Jimmy White's 'Whirlwind' Snooker

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Jimmy White's 'Whirlwind' Snooker
Jimmy White's Whirlwind Snooker Coverart.png
Developer(s) Virgin Games
Publisher(s) Virgin Games
Designer(s) Archer MacLean
Platform(s) Amiga, Atari ST, PC, Sega Mega Drive
Release 1991
Genre(s) Sports games (snooker)
Mode(s) Single-player, multi-player

Jimmy White's 'Whirlwind' Snooker is a computer game by veteran programmer Archer MacLean, released by Virgin Games in 1991 for the Commodore Amiga, Atari ST and PC (later for the Sega Mega Drive). 'Whirlwind' Snooker is a highly realistic snooker simulator. Although the game was not the first to simulate snooker (or pool) in 3D, it made full use of the processing power and graphics capabilities of 16-bit home computers and was praised for its then ground-breaking realism and easy-to-use interface. Many remarked[who?][1] that the game was the closest thing to being on a real snooker table which existed at the time, and it could be used by a player to refine real-life snooker skills.

Development and technology[edit]

The game took MacLean several years to complete; the billiard ball physics alone taking several months of programming.[citation needed] One of the reasons why the game runs as quickly as it does is the way in which each shot is played. The next shot is effectively pre-played while the white ball is being cued – the position and movement of each ball being calculated frame-by-frame and kept in a list in memory. Each frame of the next shot is then displayed by rendering each ball from this list, frame-by-frame, instead of rendering it in real-time.[citation needed] MacLean also explained that a closed environment like a snooker table allowed certain optimizations that would not be possible in 3D games such as Elite.[2]


A red ball taunts the player.

Despite being an accurate (for the time) and serious simulation of the sport, MacLean's irreverent sense of humour was prominent throughout. The sound effect used for a successful pot was a resounding "pop" (regardless of the speed at which the ball reached the pocket) and numerous animations provided comic relief should a player take more than a few seconds to shoot. Balls would sprout eyeballs and arms, making faces at the player or holding up signs that read "Get on with it!" and such.

Also present was an extensive trick shot editor, featuring a number of pre-set table arrangements with instructions on how they should be played. An easter egg enabled the option to watch the computer player complete a maximum break.

The game's title music was similar to (and probably intended to pay homage to) that of snooker TV programme Pot Black.

The game featured a copy protection mechanism in which the user was prompted to enter a word from the manual corresponding to a certain page, paragraph and word number. Getting this word wrong three times caused the word FAIL to appear over the screen many times (after which, in the PC version, the computer was rebooted).


Following the game's release, Virgin launched a nationwide tournament in the UK. Regional heats were held at Virgin's stores; the eventual winner went on to challenge MacLean himself in the first series of Channel 4's GamesMaster with snooker pro Jimmy White commentating.[citation needed]


The game was followed by Archer MacLean's Pool in 1992, Jimmy White's 2: Cueball in 1999 and Jimmy White's Cueball World in 2001.


  1. ^ A UK magazine wrote: "Archer MacLean does it again, and must go down in the history books as having produced the first ever realistic snooker game." ("ACE benchmarks", ACE (50), p. 48, November 1991 )
  2. ^ Liddon, Gary (November 1990), "A dream come true", The One (26), pp. 48—49