 The interview also shows that the reference to the role model effect of R-Type is justified when Tschögl explains: “If I find a Hard Drivin’ or R-Type II machine in an amusement arcade, I won’t let go until I run out of change!”8

Michael Tschögl was so kind as to answer our questions via email in December 2023.9 Tschögl had taught himself programming on his Commodore 64 at home with the help of reference books. An acquaintance of his had introduced him to Markus Grimmer, the owner of Linel shortly before: “Linel provided a house in which we lived during the development of various games. It was very sparsely furnished.”10 According to him, his relationship with the other developers on site in Appenzell, Switzerland was very relaxed and fun at the same time: “I was able to perfect my English in the two years I spent with the people, who mainly came from England.”11

Tschögl further explained that in this case, however, the two programmers for Necronom were not working in-house. “Unfortunately, these two were not on-site, and I was never able to meet them in person. Communication was limited to Markus Grimmer and a few phone calls. Data was still exchanged by mail back then.”12

André Wüthrich, another Linel employee, was thanked in the credits as well as Markus Grimmer, the company’s founder, who was credited for additional design. It is therefore quite likely that it was commissioned work for the two young Brits, especially as a report on Necronom states that Linel had been planning to release a successor to their in-house shooter Insanity Fight (Linel/Microdeal, 1987, Amiga) for some time.13

We only know of the Amiga version of Necronom. However, there were rumours of a review of the Amiga game in a Greek magazine called Computer Games in April 1992, which reviewed the game and also included a Commodore 64 version on the format list.14 In 1995 a budget version of the game appeared in the German magazine Amiga Fun 05/95.15

In summary, it can be said that the development of Necronom is paradigmatic for the end of a threshold period in (Swiss) game development from amateur development to a professionalised game culture. On the one hand, it is still characterised by the desire for atypical forms of production, such as the development within the framework of remote work within the Appenzell living community16, but also by internationalisation and the desire for greater economic added value, as expressed through planned portations to other platforms.

Product

Narrative

The game starts with an entrancing soundtrack and images of a blueprint of our spaceship, while the developers’ credits fade in and out in red lettering in the style of then still modern segment displays and the game title glides semi-transparently through the screen from the left and right. After that a humanoid pink, muscular alien with terrifying teeth appears on-screen. The alien, connected to a biomechanical device, is loading a shotgun.17 He18 holds a bullet in his hands and murmurs in an electronically distorted, deep voice: “This bullet’s for you. Hahaha!”

As was common at the time, the background story only becomes clear if you read the manual, which is written in German, Italian and English and outlines the backstory in detail. While manuals have usually been read in detail at the time, simply because there were no tutorials yet, this means that the players who had a cracked copy of the game could not follow the narrative of the game as they would have done with the manual.

The story in any case is very densely written and not always transparent: Colonies, trade agreements and time travel are mentioned en passant. According to the manual, the protagonist of the game finds himself in the year 3257, where an undefined power, headed by the ominous “Princes of Darkness”, apparently controls the galaxy, when a mysterious spaceship, the Coracon 23-2, lands near to the headquarters of a rebel alliance on Mars. The crew is dead, and an audio log reveals that the ship is 500 years old. The commander of the ship recounts in the log that the “Necronom mission” had failed. The Princes of Darkness had seized power by force at that time and the Coracon 23-2 had the mission to destroy the headquarters of the invading force, “Necronom”. During his mission, the commander of the Coracon also captured an enemy who becomes his prisoner of war:

“First I wanted to kill him, but then, don’t ask me why, we became friends. It’s strange to say, after having learned to communicate we realized that we differed only externally. Our thoughts, hopes, wishes and faith were quite the same. I called him Europa, like the planet where we had met for the first time. He joined my mission and revealed himself as an indispensable assistant. Europa wanted to free his people from tyranny. So I had to promise not to sacrifice civilians but to aim only to military objects.”19

This subplot has no real impact on the story and was probably mainly inspired by the 1985 film Enemy Mine (USA, Wolfgang Petersen, 1985). In general, however, the topos of enemies who find each other through fate is very common in science fiction and can also be found, for example, in various episodes of Star Trek (USA, 1966-present).

The commander’s luck left him however before he could reach Necronom. After an analysis of its abject surface (“The entrance was covered with a slimy, purplish-shining substance. The walls inside were dotted with bubbling, disgusting cellular clots.”), the ship’s systems failed, forcing him to flee. Back in the present of the narration, the rebels decide to choose a pilot for the ship – the player, who, as the interface animations with a robotic hand between levels indicates, is a robot or a cyborg – and send it back to the year 2753. The goal: “Destroy Necronom and change history.

The game itself is therefore a kind of re-enactment of the original “Mission Necronom”. The player successively navigates through enemy installations on known and fictional celestial bodies (Luna, Phobos, Delos, Callisto, Pluto, Ganymede, lo, Titan, Europa, Juno, Argo, Necronom), serving as distinct levels. They are also referred to as “zones”, each with evocative names, some of which are clearly taken from pop culture. While some names have mythological connotations (Inferno) and others are reminiscent of games, series, films or toys of the 1980s, others are more descriptive in character (Glass, Slime N Fire, Chrystal Robot, The Tomb, Grass Snake). The aesthetics of the worlds often reference an iconography popular at the time of the game. These range from references to H. R. Giger’s biomechanical Necronom [!] artwork (see Fig. 2), Darth Vader’s helmet (a giant flying helmet is actually the final boss in the level Pulverizers), Hieronymus Bosch (the enemies in the level Rock and Roll) or the Moai (the stone heads of Easter Island). Finally, the player reaches Necronom, where he strikes down the Prince of Darkness sitting on his throne. He escapes from the exploding planet, but – as the end credits tell us – crashes on a planet in the frenzy of victory celebrations, where the ship and pilot are wrecked with no hope of rescue [!].

Necronom IV by H.R. Giger, 1975.
Necronom IV by H.R. Giger, 1975.

This somewhat arbitrary and anticlimactic scripted death of the protagonist after successfully completing the game indicates, as does the background story, which is separate from the game and stands for itself, that in this case the story mainly served as a superficial McGuffin for Necronom’s setting and narrative. A deeper interconnection between narrative, setting and game mechanics is not necessary, as flow and immersion is generated through progress in gameplay, not the development of a narrative.

Game Mechanics

Necronom is a two-dimensional side scroller in which the task is to steer a spaceship from left to right through space without crashing into enemies, obstacles or architectural elements. The screen slowly moves to the left until the boss fights. Hence, the player has to adapt to the screen speed and is under pressure of not falling behind. Furthermore, each level consists of moving and static obstacles and enemies and a distinct architecture that enforces steering an effective path of the ship through space. The player has to overcome enemies and obstacles by evading or destroying them, and defeat a level boss at the end of each level. The enemy design ranges from static and stationary to moving enemies and spatial elements. In the case of projectiles, these follow mostly ballistic paths, while freely moving hostile obstacles and elements like meteors or fireballs follow patterns that also can be anticipated by the players (at least in repeating play loops). Each level ends with a boss fight. The bosses are usually characterised by their big size rather than their danger and are characterised by a unique design (e.g. the already-mentioned giant Darth Vader helmet).

While at first glance an R-Type clone, Necronom is in fact more of a euroshmup. Enemy waves take much more damage to be defeated with standard weapons in Necronom, and their bullets are single targeted on the player-ship as opposed to the complex choreographed bullet patterns to be learned in traditional shmups. Another characteristic of western shmup design is the possibility for the player to not engage with the enemy wave pattern by simply dodging them without any consequences, which can be done in many sectors, especially throughout the early levels. During the game, various bonus points and tokens can be collected. These activate “bouncing bombs” and “homing missile[s]”, or grant an extra life. The player can furthermore choose between different shot variants, and a protective shield. In addition to that, a “disruptor” can be activated by holding the fire button.

User Interface of Necronom, depicting the game’s upgrade screen to the left and a map of its levels to the right
User Interface of Necronom, depicting the game’s upgrade screen to the left and a map of its levels to the right

Between the levels, the players have to decide which path to take to Necronom on an abstract map20 and via a user interface. On the left of the UI, they can also upgrade certain aspects of their spaceship. These upgrades are not bought as in Xenon II for example but by investing upgrade points, here reminding of a RPG. The stats are shown in a bar chart on the left-hand side and include firepower, ship speed, bullet-power (which, according to the German translation of the manual, refers to both the ship’s speed and the penetrating power of the ammunition – although the English manual does not make this distinction), bullet-speed, spring-bombs, homing missiles and shield. These moments between the levels give the player a break from the fast-paced and stressful gameplay and allow them to upgrade the ship. These moments of respite are also important to develop a strategy for progressing to a higher difficulty in the later game, which is characteristic for Amiga-euroshmups, bringing the genre closer to role-playing elements than Arcade halls. Another platform-specific characteristic is the slower and longer pace of the overall game, which can be played through several sessions with the help of level specific passwords compared to more arcade-oriented US and Japanese shmups (a complete playthrough of Necronom takes about one and a half hours while the original R-Type can be finished within 20 minutes).

When manoeuvring the ship, it is difficult to tell if there is a built-in inertia, commonly used and often criticised in western shmups because it slows down the reaction in an otherwise very fast-paced gameplay. While some reviews point out the somehow laggy controls, the British magazine Amiga Format criticises the little or lack of inertia, showing this can also be a preferred choice in game design for a certain audience.21 Overall, the entire gameplay and game mechanics of Necronom are designed for spatial and infrastructural progress and self-optimization within the technical limitations of the game.

Graphic Design

Part of our team analysed the graphic design of the game based on the Bern “Auslegeordnung”, which was developed at the HKB under the guidance of Arne Scheuermann.22 For this, we printed around 50 screenshots of the game. Then we did a layout – the Auslegeordnung – and categorised them into groups. We focused especially on the colours and the aesthetics of the different levels in the game. At the end we had around seven distinctive visual clusters, emerging from hue, background pattern and level design. An obvious observation was towards which hue a level was leaning. We have a larger brownish cluster, a blue and a greenish one, and pink seems to be more or less reserved for the last level and the final boss, and the intro. The colours clearly reference science fiction tropes: metallic grey for space technologies, sand brown for ancient cultures, reseda green and electric blue for alien life forms. Most of the time, the main hue was applied to level graphics and enemies. Another important factor in the clusters were the background patterns, which are either absent or monotone and evenly applied. In just a few levels, the background pattern was arranged in a visually more appealing and less constructed manner. Lastly, we have level design as a distinctive factor, especially the arrangements of obstacles. While often feeling adequate and seemingly correct, there are also cases where the level design seems overly constructed and ruining the diegetic experience of the level, to create challenging passages for our spaceship.

Through these categorizations, we realised how diverse and unique the levels are.23 Some have a lot of empty black space and others are very busy and have a lot going on. While some levels serve the frightening emptiness of space, others create almost claustrophobic, narrow spaces in futuristic industrial settings or organic-looking cave worlds. Often a parallax effect makes the game seem more dynamic.

Featured on the back of the packaging, and also mentioned in interviews regarding the game, we find listed how many levels, aliens, and end-bosses the game contains, but also how many colours and frames of animation were used:

Necronom has 32 different levels with just as many final monsters, 11 entirely different backgrounds and over 300 different aliens. The backgrounds have 8 colours, everything on them, like cannons etc., has 16 colours, and the sprites again 8. In total, well over 3000 animation levels were required! All in all a huge piece of work, I sat on this thing for five months without interruption!”24

Michael Tschögl, who was responsible for the graphics, used Deluxe Paint to produce the backgrounds, sprites, and the user interface. In our interview, he also mentioned that he had “to work from scratch, and didn’t have any raw material except illustrations. Scanning wasn’t possible at that time. Everything had to be drawn pixel by pixel.”9, with which he wanted to express that he had to work very precisely and that the process took a lot of time.

Photo of Necronom's box art, back side.
Necronom’s box art, back side.

It is not that evident to determine who was ultimately responsible for the “design” of a game, as in concepting the looks and functions of various aspects, and realizing them. The credits of the game mention Martin Hall, James Thomas, and Mike Tschoegl (Michael Tschögl) as being responsible for the “design” and thank “all the other game designers for all the ideas”. As mentioned, Tschögl was responsible for the graphics and sound. The manual further lists Markus Grimmer being responsible for the package design and Brigitte Haller for the layout. Martin Hall is credited for programming the intro animation. But did he also design it? He was responsible for the programming of the intro of K240 (Celestial Software/Gremlin Graphics Software Limited, 1994, Amiga), with some of it being similar in style, feel and animation25. Finally, we have to mention John “The Brush” Smyth, not mentioned in the credits, as being responsible for the cover illustration on the package and Markus Muckenschnabel for creating illustrations for the manual. That makes seven people, out of nine in the production team, that have been working on different aspects of the “design” of Necronom.

“Graphic design” was seen as a distinctive factor in marketing. Declaring that Necronom was “designed”26, was also a strategy to say that the game is unique, and not simply a copy of another game. While it is evident that it is referencing the game design of R-Type, its graphic design is its unique selling point. The line between uniqueness and formulaicity is not so easy to draw, especially in the shmup genre. Although Necronom clearly built on the success of R-Type, going as far as imitating the game’s ship, the design was at the same time supposed to differentiate the game enough from what already is on the market to stand out. We should therefore take a look at the intro sequence, definitely a graphic design highlight of the game:

Animation Gif showing Necromon's intro.
Screenshot gallery of the intro.

Referring to contemporary liquid crystal displays and 7- or -9-segment letters27, red segmented letters introduce the development team. Such graphics and animations in the 1990s required some expertise and experience in graphics programming, reminiscent of the elaborate crack intros from the demoscene of the time.28

The intro is essentially an approximation to cinematic conventions, i.e. a remediation29 of an aesthetic grammar established in film. In the sense of a mise-en-scene, this introduction makes it possible on the one hand to establish an associative proximity to pop-cultural role models, but at the same time also emphasises a certain claim, namely to be more than a simple game. The aesthetics of the intro described above are reminiscent of the use of computer graphics as aesthetic markers of the future and future technologies in films such as Escape from New York (USA, John Carpenter, 1981), Tron (USA, Steven Lisberger, 1982) or Automan (USA, Glen A. Larson, 1983-1984). However, it also simulates technical computer-generated functional graphics similar to those used in films like WarGames (USA, John Badham, 1983) or user interfaces as in Terminator (USA, James Cameron, 1984). The depicted blueprint of the spaceship indicates action, implementation and utilisation of the depicted asset in the following game and highlights the essential role it takes. Hence, by citing the use of digital computer graphics in cinema, a computer game prepares the player for a techno-futuristic science fiction setting within the digital game in 1991.

In his study of the “Video Game Mise-En-Scene”, Ivan Girina emphasises the influence of cinematographic film language on the game and concludes – from his perspective in 2013 – that:

“the development of new graphical and physic engines and the increased level of literacy of video game players allow today for the implementation of a more sophisticated audiovisual code in video games. Although these elements may not always innovate the gameplay dynamics, nevertheless they expand and amplify the emotional impact of the game on the player, favoring the expressive evolution of the medium.”30

Our example in Necronom shows, however, that developers were already aware of the affect- and emotion-generating and immersion-enhancing power of cinematographic visual elements at a time when the technical possibilities, such as the desired realism in the game, were very limited. The solution was simple: limit the adaptation and remediation to those elements that were technically feasible, in our case graphics-heavy intros.

Another influence in Necronom has been the airbrush aesthetic, which was extremely successful at the time. Although the technique had existed long before, airbrush art only became a preferred tool of postmodern art with the invention of the spray gun in the late 1960s, partly because it allowed for photorealistic images due to its ability to create a variety of gradations and shades.

„[…] it was in the late 1970s and the 1980s that airbrush became a prominent, popular style, particularly in illustration and where it became interwoven with the popular culture of the era. Its imagery consisted primarily of variations on different themes: female portraits, tropical landscapes, cars, fruits, various consumer goods, and architectural interior design. Such imagery was intertextual, as it tended to adopt and blend decorative elements from earlier aesthetic movements Art Deco, Photorealism, Memphis style, and retrofuturism. […] The global popularity of 1980s airbrush art in many ways hinged on the circulation of prints and posters as an important element of interior decoration.”31

There were few teenagers at the time who didn’t have airbrush posters hanging in their rooms. The motifs ranged from half-naked women to American trucks (including the most striking US symbolism possible), animals (wolves, tigers, etc.) and even fantasy and science fiction motifs. This style can be found in particular in the introductory graphics of the Prince of Darkness (and therefore also on the cover of the box art). In particular, the realistic chrome look, the “granular” feel of the throne surfaces and the shading are also paradigmatic for airbrush art. This reminiscence of airbrush can also be found in the pseudo-three-dimensional depictions of the enemies, landscapes and architecture, as well as in the UI implementation and the accompanying cyborg/robot animation. This leads to the assumption that not only specific films, but also the decoration of young people’s rooms and the iconography contained therein may have influenced the game.

At this point, we would like to talk about the game’s relationship to H. R. Giger. Giger studied architecture and industrial design at the School of Applied Arts in Zürich, which means that he was first a trained design professional, and became a visual and sculpting artist later in his career. His trajectory of influencing game aesthetics is fairly simple. In 1977, the Sphinx Verlag published a first book on Giger’s artistic work. The book found its way to Ridley Scott and Dan O’Bannon, who in turn hired Giger to work on the Alien film franchise. The first film was released in 1979, and sequels followed in 1986, 1992 and 1997 (Prequels are excluded here). Games like Xenophobe (Bally Midway/Bally Midway, 1987, Arcade), Contra (Konami/Konami, 1987, Arcade; Famicom), and most obviously R-Type picked up on the sci-fi alien aesthetics and incorporated the alien creatures, called Xenomorphs, as enemies in their gameplay32.

R-Type’s Graphical Artist Akio OYabu later recalled a respective controversy concerning one specific enemy in the game, inspired by male and female reproductive organs:

“R-TYPE was my first job as a working adult. I was 22yo, and although I drew Gomander as a cool Giger-esque boss, as you can imagine, my design was controversial within the company; my boss said, ‘I’ll take responsibility, go ahead with this!’” and it made it through”33

Although Giger never worked directly on a video game, he was at least approached for possible collaborations. The games Dark Seed I and II had his permission to use his artwork, and according to Michael Tschögl, Giger was inquired by Linel to produce the graphics for Necronom ((Labiner, “Wie hast du das gemacht, Michael?”, Amiga Joker 05/90, 32; Labiner, “Necronom”, Amiga Joker 05/90, 33.)). A collaboration with him was deemed as too expensive and the graphic work was realised by Tschögl himself. Because of this cancellation, Necronom limited itself to indirect references, for example by borrowing from the R-Type graphic design, as well as selective aesthetic references that never achieved the quality of a direct quotation. So, although it was deliberately rumoured that Linel was thinking of collaborating with Giger, the influence of the Swiss artist is noticeable in the Swiss game Necronom, but much less obvious than in the Japanese R-Type or the British Xenon II. In the end the title of the game remained as one of few allusions to Giger.

Music

The soundtrack of the game was composed and produced by Michael Tschögl (mostly with the aid of the Amiga software Soundtracker) in 1991 and would be labelled today as synthwave, also called “Outrun”, “Retrowave”, or “Futuresynth”.34

Tschögl told us that he took heavy inspiration from former Commodore 64 game composers, as well as from Jean Michel Jarre and Vangelis. The latter can be heard by comparing the Blade Runner (USA, Ridley Scott, 1982) end titles theme to Necronom’s first level track:

“Music has always been my specialty. I was inspired to compose music myself by C64 music and the composers who did amazing things on it back then. Also Jean Michel Jarre, Vangelis, Kitaro etc.”35

Further influences from John Carpenter, especially from the soundtrack to Escape from New York, define the clear, somehow simplistic use of fast-paced bass synth patterns with single overleads. This alone is rhythmically captivating enough that there is no need for a constant use of electric drums, which are applied very cautiously and effectively. The unexceptional harsh and edgy synthesisers with additional raw and dry electronic drums produce an overall aggressive and forward-pushing feel to the game. Often lauded for setting the right mood of the shmup and being very captivating36, the music is very characteristic for the time of release and therefore also addressed with a “definite sense of ‘I have heard it all before’”37.

Reception

Generally speaking, Necronom’s reception in the press was mixed. The first magazine to report on the game was the German Amiga Joker which published both an interview with Michael Tschögl as the game’s graphic designer and an early (p)review on the same double-page [!] as early as May 1990.38 The (p)review seems to have been deliberately timed as part of an advertising strategy that did, however, not unfold as planned: The version of the game Amiga Joker received for review lacked not only packaging and manual but also the entire backstory, although neither did faze Michael Labiner who reviewed the game for the magazine. “Who needs a backstory for a proper shooting in outer space?”39, he asked his readers, and then continued to praise the game’s intro, graphics, music, and gameplay. In fact, his only critique was aimed at the game’s difficulty, especially thanks to the relatively slow joystick controls, which he quickly discarded as something that should be no problem for “true shooting artists”40 before predicting that Necronom would soon have its own fanbase since it could compete with well-known titles such as R-Type, Xenon II or X-Out (Arc Development/Rainbow Arts, 1989, Commodore 64; a.o.).

Scans of the double-page in Amiga Joker 05/90 with an interview with Michael Tschögl on the left and an early review of Necronom on the right.
Scans of the double-page in Amiga Joker 05/90 with an interview with Michael Tschögl on the left and an early review of Necronom on the right. (Amiga Joker 05/90, 32-33.)

This assessment is interesting, since Labiner’s opinion was relatively contrary to the one of an unnamed editor of the British Amiga Computing the same year.41 This review, while being not extremely negative, harshly critiqued how “nose bitingly difficult” the editor perceived Necronom to be and even called it “fiendish”. They still found the gameplay itself “addictive”, even when the sound was “a bit lame really” and the graphics were “not as outstanding as some of [Linel’s] older releases [but still] […] well done”. It would have been interesting to see how other publications would have received Necronom around the same time and whether they would have agreed with Amiga Computing’s critical perspective in December rather with Michael Labiner’s hyped review in May 1990.

It seems as if this early coverage in 1990 should have kicked off a news cycle. Placing an early review in a popular and widely distributed German magazine such as Amiga Joker could have made a good start for promoting a game released and reviewed over the coming months, but the effect apparently fizzled out, since the actual release seems to have been unexpectedly delayed until late 1991. In May 1990, around the same time of the early Amiga Joker coverage, the French Génération 4 announced that Necronom should have been released in May/June (1990),42 but that date seems to have never been met. Instead, the British Amiga Action and Amiga Format both reported in October 1991 that Necronom was about to be released but that the date for its publication was not set yet.43 At least the German release seems to have happened sometime in November/December 1991 because the German ASM published their review of Necronom as part of their December issue,44 followed but multiple other reviews and a few cheats published in magazines over the course of the next six months.

For the German press, Necronom apparently had missed its ideal timeframe to become a true hit by then. Lars Rückert, who reviewed Necronom for ASM, judged it as “brauchbar” (“suitable”) and criticised how the game was nothing new and how it simply combined elements from other well-known games. Interestingly, he also judged the game’s graphics – which had been well-received until then and/or featured with large screenshots in print – as mixed and gave them a rating range of “4-9” which was uncommon for the magazine.

After this first review, there was only one other German review which was published in June 1992 in the German magazine Play Time.45 Hans Ippisch, the review’s author, wasn’t impressed but seems to have been somewhat sympathetic towards it. He mentioned the delay and used it to contextualise his own relatively low rating of Necronom as a game that would have been something sensational two years earlier when it was originally scheduled for its release,46 but had fallen out of time since then. By 1992, he argued, players had too wide a variety of games that were more up to date for the same price for Necronom being able to compete with them.

Interestingly, there is no sign that the international reviews around the same time were aware of Necronom’s delay, or they simply did not care about it. In fact, they did not even treat the game as particularly old-school as the ASM or Play Time did. Both Amiga Power and The Australian Commodore & Amiga Review (ACAR) actually reviewed Necronom in a positive light with no hint of the assessment that it might have outlived itself before its own release.47 Dave Sanna for ACAR concluded: “But this game has definite promise! I really enjoy a great shoot-em-up, and if you do too then Necronom is for you!”48

Amiga Format, on the other hand, published a review in January 1992 that was truly damning.49 In October, they had reported on Necronom’s soon release with the words “The Swiss are famous for neutrality, not shoot-em-ups!” and now Marcus Dyson made a point of underlining how he regarded Necronom “to be absolutely crap.” He set out to tear the game apart in a review taking up a full page of the magazine’s January issue without mincing any words. “This game has none of the elements that constitute a good shoot-em-up, NONE!”, he wrote and claimed that Necronom’s intro was the only good thing about it. Yet, none of his criticism is aimed at how Necronom might be dated or obsolete. Instead, his article seems to be more of an annoyed reckoning with shoot-em-ups in general which, as he claims himself, were “all the same”, and he even asked why anyone would bother developing a shoot-em-up at all.

In fact, while not being extremely well-received, probably due to the delay, the overall response to Necronom seems to have been decent with most magazines treating the game as a niche interest due to its genre, but not condemning it for it per se. At least among German-speaking players, there also seems to have been some interest in the game since Amiga Joker published cheats for Necronom twice and those cheats often were supplied by their readers.50 The only thing that truly seems to give away the two years between the first Amiga Joker review in May 1990 and the Play Time review in June 1992 are the perceptions of graphics: Michael Labiner, overall hyping the game for Amiga Joker in 1990, praised Necronom’s illustrations which was also reflected in the early preview in Génération 4 which highlighted the number of screens and colours while illustrating one single paragraph with multiple large screenshots spread over a double-page. Later reviews and previews on the other hand, even positive ones, were less impressed by the graphics and rated them more as something they had seen over and over again. And: Not a single article drew the connection from Necronom’s art style to Giger or drew any other cross-reference and simply framed it as vaguely sci-fi instead. The only person who did draw this connection was Michael Tschögl himself when Amiga Joker interviewed him as Necronom’s artist. That dynamic is not entirely surprising, since gaming magazines rarely drew connections to other forms of media or art styles if they were not directly connected to popular (and fairly recent) action movies, but it is still interesting since it reveals a rift between an artistic intention voiced by Tschögl and its reception.

Political Mythologies

To what extent does Necronom function as a historical source for world views of Swiss players and developers in the early 1990s? How can we situate the game in the popular cultural, social and political discourses of its time? The game lends itself to such questions in particular because the shmup genre invites the formulaic and citation. We have shown how the background story in the manual reads like a potpourri of common SF tropes. Graphics and music diligently and very skilfully quote popular themes from the time, known from film and television. And the gameplay sticks to the conventions of the genre and willfully quotes established titles like R-Type. The finished product can therefore be read as a pastiche of contemporary styles and trends. The cover is reminiscent of contemporary thrash metal covers, the intro of John Carpenter films. Popular elements from pop culture at the time like the airbrush art, giant heads of the Easter Islands and references to Egyptian culture can be found, as well as the omnipresent synthesis of organic and artificial elements. In this respect, the game mirrors the expectations of the buyers well in its attempt to examine the dominant discourses of the time.

The Dangerous Other

Aesthetic similarities between R-Type, Xenon II and Necronom can for example be detected in the graphic design of dangerous, half organic, half industrial backgrounds and disturbing enemies born out of insects and machines, here reminiscent of the then very popular trend of sci-fi body-horror in movies like David cronenbergs The Fly (1986)  . Normally, the player controlled a spaceship in a hostile environment and had to defeat increasingly dangerous enemies. This was more or less predetermined by the genre and can be traced back to game mechanics that have been established as early as with Spacewar! (Steve Russel, 1962, PDP-10). Nevertheless, it would be wrong to assume that there are no ideological statements here.

The “threatening other” – i.e. wave after wave of enemies – is by no way an invention of digital games. A look beyond the boundaries of the genre reveals similarly simple threat narratives in film and literature. Here, the “other” is a constant threat that can only be reacted to. However, few genres embody a state of constant threat and overwhelming stress so impressively. At the same time, Necronom, like most other shmups, makes few statements about the Other that go beyond its apparent natural aggressiveness. Aliens were aggressive conquerors in the popular culture of the late 1980s in general and in digital games in particular. Although this statement was given by the game mechanics, which only allowed attack and evasion as interaction, it was in line with narratives from other media. The remnants of the constant threat-narrative during the Cold War may still be evident here. Indeed, the Cold War functioned largely on a cultural level through the constant reminder of an ominous and elusive but overwhelming threat that was rarely explicitly addressed. This myth worked in such a way that it made a constant threat credible in the public perception.

The Dangerous Frontier

This myth of a foreign threat is complemented by the related myth of the dangerous outer limits of our civilisation: Beware! Only dangers lurk beyond the known world. This, too, is not an invention of digital games. On the contrary, we are dealing with an ancient tale, even from a cultural and historical perspective: even in ancient times, dangerous peoples and mythical creatures populated the unknown beyond our borders. It was inhabited by barbarians and Scythians – both rather generic terms for foreigners. Heaven – as in the Alexander novel from the 4th century BC – and hell were assumed to lie beyond remote borders. This is where the peoples Gog and Magog lived, who – according to the Book of Revelation – would one day go into battle with Satan.51 In both cases, these are primal reactions to the unfamiliar. We would also like to point out the iconographic references to Satan depictions of cover art.This myth also holds surprisingly successful in science fiction. Curious people are often punished for their hubris here, not least in Ridley Scott’s Alien.

Techno-Futures and Retro-Politics

Necronom is evidently a science fiction game. Spaceships, interplanetary travel, cyborgs (the fact that the pilot of the spaceship is a robot or cyborg is never discussed and only becomes clear via an animation between the levels in the user interface), alien races, all of these are set pieces that have long been established in science fiction and can be read as such without much prior knowledge. What is interesting here is that this high-tech imaginary of the future, in which the technological fix, i.e. the solution to all problems through high technology, is only one side of the game’s narrative framing. This aspect is reinforced, among other things, by the intro described above, in which the blueprint serves as a marker of techno-utopian ideas of progress. On the other hand, the political space that the game describes is one that, as a reminiscence of human history, unites a colourful hodgepodge of ideas on colonialism, decolonization, resistance to dictatorships, capitalist forms of organisation and, finally, a kind of human exceptionalism in which the Other, the extraterrestrial (see above) is negatively connoted. This basic constellation seems to tie in more with the fairytale-like political constellation of the Star Wars (USA, Georg Lucas, 1977-present) films than with real political events, especially as the then established classification of the world into evil Eastern Bloc and progressive West collapsed shortly before the game was released.

Synthesis

All in all, it can be said that the developers have succeeded in creating a solid to good shmup with Necronom. The game clearly refers to its famous predecessors and lives up to expectations. If it had been released earlier – as was probably originally planned – it could have kept up with the competition even better. The game is of particular historical interest because it is representative of the extremely successful shmup genre at the beginning of the 1990s, or more specifically of its success on the Amiga. This made it possible for European developers who did not have the resources to produce arcade machines to participate in the genre. And that in turn led to its spread.

What statements can now be made about Necronom as a Swiss game in relation to its position within the sphere of production on the one hand, but also at the level of content and the cosmologies and ideologies conveyed through it?

    1. It is striking how little “Swissness” the game conveys in terms of aesthetics and design, but also in terms of narrative. On the contrary, the game is deeply influenced by a contemporary pop culture that can be read as hegemonically American and is bursting with pop-cultural references. Even the only (and here only marginal) relation to Swiss artist H.R. Giger cannot be read as specifically Swiss, as it is primarily based on Giger’s entry into pop culture via R-Type and/or Alien. The extent to which this suppression of Swiss identity was an expression for an identity independent of nationality, similar to the (leftist) German pop culture of the 1980s52, would have to be examined in further analyses.
    2. The transnational (or anational) character of the game is also evident in the way it was produced, as it was a close collaboration between British, Austrian and Swiss developers who worked on the title by mail and telephone. Markus Grimmer and André Wüthrich were Swiss, Michael Tschögl was Austrian and Martin Hall and John Thomas were British. They had been connected by the figure of Markus Grimmer, who was able to establish very good contacts with the British electronic scene early on and was also able to address the local Swiss (and Vorarlberg) scene. It would be interesting to see to what extent such international collaborations have also led to the definition of what is now referred to as “euroshmups”. However, this again would require further studies. At the same time, from today’s perspective, the game could also be seen as an indie game, whose production conditions were strongly influenced by remote work and the local concentration in the Appenzeller residential and work space. Both, internationalisation and local concentration, describe well the position of Linel, who as a small and young Swiss publisher wanted to gain a foothold on the international market with their products. At the same time, as is clear from the reviews, some of which considered the game to be outdated even before it was released, the market was characterised by great dynamics that the publisher was possibly unable to keep up with and that production processes in Appenzell were not yet as professionalised as in the UK. There were also repeated delays in other game productions, possibly due to unrealistic schedules.

And yet something special was created. Necronom is at the same time an attempt to connect with an international, primarily American-Japanese games culture, but at the same time, due to the different conditions in Europe, something of its own, a transnational euroshmup in a way.

References

Primary Sources

  • @akio_1963, Post on Twitter/X, 02.05.2023, http://web.archive.org/web/20230708230450/https://twitter.com/akio_1963/status/165333877847873945.
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  • Dyson, Marcus. “Necronom” Amiga Format 30, January 1992, 117.
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  • Galaga (Namco/Namco, 1981, Arcade)
  • gasking. “Necronom”. Games That Weren’t 64, 04.10.2022, https://www.gamesthatwerent.com/gtw64/necronom/.
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  • Labiner, Michael. “Necronom: Es darf wieder geballert werden!” Amiga Joker 05/90, 1990. p. 33.
  • Labiner, Michael. “Wie hast du das gemacht, Michael? Ein Gespräch mit dem Grafiker von ‘Necronom’”. Amiga Joker 05/90, 1990. 32.
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  • N/A. “Necronom” Hall Of Light, 26.12.2022, https://amiga.abime.net/games/view/necronom.
  • N/A. “Necronom”, Amiga Computing 31, December 1990, 51.
  • N/A. “Necronom”, Amiga Format 27, October 1991, 60.
  • N/A. “Necronom”, Génération 4 22, May 1990, 176-177.
  • Necronom (Lunatic Software/Linel, 1991, Amiga)
  • Out Run (Amazing Products / U.S. Gold, 1988, Amiga et al).
  • River Raid (Activision/Activision, 1982, Atari)
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  • Rückert, Lars. “This Bullet is for you! – Necronom”, Aktueller Software Markt (ASM) 12/91, 1991, 56.
  • Sanna, Dave: “Necronom”, Australian Commodore and Amiga Review (ACAR) 9,2, 1992, 72.
  • Space Invaders (Taito/Taito, 1979, Arcade)
  • Spacewar! (Steve Russel, 1962, PDP-10)
  • Star Trek (USA, 1966-present)
  • Star Wars (USA, Georg Lucas, 1977-present)
  • Terminator (USA, James Cameron, 1984)
  • The Fly (USA, David Cronenberg, 1986)
  • The Neverending Story II (Linel/Linel, 1990, Amiga; Commodore 64; a.o.)
  • Tron (USA, Steven Lisberger, 1982)
  • Tschögl, Michael. Personal email interview led by Eugen Pfister and Adrian Demleitner, Bregenz (Austria) / Bern (Switzerland). 08.01.2024.
  • Tschögl, Michael. Personal email interview led by Eugen Pfister and Adrian Demleitner, Bregenz (Austria) / Bern (Switzerland). 30.01.2024.
  • WarGames (USA, John Badham, 1983)
  • Xenon II (The Bitmap Brothers/Image Works, 1989, Amiga a.o.)
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  • X-Out (Arc Development/Rainbow Arts, 1989, Commodore 64; a.o.)

Secondary Sources

  • Bolter, Jay David and Grusin, Richard. Remediation: Understanding New Media. 5. pr. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2002.
  • Ege, Moritz. “Die antinationale Mikropolitik der Popkultur als Schreckbild und Verheißung- Über Pop-Figurationen und gespaltene Gesellschaften”. In Pop the Nation: die Nation als Ressource und Argument in Kulturen populärer Unterhaltung und Vergnügung, edited by Marketa Spiritova and Manuel Trummer, 43–71. Kulturen populärer Unterhaltung und Vergnügung, volume 6. Münster New York: Waxmann, 2023.
  • Fox, Tanner. “Scorn & 9 Other Games Inspired By H.R. Giger”, ScreenRant, 04.08.2022, https://screenrant.com/scorn-games-inspired-by-h-r-giger.
  • Girina, Ivan. “Video Game Mise-En-Scene Remediation of Cinematic Codes in Video Games”. In Interactive Storytelling, edited by Hartmut Koenitz, Tonguc Ibrahim Sezen, Gabriele Ferri, Mads Haahr, Digdem Sezen, und Güven C̨atak, 8230:45–54. Lecture Notes in Computer Science. Cham: Springer International Publishing, 2013. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-02756-2_5.
  • Kassaveti, Ursula-Helen. “‘Sharp Sybaritic’ Retrofuturistic Deco Realism: Some Preliminary Notes on the 1980s Airbrush Art”. Imaginations: Journal of Cross-Cultural Image Studies 10, 2 (30.03.2020). https://doi.org/10.17742/IMAGE.OI.10.2.4.
  • McMillan, Luke. “The Origin of the ‘shmup’ Genre: A Historical Study.” Game Developer, 08.12.2023. https://www.gamedeveloper.com/design/the-origin-of-the-shmup-genre-a-historical-study.
  • Miszczyk, Maciej. “In Defense of Euroshmups, a Retrospective”. Niche Gamer, 17.03.2015. https://nichegamer.com/in-defense-of-euroshmups-a-retrospective/.
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  • Scheuermann, Arne. “Visuelle Auslegeordnung und Rhetorische Designanalyse nach dem Berner Modell: Zwei neue Methoden der angewandten Grafikdesignforschung – ein Praxisbericht”. In Image, edited by Thomas Gartmann, Cristina Urchueguía, und Hannah Ambühl-Baur, 15–36. Bielefeld, Germany: transcript Verlag, 2023. https://doi.org/10.14361/9783839469545-002.
  • the_knives and Herr Schatten. “The Commodore Amiga Shmup Library Essentials”. RetroGaming with Racketboy (blog), 04.01.2023. https://www.racketboy.com/retro/the-commodore-amiga-shmup-library-essentials.
  • Wade, Alex. Playback: A Genealogy of 1980s British Videogames. New York, [New York] London Oxford: Bloomsbury Academic, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing, Plc, 2016.

Header Image by Gilles Sulzberger.



Cite this blog post
CH Ludens (2024, March 28). Case Study: Necronom (Lunatic Software/Linel, 1991, Amiga). Confoederatio Ludens. Retrieved June 14, 2024, from https://doi.org/10.58079/w4dm

  1. “Shmups are defined by certain unique elements of game mechanics including aspects of player perspective, the game world, control, objectives and themes. The player takes control of their avatar from a third-person-perspective. Using the directional controls, the player can move freely along the horizontal and vertical axis of the screen. The player’s orientation is fixed to that of the primary scrolling axis. The player has no control over the view perspective of the game. The game will scroll automatically along its primary axis of movement at a speed determined by the game, beyond the player’s control. The player observes their craft from a fixed third person perspective, either above or to the side of their ship depending on the type of Shmup.” McMillan, Luke. “The Origin of the ‘shmup’ Genre: A Historical Study.” Game Developer, 08.12.2023. https://www.gamedeveloper.com/design/the-origin-of-the-shmup-genre-a-historical-study. []
  2. the_knives and Herr Schatten. “The Commodore Amiga Shmup Library Essentials”. RetroGaming with Racketboy (blog), 04.01.2023. https://www.racketboy.com/retro/the-commodore-amiga-shmup-library-essentials. []
  3. Miszczyk, Maciej. “In Defense of Euroshmups, a Retrospective”. Niche Gamer, 17.03.2015. https://nichegamer.com/in-defense-of-euroshmups-a-retrospective/. []
  4. At the same time, parallel to the highly professionalised studios, a Japanese amateur developer culture developed since the 1980s with the development of “doujin soft”. Here, also the development of shmups on home computers has also played a certain role. (Thanks to Pierre-Yves Hurel for pointing this out. []
  5. the_knives and Herr Schatten, “The Commodore Amiga Shmup Library Essentials”. []
  6. Unfortunately, we have not yet been able to get in touch with the two developers, as of January 2024. []
  7. Original: “Und so wollte man zuerst den berühmten Schweizer Maler H.R. Giger für die Grafiken verpflichten – immerhin den Schöpfer des berühmten Original-Filmmonsters Alien. Nur hatte der sich das Zeichnen von Spiele-Grafiken erheblich weniger zeitaufwendig vorgestellt, mit ihm wäre die Sache viel zu teuer geworden. Also ist man bei Linel wieder auf mich verfallen . . .”  Labiner, Michael. “Wie hast du das gemacht, Michael? Ein Gespräch mit dem Grafiker von ‘Necronom’”. Amiga Joker 05/90, 1990, 32. []
  8. idem. Original: “Wenn ich in einer Spielhalle einen Hard Drivin’- oder R-Type II-Automaten finde, lasse ich nicht locker, bis mein Kleingeld alle ist!” []
  9. Tschögl, Michael. Personal email interview led by Eugen Pfister and Adrian Demleitner, Bregenz (Austria) / Bern (Switzerland). 08.01.2024. [] []
  10. “Linel stellte ein Haus zur Verfügung, in dem wir während der Entwicklung diverser Games lebten. Es war sehr spartanisch eingerichtet.” Tschögl, Michael. Personal email interview led by Eugen Pfister and Adrian Demleitner, Bregenz (Austria) / Bern (Switzerland). 08.01.2024. []
  11. idem. []
  12. “Diese Zwei waren leider nicht vor Ort, und ich konnte sie auch nie persönlich kennenlernen. Die Kommunikation beschränkte sich lediglich über Markus Grimmer und einige Telefonate.Datenaustausch erfolgte damals noch per Post.” Tschögl, Michael. Personal email interview led by Eugen Pfister and Adrian Demleitner, Bregenz (Austria) / Bern (Switzerland). 30.01.2024. []
  13. Labiner, Michael. “Necronom: Es darf wieder geballert werden!” Amiga Joker 05/90, 1990. 33. []
  14. fgasking. “Necronom”. Games That Weren’t 64, 04.10.2022, https://www.gamesthatwerent.com/gtw64/necronom/. []
  15. N/A. “Necronom” Hall Of Light, 26.12.2022, https://amiga.abime.net/games/view/necronom. []
  16. It is no coincidence that it is reminiscent of the British phenomenon of “bedroom coders”. See Wade, Alex. Playback: A Genealogy of 1980s British Videogames. New York, [New York] London Oxford: Bloomsbury Academic, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing, Plc, 2016. []
  17. This is a digitised version of the cover artwork by John Smyth. []
  18. The alien’s musculature and physiognomy have a clear male connotation. []
  19. N/A (1991): NECRONOM Instructions [Manual]. Linel: Appenzell. []
  20. In the middle of the user interface, a screen shows an image and the name of the next target, while the targets themselves can be selected on the right-hand side within the framework of a map reminiscent of a Celtic knot. Two small screens below the map show a section of the specific level, the name of the level and the level of difficulty (elementary, formidable, solid, menacing, severe, pitiless, etc). []
  21. Dyson, Marcus. “Necronom” Amiga Format 30, January 1992, 117. []
  22. Scheuermann, Arne. “Visuelle Auslegeordnung und Rhetorische Designanalyse nach dem Berner Modell: Zwei neue Methoden der angewandten Grafikdesignforschung – ein Praxisbericht”. In Image, edited by Thomas Gartmann, Cristina Urchueguía, und Hannah Ambühl-Baur, 15–36. Bielefeld, Germany: transcript Verlag, 2023. https://doi.org/10.14361/9783839469545-002. []
  23. We realise how flat some levels might appear as a printed screenshot, knowing that in the actual game it feels less flat because of constant action happening in the background. []
  24. Labiner, “Wie hast du das gemacht, Michael?”, Amiga Joker 05/90, 32. []
  25. You can watch the intro here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HcRwIjD0DGA. []
  26. MobyGames lists Martin Hall and James Thomas being responsible for “Alien Wave Design”, without being clear what that exactly entails. But it seemed important enough for Linel to spread that information somewhere. []
  27. The segmented font and numbers were mainly known from digital clocks and public display boards. []
  28. There might be a loose link to demoscene- and cracker intro-aesthetics, but we haven’t found Michael Hart being associated with any groups or demoscene works. []
  29. Bolter, Jay David and Grusin, Richard. Remediation: Understanding New Media. 5. pr. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2002, 45. []
  30. Girina, Ivan. “Video Game Mise-En-Scene Remediation of Cinematic Codes in Video Games”. In Interactive Storytelling, edited by Hartmut Koenitz, Tonguc Ibrahim Sezen, Gabriele Ferri, Mads Haahr, Digdem Sezen, und Güven C̨atak, 8230:45–54. Lecture Notes in Computer Science. Cham: Springer International Publishing, 2013. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-02756-2_5, 46 []
  31. Kassaveti, Ursula-Helen. “‘Sharp Sybaritic’ Retrofuturistic Deco Realism: Some Preliminary Notes on the 1980s Airbrush Art”. Imaginations: Journal of Cross-Cultural Image Studies 10, 2 (30.03.2020). https://doi.org/10.17742/IMAGE.OI.10.2.4. []
  32. Giger’s aesthetics are taken for inspiration in games up to this day as shown by this brief list. Fox, Tanner. “Scorn & 9 Other Games Inspired By H.R. Giger”, ScreenRant, 04.08.2022, https://screenrant.com/scorn-games-inspired-by-h-r-giger. []
  33. @akio_1963, Post on Twitter/X, 02.05.2023, http://web.archive.org/web/20230708230450/https://twitter.com/akio_1963/status/165333877847873945. []
  34. Out Run (1986) was also a Sega arcade racing game which helped forming a pivotal 80’s style element through its soundtrack, tying the sound of synthesisers to fast cars, which has later been affiliated to 80’s nostalgia in media like the soundtrack of the movie Drive (2011) by Kavinsky. []
  35. Original: “Musik war schon immer mein Steckenpferd. Inspiriert zum selbst Musik komponieren wurde ich durch C64 Musik und die Komponisten, die damals auf diesem Erstaunliches geleistet haben. “Außerdem von Jean Michel Jarre, Vangelis, Kitaro usw.” Tschögl, Michael. Personal email interview led by Eugen Pfister and Adrian Demleitner, Bregenz (Austria) / Bern (Switzerland). 08.01.2024. []
  36. For example in Sanna, Dave. “Necronom”, Australian Commodore and Amiga Review (ACAR) 9,2, 1992, 72. []
  37. N/A. “Necronom”, Amiga Computing 31, December 1990, 51. []
  38. Labiner, “Wie hast du das gemacht, Michael?”, Amiga Joker 05/90, 32; Labiner, “Necronom”, Amiga Joker 05/90, 33. []
  39. idem., “[…], aber wer braucht bei einer zünftigen Weltraum-Ballerei schon eine Vorgeschichte?” []
  40. idem., “Echte Baller-Artisten sollten sich dadurch jedoch nicht abschrecken lassen […]” []
  41. N/A. “Necronom”, Amiga Computing 31, 51. []
  42. N/A. “Necronom”, Génération 4 22, May 1990, 176-177. []
  43. N/A. “Linel Line the Way”, Amiga Action 25, October 1991, 10; N/A. “Necronom”, Amiga Format 27, October 1991, 60. []
  44. Rückert, Lars. “This Bullet is for you! – Necronom”, Aktueller Software Markt (ASM) 12/91, 1991, 56. []
  45. Ippisch, Hans. “Necronom”, Play Time 06/92, 1992, 46. []
  46. Idem., “Necronom wurde schon vor über zwei Jahren angekündigt und konnte damals durch die ersten Demoversionen locker für Aufsehen sorgen. In den letzten zwei Jahren übertrafen sich die Amiga-Programmierer jedoch ständig, während Necronom keiner Qualitätssteigerung unterzogen wurde.” []
  47. Campbell, Stuart. “Necronom”, Amiga Power 9, January 1992, 72; Sanna, “Necronom”, ACAR 9,2, 72. []
  48. Sanna, “Necronom”, ACAR 9,2, 72. []
  49. Dyson, “Necronom”, Amiga Format 30, 117. []
  50. N/A. “Die Listigen: Cheats”, Amiga Joker 01/92, 1992, 94-95; N/A. “Die Soliden: Tips & Tricks”, Amiga Joker 03/92, 67. []
  51. Pfister, Eugen. “Von Sekten-Wahnsinn-Necromorphs. (Fallstudie 20: Dead Space Extraction)”, Horror – Game – Politics, 18.04.2020, https://hgp.hypotheses.org/996. []
  52. Ege, Moritz. “Die antinationale Mikropolitik der Popkultur als Schreckbild und Verheißung- Über Pop-Figurationen und gespaltene Gesellschaften”. In Pop the Nation: die Nation als Ressource und Argument in Kulturen populärer Unterhaltung und Vergnügung, edited by Marketa Spiritova and Manuel Trummer, 43–71. Kulturen populärer Unterhaltung und Vergnügung, volume 6. Münster New York: Waxmann, 2023. []

One thought on “Case Study: Necronom (Lunatic Software/Linel, 1991, Amiga)”

  1. An interesting read, but so many (incorrect) assumptions about the development of the game.
    Glad you enjoyed the game! It was a blast writing it (and learning the Amiga at the same time).

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