Robert Clardy and his company Synergistic Software became the synonym with the earliest computer adventure roleplaying games in the late ’70s. With Dungeon Campaign and Wilderness campaign from 1978 and 1979 laying the foundation for a company that would span the next two decades. When the funky ’70s turned into the glamorous ’80s, Clardy started picking up third-party-developed action titles, one of them being Escape From Arcturus from late Kevin Bagley.
I’ve earlier written an article on Robert Clardy, his roleplaying games, and Synergistic Software’s here.
In 1979, 25-year old Kevin Bagley was looking for new adventures. He had spent the last 5 years at Lake Hill Group Home, a company he co-owned with his wife Linda, developing one of the first semi-independent living training programs for developmentally disabled adults.
Bagley’s interest in computers, games, and astronomy led him on a new course heading into the ’80s. He wrote his first software title, in 1980, The Star Gazer’s Guide, an intricate Apple II educational program aimed to help people learn all about the night sky. Bagley without the knowledge of software distribution reached out to local Synergistic Software, one of the few companies at the time who had extensive publishing experience. Founder Robert and wife Ann Clardy helped Bagley revising the software and designed the elaborate accompanying 30-page manual.
While The Star Gazer’s Guide would help you learn about the different stars, constellations, galaxies, clusters, and nebulae in the northern hemisphere, a single star, Arcturus, would play a key part in Bagley’s next project.
Arcturus, the brightest star in the constellation the Herdsman and one of the brightest stars in the night sky had over the years lent its name to a multitude of science fiction series, including the Foundation book series by Isaac Asimov, and the television series Doctor Who and Star Trek, and now, in 1981, in Bagley’s upcoming fast-paced arcade-style game Escape from Arcturus. Where a simple-minded yet savagely alien race, the Griplems, envious of your interstellar trade routes, attacks your local space neighborhood around star Arcturus and your home planet Arcturon
Escape from Arcturus is essential two individual action games, Space Fortress and Escape, combined in one package. The two titles can either be played individually or in succession, for a combined high score.
In Space Fortress you are the commander and have to defend your base against incoming photon torpedoes from the attacking Griplems. By using the keys you fire your cannon in one of the four directions, hitting enemy torpedoes yields points. Missing or hitting the enemy’s shields yields a reduction in your base’s energy. Too many misses and you’ll be left defenseless.
In Escape your space fortress is destroyed and you have to attempt to save the population of planet Arcturon by firing escape pods out into space. Before jumping into Hyperspace and safety you’ll have to repel and shoot down a variety of incoming enemy space ships before they reach and attack the three factories on your home planet. With all three factories destroyed the remaining people of Arcturon blow up the planet to avoid becoming slaves of the Griplems… Yikes. This part required the Apple II paddles to move the escape pods up and down.
Escape from Arcturus for the Apple II, published in 1981 by Synergistic Software. The same year the company finally moved out of the Clardy’s basement and opened its first office
While the gameplay was quite simplistic it looked and sounded great for its time
Escape from Arcturus became Bagley’s last title to be published by Synergistic Software. In the next couple of years, he designed another handful of games, some of which were published by Dave Gordon’s Datamost. In the late 1980s, he took a programming job with Maverick International, where he would work for the next 15 years as a programmer.
In 2002 Bagley began a new endeavor when he started his real estate career.
Bagley sadly passed in 2019, 65 years old.
Sources: Lake Union Liveaboard Association, Cyber Jack – The Adventures of Robert Clardy and Synergistic Software, InfoWorld