Rainbird was a software label from UK telecommunications company British Telecom focussing on utility software, adventure games and simulation titles. Rainbird was part of BT's TelecomSoft Entertainment Software publishing arm and was run by Tony Rainbird.
Tony had not intended to use his own name for the label; the imprint was originally going to be called Bluebird but that name was already in use. The alternative title Rainbird, a suggestion by the Chief Executive of BT, allowed them to retain the already-designed "blue box" packaging and also matched the theme of other TelecomSoft imprints such as Firebird.
Although well-known for utility programs such as the OCP Art Studio and The Music System, as well as pseudo-simulation games like Carrier Command and Starglider, Rainbird ended up publishing games from the two biggest, and most critically acclaimed, producers of text adventures on the UK scene, Magnetic Scrolls and Level 9. The expensive packaging of the Rainbird "big blue box" adventures aped the releases of Infocom, including "feelies" and game-related novellas (often part of the copy protection).
The partnership with Magnetic Scrolls saw the release of highly-rated games such as The Pawn, The Guild of Thieves, Corruption, Jinxter, Knight Orc and Fish!.
Rainbird's relationship with the team at Level 9 was more fractious and possibly less fruitful for both companies, but it did result in the publication of two compilations: Jewels of Darkness (Colossal Adventure, Adventure Quest and Dungeon Adventure) and Silicon Dreams (Snowball, Return to Eden and The Worm in Paradise). These reworked re-releases added additional graphics and also brought the games to a few previously unexplored platforms.
As well as the published titles listed above, there were several adventure-related projects that never saw the light of day:
- The Acrobat, an enhanced 16-bit version of the comics-style adventure system used by Simon Price and Mike Lewis for their Red Hawk and Kwah! games.
- RAIL (or R.A.I.L.) - the Rainbird Adventure Implementation Language, commissioned from John Jones-Steele. A C-style language, with a sophisticated parser, it could create graphical text adventures The intention was for Rainbird to produce several games using the system and then publish the creator itself.
- The History of Rainbird (currently offline, archived site link).
- RAIL on the Bird Sanctuary website (currently offline, archived site link).
- RAIL system & demo download (archived page)
- Fire and Rain from The Digital Antiquarian blog.
- The Pawn’s Second Life (or, When Tony Met Anita) from The Digital Antiquarian blog.