Bits From my Personal Collection – Hi-Res Cribbage by Warren Schwader, On-Line Systems’ first hire

Between my more extensive articles, I’ve decided to do a few shorter articles on some of the earliest On-Line System (Sierra On-Line) titles. While On-Line Systems is known for its early Hi-Res adventure games, the company published a myriad of titles in its first couple of years. From sports games and tabletop games to fast-paced action titles inspired by the popular video arcade games of the time.
When Ken and Roberta Williams had completed the development of their first game, Mystery House, in the summer of 1980, Roberta took out a full-page ad in Micro 6502 magazine. To offer more than just Mystery House, two other titles, Skeet Shoot and Trap Shoot, both developed by a third party, were also featured. While Skeetshot and Trapshoot quickly faded away, the company’s portfolio rapidly expanded with a multitude of new titles added over the next two years, one of the titles was Hi-Res Cribbage by Warren Schwader.

After the release of Myster House and while developing Wizard and the Princess, a tape copy of inspiring programmer Warren Schwader’s Apple II Cribbage game reached Ken Williams. While Ken was very much focused on the company’s second and very ambitious adventure title he was still keen to add multiple different genres to his company’s portfolio. Impressed with Schwader’s use of assembly language and the utilization of the Apple II’s Hi-Res graphics mode, Ken contacted Schwader and made a deal for On-Line Systems to market and sell his cribbage game. The game was retitled Hi-Res Cribbage to fit in with the company’s other Hi-Res titles. The game was released in early 1981, now on floppy disk, and sold around 2.000 copies, making it quite rare today.

Warren Schwader’s 1980 apple II cassette game Cribbage found its way to Ken Williams of On-Line Systems. Williams impressed by the game published it as Hi-Res Cribbage on floppy for the Apple II in 1981. The Apple II version was the only version to be released

Hi-Res Cribbage for the Apple II allows one player to play against the computer in a traditional game of cribbage. Cribbage was derived from an earlier game by Sir John Suckling in 1600’s England. The game, today, plays just like it did 400 years ago

Schwader had been an amateur programmer since 1977, learning BASIC and slowly becoming proficient in assembly language on the Apple II. In 1980 he had completed his Cribbage game of which he sold a few hundred cassette copies, one of those copies somehow reached Ken Williams all the way out in California, Schwader, at the time lived in Wisconsin. Schwader became On-Line systems’ first hire when Ken hired him in 1981.
Schwader went on the create one of the most beloved action games for the Apple II, Threshold, which I’ll cover in an upcoming short article.

Cribbage can at first seem quite complicated and maybe even unfamiliar therefore an introduction to Hi-Res Cribbage was published in the first On-Line Letter in June of 1981. The On-Line Letter was On-Line Systems’ own channel to its customers and software users, providing information on products and answering inquiries. The On-Line Letter turned into the Sierra Newsletter in 1987 and into The Sierra Magazine in 1989 before becoming InterAction in 1991.

Schwader stayed with On-Line Systems (later Sierra On-Line) until 1993 and worked on all three volumes of Hoyle: Official Book of Games in the early ’90s alongside another fan-favorite, Jones in the Fast Lane.

Sources: Hackers by Steven Levy, Halcyon Days, Moby Games, InfoWorld, Softtalk

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