Shadow of the Bust
August 22, 2012 10:27 AM   Subscribe

Sony is closing its Liverpool Studio, previously known as Psygnosis, developer of the WipeEout and Lemmings games (DHTML version, previously). The studio created games for 28 years, first gaining attention in the Amiga era for it's high production values and stunning box art (more, more ).
posted by Artw (55 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
I was drawn to them almost like some sort of small, obsessive rodent.

Oh no!
posted by sonascope at 10:30 AM on August 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


We all fall down.
posted by randomination at 10:31 AM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Those days was the days. I remember having my socks knocked off by every Psygnosis game I had the good fortune to play.
posted by TheRedArmy at 10:34 AM on August 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


Sad to hear. I once was a consultant to Psygnosis. Great people there.

Interesting tidbit -- I got to know Clive Barker's brother quite well who worked there. He and his family lived right around the corner from John Lennon's aunt's house where Lennon lived with her.
posted by ericb at 10:34 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]



Man I loved me some Psygnosis games.

They were really cutting edge in a time when computer gaming was just a niche itself.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:37 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


First Nintendo Power, and now this. This has been a crummy week.
posted by hellojed at 10:37 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I had a friend with an Amiga who loved those old Psygnosis games. In addition to HAM mode pictures of Toucans that flickered maddeningly, he liked to show them off. After the amazing graphics and true four channel music intro had finished ("I bet I could format a floppy while this was going on!!!"), it was always awkward when the gameplay itself itself would be played, and be boring pointless shit.
posted by fleacircus at 10:37 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is their logo from a Rush album cover?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:38 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Psygnosis logo was designed by Roger Dean -- famous for his Yes album covers.

Many believe that his artwork was an uncredited inspiration for the 'world' in Avatar.
posted by ericb at 10:41 AM on August 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


Speaking of Psygnosis' amazing Roger Dean box art, it's worth noting that the Psygnosis Owl mascot had a game all to itself, appropriately titled Agony (longplay). Like many of the companies Amiga games it was an absolutely stunning work of pixel art that made for an unfortunate game. Even though Lemmings and Wipeout were both utter masterpieces, I still associate the company with fatally flawed ambition because of games like Agony and Shadow of the Beast.

That's not to say their fatally flawed ambition wasn't at times completely fascinating, as seen in the Ecstatica series, which are two very ambitious horror games that are most likely the most prominent examples of using ellipsoids in 3d rendering in the pre-graphic card dark ages. The first one is notable for featuring full on ovalish male nudity, and the second one features one of the most impressively realized castles I have ever seen in a game (and absolutely no mapping to take the edge off of exploring it)
posted by Shadax at 10:41 AM on August 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


G-Police, Wipeout, Destruction Derby... Psygnosis owned my 20's.
posted by schoolgirl report at 10:42 AM on August 22, 2012


Lemmings 2 on GamesMaster
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:43 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


.
posted by crunchland at 10:44 AM on August 22, 2012


/me pours ten pints on the curb...
posted by 1f2frfbf at 10:44 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


In addition to Roger Dean they also used a lot of art by Tim White.
posted by Artw at 10:44 AM on August 22, 2012


.

Killing Game Show, Awesome, Blood Money, Shadow of the Beast- Psygnosis practically owned my early teen years.
posted by Dr-Baa at 10:47 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Am I the only person who enjoyed Lemmings 2 more than the original. Basically for the Scottish Lemmings.
posted by Damienmce at 10:47 AM on August 22, 2012


.

Interesting how 2 major franchises (Lemmings & Worms) came from British devs. Shame Lemmings never recovered from the whole Lemmings 3D ordeal. Rest in peace, owl.
posted by pyrex at 10:50 AM on August 22, 2012


Serves 'em right for torturing me with Shadow of the Beast!

(SRSLY they made great games)
posted by Mister_A at 11:00 AM on August 22, 2012


Interesting how 2 major franchises (Lemmings & Worms) came from British devs

Brits do love to queue.
posted by bonehead at 11:00 AM on August 22, 2012 [10 favorites]


Interesting how 2 major franchises (Lemmings & Worms) came from British devs.

Team 17 is still going, no idea how they're doing though. It's been a rough couple of years for UK devshops.

GTA is probably the biggest UK based franchise and unlikely to be challenged for some time.
posted by Artw at 11:05 AM on August 22, 2012


Am I the only person who enjoyed Lemmings 2 more than the original. Basically for the Scottish Lemmings.

♪♫ You take the high road and I'll take the low,
And I'll reach the exit before ye... ♫♪
posted by Gator at 11:06 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


GTA is probably the biggest UK based franchise and unlikely to be challenged for some time.

...unless it's actually Tomb Raider.
posted by Artw at 11:07 AM on August 22, 2012


It's interesting to note that both Lemmings and GTA were developed by DMA Design.
posted by Dr-Baa at 11:13 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh man, Psygnosis was basically code for "is actually good" from my Amiga 500 game pirating childhood. Pourin' one out.
posted by cortex at 11:15 AM on August 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


Oh man. That touches my early teen heart. The Psygnosis logo (owl!) was an immediate sign on my Amiga that I was about to play something awesome.
posted by cavalier at 11:16 AM on August 22, 2012


(backs away from cortex cautiously)... I was going to mention FLT and RZR etc, but, well, you know.. yeah.
posted by cavalier at 11:17 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ah, I remember playing Barbarian on my crappy XT.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:20 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


DMA Design! That was the name that was on the tip of my tongue.

Yeah GTA is definitely still going strong and probably will for a long time. I still remember the original GTA demo that had a 20 minute time limit; must've played it a billion times. I'll still play the new games because I'm a sucker for sanbox games, however far they stray from their 'silly antics' roots (Saints Row is great challenger these days). Please GTA, stop trying to be so serious and give me more ridiculous stuff to do!

And true, Worms is still going but I wonder if the series will still be around in, say, 10 years. They've both refined and remade their game so many times that they're now trying wonky concepts like Worms Golf. Guess time will tell.
posted by pyrex at 11:28 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Please GTA, stop trying to be so serious and give me more ridiculous stuff to do!

Hear hear. My favorite GTA is still London 1969, partly because most of it was so ridiculous.
posted by Dr-Baa at 11:39 AM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Lemmings exercised my brain and rewarded attention to detail more than anything I did in grade school.

Barbarian was 1) impossible and 2) absolutely hilarious.

Shadow of the Beast made me feel like I was on drugs, before I was old enough to know what that meant.

I have only vague recollections of playing others - Killing Game Show definitely triggers something in my brain. I think I may have rented it for the Genesis, under the name Fatal Rewind. I was a young Psygnosis obsessive, for sure. That owl and the Roger Dean artwork haunted my dreams.
posted by naju at 11:45 AM on August 22, 2012


Back in the mists of time I had an Atari Lynx (actually, I'm pretty sure I still have it in a box somewhere). Psygnosis made the best games for the platform. There were lots of crappy games, but if you got a Psygnosis one you know it would lead to hours of gameplay.
posted by Runes at 11:46 AM on August 22, 2012


In the mid-90s I worked at the Boston service bureau used by the designer we called Affordable Harry, who did the boxes for the Lemmings games. I saw those games over and over and over as he designed them, until the series of jobs themselves felt like a procession of lemmings. Great art, and he always supplied all his fonts with his files. Miss you, Harry!
posted by wenestvedt at 11:48 AM on August 22, 2012


Hmm. I just realized the Psygnosis Owl would make a pretty great tattoo.
posted by naju at 12:23 PM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


They made great games (ports?) for the Atari as well. I played a lot of Terrorpods back in the 80's. I'm still kinda hoping for a sequel.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 12:26 PM on August 22, 2012


I saw a copy of Lemmings in a charity shop window the other week... I can't say I wasn't tempted
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:15 PM on August 22, 2012


Is their logo from a Rush album cover?
-----
The Psygnosis logo was designed by Roger Dean -- famous for his Yes album covers.


I've been listening to a lot of ▲NDRΛS lately, and on the soundcloud page their chosen logo was driving me insane. I knew I recognized it from somewhere, and it kept evoking associations from 70s prog rock. It took a sudden splash of insight to realize it was a reference to / lift of the old Psygnosis owl logo.
posted by FatherDagon at 1:20 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


This was the Rush album I had in mind when I saw the Psygnosis logo.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:59 PM on August 22, 2012


Woah. Psygnosis.
posted by deo rei at 2:00 PM on August 22, 2012


Ah, I remember that special Psygnosis feeling from the Amiga/256-colour VGA days: the mysterious, irrelevant splendour of the loading screens, the baffling opacity of the gameplay, the growing suspicion that whoever was designing them didn't really know what was going on either. But they were damn creative. Sad to see them go.

Anyone else remember Baal? I spent hours trying to work that one out.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 2:00 PM on August 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


I still remember the intro music for Shadow of the Beast.

.
posted by gonzo_ID at 2:09 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hmm. I just realized the Psygnosis Owl would make a pretty great tattoo.
posted by naju at 8:23 PM on August 22 [1 favorite +] [!]


Pretty neat! Though personally I prefer the 'wings outstretched' version.
posted by Drexen at 2:18 PM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


irrelevant splendour of the loading screens, the baffling opacity of the gameplay, the growing suspicion that whoever was designing them didn't really know what was going on either.

Such a great way of putting it! I love the alien feeling all of that instilled. Haven't experienced it with too many modern games these days, sadly.
posted by naju at 2:23 PM on August 22, 2012


As one door closes, another one may finally be reopening.

There seems to have been a nexus between 1970s prog rock and 1980s video games. A lot of the game music composers (certainly Rob Hubbard) were prog aficionados, and then there's the Psygnosis aesthetic (with aforementioned Roger Dean artwork). Could it be that video gaming was where that culture went to hide during the reign of punk, post-punk and their various offshoots?
posted by acb at 2:55 PM on August 22, 2012


The death of Wipeout hurts the most. The first console I ever owned was a Playstation—my parents never let me have a NES or a SNES, though we had a Game Boy and a Game Gear—and the first two games we got were Ridge Racer and Wipeout. Ridge Racer was an obvious showcase game for the system—it's easy to play and had impressive graphics for the time. It looked like you'd brought an arcade machine home. Meanwhile, Wipeout was tough as nails to figure out. I could barely make it past the first turn on the first circuit in the game without crashing into the walls, and for about a month I basically hated Wipeout.

Eventually, though, I managed to figure it all out. Wipeout was some of the first electronic music I heard as a kid, and probably became the gateway drug to the Chemical Brothers and their ilk—especially when Wipeout 2097/XL came out with a soundtrack CD containing the likes of Loops of Fury, the instrumental version of Firestarter, and a bunch more tracks from the likes of Underworld, Orbital, Photek and Future Sound of London.

It also had an amazing aesthetic that actually looked like the goddamned future, thanks to the Designers Republic. That aesthetic would find its greatest, most minimal expression in Wip3out, which is still one of my favourite games ever. The UI was so crisp, the team logos so sharp and overbearing, that it felt like the whole thing could cut you to shreds. I'm pretty sure whatever appreciation I had for graphic design came from TDR and Wipeout.

And then there's the racing. THE RACING. Trying to steer a hovercraft going hundreds of kilometers an hour was never supposed to be an easy task, something I'd missed when I first played the game. But one you figure it out, and once you start moving into the faster leagues, everything clicks—you hit the perfect chain of corners and make it around the hairpin in one piece, slamming a well-aimed rocket up the tailpipe of the race leader, and you feel like a god.

Wipeout in its later years has seemed only a few steps removed from the grave—the PS2 iteration wasn't even published by Sony in North America, and the PSP games, while well received, were never huge sellers. The Vita's sagging fortunes all but assured Wipeout 2048 would never be a hit like the first few games were. And yet, there was never really a point where you could say the games themselves were awful (though maybe you could make a case for Fusion). The PS3 game, Wipeout HD and the Fury expansion, are the best Wipeout games ever created, and honestly 2048 isn't far behind.

They'll have to do, though, because unless Sony decides to give the franchise to one of their other developers (Evolution, perhaps?), Wipeout is dead as a doornail for real this time. I can see where Sony's coming from on this one, but frankly, they're still wrong. Studio Liverpool was a fantastic studio that made an amazing set of games that defined the Playstation brand, and that brand will be weaker now that Wipeout is gone—even if only in my heart.
posted by chrominance at 4:14 PM on August 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


I generally can't stand racing games but I respected Wipeout. Psygnosis had good name recognition, but that boat had sailed when they were renamed.
posted by ersatz at 5:21 PM on August 22, 2012


Possibly a minority opinion but the less pretty F-Zero-X always seemed the better future racing game to me. No idea if current generation Nintendos have a version of it.
posted by Artw at 5:23 PM on August 22, 2012


Artw: "Possibly a minority opinion but the less pretty F-Zero-X always seemed the better future racing game to me. No idea if current generation Nintendos have a version of it."

Nothing since the utterly fucking sublime F-Zero GX on the Cube.

Artw: "...unless it's actually Tomb Raider."

Arguably the biggest UK-sourced gaming franchises are Warcraft and Starcraft.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 6:12 PM on August 22, 2012


I seriously seriously looked into building a full on cockpit enclosure for wipeout. But everyone said the game way unplayable with a steering wheel :-(
posted by anonymisc at 6:13 PM on August 22, 2012


I think Shadows of the Beast was one of the first Amiga games I ever bought. That music triggers all kinds of nostalgia.
posted by the_artificer at 7:35 PM on August 22, 2012


gonzo_ID: "I still remember the intro music for Shadow of the Beast.."

I used to just let it play while I did my homework...
posted by the_artificer at 9:08 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Lemmings owned me for a long damn time. My whole family got hooked on it. To this day, any mention of Lemmings brings to mind any number of times that I had all of them blocked off so I could go to the other end and build their escape... only to come back and find the last three walking off a cliff.
posted by azpenguin at 10:04 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


You don't need a steering wheel for playing Wipeout, you need the NeGcon.
posted by WhackyparseThis at 2:09 AM on August 23, 2012


BLLOOOOD MONEY.
posted by lrobertjones at 4:31 AM on August 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Psygnosis, we hardly knew ye
posted by Artw at 7:27 AM on August 27, 2012


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