It’s always sad to see a developer close up shop, but this week’s news of Sony Liverpool’s demise is a downer for anyone who enjoyed their earlier work. At their peak they were system sellers, creating games of great imagination and artistry. They deserved a better fate than this.
One of the best known developers during the days of the Commodore Amiga and Atari ST, they went by the name Psygnosis. You could almost always tell one of their games from the graphics alone. Their products stood out on the shop shelves – a recognisable and classy brand for the time. Black, usually strangely sized boxes with high quality fantasy art (most notably by Roger Dean), there really isn’t a modern equivalent of them as a publisher/developer.
In 1993 they were bought out by Sony, but continued to use the Psygnosis name on a number Playstation titles. Wipeout was a killer app, and met with huge commercial and critical success. Later they became “Studio Liverpool” and really didn’t get to release much more than Wipeout sequels.
Psygnosis games were known for the audio-visual experience over gameplay* during the Amiga’s reign, but they were so ahead of the curve they got away with it. It was ultimately the Playstation era when their gameplay developed to a standard comparable to their art assets. It’s a shame then that they never, for whatever reason, had a chance to be as creative as they were in their earlier works.
Part of me always hoped one day we’d see what a Shadow Of The Beast game would look like on modern hardware, or what could be done with such crazy games as Microcosm or Agony with all the modern trimmings. Oh well.
Goodbye Psygnosis, Studio Liverpool.
Who’s left from the Amiga scene now? Team 17 are still going strong with previously Amiga franchises. (Worms, Alien Breed), Terramarque/Bloodhouse (now Housemarque) have had success on Sony platforms with Super Stardust, another old favourite. Even demo group Plastic have had Sony releases with Datura and Linger in Shadows. I’m having trouble thinking of more other than the giants like EA and Activision.
* Lemmings doesn’t count. Although Psygnosis published Lemmings and various other titles, they were actually developed by DMA Design – now known as Rockstar North. DMA also made Walker and Hired Guns, arguably Psygnosis’ most playable titles.