Realtime Games Software

From Sega Retro

Realtime Games Software, Ltd. was a video game development studio headquartered in Leeds, England, most notable as being the first third-party developer contracted by Sega of America to produce games for the then-new Sega Genesis.[3]


Realtime Games Software was founded on May 8, 1984 by Ian Oliver, Andy Onions, and Graeme Baird, a group of three British developers who had been making games together since their college years.[4][5][6] One of the studio's earlier games, a ZX Spectrum title named 3D Tank Duel[7][6], took significant inspiration from the Atari arcade game Battlezone, and was an impressive technical feat for the era. The group quickly became known for their prowess in 3D rendering technology on limited hardware.

Sega of America

The studio was the very first third-party software developer contracted by Sega of America for producing games for the newly-released Sega Genesis in North America. Particularly, the company was hired to port over the IBM PC version of M-1 Abrams Battle Tank, seeing the title as an opportunity to produce domestic software specifically with the American market in mind. As the project began, the team discovered the process would be more complicated than expected.

The first hurdle would be in fitting the original game's larger C language code into the limited cartridge size and RAM of the Genesis. To address this, Ian Oliver created a prototype command-line assembler program known as SNASM68K to translate the code automatically[8], greatly reducing the difficulty in porting games to the Genesis. M-1 Abrams Battle Tank would eventually be released with 1991, and despite unimpressive sales, Sega of America was pleased with the studio's work.

Alongside M-1 Abrams Battle Tank, Sega of America contracted the studio to develop a second title for the Genesis. The Streets of San Francisco was an arcade racing game based on the 1970s police show of the same name, and was reportedly 75% complete at the time of its late cancellation. Reportedly, the project was cancelled because the developers failed to achieve a frame rate that was both fun and playable, with the game ultimately failing to meet the company's quality standards.[9]

Cross Products

Ian Oliver's prototype SNASM68K hardware built during development of M-1 Abrams Battle Tank.[10]
Main article: Cross Products.

During development of M-1 Abrams Battle Tank in 1989, Ian Oliver and Andy Craven would found Cross Products[6], a "side-project" company specializing in video game development hardware.[5] Among their earliest projects was a finalized, commercial version of the SNASM68K, specifically designed to make developing for the Genesis less challenging to programmers unfamiliar with the hardware. In particular, the SNASM68K provided developers with both a high-speed hardware connection and remote debugging. The latter was particularly notable, as it alleviated the reliance on the limited Programmers Development System[11][12][13][14][15][16], an existing computer development kit common in the game industry. The SNASM68K was well-received for its time, and strengthened Realtime Games' relationship with Sega. It would go onto produce commercial development kits throughout the 16-bit and 32-bit eras, with Sega likewise becoming the single-largest customer of the company's products - and eventually acquiring the company in 1994.[6]



Mega Drive

  • (1991)


Main article: Photos of Realtime Games Software


  2. Crash, "June 1986" (UK; 1986-05-29), page 54
  3. K Horowitz (2016). Playing at the Next Level: A History of American Sega Games
  4. File:AmigaComputing UK 005.pdf, page 20
  5. 5.0 5.1 Interview: Ian Oliver (2012-05-10) by Bohemia Interactive
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Interview: Ian Oliver (1998-01) by World of Stuart
  7. Crash, "August 1984" (UK; 1984-07-26), page 84
  8. K Horowitz (2016). Playing at the Next Level: A History of American Sega Games
  9. K Horowitz (2016). Playing at the Next Level: A History of American Sega Games
  10. K Horowitz (2016). Playing at the Next Level: A History of American Sega Games
  11. (Wayback Machine: 2019-06-14 23:00)
  12. The One, "May 1989" (UK; 1989-04-xx), page 28
  13. (Wayback Machine: 2024-04-01 19:24)
  14. (Wayback Machine: 2015-01-24 05:01)
  15. (Wayback Machine: 2017-05-31 21:46)
  16. (Wayback Machine: 2017-05-29 11:43)
  17. (