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[Paco Menéndez]
Francisco "Paco" Menéndez
(1965 – 1999, softography)

Francisco Menéndez González, aka Paco Menéndez, was born in Avilés, northern Spain, in 1965. During his career, Paco worked for the Spanish companies Indescomp, Made in Spain and Ópera Soft.
Although he only developed three games, his reputation is almost unparalleled in Spain, mainly due to the mastery of his programming skills. These skills are patently obvious in his works, namely "Fred", "Sir Fred" and the timeless masterpiece "La Abadía del Crimen".

Paco began programming when he was at school, aged fifteen years old, on a Commodore PET.
When he was aged seventeen, Paco and his three friends (Carlos Granados, Fernando Rada and Camilo Cela) were hired by Indescomp, thanks to the efforts of Jorge Granados, brother of Carlos. During the first months, they spent their time preparing the ground for the arrival of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum to Spain, developing some programs and translating UK software to Spanish.

After leaving the internal staff of Indescomp, the four friends began to work intensely in a new game called "Fred". "Fred" was born by an idea from Carlos Granados, who was the only one of the group who had a computer in his own home.

The idea of creating "Sir Fred" came soon after finishing the Amstrad version of "Fred". Basically they took the concept of the classical platform game, but adding some adventure features that weren't available on "Fred" (neither in most of arcade games until then). It was during that time that they decided to establish a name for the programming group and so "Made In Spain" was born. That label would finally turn into Zigurat Software, a powerful company that is still active.

After releasing "Sir Fred", Made In Spain decide to start working in two simultaneous works. While Carlos Granados and Fernando Rada started working in "El Misterio Del Nilo", Paco Menéndez and Juan Delcán did the same with a new game called "La Abadía Del Crimen". Juan was responsible for the atmospheric graphics of "La Abadía Del Crimen".

When Carlos and Fernando finished "El Misterio del Nilo" they decided to set up a new publisher so as to distribute their own game. The new company, a kind of "legalization" of Made in Spain, was going to be called Zigurat. Since Paco Menéndez didn't like management tasks but only programming, he wasn't attracted by the project, leaving alone their old partners (but still keeping a good friendship).

As widely known, "La Abadia del Crimen" was an adaptation of Umberto Eco's famous novel "The name of the rose". However, the licence was never granted by Eco, although he was asked about. It seems Eco did never answered to the asking of permission for using the name for a videogame (indeed, some people say that he never plainly understood what a videogame was!) and so the games was finally christened "La Abadia del Crimen".

The game was developed entirely by Paco using an Amstrad CPC, while Juan designed the graphics (it seems they often worked independently in their own houses and had frequent meetings to put their work together). It was a very exhausting task. After programming the Spectrum and MSX conversions, Paco decided to release the game with Opera Soft, where his old friend Paco Suárez and other old partners from Indescomp were working in. The reason for that choice (instead of Zigurat) was that they promised him assistance with a PC version. He stayed in Opera for a year, working on the PC conversion, and the game was released by the company for the four referred platforms.

Despite the fact that the game wasn't an instantaneous success (in fact, the game became progressively famous in a slow but steady way), the excellent work in "La Abadía del Crimen" was quickly recognized by the Spanish specialized press. The Spanish Spectrum magazine MicroHobby even bestowed the best Spanish programmer award to Paco in 1988.

After finishing "La Abadía del Crimen", Paco suddenly decided to leave the field of game development because of the progressive commercialism in the videogame market. Bad experiences with Mikro-Gen's "Sir Fred" distribution also didn't help. Thus, he concentrated his efforts in finishing his degree in Telecom Engineering and after that he began doing research in parallel data processing.

It seems that he had some interesting ideas in this field, and more specifically he was interested in the development of an "intelligent matrix memory", which would enable high parallelization at low cost. He spent nine years working in the project, and in the three last years he had high expectations of being able to develop a working prototype.

Paco Menéndez died in Sevilla in 1999.

Juan Delcán provides this remarkable insight on Paco:
"He had a very particular way of programming. He never did it in front of the computer, instead, he used to wander with his hands crossed behind his back, just thinking. He could do this for an hour, sometimes even more, and then suddenly you would see a spark in his eyes. He would then sit down in front of the computer and immediately begin to type lines of code so fast that you would think he was possessed. It was like watching someone playing the piano: his head wasn't thinking any more, he was simply executing what he had already decided."

Further information:
- La Voz de Avilés 08.08.10 - El Adelantado de los Videojuegos.
- La Voz de Avilés 11.08.10 - Cartas al Director.

Acknowledgements: Juan Pablo López-Grao for providing the above article. He would like to acknowledge Juan Delcán as well as the following sites for the inputs to the article:

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