Roundabout, humble beginnings

Welcome to another Quick Bits article. While working on a more general article on Datamost I thought I’d touch upon some of the games published by the company in the early ’80s. I found a Datamost Christmas ad in the December 1983 issue of Commander Magazine and thought that a few short articles on the advertised games were a great idea for this December (I probably won’t have time to cover all of them before Christmas).

The 1983 Christmas ad from Datamost

On January 21, 2022, The Tiger Rising aired in theatres. The movie starring Dennis Quaid and Queen Latifah and based on the New York Times best-selling book of the same name by Kate DiCamillo was Ray Giarratana‘s first written and directed feature. Giarratana has been a stable in the Hollywood film and entertainment industry for over three decades, creating and supervising high-end visual effects and computer animation for some of the most iconic commercials, music videos, and movies.
In the early ’80s, before starting his career in local broadcast and later joining and helping build Pacific Data Images, now Dreamworks Animation, into an award-winning visual effect and animation studio, Giarratana found his interest in computers – Not only as means of entertainment but as a tool as well.

Diving into 6502 Assembly programming on the Apple II while trying to crack popular games of the times soon turned into fully-fledged game development. In 1983, while working on his abstract space shooter, Roundabout, Giarratana sent out an early version to Jerry Jewell of Sirius Software who showed interest in helping complete it and publish it. For a few months, he worked with Sirius but when the game neared completion Jewell changed his mind and Giarratana had to try his luck with other publishers. Doug Carlston of Brøderbund liked it but had a somewhat similar game in the pipeline. Eventually, he got in touch with Dave Gordon of Datamost who picked it up and published it for the Apple II, Atari 8-bit, and Commodore 64 in 1983

Ray Giarratana’s Roundabout was picked up by Datamost and released for the Apple II in 1983.
Giarratana used the pseudonym Gumby Bitworks, a name figuring on the box, manual, and on some labels

Roundabout was ported to the Atari 8-bit line of computers by Atari Projects Manager and programmer at Datamost, Kent Simon

The Commodore 64 version was programmed by Douglas Ansell

The Atari 8-bit version of Roundabout.
Dodge and destroy abstract aliens in your spaceship, Roundabout, in this watered-down and somewhat twisted mix of Galaxian, Gyruss, and Megamania.
While essentially being a typical space shooter, of the day, Roundabout was unique in its design as the movement of your spaceship was restricted to the edges of the playfield

Roundabout sold well for its time but never became a critical or commercial success. While simple space shooters were being rendered obsolete by new and much more elaborate games, its unique locked-to-the-edges gameplay, engaging abstract enemies, and well-designed movement patterns made it an enjoyable and challenging game.

Giarratana worked on a couple of other games, but according to him, none were ever completed or officially released. Neon, a collection of four mini-games, was nearly finished and playable copies can be found on the Internet but there’s no evidence of it ever having an official release.

Sources: Atari Age, Wikipedia, Twitter, Commander Magazine, Softalk, MovieWeb

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