Monthly Archives: November 2019

Journey Escape, a video game for the Atari 2600 video game console

Super Charged Communists Infiltrate the Atari 2600!

The Supercharger was one of those devices released later in the lifecycle of the 2600, designed to extend the life of the console which, by 1982, was incredibly popular but outclassed by the newer game systems. Made by Starpath (formerly Arcadia before having to change their name to avoid confusion with Emerson’s Arcadia 2001 console), the Supercharger was an elongated cartridge that added another 6K of RAM to Atari’s old warhorse. Not only that, but it also had a cable that you would plug into the 1/4″ jack of any cassette tape recorder, and load in games for the system via cassette. Thusly, not only did you get more RAM for your 2600 but also bigger games.

One such game being the delightfully titled Communist Mutants from Space. It is yet another Galaxian knock-off, albeit with some twists from the formula like different types of missiles you could fire at the Commies swooping down at you, or shields to defect their godless shots, or a time-warp feature to either rewind a fatal mistake, like letting government take control of all means of production from god-fearing capitalists.

It had a cool cover, too.

Communist Mutants From Space, a home video game for the Supercharger, on the Atari 2600 console

Not just commies, but mutant commies. From space!

But there’s something familiar about those commies, even if they are mutants and from space. Something about their shininess,  about how their design is both round AND sharp at the same time… let’s journey down to the next paragraph for the answer, shall we?

It’s because the cover to the game was drawn by Alton Kelley, who, along with Stanley Mouse, made the super-cool rock album covers for Journey, one of the biggest rock bands of the 70’s and 80’s. Kelley was particularly responsible for the famous Scarab escape vehicle feature on the cover of, you guessed it, Journey’s Escape album. Maybe you’ll see some Communistic similarities in it.

Cover of Escape, a rock album by Journey

Journey makes its Escape, 1981

A closer look at that Scarab vehicle:

It’s also in space!

Pretty nifty. Of course, Communist Mutants From Space isn’t the only video game connection to Journey. The band had two games of their own. Data East made Journey Escape for the 2600, and Bally/Midway made an arcade version called simply, Journey.

For more fascinating information about the Supercharger add-on for the 2600journey over to this article here at The Dot Eaters.

For more info on the Data Age Journey game, smash your way out of the egg and zoom over to this article.

Sources:
Communist Mutants From Space Cover from Moby Games: https://www.mobygames.com/game/atari-2600/communist-mutants-from-space/cover-art/gameCoverId,24124/
Escape cover art from Overstock.com: https://www.overstock.com/Home-Garden/American-Art-Decor-Journey-Escape-Framed-Album-Cover-Wall-Art/17522214/product.html

 

Jim Walls Walks the Beat With Police Quest

Jim Walls joined the California Highway Patrol in 1971, working in the Southern California community of Van Nuys. In 1984 he was injured in a shootout during an enforcement stop, and while on administrative leave met Sierra boss Ken Williams via his wife Donna, a hair stylist who would occasionally cut Williams’ hair in a salon in Oakhurst. Williams was mulling over the idea of a Sierra adventure game about police work, and was looking for a consultant with real-world experience.

 

Working with Sierra, Walls would create the story for Police Quest: In Pursuit of the Death Angel, and go on to make two more games in the series, as well as the naval thriller Codename: Iceman, until leaving the company in 1991. His name would be replaced on the box by none less than former LAPD chief Daryl F. Gates in Police Quest: Open Season, released in 1993. That year Walls would consult for Tsunami Media, made up of mostly ex-Sierra people and founded by famed EA game producer Joe Ybarra (M.U.L.E., Bard’s Tale, et al.). There Walls would create Blue Force, another police procedural adventure game. He gets even more biographical with this one; the hero is Jake Ryan, motorcycle cop.

blue-force-1993

Blue Force by Tsunami, 1993

 

Subsequent to a couple of unsuccessful crowdfunding campaigns to launch a new IP in the vein of Police Quest titled Precinct, Walls settled into retirement. But his work on the Police Quest series, a beloved member of the Sierra adventure game most wanted, writes Jim Walls’ name into the blotter of video game history.

For more information of the history of Sierra, consult your local Dot Eaters entry.

This article was originally posted to TDE on Jul 30, 2015.

TRS-80 Color Computer, by Tandy

The Ad Game: Isaac Asimov, TRS-80 Computer Mouthpiece

Isaac Asimov.  He was one of the most influential writers of our time, having written the Foundation series, along with many other SF and non-fiction works, a list of which would be too exhaustive to repeat here. And not only was he a great writer, he could rock the mutton chops and also knew a good deal when he saw one:

Here’s another one:

Ad with science fiction author Isaac Asimov shilling for the Tandy TRS-80 Color Computer

“What a value!”, 1983

 

And…

Ad with science fiction author Isaac Asimov shilling for the Tandy TRS-80 Color Computer

Some practical advice from Isaac Asimov, 1982

 

Even as Tandy computer spokesperson, I have a feeling Mr. Asimov didn’t say all those things. Perhaps not a single one of them. It must be a weird thing for an ad copywriter to put words into the mouth of Isaac Asimov, but they give it the old college try in this campaign. “An exciting entertainer”?  “Just one of many fine computers from Radio Shack”? “During the day I might write about starships. At night, I blast ’em on my Color Computer”?!!! I also like the images of him holding the joystick like someone just plopped it into his hand,  a rictus grin forming on his face with the thought “What the f**k is this thing?”.

But still, you have to take it from Isaac. What a value!

source of first ad: knmoor, via his flickr stream

(This article was originally posted to The Dot Eaters on Feb. 2, 2013)

Sierra Explains Online Jargon and Emoticons on The Sierra Network

In 1991, Sierra was on the vanguard of online graphical virtual worlds, as The Sierra Network, initially devised by co-founder Ken Williams as a service for house-bound seniors called The Constant Companion, moved from test marketing to nationwide service.

Moving from simple parlour games like chess and backgammon to action games like Red Baron and The Shadow of YserbiusTSN also promised virtual “theme-parks” like SierraLand and LarryLand.

In addition, users could communicate with each other across live conference areas. To help new users parse the strange text they might be seeing online, in the Summer of 1992 Sierra-published magazine InterAction helpfully provided a guide to this arcane language:

A guide to jargon on The Sierra Network, an online virtual community

It’s life, Jim, but not as we know it

It’s interesting to see how online shorthand has evolved from the early days of virtual communities. For instance, <ROF,L>  The comma seems a bit superfluous if you’re trying to acronym something. And <G,D&R> for grinning, ducking and running. That’s waaaay too much work.

As for the emoticons, I have to say that (a smiling person wearing a striped necktie) and (Uncle Sam) are two amazing feats of engineering, but regular use for them in the vernacular is dubious. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Or so says a smiling Batman B-)

<ROF,L>