Q-Bits from my personal collection – The Blade of Blackpoole

Welcome to another Quick Bits article. I’ve early written a more general article about Sirius Software, which can be found here.

In only a year Gerry Jewell and Terry Bradley‘s Sirius Software had rocketed to the stars. With programming prodigy, Nasir Gebelli on board, fast-paced action games that were otherwise deemed to arcades were now available in the comfort of people’s homes. Gebelli’s games would help launch the Apple II computer as a serious arcade gaming platform and catapult Sirius Software into the stratosphere. The company, which had been started in the back of Jewell and Bradley’s ComputerLand store, was now the go-to company for fast-paced and thrilling action games. Nearly every title released made it onto the top of Softalk’s Top-30 Bestseller list. Combined, Gebelli’s technical abilities and Jewell’s sales and marketing skills, created a multimillion-dollar enterprise in the first year. The success led Jewell and Bradley to sell their ComputerLand store in May of 1981, to solely focus on Sirius Software.

While the action games were the bread and butter of Sirius Software, in 1982, the company would try its luck with more elaborate games. Ken and Roberta WilliamsOn-Line Systems‘ unprecedented success with its line of Hi-Res Adventure titles hadn’t gone unnoticed. The couples’ first game Mystery House marked the beginning of a new era in adventure gaming and over the next few years, the company would continue to herald the genre. Inspired by On-Line Systems’ success, Sirius Software invested in a small handful of graphical adventure titles among those was Tim Wilson‘s second game The Blade of BlackPoole, a medieval fantasy game with you as the player trying to retrieve the legendary magical sword Myraglym and return it to the altar from where it was stolen.

At first glimpse, Wilson’s adventure titles looked very similar to those of On-Line Systems but from a technological standpoint they both came off as better polished and more professionally cared for products. The draw and fill routines for the static images were faster and by utilizing a custom font, rather using the Apple II’s built-in graphics mode, used by nearly everybody at the time, more text and longer descriptions could be displayed on-screen at any time.
The Blade of Blackpoole was smaller in scope and easier to cope with than most of the competition but it still shared a few of the same pitfalls nearly all early adventures suffered from, with illogically puzzles, at times a frustrating text parser, and a very small inventory, allowing you to only carry the absolutely right items.

Tim Wilson’s adventure title The Blade of Blackpoole was developed for the Apple II and published by Sirius Software in 1982.
The Witts Notes, one of the earliest third-party released hint books, published in 1983 by Connecticut-based Witt’s End

The Blade of Blackpoole looked and played very much like other early graphic text adventures but was to some extent easier to cope with. It had a quite comprehensive vocabulary and the graphics looked great and detailed. The overall the experience felt very polished.
The game featured a score counter, the fewer moves used to complete the quest the higher the score, adding a bit to the game’s potential life span. A perfect score of 500, was to my knowledge, impossible to obtain.

Following the Apple II release in 1982, The Blade of Blackpoole was ported to the Atari 800 in the spring of 1983 and for the Commodore 64 later that summer. The game didn’t utilize any of the dedicated hardware the newer machines came with and looked and played just like the Apple II version.

The Blade of Blackpoole was ported to the Atari 800 and released in March of 1983

A version was ready for Commodore’s newest offering, the Commodore 64, in August of 1983

Sirius Software’s venture into graphic text adventures didn’t prove commercially successful and only four titles were released. The company was still riding high from its many action titles and while it did exceptionally well, making $11 million in sales in 1983, dark clouds were looming on the horizon.
In late 1982 Sirius Software had ventured out, on what should have been a lucrative deal with 20th Century Fox to develop games for the Atari 2600. Seeing how Activision and others had made it big in the console market, this was the place to expand. But with the video game market crashing in late 1983, Fox would put their video game division into receivership, resulting in not following through with royalty payment of around $14 million, ultimately resulting in the company running out of money and leaving it in massive debt. In 1984 it was all over, Sirius Software was forced to shut down and file for bankruptcy.

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