|★ GAMES ★ EDITEURS ★ KELE LINE – GOING DOWN THE LINE ★|
|Kele Line : Going Down The Line||Kele Line|
Scandinavia is not exactly renowned for exporting games. Bacon, saunas, ABBA, volvos and au pairs all regularly arrive on these shores from Scandinavia, but software?
Kele Line is a young company -employing young programmers, most of whom are still at High School. Two years ago, Kele Line's founder, Keld Jensen, first got involved in the home computer business when he imported software to Denmark and sold it on to retailers. According to Keld, his company started writing bespoke software for PC owners before getting interested in games. Towards the end of 1985 Sillycon War was written and sent to a host of software publishers as a demonstration game.
Having seen Sillycon War at the start of last year, Robert White of Durell entered into negotiations with Kele Line for the production of three versions of a new game Chain Reaction, and a contract was signed.The project was abandoned at the PCW Show however, as Kele Line had failed to meet delivery dates.
According to Robert White, he suggested that Kele Line should produce a straightforward Rambo style game, perhaps involving Vikings in the scenario. Kele Line Ltd was founded in August, and just before Christmas there was a launch party in the company's offices, a few miles outside Copenhagen. The Vikings had arrived ...
An impressive schedule of releases was presented at the launch - Kele Line plan to have released nine titles across four machines by the end of March. Keld Jensen admits that such a schedule is ambitious, but explains that the company can call on a team of some 36 freelances, coordinated by half a dozen office-based workers, a musician and three full-time programmers. “We've almost finished four games already - the schedule is our initial plan and we hope to be able to keep to it.”
The Commodore 64 is to be the main focus of attention - all the titles are set to appear on the C64 first (80% of computer in Danish homes are C64s), with Amstrad, MSX and Atari ST versions of some of the games planned. Arcade action is to be the emphasis: “We wouldn't dare go into competition with professionals such as Level 9 on the adventure front” Keld admits, “what we've been doing is sitting down in front of existing games and looking at what we can do to make our products different. We'll try very hard to make each game we produce special - with The Vikings we added the fullscreen picture at the start, came up with the little play for the opening sequence and commissioned some excellent music to go with the game itself.”
So how does Kele Line find its programmers? “We've begun to make something of a name for ourselves in Denmark”, Keld explains, “and young programmers come to us with demo programs.
If their games are good enough to be released as budget titles then we hire them and set them to work. Starting in Denmark we have to train programmers, but already we have two Dutch programmers and we're interested in a couple of West Germans ... If we need programmers, we'll hire them but we don't want to rush.”
Licence deals don't really appeal to Keld, who prefers to look at original storylines produced by his programmers and graphics people: “I'd prefer to produce original games which have a different style - watch out for Speedfighter and Pirates of the Ocean. The problem with licences as I see it is that they can take up to six months to set up, and as far as Denmark is concerned I'm not convinced that licence deals pay off. As far as I know, there's only one Gauntlet machine in the whole county, and that's in the Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen. We're still talking to people, including Sega, Nintendo and Konami, though, and I've approached a Belgian comic about licensing characters, but it's early days yet.”
Early days indeed, but Keld Jensen has high hopes ... “We'd like to be among the best software producers - but it's only a hope, we realise it's going to be hard. We've no ambition to be like Ocean or US Gold - at the moment everyone in the company gets involved in the production of a game, and we're not dominated by commercial considerations although ultimately, we have the same interest in making money...”
GAMES AROUND THE WORLD
Another Danish company is working with Kele Line at the moment -World Wide Software, set up to publish games. Carsten Hollose, World Wide's Marketing manager explains: “We're buying the rights to publish software in Scandinavia - mainly American products at the moment. We've set up some exclusive distribution deals and buy in products, manufacture them in Denmark and include instructions in the appropriate Scandinavian language. We're a publishing house really, servicing a network of dealers.”
WorldWide have contacts, well, worldwide. Their ultimate aim is to take Danish software out into the world, and Carsten and the World Wide team have helped Kele Line to set up the deal that allows The Vikings to invade Britain. Creative Sparks Distribution are setting up a new, full-price label, Status Soft, and following negotiations with World Wide and Kele Line, the label will kick off with The Vikings as the lead product.
Lee Richards of Status Soft commented “We plan to release The Vikings on the Commodore and Amstrad on 2nd February and may well produce a Spectrum version a little later after enhancing it in-house. For most consumers, The Vikings is the game we're launching the label on, and we chose it because it's got lots of added value, with the scenario, gameplay, loading screen, music and so on. It's early days yet, but we may well be publishing other games from Kele Line in this country - perhaps Tiger Mission around April. We're taking a fairly ambitious approach to full-price publishing, with a release schedule that features at least two titles a month.”