Argonaut Games

Summary

Argonaut Games
TypePublic limited company
IndustryVideo games
Founded23 February 1982; 39 years ago (1982-02-23)
FounderJez San
Defunct1 October 2004 (2004-10-01)
FateLiquidated
HeadquartersLondon, United Kingdom
(Colindale, then Edgware)
SubsidiariesArgonaut Sheffield
Websiteargonaut.com (archived)

Argonaut Games was a British video game developer founded in 1982, most notable for the development of the Super NES video game Star Fox and its supporting Super FX hardware, as well as for developing Croc: Legend of the Gobbos and the Starglider series. The company was liquidated in late 2004, and ceased to exist in early 2007.

History

I told them that this is as good as it's going to get unless they let us design some hardware to make the SNES better at 3D. Amazingly, even though I had never done any hardware before, they said YES, and gave me a million bucks to make it happen.

—Argonaut founder and Super FX codesigner, Jez San[1]

Founded as Argonaut Software by teenager Jez San in 1982,[2] the company name is a play on his name (J. San) and the mythological story of Jason and the Argonauts.

Its head offices were in Colindale, London,[3] and later in the Argonaut House in Edgware, London.[4] Its U.S. head office was in Woodside, California in the San Francisco Bay Area.[3]

In 1990, Argonaut collaborated with Nintendo during the early years of the NES and SNES, a notable incident being when Argonaut submitted a proof-of-concept method of defeating the Game Boy's copyright protection mechanism to Nintendo.[5] The combined efforts from both Nintendo and Argonaut yielded a prototype of the game Star Fox, initially codenamed "SnesGlider" and inspired by their earlier Atari ST and Amiga game Starglider, that they had running on the NES and then some weeks later on a prototype SNES. Jez San told Nintendo that his team could only improve performance or functionality of the demonstration if Nintendo allowed Argonaut to design custom hardware to extend the SNES to have true 3D capability. Nintendo agreed, so San hired chip designers and made the Super FX chip. They originally codenamed it the Mathematical Argonaut Rotation I/O, or "MARIO", as is printed on the chip's surface.[1][6] So powerful was the Super FX chip used to create the graphics and gameplay, that they joked that the Super NES was just a box to hold the chip.[7]

After building the Super FX, Argonaut designed several different chips for other companies' video game machines, which were never released. These include machines codenamed GreenPiece and CD-I 2 for Philips, the platform codenamed VeggieMagic for Apple and Toshiba, and Hasbro's "virtual reality" game system codenamed MatriArc. [8]

In 1995, Argonaut Software was split into Argonaut Technologies Limited (ATL) and Argonaut Software Limited (ASL). With space being a premium at the office on Colindale Avenue, ATL was relocated to an office in the top floor of a separate building. The building was called Capitol House on Capitol Way, just around the corner. There, they continued the design of CPU and GPU products and maintained "BRender", Argonaut's proprietary software 3D engine. They won a chip design project with LSI Logic for a potential PlayStation 2 design. LSI Logic became a minor investor in Argonaut.

In 1996, John Edelson was hired as the company General Manager. John Edelson ran the group for two years. Capital was raised in 1996–1998 from Tom Teichman and Apax Partners. According to Jez San, Argonaut remained an independent developer by choice, and had turned down several buyout offers.[9]

In 1997, the two arms of the company once again shared an office as the entire company was moved to a new building in Edgware. In September 1997, Croc: Legend of the Gobbos was released by Fox Interactive for the PlayStation and Sega Saturn. A PC version of the game was also later released in 1998.

In 1998, ATL was rebranded ARC after the name of their main product, the Argonaut RISC Core, and became an independent company spun off to the same shareholders. ARC was an embedded IP provider. Bob Terwilliger was engaged as the President.

Argonaut Software Limited became Argonaut Games and was floated in 1999.

In late October 2004, Argonaut Games called in receivers David Rubin & Partners, laid off 100 employees, and was put up for sale.[10] Many former employees would join newly established developer Rocksteady Studios. A lack of a consistent stream of publishing deals had led to cash-flow issues and a profit warning earlier that year. In 2005, the company entered liquidation and was dissolved in early 2007.

BRender

BRender (abbreviation of "Blazing Renderer") is a development toolkit and a realtime 3D graphics engine for computer games, simulators, and graphic tools. It was developed and licensed by Argonaut Software.[11] The engine had support for Intel's MMX instruction set and it supported Microsoft Windows, MS-DOS and PlayStation platforms. Support for 3D hardware graphics accelerator cards was added.[12] Software made with BRender includes Carmageddon,[13] Croc: Legend of the Gobbos, FX Fighter,[14] I-War,[15] and 3D Movie Maker.

Games developed

Released games by Argonaut Games
Title Original release Platform
Skyline Attack 1984 Commodore 64
Starglider 1986 ST, Amiga
Starglider 2 1988 ST, Amiga
Days of Thunder 1990 DOS, Game Boy
Race Drivin'[a] 1992 Game Boy
A.T.A.C. 1992 PC
Birds of Prey 1992 Amiga
X 1992 Game Boy
Star Fox 1993 SNES[b]
King Arthur's World 1993 SNES
Vortex 1994 SNES
Stunt Race FX 1994 SNES[b]
Creature Shock 1994 PC
The Ren & Stimpy Show: Fire Dogs 1994 SNES
FX Fighter 1995 PC
Alien Odyssey 1995 PC
Scooby-Doo Mystery 1995 SNES
FX Fighter Turbo 1996 PC
Croc: Legend of the Gobbos 1997 PC, PS1, SAT
Buck Bumble 1998 N64
Croc 2 1999 PC, PS1
Croc 2000 GBC[16]
The Emperor's New Groove 2000 PC, PS1
Alien: Resurrection 2000 PS1
Red Dog: Superior Firepower 2000 DC
Disney's Aladdin in Nasira's Revenge 2000 PC, PS1
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone[c] 2001 PS1
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets 2002 PS1
Bionicle: Matoran Adventures 2002 GBA
Bionicle 2003 GameCube, PC, PS2, Xbox
I-Ninja 2003 GameCube, PC, PS2, Xbox
SWAT: Global Strike Team 2003 PS2, Xbox
Carve 2004 Xbox
Malice 2004 PS2, Xbox
Power Drome 2004 PS2, Xbox
Catwoman: The Game[17] 2004 GameCube, PC, PS2, Xbox
Star Fox 2 2017[d] SNES
  1. ^ Race Drivin' was ported from the arcade.
  2. ^ a b Argonaut Games provided assistance in programming with the FX Chip.
  3. ^ The game was titled Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in the United States.
  4. ^ Star Fox 2 was developed in 1996 but wasn't released until 2017 when it was included in the Super NES Classic Edition.

Cancelled games

Cancelled games by Argonaut Games
Title Development Period Platform
8-Kings[18] N/A N-Gage
Bionicle: City of Legends[19][20] 2004 Xbox, PS2
I-Ninja 2[21] 2004 PS2, Xbox, GameCube
Zero Hour[22] 2004 PS2, PSP
Cash on Delivery[23] PS2
Kanaan[24] PC

References

  1. ^ a b Bolton, Syd. "Interview with Jez San, OBE". Armchair Empire. Archived from the original on 17 December 2007. Retrieved 16 February 2014.
  2. ^ Brookes, Jason; Bielby, Matt (May 1993). "Superplay interview: Jez San, Argonaut". Super Play. United Kingdom: Future Publishing.
  3. ^ a b "Company Summary" (Archive). Argonaut Games. 29 October 1996. Retrieved on 21 May 2016. "Argonaut Technologies Limited Capitol House, Capitol Way, Colindale, London, NW9 ODZ, United Kingdom" and "Argonaut USA Rich Seidner – Head of US Operations 210 Grandview Drive, Woodside, California, 94062, USA"
  4. ^ "Argonaut Contact information". Argonaut Games. 13 January 1998. Archived from the original on 13 January 1998. Retrieved 9 November 2009.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link) () "Argonaut House 369 Burnt Oak Broadway Edgware Middlesex HA8 5XZ"
  5. ^ McFerran, Damien (22 June 2014). "Born slippy: the making of Star Fox". Eurogamer. Retrieved 20 August 2016.
  6. ^ "Of argonauts, vectors, and flying foxes: The rise of 3D on Nintendo consoles". Archived from the original on 13 June 2008. Retrieved 4 January 2015.
  7. ^ "Interview with Jez San". arwinglanding.net. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 4 September 2007.
  8. ^ "Feature: Jez San On Star Fox, Super FX And Teaching Nintendo How To Fly". Nintendo Life. Retrieved 4 September 2007.
  9. ^ Rider, David; Semrad, Ed (December 1997). "British Invasion" (PDF). Electronic Gaming Monthly. No. 101. Ziff Davis. p. 170.
  10. ^ Jenkins, David (3 November 2004). "Remaining Argonaut Development Staff Laid Off". Gamasutra. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
  11. ^ "BRender Web page". Argonaut Software. Archived from the original on 29 October 1996. Retrieved 22 June 2010.
  12. ^ "The Wave Report on Digital Media Issue 606 8/16/96". 4th WAVE, Inc. Archived from the original on 7 July 2011. Retrieved 22 June 2010.
  13. ^ "NG Alphas: Carmaggedon". Next Generation. No. 25. Imagine Media. January 1997. pp. 125–6.
  14. ^ "3D Graphics Help". GamePro. No. 80. IDG. May 1995. p. 139.
  15. ^ "NG Alphas: I-War". Next Generation. No. 34. Imagine Media. October 1997. p. 104.
  16. ^ "Argonaut Games plc 2000". 1 November 2000. Retrieved 22 November 2021. Check |archive-url= value (help)
  17. ^ Bramwell, Tom (30 January 2004). "EA bags Catwoman". Eurogamer. Retrieved 26 June 2018.
  18. ^ Gasking, Frank (9 November 2020). "8-Kings". Games That Weren't. Archived from the original on 9 November 2020. Retrieved 9 November 2020.
  19. ^ "Bionicle 2 tech demo discovered" Archived 3 October 2017 at the Wayback Machine, ptponline.com, 30 October 2012
  20. ^ "BIONICLE 2: City of Legends (Xbox Beta) ISO Release", biomediaproject.com, 1 February 2014
  21. ^ "I-Ninja 2: PS2/XBOX/GameCube – Cancelled", Unseen64, 12 March 2009
  22. ^ "Zero Hour, PSP – Cancelled", Unseen64, 26 November 2009
  23. ^ "Cash on Delivery, PSP – Cancelled", Unseen64, 27 July 2009
  24. ^ Kanaan (Argonaut) [PC – Cancelled], Unseen64, 11 May 2016

External links

  • Argonaut official website at the Wayback Machine (archive index)
  • An overview of Argonaut Games at Games Investor
  • Argonaut Games at MobyGames