My First Game: Tony Warriner and Obsidian
Everyone has to start somewhere. Even the most dedicated and renowned game developers began with one simple idea, polishing and honing it until their first game duly appeared. Sometimes these would be released virtually unnoticed; on other occasions, they’d hit the ground running with a smash hit of epic proportions. Yet most first games fall somewhere between these two peripheries. For our freshman entry in this new series, we present Tony Warriner, Revolution Software stalwart and an industry veteran of some 35-odd years, telling us all about his first game.
Format: Amstrad CPC
Year released: 1986
Publisher: Artic Computing
Genre: Action Adventure
Plot: Obsidian is a hollowed-out asteroid that houses a massive space station. To meet up with its mothership, the Obsidian has to pass through the well of a black hole. The Obsidian can survive this, but its crew cannot; they disembark to a nearby shuttle and begin the journey separately. Then,
disaster strikes: a freak radiation storm disables the Obsidian, meaning a brave volunteer must return to the asteroid and reactivate its systems. The only problem is that the storm has re-initiated its security procedures.
Reviews: In its March ’86 issue, Amtix magazine described Obsidian as ‘quite a nice arcade adventure of an above-average sort’ while praising its excellent graphics. Meanwhile, Amstrad Action also liked Obsidian’s graphics, calling them ‘bright, clear and featuring some unusual colours,’ before signing off with overall positivity: ‘The game itself is not very original, but it’s so well executed that it deserves the praise it’s getting here.”
After a stint at Cascade Games, Tony achieved fame in the Nineties as one of the founders of Revolution Software, having previously met co-founder Charles Cecil at Artic Computing back in the Eighties. As a crucial part of several of its iconic games, Tony worked on titles such as Lure Of The Temptress, Broken Sword: Shadow Of The Templars and Beneath A Steel Sky, establishing a reputation as a programmer and games designer of considerable talent.
Antstream Arcade: Hello Tony! We are pleased to talk to you today about Obsidian, your first
Tony W: Hello! Actually, I remember a friend and I tried to make a text adventure first of all. It
almost worked, but we got very stuck with the design, and the engine was harder than we thought! I also did a funny little platform game, but it wasn’t quite good enough to get published.
AA: Why did you choose the Amstrad CPC as Obsidian’s system?
TW: My first computer was a Camputers Lynx, which was great to learn to code on, but it died in the market, so I needed something else if I wanted to get a game published. I liked the Enterprise 64, but that disappeared before I’d even saved up for one! Then I switched to the CPC as it looked like it might last a while longer – also, it had the Z80 CPU, which I already knew.
AA: How did you come up with the idea for Obsidian?
TW: Everyone with an Amstrad CPC was playing a game called Sorcery, which was super cool for the time and totally inspiring. So, I wanted to do something like that, and the obvious twist was to pick a sci-fi scenario.
AA: How old were you, and was anyone else involved in Obsidian?
TW: I was 16, and still at school – at least, in theory, I was. It was just myself, all the way through.
AA: Is it true you failed your exams because of Obsidian?
TW: Sort of. In truth, I’d already given up on school, so writing Obsidian was just something to concentrate on instead. It was much more fun than revising! Any free time, I’d be coding away, think about the design at school, then come home and put the plans into action.
AA: What did your parents think of this?
TW: Well, they probably realised it was all over anyway as far as exams were concerned. But they saw I could program a computer so decided to let me go with it. All you really need in life is proof
that you can do the work, so it turned out ok.
AA: How did you get the game published?
TW: I was looking through games magazines and making a list of possible publishers when my mother just got the phone book out and found there was a local publisher, Artic Computing. She said to send it to them because they were near, so that’s what I did!
AA: What did you learn making Obsidian, and is there anything you’d have done differently in retrospect?
TW: I learned that finishing a game is harder than starting one, but if you put your head down, you’ll get there in the end. Looking back, I’d have used a proper assembler rather than coding it all using hex bytes as I unfeasibly did. I think it’s quite a hard game to play, too, so maybe I’d make it a little easier.
AA: What does Obsidian mean to you today?
TW: It was the first game I had published, and it led me onto the path that would become Revolution Software and the making of games like Beneath A Steel Sky and Broken Sword. So I’m still rather fond of it!
AA: So without this little Amstrad game, there’d possibly have been no Broken Sword! Any final
TW: I’m currently working on a crazy shoot-‘em-up follow-up called Obsidian Hellscape that
continues five minutes after the end of Obsidian. I’m also writing a book, From 8Bits To Revolution, which will cover my game dev experiences from 1985 to 2015.
You can check out Tony’s progress on Obsidian Hellscape and his book over at www.tonywarriner.io.
Meantime, check out his very first commercial game, Obsidian, available to play for free on