With the growth of the home computer market, it seemed a natural step to try to transfer that experience to a new field. "Some of the early work was done on a Superbrain system which had been dedicated to arcade projects. The first computer game Taskset actually produced was Dig Dog for the Oric, largely the work of programmer Paul Hodgson. It was written on a cobbled-together system made up of Oric, Commodore and Tangerine equipment, but we'll never try that again. The problems it produced were horrendous, and in any case the Oric was insufficiently supported - you couldn't get technical details for it. We never figured out how all the Basic worked, but of course that wasn't crucial since it was all written in machine code."

Two things put Andy off the idea of writing games for the Spectrum. "First, we left it too late; second, it's not really a games machine. The sound facilities are awful for a start; compare it with the 64's SID chip, which is good enough quality for the arcade industry."
Oric Dig Dog Taskset
Dig Dog by Taskset

Having opted for the 64, Taskset went ahead with developing its first suite of games. "Again, we had technical difficulties with our development system. We opted for Commodore equipment, and worked it so hard that we were plagued with breakdowns. For instance, the 1541 disk drive is not designed to be used fourteen hours a day! We'd put in a week's work then find that all our files had been overwritten, and we couldn't salvage them. Obviously we needed something better, so we went in for a Sage system which costs about £11,000."

Having moved to new premises above a bookshop ("which the wife runs, so she can open it only when she feels like it"), Taskset got down to the hard graft of writing games. Andy explained how the development system works.

Sage IV
Sage IV by Sage Technology of Reno, Nevada in 1983

"The Sage system has a massive memory and integral disk drives. It also has multi-user capability, so we can generate code using a'monitor/assembler we wrote our-selves and use the `postbox' facility to communicate between terminals. The next task is to use an EPROM emulator to make the 64 think that this code is part of its own RAM. The principle's sound, but although the Sage is supposed to be 14 times faster than an Apple were still only about 75% happy with this system."

Between them, programmers Andy, Mark Buttery, Paul Hodgson and Tony Gibson, with artist Andy Rixon, have come up with some remarkable games using this system.

"Cosmic Convoy, which is remember almost a year old, featured a number of 'firsts' - for a start, you had to do more than just survive to win the game. Your space fighters have to protect a cargo convoy from attacking pirates, and although you may sacrifice some freighters you can't afford to lose them all. Secondly, you can have all of your three `lives' on the screen at the same time, which is a feature you don't see much elsewhere."