Silicon Beach Software – a Macintosh Pioneer

Founded by Charlie Jackson in 1984, the same year as the original Macintosh computer was released.
Silicon Beach was exclusively a Macintosh developer, taking full advantage of the new machine’s graphic and sound capabilities.
In 1984 Jackson also started the San Diego Macintosh User Group, there’s no doubt that Jackson and his company had a real thing for Apple’s new system, understanding both the hardware and software capabilities resulted in pioneering products like SuperPaint, an advanced graphics editors which combined some of the innovative MacDraw and MacPaint features with their own innovations and thereby superseded Apple’s own software.
SuperPaint2 and Digital Darkroom were the first Macintosh programs to offer a plug-in architecture, something that is standard today. Digital Darkroom was a photo editor including features like “The Magic Wand” which later was included in Adobe’s Photoshop.

Silicon Beach was acquired by Aldus Corporation in 1990. A few years later Jackson, together with Silicon Beach programmer Jonathan Gay would co-found FutureWave Software, the company that would produce the first version of what is now known as Adobe Flash.

In its time Silicon Beach only released 5 games for the Macintosh, before they would end up focussing exclusively on developing productivity software, which was the more lucrative part of the business.
Silicon Beach’s first programmer Jonathan Gay, while in high school, won a science fair award for his programming on the Apple II computer, came to the attention of Jackson. Gay began programming for the company in his senior year.
His first published product, released in 1984, was Airborne! A paratrooper like game using what Silicon Beach would refer to as “Real Sound”, utilizing the Macintosh’s ability to play digitized sound effects and not only synthesized – Something all of their future games would use.

The complete lineup of Silicon Beach Software games, released between 1984 and 1987.

I can only recommend the book “The Secret History of Mac Gaming” by Richard Moss if you wanna read more about the topic and Macintosh gaming in general.

Enchanted Scepters – The very first point and click adventure game
Enchanted Scepters is considered to be the first “point and click” adventure game, a testimony to the company’s ability to adapt and utilize Apple’s new innovative Macintosh computer (it was only released for the Macintosh).
Up until now adventure games (and the like) had been purely keyboard driven using text input commands or multiple choices. Enchanted Scepters gives the option to shortcut some of the command entry using the mouse. The text window is scrollable, commonly used verbs are listed in a commands menu, and you can click on doors, objects, and characters to perform actions. The game still wants some text input at times, like in the very beginning where you’re asked if you would like to see the king and you have to type “Yes or “No”.
A bit of a strange thing is that the game doesn’t have an intro screen when the game is booted you are thrown right into the first location.
While we consider the game being an adventure game it does have some RPG elements to it like randomized combat, weapons, spells, items to offer, and hit-points.
Enchanted Scepters was developed using the company’s World Builder game creation system and RealSound engine. The World Builder creation system was released as a stand-alone software in 1986.

Enchanted Scepters, what is considered to be the very first point and click adventure game, is an extremely rare find, I have only seen two copies surface over the last 15 years.

Later games like Déjà vuShadowgate and also to some extent the Eye of the Beholder series seem to be greatly inspired by Enchanted Scepters.

Dark Castle (and a tiny bit of John Romero)
Dark Castle, 1986, was a puzzle-solving platform game, with beautifully detailed black and white graphics and digitized sound effects. The game featured animated enemies, climbable ropes, and walkable ledges.
Mark Pierce, who designed the animation, was based in San Francisco with his own company MacroMind, Silicon Beach Software was situated in San Diego, after an initial launch meeting, most of the collaboration between Pierce and programmer Jonathan Gay was handled remotely. Pierce designed the animations in MacroMind’s VideoWork, the direct ancestor of Adobe Director, and then mailed the files on floppies to Gay, who then coded the game in 68000 Assembly Language on the Apple Lisa. The digitized sound was created by Eric Zocher who worked with voice actor Dick Noel.
Dark Castle was ported to various different platforms in the coming years.
Versions for the Apple IIGS, Commodore 64, and Amiga were released in 1989 by Three-Sixty Pacific, these ports were almost identical to the Macintosh version except for having a lower resolution color graphics and some adjusted controls. John Romero converted the monochrome Macintosh art to 16-color art.
The sequel “Beyond Dark Castle” was released in 1987 it expanded on the gameplay with new additions like a health bar, bombs and a save game feature (the game was much more difficult than its precursor), as well as new side-scrolling levels.
A version for the C64 and the Amiga was released by Activision.
Beyond Dark Castle would become Silicon Beach’s last game.

The two original Macintosh Dark Castle games.
I absolutely love the artwork on these boxes, just as the in-game graphics it is a gorgeous sight.

To the left, the UK release distributed by Mirrorsoft, to the right the 16-bit re-release for the Amiga by Three-Sixty Pacific.

Below a few more photos from my collection.


4 thoughts on “Silicon Beach Software – a Macintosh Pioneer

    1. Hi again Steve
      Yes the Ultima II is factory sealed, I do have an open Apple II version also but it does really show its age.
      Yes I do fondly remember how I for hours could look at these boxes, dreaming of not only owning the game but also the required computer to play it on.. those were the times – nowadays everything is so accessible that the dreaming has almost come to a complete halt.
      Take care and have a great weekend.

  1. I really like your photos. What equipment do you use to take such amazing photos? Camera and lighting? Do you do any cleanup in photoshop or with other software?

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