Collecting, Retro gaming

A bit from my personal collection – Hi-Res Football and Soccer – Some of Sierra’s first titles

Besides the way more famous Hi-Res Adventures series from On-Line Systems (later Sierra On-Line). On-Line systems also released a few sports games and a cribbage game in 1980/1981 in the Hi-Res series.

One of the very first sports game On-Line Systems did was Hi-Res Football (Trapshoot and Skeetshoot were released the same year, if I’m not mistaken). Hi-Res Football was released in late 1980 for the Apple II – this was the only release of the game.
To my knowledge this was one of Sierra’s first published game, since it’s founding in 1979 (might be somewhere in there with their first 5 to 7 released titles).

Hi-Res Football was created by founder of On-Line Systems, Ken Williams and developer Jay Sullivan.
It was, as the name applies, an American Football game featuring both single and two player modes. In single player you were playing against the computer, while in two player you could enjoy the game with a friend.
The game was a pretty simple realtime sports action game where you had control of both the offensive and defensive plays, featuring actions like runs, passes, kicks etc.
The graphics were pretty simplistic but it did feature a great title screen, very much in the same style as many of the other early Hi-Res releases.

The year after in 1981 Hi-Res Soccer was released, also for the Apple II platform, this was also done by Jay Sullivan. It played a lot like Hi-Res Football but of course featured soccer instead.
Jay Sullivan went on to create CrossFire for Sierra in 1981 – and ported the 1982 title Ultima II – Revenge of the Enchantress for the PC in 1983.
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If you look closely at the Hi-Res Football label on the disk you will see the label is on top of a white label, this is something I have seen a few times on these early items. Years back I carefully removed a golden label just to examine the label underneath – the discovered label was a label from the disk manufactor, my guess is that in the process of getting these games out the door the golden label (in this case) was just put on top of the “manufactor” label.

Collecting, Retro gaming

A bit from my personal collection – Laf Pak

A few days ago I did a short post about Akalabeth (the C64 conversion), which can be found here, and thought to myself I have this rare oddity called Laf Pak and it has really one or two things in common with Akalabeth, Wait what… what could that possible be you say, well only peripheral things in common but still…

Chuck Bueche (Chuckles) is probably most know for have founded Origin Systems with Richard Garriot, Richards older brother Robert and their father Owen, back in 1983.
Two years before in 1981, aged 21, Chuck did his first own game, the year after a few more titles were added to the list, some of which are still appreciated and collectable today; Lunar Leeper, Creepy Corridors, Jawbreaker II and of course Laf Pak.
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Also Chuck programmed boot up animations for Richard Garriots Ultima 1 (akalabeth) and Ultima 2.

Chucks first game was called Brainteaser Boulevard!, this one ended up being published by California Pacific Software company in 1981, the same company which picked up Richard Garriots Akalabeth.
Chuck also made several appearances in the Ultima series of games as the court jester, thereby getting his nickname Chuckles.

in 1982 Chuck did his first compilation of 4 games this was called Laf Pak, this was Chucks second published game title, and was released by On-Line Systems (Later Sierra On-Line) for the Apple II home computer – This is the only version released to my knowledge, I have seen a few different labels on the floppy but all of them have been for the Apple II system.
Chuck programmed all 4 games, some of them are typical of the day, with roots to the classic arcade games like Asteroid. 

The 4 games in the compilation (or Pak as it was called) was Creepy Corridors, a maze game which ended up with its own release from SierraVision (Sierra’s arcade label at the time), Apple Zap, Space Race and Mine Sweep. The last 3 games were “Simple” arcade games which I haven’t seen mentioned later on.
The compilation wasn’t very succesful and to use Chucks own words “Some of the games could have been better“. But from what I have heard and seen from Chuck, he is a very modest man.

Below is my White label Laf Pak copy, a gold label (like so many of Sierra’s early games had) also exist. I have only seen around 3 white label in existence, surely more exist, if you have this or the one with gold label I would love to hear about it.

 

 

Collecting, Retro gaming

A Quickie – A bit from my personal collection – Akalabeth – World of Doom, C64

Akalabeth – World of Doom (also known as Ultima 0) was originally developed for the Apple II, by Richard Garriot, back in 1979. The first copies were sold in 1980 in ComputerLand, Austin, Texas, where Garriot worked in the summertime.
These were sold inside Ziploc bags, with photocopied instructions and cover drawn by his mother. The original copy of Akalabeth is extremely rare and only around 12-25 copies where sold at the time.
California Pacific Computer Company, who published games and computer related software in the late 70’s and early 80’s, received a copy (this could probably have been a pirated version) and contacted Garriot and offered to publish the game. This release is known as Ultima I (spawned several releases for other platforms years later). It is believed that around 30.000 copies of the California Pacific release where sold.

1913447_10153410431154172_4615351145095246563_oMy California Pacific version, with cover artwork by Denis Loubet, which would end up being the artist for the covers of many more Ultima’s to come.

Since this is just a quickie I won’t be going more in detail about the history of Ultima.

As mentioned Akalabeth – World of Doom were only released for the Apple II computer, in the mid nineties an unofficial port to PC were made and back in 2016 an Italian team of three, with the blessings of Richard Garriot himself, released  a version for the Commode 64.
Only 50 physical copies were made, I was lucky enough to get a copy (#23) which can be see below.
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unnamedA small GIF showing a few images from the conversion.

The Italian team that made all this happen:
Code and Conversion: Andrea Schincaglia
Idea and Testing: Antonello Molella
Additional Graphics: David Vigh

Collecting, Retro gaming

A bit from my personal collection – Bop-A-Bet, Sierra’s rarest boxed game?

Developed by Al Lowe in 1982 and published by Sierra On-Line in 1983, Bop-A-Bet is a educational computer game, which teaches letter recognition and alphabetisation. Unlike many Sierra titles from that period, which were developed for a multiple array of system architectures, Bop-A-Bet were only released for the Apple II platform and I think this was Al and Sunnyside Soft’s second game – the first one being Dragon’s Tale which to my knowledge was the only title actual to be released by Sunnyside Soft.

Al and his partner Mike MacChesney, which were from the same neighbourhood and both worked at local schools, started Sunnyside Soft, where they developed educational games for the Apple II platform. Al was head of programming and his wife Magaret was the woman with the ideas. Mike was the one working with the graphics and his wife, Rae Lynn also worked on ideas for the games.
-If you look closely at the cover, that’s the four names from above, that can be seen.

Sunnyside Soft developed three Apple II games, Dragon’s Keep, Troll’s Tale and Bop-A-Bet. Ken and Roberta Williams of Sierra On-Line liked the games and how they looked and got the rights to publish them in 1983.
As we all probably know Al Lowe started working at Sierra On-Line and had great succes with the Leisure Suit Larry series, Sierra’s Disney adventure The Black Cauldron and of course later on Freddy Pharkas (just to name a few). Al Ended up working for Sierra for 16 years.

I might be opening up a can of worms here but to my experience this is probably one of the rarest boxed Sierra On-Line game (counting On-Line Systems, SierraVision and SierraVenture). In my over 15 years of serious collecting (and owning pretty much every single Sierra boxed released) this is the only example I have seen besides the one copy The National Museum of Play has in their collection.
Not a lot of info nor pictures to be found online.

Many would probably argue that Ultima Escape from Mt. Drash is rarer, in my opinion that is actually not true, I’ve seen 6-7 copies of Mt. Drash…. buuut the story of Mt. Drash is of course way more exciting and fascinating and the fact it has Ultima in it’s title is enough to make it importing -even thou it has nothing to do with Richard Garriot (he did give his acceptance for Sierra to use the name) or the Ultima series in any other way. Sierra On-Line wanted to benefit from the Ultima brand name, which makes a lot of sense from a business point of view.

OF COURSE ALL WRITTEN ABOVE ABOUT RARITY, IS FROM MY OWN EXPERINECE, I DO NOT KNOW HOW MANY COPIES BOP-A-BET SOLD AND HOW MANY STILL EXIST TODAY – I’M SURE IT’S TREASURED IN COLLECTIONS AROUND THE WORLD AND HOPEFULLY MORE WILL SUBMERGE WITH THEIR OWN STORIES AND PICTURES TO TELL.
I KNOW THAT THERE’S QUITE A FEW VERY RARE SIERRA RELEASES OF DIFFERENT TITLES BUT MY CLAIM IS AS TITLE ALONE.

This copy was Al’s personal copy and obtained by me last year, the item is signed and is one of my absolute favourites in my Sierra Collection.

 

 

Collecting, Retro gaming

A bit from my personal collection – Electronic Arts – The Albumstyle era

Electronic Arts original US Albumstyle (gatefold sleeve/folio) releases, 1983-1989.

Founded by Trip Hawkins, a former Apple employee.
Electronic Arts actually started out as Amazin’ Software (founded by Hawkins) in 1978 but changed the name to Electronic Arts, a name which would fit better to Hawkins vision of his new studio.
Hawkins really wanted to honour the programmers and artists like “superstars” – they should be celebrated as software composers and getting contracts known from the music industry – All this was possible because of Hawkins ability to raise capital and get investors on board before the actual development and release of the first titles in 1983.

In the first advertisement campaigns EA use slogans as Can a computer make you cry?. These ads also show images of the crew that are photographed by photographers, who mainly take pictures of rock stars.

The albumstyle format
The albumstyle design for the packaging was a very well thought out idea, with the designer’s names on the front and an elegant graphic design it really gave the games the hip appearance of the rock albums of the time. Other publishers like Activision and Mindscape ended up copying the same concept for period of time before changing to the more well known boxed format – As did EA around 1988 – you can see my EA small box collection here.

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A typical design from EA in the early eighties, beautiful and really descriptive of the era.

A new way of business 
In contrast to all other publishers, Electronic Arts would sell its games directly to retailers and not as usual to a distributor. For Electronic Arts this direct sale paid off, as the profit margin was higher than the one when trading over distributors. With this Electronic Arts revolutionized the way computer games were developed and sold.

The very first games – 35 years ago
Electronic Art’s first lineup of games in 1983 included Hard Hat Mack (EA’s first game) Archon: The Light and the Dark, Axis Assassin, MULE and Worms?.
Billede-25-07-2018-07.50.06-Hawkins remembered. “In hindsight, my choices of the first round of products turned out amazingly well. Of the first six games, three of them ultimately made the Computer Gaming World Hall of Fame, and a fourth one charted on the bestseller lists of the day.”

The Bard’s Tale
Tales of the Unknown with the subtile The Bard’s Tale was a fantasy roleplaying game/dungeon crawler produced by Interplay and published by Electronic Arts in 1985.
It spawned two sequels, The Destiny Knight in 1986 and Thief of Fate in 1988. The name of the overall series was to be Tales of the Unknown, and the three games were to be entitled The Bard’s Tale, The Archmage’s Tale, and The Thief’s Tale. This is supported by the cover art of the original Bard’s Tale release, which proclaimed the game as “Tales of the Unknown, Volume I.” However, the immense popularity of the first game prompted Electronic Arts to re-brand the series under the more well-known name.

The Bard’s Tale was very successful, becoming the best-selling computer RPG of the 1980s and sold over 400,000 copies. It was the first non-Wizardry computer role-playing game to challenge Origin and Richard Garriot’s Ultima series.

What was originally going to be The Bard’s Tale IV became an unrelated game called Dragon Wars in 1991, at a very late point in its development process, due to rights issues after developer Interplay parted ways with publisher Electronic Arts. The game’s name and storyline were changed to disassociate it from the Bard’s Tale series.

A fourth instalment is under development following a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2016.

The Bard’s Tales games in the prominent albumstyle format.

billede-25-07-2018-07-45-241-e1532523080596.jpgBillede-25-07-2018-08.06.19billede-25-07-2018-08-08-16.jpgThe second instalment was actually released in a thin box, that could resemble an album when put on the shelf with its siblings – a few other EA titles were released in the same type of package.

Album and box format
A few of EA titles existed both as albumstyle and as a boxed version.
Below are a few from my collection.

Wastelandbillede-25-07-2018-08-00-50.jpgWasteland, the grand farther of futuristic post apocalyptic RPG’s, was originally released for the Apple II and Commodore 64 as gatefold but later ported to the IBM/PC as a boxed version.

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The Bards Tale
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Be your own software composer
Throughout the eighties Electronic Arts gave everybody the change to be creative and do their own text, graphics, sounds, music and game creations – which with no doubt created a new big pool of talent for the future.

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Below you’ll find my Electronic Arts albumstyle collection.

Collecting, Retro gaming

A bit from my personal collection – Softporn

Created in 1981 by Charles Benton for the Apple II. Softporn initially was an exercise for Benton to teach himself Applesoft Basic. Friends who tried this comedically adult oriented text adventure really enjoyed it and encouraged him to selfpublish it.
Under the name “Blue Sky Software” Benton sold around a 100 copies of the 1000 that was produced.
At a tradeshow sometime in 1981, where Benton was promoting and selling his game, he encountered Ken Williams co-founder of On-Line Systems (Later Sierra On-Line), who eventually decided to publish the game under the On-Line Systems name, an estimated 50.000 copies where sold and Ken estimated that Softporn temporarily doubled On-Line’s sales – Not a bad feat.
Softporn is On-Line Systems only text adventure.

A “modern” remake
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When Sierra lost their Disney license in 1986, Al Lowe suggested a remake of Softporn, using their improved tools – layout and puzzles were the same as in Softporn, but Al introduced a protagonist, Larry Laffer.
Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards was released in 1987 and like Softporn it was met with controversy due to the adult nature of the game.
Unsure of how the game would be received, Sierra’s management chose to release it with no publicity or advertising budget. Only around 4.000 copies where sold upon release but by the end of the year it had surpassed 250.000 copies.
My Leisure Suit Larry collection can be seen here

Below we have my On-Line Systems Softporn folders
I do have the Blue Sky Software release but only the folder, it’s stored away at the moment.

On the right we have the better known black folder with the infamous hot tub scene, featuring none other than Roberta Wiliams, a couple of other On-line Systems employee and a waiter from a local restaurant. The photo was taken at Ken and Roberta’s house.
On the left we have a much rare version featuring Charles Benton’s own artwork, the same used on the earlier “Blue Sky Software” release (Benton’s self published release).
This white folder version is believed to be used for a very brief time before On-Line Systems had the black folder version ready for shipment – Not much info is  available, if anybody has more info I would love to hear it – In my 15+ years of collecting I have only seen a couple of copies of the white folder, the others I’ve seen has a different placement for the label on the floppy.

 

Uncategorized

A bit from my personal collection – Sam and Max Hit the Road

Based on Steves Purcell’s late eighties comics “Sam & Max”, which are featuring Sam, a brown-coated Irish Wolfhound and a hyperkinetic three-foot rabbity thing called Max. Together they are the “Freelance Police”, or lets just call them what they really are – a couple of vigilante private investigators. The whole setting and the characters that inhabits it really parodies American pop culture of the time.
The comic series was pretty successful despite its relatively limited amount of exposure. In 1993 however the franchise did gain a more widespread recognition when LucasArts released Sam & Max Hit the Road, based on Purcell’s Sam & Max comic “On The Road”, which cultivated a renewed interest in Purcell’s original comics.
Sam & Max Hit the Road is well regarded as an exceptional good and wacky adventure game and to this day is in my book one of the most iconic classic adventure games of the early 1990s.
Subsequent video games and the television series have also fared well with both critics and fans, but nothing beats the original LucasArts game.

A really good time together and few words of wisdom:)
I recently replayed the talkie version with my 5 year old son, which by the way only understands a few words and phrases in English, but Purcell’s art and awesome animation is just a universal language and for all ages -we had an absolutely blast, laughing and just enjoying the game and the time spent together.
I’m a big fan of storytelling and think these old gems really are a good way to show our kids how important storytelling is in games, especially in this day and age where a good story is hard to find, heck most games doesn’t even have a story….yikes.
As a small sidenote; I lived in the states in the mid nineties and I really think the game in it’s own wacky way depicts american pop-culture around that time.

Below we have my sealed Sam and Max copies, all different versions -and a signed box by designers Michael Stemmle and Sean Clark