Paradroid redesign project


I think I started this project in the early '90s when I first played the Paradroid 90. I remember drawing my own droids in Deluxe Paint and having all sorts of (then) unrealistic ideas of what could be done. It's 2019 now, and thinking back, what appealed to me about the game was probably just seeing a bunch of cool robots doing stuff. It wasn't really the specific game design of Paradroid. Currently I'm playing an online MMO called C21-online where you can switch between multiple robot characters (a party) and it sort of satisfies the same need.

It's doubtful that the Japanese C21 devs have even heard of Paradroid as the C64/Amiga/Atari were not a thing over there, but the terrain here reminds me slightly of the bevel style used in some Graftgold titles. Also, the official name of this robot is パラボロイド (Paraboroid), which likely is just a reference to the paraboid head. C21 allows you to rearrange limbs and recolour your robots in pastels, but there are not a lot of spindly limbs like in C64 Paradroid.

C21 has been around for quite some time but uses a low poly style so it doesn't look dated the way a more realistic limit-pushing game does. Here's a stock robot next to one of my characters which has been customised with new limbs, weapons, colours, and even a custom texture. C21 textures are very rectilinear and bevel/panel line focused. I wouldn't necessarily like to see robot customisation in a Paradroid game though. The chubby NPC is an older model.

I've seen a lot of Paradroid fan projects, but they tend to focus more on core mechanic of C64 Paradroid, featuring ball-robots with numbers on and scoring mechanics. Perhaps it's a viable concept nowadays, I don't know. I think, even if I had played Paradroid 64 a lot, it would probably have been for the same reason as I played Paradroid 90 - exploring on a spaceship with robots on and poking around in databases. Therefore I wouldn't be upset if I saw the designs and setting used in a different type of game.


I wanted to piece something together here using fragments of the official background stories. Here are those for reference.

C64 ingame briefing

A fleet of Robo-Freighters on its way to the Beta Ceti system reported entering an uncharted field of asteroids. Each ship carries a cargo of battle droids to reinforce the outworld defences.

Two distress beacons have been recovered. Similar messages were stored on each. The ships had been bombarded by a powerful radionic beam from one of the asteroids.

All of the robots on the ships, including those in storage, became hyper-active. The crews report an attack by droids, isolating them on the bridge. They cannot reach the shuttle and can hold out for a couple more hours.

Since these beacons were located two days ago, we can only fear the worst.

Some of the fleet was last seen heading for enemy space. In enemy hands the droids can be used against our forces.

Docking would be impossible but we can beam aboard a prototype Influence Device.

SCENARIO text from Amiga manual

It is the year 2390. A fleet of space freighters have been despatched to the frontier world of Basmyth in response to urgent calls for military assistance following attacks from the bordering trimorg empire. These freighters carry a skeleton crew by various droids, ranging from simple cleaning robots to complex cyborgs capable of piloting a ship. The freighters are carrying a cargo of battle and security droids to help in the defence of Basmyth. Three days ago, sub-space messages were received from two distress beacons launched from the fleet. The crew of the U.S.F Paradroid reported being scanned from an uncharted asteroid feild, moments before the droids in the cargo deck mysteriously activated themselves, minutes later the bridge was under attack from the battle droids, and the onboard complement of crew also became hyper active. The captain of the U.S.F Paradroid reported the bridge bulkhead doors had almost been breached and that the remaining human crew were unable to reach the shuttle bay to abandon ship.

Since the message was sent three days ago, we can only fear the worst. It is assumed that the rogue droids have taken over the ship, possibly under alien control, and will be used against the free planets. It is therefore imperative that the freighters be stopped immediately. It is too dangerous to beam military personnal aboard the freighters, but it is possible to use to use MKII prototype influence droid (I.D) is a small self-powered anti droid unit. It uses anti-gravity generators to hover about. It carries its own armament, a low powered plasma bolt sufficient to damage or destroy small droids, but unable to penetrate armoured battle droids. However, it`s main feature is its ability to render an enemys droids brain unit inoperative and control the droid itself, able to direct its weapons under the protection of its armour.

The I.D is also able to recharge itself from the droids energy banks but the life of the slave droid is severly shortened as its brain unit attempts regain control, inevitably resulting in burning out and destroying the droid. At this point the I.D becomes a free agent once more. In order to keep itself charged up, the I.D must continually gain control of a new slave droid. More powerful droids are harder to take over, but offer a better platform for taking over droids. The droid libary on the ships onboard computer carries more information on the different droids likely to be found on the freighters.

My plot

It is the year 2408. The war with the Trimorg empire is still raging. Although mostly fought with droids, civilians are very much affected by strict rationing and occasional but devastating deep strikes by Trimorg assault forces.

After the Beta Ceti and Basmyth incidents all droids have equipped with a Radionic shield brain case. To counter this the Trimorg have developed a Neuro-beam which works on humans instead of droids. Control of the right humans also means control of their battle droids.

Around Beta Ceti orbits a Relay Station, a form of warp hub which uses the X-Ray emissions from Beta Ceti to form a stable and very accurate warp gate. Anyone who controls it gains a vital logistic advantage. Because of this the Relay Station is strongly defended and frequently attacked.

This is where the Trimorg recently deployed their new secret weapon, but not quite achieving the intended result. A Neuro-beam bomb was detonated in the proximity of the fleet defending the Relay Station, affecting all humans permanently. However, many victims just became ravingly mad, and others became vegetables. Only a handful could be controlled by the Trimorg.

Still, with a large Neuro-beam field deployed around their fleet, and control of the Relay Station, the Trimorg had turned the tables. It was only a matter of time before they would stabilize the situation and gain control of all the Gate Codes. The council of Man, realizing there's not a single Robo-Destroyer ship within a week of Beta Ceti, sends out a desperate call to an unexpected ally - the Raiders.

The Raiders, human only by origin, were nomads who often engaged in Piracy and various activities which the council of man found disagreeable. What made the Raiders suitable as allies for this particular incident were:

  1. Their re-engineered bodies are immune to the Neuro-beam.
  2. From technology scavenged during the Basmyth incident they had developed a short range Radionic beam weapon which was capable of penetrating even a shielded droid brain case (operating through quasi subspace manifolds).


According to the Paradroid 90 (Amiga) manual (or at least an extract I found), Paradroid 90 is set 2390 and space travel, probably Star-Trek style, is possible. The frontier world of Basmyth is under siege by the Trimorg empire (it's unclear to me what they are). A fleet freighters are sent to Basmyth to assist. The freighters carry a basic crew of various droids and humans and their cargo consists of battle and security droids. However, on their way to Basmyth they pass an uncharted asteroid field. Some kind of signal coming from it makes the droids go nuts and attack the human crew. It is now up to the player to regain control of the ships by destroying the droids, lest they fall into the wrong hands (Trimorg or Raiders?). There are also Pirates / Raiders who will try to loot the ships.

The story for the C64 version is similar. A fleet of Robo Freighters are heading for Beta Ceti system when powerful radionic beams coming from an uncharted asteroid field hit the ships. It made the droids go nuts and kill the crew, and the (8) ships also changed course to enemy (not man?) territory. These ships carried a valuable cargo of battle droids to reinforce the out-world defences.

Beta Ceti is a giant fluffy orange star some 96 l.y. away. Lots of X-ray radiation.

This gives me a few factions to play with:

Art direction


Below are some rough concepts based on the original graphics from Commodore 64 and Amiga Paradroid. I'm of course using the database pictures from the games as reference here. The C64 version didn't have any graphics of the droids for the topdown action part. 2019 cleanup happened. The C64 droids are quite "chibi" so I thought I'd try that.

Paradroid 90 Amiga redesigns art concepts

Paradroid C64 redesigns art concepts

Paradroid C64 sprite reference.

Paradroid C64 sprite reference

2012 art. Straight top-down views works super-poorly with animated humanoid figures. People look like bars with blobs oscillating in and out (limbs). Perhaps I made the mistake of trying to design these droids from the front before. They need to read and look good from above first and foremost. Also, it's a lot easier to get forms right when working in perspective, since you're more aware of the three dimensions and have to solve more of the design problem, unlike with 2D orthos. Of course, I haven't really solved the problem here (too rough still), but it's a "feel" iteration in the right direction, I think.

Isometric C64 Paradroid concepts

Newer art.

Isometric C64 Paradroid concepts

2017 art. BabyMETAL edition?

C64 Paradroid concepts

For reference, Paradroid Metal ed. No, wait, It's Competition Ed. It has a very atmospheric intro with a colour flash effect. There's a Heavy Metal ed. too, anyways. That one has different walls with a harder metal look (based on another game called Morpheus apparently).

C64 Paradroid concepts

Boring front view concept failure, tho more pixel faithful.

Color coding

In order to make a droid's function more readable, color coding could be used. This would however reduce similarity with the source material (C64 profile pics in particular. The P90 droids change color a little depending on ship).

Ships and playfields

Paradroid actually had some relatively plausible environments. I dislike when games present an obstacle course for me to run through, it kills immersion. However, I do think that the environments in Paradroid were a bit garbled with no overall structure or theme to anything. Here are a few ideas for interesting places:



Game mechanics

General game concept

I don't really know anymore. Play as a Raider (chaotic neutral?) who can hack into droids, taking control of them directly, or just making them 'friendly'. Amassing armies could be tricky to implement, causing a cascade of design problems. The original solo setup is fine too I guess. Trimorg beasts might beam in (replacing the Raiders of P90). Camera... Twinstick sort-of-topdown is quite appealing. I like Robotron 2048.

In C21 there are multiple camera systems but the most practical one is the shoulder-cam. I've set the controls to WASD+mouse. The game is PvE and not primarily about shooting. There's a lock-on function to assist in firing the many weapon systems a robot might have (offering some variation). First person shooting works poorly in a game with flying, platforming, and melee, all requiring situational awareness (and there's lag too). One carries a party of 5 robots but only control one at a time. I suppose they magically "phase" in when switching, but the point is that it offers variation and strategy similar to Pokémon. Paradroid solved it with the transfer game and degradation, but sometimes it's nice to have persistent characters. A hybrid solution might work. The player has a somehow limited supply of "anchors" to inject into droids, and can then swap between these bodies (Like a 476 on deck 4, a 614 on Deck 9), or respawn into if destroyed, or just use as fast travel.

Droid control time limit replacement

Can a player control a droid forever, and would this result in the game becoming static after the player has the ultimate droid? Possible solutions:

The transfer game

I'm not a fan of this... intrusive little mini-game. It's frustrating to die because of it. It's a bit like the Monty Python wizard throwing you into the abyss after you've made it so far. It's easy to think of many types of transfer games which could be 'skinned' to fit the hacking theme, but I'd rather see some other mechanic, or perhaps several.

Ideas for transfer game replacements

The following method involves both player skill and character skill:

Other ideas are:

A rather knee-jerk-idea method to restrict transfer could be keys (programs, whatever) which grants instant free access. Collecting things is often fun in games. It gives us a sense of progression.

All of these methods could be used. Perhaps it varies from map to map which methods are available to the player.

Line of Sight

Line of Sight was a nice aspect of Paradroid. In P90 all droids had various sensors, but any droid you controlled just used regular line of sight. Here are some ideas to expand on that.

For example, one droid might see 270 degrees with a movement sensor. When using this droid, the screen is drawn differently, like a 'predator' filter. You see the magnitude of movement or whatever, and tempo. Since you can't see walls, you overlay the blips on a schematic of the level. As a player you might learn to differentiate between different droids based on movement, magnitude and pulse frequency. Certain droids could see through walls to some extent, making it easy to hunt for campers. The 999 droid would have all kinds of super powerful sensors, making it hard to hide from. Some droids might see the ID numbers and get a visual reminiscent of the C64 graphics.

Quazatron is set a different game universe I think.

Fooling around with a schematics styled lineup for the droid database but it looks a bit noisy and dull compared to P90's colourful portraits. Font is just half size P90 gold font in 1-bit with cleanup (101 text, not 614).

About rights holders

There has been some confusion regarding the whereabouts of the rights to Paradroid. Rights are not a monolithic thing so it gets complicated. As I understand it, Graftgold was liquidated at some point. I believe their "IP" was sold to Jester Interactive. I downloaded their Paradroid trailer in 2001. Looking at their IP section in 2019, I see they claim to own the "full software back catalogue of Graftgold" specifically mentioning Paradroid. However, several others may hold publishing rights (Rebellion?), which is a different thing. Also, old royalty agreements honouring the original developers may still be valid regardless of publisher, but I suspect they have been forgotten, or "forgotten". Source: WWW and Twitter statements by Braybrook.

As a side note, a trademark name can be separate from all this and they tend to expire if not used. For example, I remember that Atari owned the "Star Control" trademark but not the IP which had stayed with the developers, so when the trademark was about to expire Atari hired some devs to rush out a generic browser game (in days) carrying the name just to demonstrate use of the name so they could renew the TM. Then Atari went bankrupt and their stuff was auctioned off. Some company then picked up the rather flimsily retained TM but wanted to treat it as if it was the complete IP package.

Byline: Niklas Jansson, 2007 - 2009 - 2017 -2019, Paradroid was made by Graftgold and published by Hewson.