A screenshot from Dragon's Lair

Screenshot from Dragon's Lair

Dragon’s Lair and the Laser Game Craze - Daring Discs

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Starcom/Cinematronics 1983

Dragon's Lair arcade video game, with animation by Don Bluth

The Tick-Tock Man

U.S. arcade operators face a slump heading into 1983. After a decade of wild expansion, there are about 1,375,000 video game machines installed in over 10,000 locations, earning 87 percent of the coin-op industry’s total revenue of $8.9 billion. This seems good on the surface, but the influx of game makers is splitting up the pie, and average weekly takes by video games has plummeted 22 percent, down to $109 per machine. Operators are starting to tighten their belts and order fewer cabinets. Experts know that the coin-op video game business needs to innovate to survive.

Signage for 1001 Plays, a video game arcade in Boston

Signage for 1001 Plays, a video game arcade near Harvard in Cambridge, Mass., 1984

The apparent saviour of the arcades grows up as a born gearhead. While just a kid in California, Rick Dyer invents a cuckoo clock that not only talks the time, it spouts a plethora of famous quotes. Later he rigs his car with a computer which asks his dates by name their preferences of radio stations. When he becomes the first non-degreed engineer at Hughes Electronics, a prototype he makes of an electronic horse racing game catches the eye of toy giant Mattel. The company hires him as soon as he graduates from California Polytechnic University in Pomona. While with the company, Dyer designs some of the popular hand-held games coming out of Mattel in the 1970’s, and he also works on the company’s home console unit Intellivision. On the side, he also develops the AES system, which would use LCD screens in the back of airplane seats to entertain flyers. He then moves to Coleco, developing their arcade line of handheld versions of titles such as Pac-Man, Defender and Donkey Kong. He is also involved in the project that eventually becomes the ColecoVision. Forming his own company, Advanced Microcomputer Systems, in the late 70s he experiments with interactive movie concepts, initially drawing images on a roll of cash-register receipt paper. He then transfers these to a system using computer controlled filmstrips and then moves to a cassette-based set-up. Dyer ultimately turns to laserdisc technology as his storage medium, and in 1980 starts work on a system that will allow users to play games stored on disc, and will feature a keyboard for control along with understanding voice commands via a headset. Labeled Halcyon, after the ubiquitous HAL computer controlling the Discovery spaceship in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, the game unit will also be able to talk to gamers via voice synthesis. The game he intends the machine to play is Shadoan, a sword and sorcery epic inspired by the J.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings books and the original computer text game Adventure.

Arcade video game Dragon's Lair creators Rick Dyer and Don Bluth

Dragon’s Lair designer Rick Dyer at top, animation director Don Bluth at bottom

Disney Calling

It’s one of those neat cosmic quirks that Don Bluth was born the same year as the release of Walt Disney’s groundbreaking animated film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. When six-year-old Don sees the film, he knows he has found his calling. Born in 1937 in El Paso, Texas, Bluth grows up on a farm in Payson, Utah, south of Salt Lake City. He is seldom seen without a sketch pad and pencil in his hands, riding his horse into town and sitting in the movie theatre enthralled watching the latest Disney film. Never taking an art lesson, Bluth uses his pad to copy Disney characters from books and comics. The Bluth clan moves to Santa Monica, California, and when Don graduates from high school in 1955 he goes straight to Burbank and the Disney Studio with a portfolio under his arm. He starts at the company working under veteran Disney animator John Lounsberry on Sleeping Beauty as an “in-betweener”, someone who draws the frames between the key drawings made by the animator. He leaves to pursue a formal education at Brigham Young University as an English major but continues working summers at Disney. Upon graduation in 1967 he goes to work for cut-rate animation house Filmation Studios as a layout artist, rapidly moving to head of the department and staying there for four years. In 1971 he returns to Disney, moving with unprecedented speed up the ranks from animator to director in three years. His work there includes Robin Hood (1973), The Rescuers (1977) and Pete’s Dragon (1977). Bluth, however, begins to observe alarming similarities to Disney and the low-balling limited animation houses he has left behind. “Feature-length animated films became very formulaic, and tight scheduling made us take the kind of shortcuts you see on Saturday morning cartoons. We were just billboarding for characters and stuffed toys,” he tells the Chicago Tribune in 1984 about Disney Studios. “We were losing the subtle touches of Walt’s original vision – the contact shadows under the characters, backlighting and sparkles and reflections in water that made his early movies so magical.” As a reaction to this steady abandonment by Disney of their classic animation style, he and fellow animators John Pomeroy and Gary Goldman start work in Bluth’s garage in early 1975 on a short film, intended to revel in the classical style. Called Banjo, the Woodpile Cat, they work on it nights and weekends for four and a half years, and their crew steadily grows as other animators at Disney show interest in working in recapturing Disney’s lost glories. In 1979 Bluth uses the short to secure financing from a film investment company called Aurora Productions for a feature film idea, and on September 13 the trio leaves Disney to start their own production company called Don Bluth Animation. Following them, the next day are 11 other animators, dubbed “The Disney Defectors” by the press. The departure of Bluth and his team sets back the production of Disney’s The Fox and the Hound by six months. The 27-minute long Banjo is first shown in two movie theaters upon its completion in 1979, and it eventually airs as a TV special in 1980 on HBO, and again on ABC in 1982.

For the subject of their newly financed film, they enlist Robert O’Brien’s seminal children’s novel Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, which had been rejected as a possible movie project by Disney. Under the new title of The Secret of NIMH and with a 7 million dollar budget, the film details the trials and tribulations of the brave widowed mouse Mrs. Brisby. Her character’s name is changed from the book to avoid possible litigation with the company Wham-O, sellers of the Frisbee. In order to save her family from the treacherous farm tractor, she throws in with a gang of rats who have been genetically altered to gain human-like intelligence. The movie is released in 1982, and while it is a study in wondrous animation and classic storytelling, it is crushed by Steven Spielberg’s E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial juggernaut of that year, only earning a disappointing $10,140,325 over the summer season. Aurora backs out of the financing deal for Bluth’s next planned feature adapting the Scandinavian fairytale East of the Sun, West of the Moon, and he is left wondering if it is perhaps time to close the doors on his studio.

Rick Dyer, meanwhile, has realized that his Halcyon home laserdisc system is tech a bit before its time, so he spins off the technology into the arcade game format. Dyer, having seen Bluth’s NIMH, approaches the former Disney animator about doing the artwork in a new game for his laserdisc system. Bluth and company see a new opportunity to spread the gospel of their lavish animation style, as well as a client for their company, and agree to supply the visuals. While the project can’t really afford the animator’s high costs, Bluth accepts a deal where his company will gain 1/3 interest in a new company set up for the venture called Starcom, with Dyer owning another third. Cinematronics, pioneer of vector graphics technology in video games with their 1977 Space Wars, is looking to laser technology for a reprieve from their Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing in November of 1982. They sign a deal to manufacture and market the new game while making up the final third of the partnership. Since each partner must come up with the money for their part, Bluth and company seek out capital and find an investor willing to put up $300,000.

JUMP: Cinematronics and Space Wars

Exploring the Dragon’s Lair

In 1982, Gremlin/Sega preview their video game featuring laserdisc technology, titled Astron Belt, first surfacing at the November A.M.O.A. show in Chicago. It features live-action film footage rendered by a laserdisc, which the player interacts with by controlling a computer generated spaceship superimposed on the images. Seeing the game demo at AMOA, Dyer and his team know that the arcade is the best platform for their new laser system. They also agree with Sega’s billing of Astron Belt as the “laser disc video game of the future”; currently only at the early prototype stage. Sega itself admits that despite the game’s current success in Japan and Europe, gameplay isn’t quite up to snuff in comparison to current NA game releases. Problems such as the need for smoother transitions between scenes, and an upgrade to the player’s ship graphics are cited as needing work before the game hits NA arcades.  If Astron Belt gets a release in the West, according to Sega, it won’t be until “sometime in the next two years”. Neither Dragon’s Lair NOR Astron Belt would technically be the first video game based on laserdisc technology: that honour goes to horserace betting game Quarter Horsemade by Electro-Sport in 1981.

Dyer and his team rush back to the lab with renewed vigor, now knowing that they have entered into a race with Sega to bring their own laserdisc video game technology to market. Meanwhile, the Bluth Group is busy completing the animation for what is now known as Dragon’s Lair. Spinning off a tale from its Shadoan roots, head writer, and designer Victor Penman, along with Darlene Waddington and Marty Folger, pen a story to chronicle the struggles of the valiant, but rather clumsy, knight Dirk the Daring. His quest is to infiltrate a castle magically enchanted by evil wizard Mordread and rescue the fair Princess Daphne, guarded by fire-breathing dragon Singe. Reading the title, one wonders if perhaps the creators were also inspired by the 1981 fantasy film Dragonslayer, starring Peter MacNicol and Ralph Richardson.

At any of the over 1000 decision points in the Dragon’s Lair storyline, the player must use either the joystick or the sword button to direct the on-screen Dirk to make a move. If it’s the correct one, the laserdisc continues with the scene. If it’s the wrong one, the laserdisc jumps to a new track, a death scene is displayed and the player loses a life. The gang at Bluth Group, with a staff of 70, logs hundreds of unpaid hours of overtime to complete the animation, a process that takes six months. Nearly filling the 54,000 frame, 30 min capacity of a single-sided laserdisc, Dragon’s Lair consists of a total of 22 minutes of animation or 50,000 drawings. Played straight through without making a mistake, playing time is a total of eight minutes. Each second of screen time takes 24 hand-painted cells, a number higher than the industry standard, and the total cost of the animation makes up 1.3 million dollars of the $3 million total budget for Dragon’s Lair. Although there are 38 different rooms in Singe’s castle, the player only has to survive 18 of them to win. To keep the game from becoming too repetitive, the system cycles randomly through the pool of rooms. Keeping costs down rules out professional voice acting; talent is culled from the staff. Dirk himself is practically mute, save for his occasional grunts of effort, Homer Simpsonish yelps, or screams of anguish during the numerous and frequently gruesome death scenes. His exultations are provided by assistant editor Dan Molina, and clean-up animator Vera Lanpher is the breathy voice of Daphne. Her speech bears more than a passing resemblance to Marilyn Monroe, and her body shape and ‘assets’ are taken from the pages of Playboy. Chris Stone is responsible for the brief musical stings and bridges in the game.

A Fiery Reception

A prototype version is shown at the spring 1983 AOE show in Chicago, creating a large buzz around the game from operators. What’s not well-known is that the project is in trouble. So far having pumped $600,000 into creating animation that is indeed lush, Bluth is alarmed to discover that on the technical side, the game play is just not there. Utilizing his filmmaking and narrative skills, he ensconces himself in the lab with Dyer’s team and they redesign the game in about four days, emerging with something closely resembling what ends up in the arcades. Financial disaster continues to loom over the project until Eric Bromley, VP in charge of R&D at video game company Coleco, shows up at their door in April, having seen the prototype footage. His company has a laserdisc add-on planned for their immensely popular ColecoVision home game console, and, possibly sensing another huge system-seller like they had in Donkey Kong, licenses the home game rights to Dragon’s Lair for $2 million, along with first right of refusal on any future games from Starcom. With Coleco paying half of that fee upfront, thusly does Bluth and Starcom get the money to finish the game. Bromley further contributes to Dragon’s Lair by offering further instruction on game design.

Excited arcade operators, sensing a game that might be the solution for their sagging collections income, finally get their chance to purchase it when Dragon’s Lair starts arriving in quantity to distributors just after July 1. Cinematronics manufactures and markets the game, and by doing so phase out the vector game division on which they built their fortune. Since the units cost on average an unprecedented 4,300 dollars each, twice the cost of a conventional cabinet, it comes factory-set to cost 50 cents a play. It is NOT, however, the first game to be set to cost 50 cents per single play by the manufacturer. In 1980, Atari had set Missile Command to cost two quarters by default when shipped from the factory. Explaining the reasoning behind this price increase, at the time Director of Marketing Frank Ballouz said, “50 cent play has been needed by the industry for some time to help offset the rising cost of manufacturing and to help increase location revenues…” Operators, however, quickly realized they weren’t going to get away with charging that much at the time and reverted the machines back to 25 cent play. On Dragon Lair‘s release, I remember being incensed by the increase to 50 cents a play; in a decade or so, among games costing $1.00 or more, I’ll be thinking back to how good I had it at 50 cents.

The game is the first arcade system with filmed, animated action, but it is barely interactive. While the compelling attract mode lures passersby with the promise of the ability to “control the actions of a daring adventurer”, a player can merely decide at certain moments when and in which of four directions Dirk should move or use his sword. But despite the price hike and the lack of deep interaction, Dragon’s Lair causes a sensation in the arcades. No one can certainly complain about its rich, beautifully drawn images, harkening back to the classical animation days of yore. At its peak, Dragon’s Lair brings in on average around $1400 a week, compared to an average of about $200 or so per week for a hit conventional game at the time. After being installed in Bally’s Aladdin’s Castle arcade locations, in the first month, the game increases general revenues by 33%. In the first eight months of its release to arcades generally, the game grosses 32 million dollars worth of sales. Cinematronics gets 2,000 units out the door initially and then struggles to meet demand as orders head north of 8,000. Production of Dragon’s Lair cabinets is unfortunately capped due to the scarcity of the laserdisc players employed in their construction (see below). Still, Cinematronics sells ten thousand cabinets within the first three months of release. In the arcades, huge crowds gather around the machines, causing operators to install additional monitors on top of them to appease the thronging masses of players vying for a look. According to Don Bluth, one operator in Berkeley goes so far as to install seating akin to a movie theatre around the game and a red velvet carpet leading up the cabinet with a monitor on top, creating a cheering section for the gamer currently at the controls. Overall, the game is said to have increased arcade revenue across the board by 40 percent. Starcom eventually sells 43 million dollars worth of systems.

Dragon’s Lair also makes the biggest inroads into popular culture since the Pac-Man bonanza. Lunch boxes, board games, books, trading cards, and a moat-load of other merchandise hits the streets. Perhaps best cementing its status as an early 80’s icon, ABC’s cheese-fest human interest show That’s Incredible! features Dragon’s Lair in an on-air contest between champion players. It makes another TV appearance as a permanent prop on NBC’s popular sitcom Silver Spoons, debuting in September 1983. Featuring Ricky Schroder as a young kid who moves in with his rich father, seeing his Dragon’s Lair (along with Asteroids, Tempest and Gorf) sitting in the background unused drives me crazy with jealousy. The game goes on to receive the San Diego-based comic convention ComicCon’s Inkpot Award for the First Interactive Laser Disc Arcade Game, as well as an Arkie Award from Electronic Games magazine for Best Arcade Audio/Visuals. It’s also profiled in an all-Dragon’s Lair episode of the videogame TV show Starcade. The game also sparks a debate along the lines of “Why is the Mona Lisa smiling?”, as people wonder what Daphne whispers in Dirk’s ear to elicit such a reaction at the end of the game.

Dragon's Lair, Starcom/Cinematronics 1983

Is that a sword in your sheath or you just happy to see me?

The Record Skips

But even as the game becomes a cultural phenomenon it is apparent there are problems, both technical and conceptual. The first Dragon’s Lair games contain the Pioneer PR-7820, one of the first lines of laserdisc players, released in 1979. They are notoriously unreliable and unsuited for the rough-and-tumble environment of the video arcade. Pioneer produced 25,000 of the units, with a majority of them ending up in every GM auto dealership in the U.S., used for training mechanics and demonstrating their 1980 model lineup. 5,000 disc players are purchased by Cinematronics, and another 5,000 used for parts since the 7820 has been discontinued by the company. The units had been gathering dust in a warehouse until Dragon’s Lair takes off, creating a huge demand for them. They are eventually replaced by LD-V1000 players from Pioneer, first introduced to the market in 1983, which are more reliable but still skittish. The nature of Dragon’s Lair is inherently frustrating to players learning the ropes (literally and figuratively), relying on split-second timing and sometimes obscure on-screen clues on what to do. Therefore, when a player protests a seemingly correct move ending in one of many death scenes, a swift kick or jostle of the game easily knocks the disc player out of alignment, rendering the game inoperable until it is repaired. Thus, many Dragon’s Lair cabinets spend more time with “Out of Order” signs taped to their faces than actually working. When the game IS operating, it does suck up many a player’s quarters, but critics point out that its gameplay sucks as well. While it tends to happen between scenes and not in the middle of crucial moves, there is an annoying 2-second blackout while the scanning heads of the player find the next track, breaking the flow of the story. As well, the game is highly repetitive, extending the length of play by simply reversing the image of many rooms. Gameplay relies on rote memorization of the patterns and sheer reflexive movements of the joystick and button, keeping the player on a “rail” from which they cannot deviate. This also leads to the game’s problem with “coin drop”. Once someone knows all of the moves necessary to play, they can tie up the machine for all the time it takes to play through to the end. Thus is anyone else prevented from dropping in their two bits, limiting the number of players and infuriating arcade owners. Despite these issues with Dragon’s Lair, the AMOA arcade operators show in late October 1983 is afire with the laserdisc games of other manufacturers who, you guessed it, have swarmed out of the woodwork with their own takes on a massively successful game. In a rabid race for a slice of the pie, game companies will again valiantly smite a trend with over-production.

Ace In the Hole

As the plan is for Starcom to make a new animated laserdisc game every three months for distributors to upgrade their previous cabinets into, the animation for the official Dragon’s Lair follow-up is started even before Dragon’s Lair is released to the arcades. With an animation budget increased to $1.8 million and an overall price tag for design at $2.5 million, the new game has a working title of Space Nerd. This slightly pejorative label is eventually zapped, with the title becoming Space Age….and then finally Space Ace to reflect one of the main characters of the story. Written by Shannon Donnelly, it details the exploits of the dashing, heroic title character who’s girlfriend Kimberly is kidnapped by the evil Commander Borf. Wielding the diabolical Infanto-ray, Borf zaps Ace into the nerdy Dexter and is threatening to turn everyone on Earth into squealing ankle-biters. Dexter must race to save the girl and the planet before Borf infantizes the universe. I guess Space Age would have worked as a title, too! As well as a new story, along with actual running dialog between the characters, the game also incorporates some new design concepts over Dragon’s Lair. There are three different skill levels available to players: Space Cadet, Space Captain or Space Ace. Playing Cadet level, gamers miss about half of the animation in the game, while playing Ace covers the whole story. In addition, while Dexter is the main hero, at certain points in the story the energizer button on the game’s control panel will flash, allowing the player to transform Dex into the muscle-bound Space Ace and complete the scene as him, turning back into Dexter at the end of the sequence. This branching option not only increases the total amount of animation to fourteen minutes, it also helps to give the player a sense that they have more control over what is happening in the game.

Dexter, a character from the arcade video game Dragon's Lair, by Don Bluth

Reference sketch for Dexter, nerdy hero of ‘Space Ace’

During the creation of the animation, actual models are built of Dexter’s spaceship StarPac and Ace’s Space Cycle, which are then filmed using a periscope camera and then traced into the hand-drawn cells to be recoloured. This process, known as rotoscoping, is done to aid animators with aspects of perspective and depth. Some of the voices are again done by staff members, including the processed voice of Don Bluth as the nasty Borf. There are, however, some other great strides in the area of audio: Space Ace has 35 separate tracks for sound effects, compared to only 14 in Dragon’s Lair. Chris Stone returns to compose a complete musical score for the game, featuring three separate tracks for music.

Changing With the Times, Dragon’s Lair Artist Don Bluth Sketches Kimberly Kicking Some Ass Instead of Standing By for Rescue

When it comes to gameplay, things are much more frenetic, with more moves placed closer together during a scene. However, there are also more flashing light cues to alert the player to the required moves. With Dyer’s company now known as RDI Video Systems, they refine the technology, allowing Space Ace to access information on the laserdisc 50% faster than its predecessor. But as in Dragon’s Lair, the action still offers only limited interaction for the player, as well as numerous scenes repeated in reverse mode. Hoping to defer the hefty cost of the Dragon’s Lair units, arcade owners are assured that any sequels to the game would be available as upgrade kits, allowing them to avoid the cost of purchasing a whole new game. This includes a free replacement of the older laserdisc players with new and improved units. Space Ace is demonstrated at the October 1983 AMOA show in New Orleans, and it is there that Coleco exercises its first-refusal rights by picking up the home rights to the new game. By the time Space Ace is released late in 1983 by a newly renamed Magicom following the final bankruptcy of Cinematronics, the laser game fad is already losing steam. Space Ace blasts off quickly with 1500 units sold in its first week of release, but the cabinet ultimately sells only $13 million worth across its short lifetime. This despite Magicom’s aggressive merchandising campaign waged at a cost of around $100,000, featuring items such as press books, posters to hang up in arcades, and even flip books to demonstrate some animation from the game.

Astron Belted

After its demonstrations at the AMOA in 1982, Sega decides that the technology in its revolutionary Astron Belt still needs work, and the game heads back to the drawing board even as its conception inspires a craze in laser games in the arcades. It is released in Japan and Europe mid-way through 1983, and when the U.S. arcade division of Sega is bought by Bally/Midway the new owners keep fine-tuning the system, with versions being previewed at The Yellow Brick Road Arcade in San Diego. It is re-introduced at the 1983 AMOA show in October, and subsequently released to U.S. arcades. It offers more playability by letting the player freely control a computer-generated spaceship from a chase view, superimposed on top of a filmed playfield. It must do battle against charging spaceships while soaring through space, across an alien landscape and through the tight metal corridors of a mother ship. While the attacking ships are on film, their laser fire is computer generated. A timer can be set by the operator to allow players between 40-60 seconds of indestructibility, past which they will start losing lives.

Gameplay video of Astron Belt,Laserdisc Game by Sega 1983

The video for Astron Belt is culled from a combination of films, primarily from the Japanese science fiction movie Message From Space from prolific Toei Studios, probably most famous for their campy Godzilla flicks. Released in 1978, Message features American actor Vic Morrow and is a thinly veiled ripoff of Star Wars, which hit theatres only a year earlier. Both Message and another movie whom Astron Belt borrows footage from, the low-budget Roger Corman SF quickie Battle Beyond the Stars, details the exploits of eight intergalactic mercenaries trying to defend a planet. Both movies, along with Star Wars, liberally cribbed their plots from Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai. A TV series based on Message is produced by Toei, seen in America under the name Swords of the Space Ark. Yet even more footage is taken from the startling “Genesis Effect” CGI sequence in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. A nice bit of media symmetry, as the Star Trek films are released by Paramount Pictures, the sister company to Sega, all under the Gulf + Western banner. Additional images are also created specifically for the game. Absent are the nagging blackouts from other laser-based games, but the refined technology comes at a cost: the game misses most of the Dragon’s Lair-fueled boom in the arcades. Sega Japan releases a laserdisc replacement for Astron Belt, called Star Blazer, but this fails to reignite the laser game explosion. Using even more footage from Message From Space, along with some created for the game, Bally/Midway releases similar film-shooter Galaxy Ranger in 1984. It offers the innovation of allowing players to choose which path to fly at certain points in the action during the game. On the hardware front, the sit-down version of Astron Belt features the “vibraseat” force-feedback system.

Clip from Wrath of Khan, Featuring Effects and CGI Used in Astron Belt

Ahhhh, MACH…

Laser games rapidly split into two factions: limited decision animated stories, and video footage shooting games. Gottlieb, formerly known as D. Gottlieb & Company, makes a big addition to the latter genre. Owned by Columbia Pictures, they are yet another Chicago area pinball giant that entered the video game market with their 1980 top-down tank game No Man’s Land. Located in Northlake, Illinois, they change their name to Mylstar Electronics on July 3, 1983. Their M.A.C.H. 3. plays similar to Sega’s Astron Belt, but instead of cheesy movie visuals, MACH or Military Air Command Hunter features professionally shot aerial photography with the player’s computer-generated jet aircraft superimposed. After inserting their 50 cents, gamers have the choice to face off against enemy planes and ground targets in Fighter Raid mode or to fly at high altitude over aerial targets in Bombing Run. Using an elaborate flight stick, they can fire a machine gun at the targets as well as launch missiles as they infiltrate enemy areas. Targets to be destroyed are computer-generated icons surrounded by a yellow box, including ground positions that keep their place on the landscape as the player soars around it. The fighter sequences are generally low-flying affairs as the player must avoid the scenery while blowing up ground targets and shooting oncoming enemy planes and missiles. Taking the other choice, the bomber drops its payload on ground targets and destroys enemy fighters with its machine gun fire. Players are warned of approaching planes by a red warning signal at the top of the screen. Since the enemy country seems to have had some kind of nuclear mishap, the game later provides radioactive clouds for players to avoid. If they can survive till the end, the game takes 15 minutes to complete with a finale runway landing. All of the footage is filmed by a special aerobatic plane with cameras in its nose and belly. After over eighteen months of development, M.A.C.H. 3 is released to arcades in October of 1983. Available in a sit-down cockpit and stand-up version, Mylstar’s laser game is a popular hit and is rated the #1 Player’s Choice in RePlay magazine.

Gameplay Video of M.A.C.H. 3, a Laserdisc Arcade Game by Mylstar

Brief Cut-Scene from Laserdisc Game Us. vs. Them, by Mylstar 1984

“…to develop a laser game that would replicate the feel of a 1950’s martian movie.”

A year before M.A.C.H. 3 comes out in 1983, Gottlieb enjoyed a big hit with its “conventional” arcade game Q*bert, featuring a furry, big-nosed creature jumping through an M.C. Escher inspired playfield turning tiles different colours while being chased by a coiled snake. The lead designer of the game is Warren Davis, and he is tapped early on for a project to produce a MACH sequel that will be available as a conversion kit for the original. It is the idea of Dennis Nordman, who goes on to Williams/Bally/Midway to design pinball games (Blackwater 1000, Party Zone, Whitewater, Indy 500, Dr. Dude, Demolition Man, Elvira and the Party Monsters and Scared Stiff), to develop a laser game that would replicate the feel of a 1950’s Martian movie. He writes a script around the premise with Gottlieb art director Rich Tracy and with the project titled Us Vs. Them the team begins to put together the footage. The story deals, as one can surmise from the title, with aliens attacking Earth. From a central command, military leaders send out pilots to fight the invaders from multiple points around the world. Utilizing the unique process of showing multiple views during a battle, the skirmishes take place in such locations as over the skyline of Chicago (home of Gottlieb), a desert, a forest, and a final showdown in the alien Mothership. The hook in this laser game is that players are subjected to four different views of the action, including a profile view as well as a chase camera behind their fighter.

While the game does wonders with the laserdisc shooter genre, by the time Us. Vs. Them is released, the laser game market is beginning to tarnish.

A production company shoots all of the outdoor photography excluding the Chicago footage, using planes and helicopters. Nordman and Davis personally supervise the Chicago shoot, with a Steadicam operator hanging out of a helicopter during a brisk, -26F degree Chicago day. They also are present during a shoot in a forest in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Inspired by the Endor forest scenes in Return of the Jedi, the footage is taken as the Steadicam operator moves through the dense trees. Sets are built in Chicago for between-wave cinematics taking place inside the control room and in the fighter cockpits, with Davis acting as co-director. A music soundtrack is composed by Gottlieb’s in-house sound designer Dave Zabriskie, who conducts an orchestra for the score. Davis programs the game, as well as edits the footage together. Jeff Lee creates the computer overlay graphics of the player’s fighter and enemy ships, and Dave Thiel does the sound; both had worked with Davis on Q*bert. While the game does wonders with the laserdisc shooter genre, by the time Us. Vs. Them is released, the laser game market is beginning to tarnish. Orders for M.A.C.H. 3 dwindle, reducing the market for its sequel, and Gottlieb enters into a lawsuit against its distributors. Us Vs. Them is eventually released in 1984 but never has a chance to succeed. Felled by expenditures and the lacklustre sales of Us. Vs. Them, Mylstar closes the doors of its Northlake, Illinois factory for the last time on September 30, 1984. Its microprocessor-based graphic and video technologies, along with all M.A.C.H. 3 tech and IP, end up purchased by JVW Electronics, Inc., a company founded by former Mylstar people.

Warren Davis goes on to create another unusual game, published as the only video game by the company that had purchased the remains of the pinball section of Mylstar, Premiere Technology. Titled Exterminator, it is released in 1989. Concerning a bug exterminator trying to rid houses of pesky insects and the like, it is the first game that incorporates digitized images for all of the game graphics. The only part of the exterminator shown is his disembodied hand, as he tries to shake, slap, and pound the critters, along with shooting lethal purple bug juice from his finger. The game might feature an inscrutable control scheme, but it certainly does ooze originality and creativity. Unfortunately, it also bombs, with only 250 units produced for the arcades.

Leaping Lupin

One of the many animated laser game contenders is Cliff Hanger, licensed by Stern Electronics from Taito in 1983 and released in North America in early October. It tells the story of Cliff Hanger, a master cat burglar. In a resoundingly familiar plotline, Princess Clarissa is kidnapped by the evil Count Drago, and our hero must blah blah blah…. But wait! Our “hero” is actually using an alias! His real name is Lupin III, star of an immensely popular anime movie and TV series in Japan. Starting as a manga comic series in the late 60s by Katou Kazuhiko a.k.a. Monkey Punch, it is then developed into a TV series by Tokyo Movie Shinsha Co in 1971. Lupin’s first appearance as a video game comes with Taito’s Lupin III, released in Japan in 1980. He also makes a rather abstract appearance in Data East’s 1981 game Lock ‘n’ Chase. In his laser incarnation, he is accompanied by his longtime companions: Jigen, Goeman, and Fujiko. The animation for Cliff Hanger comes mainly from 1979 Lupin film The Castle of Cagliostro, with additional footage from 1978’s The Mystery of Mamo. The dialog for the game is changed in the English dubbing, turning Lupin into the daring Cliff. While it may not have a particularly original storyline, it does offer a new way of playing: the control panel contains a joystick and two buttons. One to control Lup…er, I mean CLIFF’s hands and the other his legs. When the action on screen requires it, players must hit the correct button to perform the needed move. The graphics may not be quite on par with Dragon’s Lair, but this is still a nice indoctrination into Japanese Anime which at the time of the game’s release is rare to find in America. Available to operators is a dip switch inside the cabinet to allow on-screen textual advice on the correct move (You should have gone right) given when players make a mistake. And there is also another alteration made available for the game soon after its release. If the player fails in his mission and loses a life, a scene is shown of Cliff being hanged from a gallows. Cliff. Hanged. Cliff Hanger. Funny, no? Watchdog groups are not amused and a dip-switch setting is made available to skip the neck-stretching. Another child safeguard is designed into the game, although this one probably inadvertently: a scene with Cliff fighting a band of Ninjas is so incredibly difficult, with a rash of moves jumbled on top of each other in rapid-fire sequence, it prevents most kids from making it to the end and seeing what has to be one of the most gruesome finales in video game history. Only 550 machines are sold by Stern, and the game quickly drops off arcade radar screens. This helps to make Cliff Hanger one of the most sought-after and highly priced arcade game collectibles in later years.

Still from Cliff Hanger, an arcade laserdisc video game by Taito/Stern Electronics 1983

Cliff Hanged

Further Into the Lair

When the Space Ace animation is completed, Bluth Group starts right in on the Dragon’s Lair sequel, Dragon’s Lair II: Time Warp. Sporting an animation budget of 2.3 million, the story has Dirk and Daphne married with 13 kids, and Daph is unsurprisingly kidnapped by Dirk’s old nemesis Mordred. This requires our man in tights to use a time machine and chase the old crone through famous periods in time. Highlighted are even more graphic death scenes than the original. But as the market for the game collapses Cinematronics pulls the plug with a heartbreaking 80% of the animation work finished. Determined to see the game’s release, Bluth continues to work on the project. After meeting Morris Sullivan, a dealer in classical animation, they form Sullivan Bluth Interactive Media, and under that development label, the game is eventually released to arcades by Leland Corporation, the company that ends up purchasing the remains of Cinematronics, in 1992. Also released is a conversion kit to put the new game into Space Ace cabinets, but the laser days are long gone and the game sinks amid a myriad of Street Fighter clones. In 1984 Bluth gets the rights to make a Dragon’s Lair movie, and a prequel script is written to chronicle the events of how a teenage Dirk and Daphne meet. Called Dragon’s Lair: The Legend, the subject matter is much darker than the game, and this combined with the fact that studios are skittish about the rapid demise of the laser market creates an acute lack of financing for Bluth and company. The creative team themselves are split as to whether the best medium for a DL movie is live-action or animation.

Leland Corporation ad for Dragon's Lair II arcade video game

Leland Corp. exposes Dickensian England to a picture box full of black magic, 1991

Both Dragon’s Lair and Space Ace do make it out of game cabinets and into living rooms in TV cartoon versions done by cut-rate animation house Ruby-Spears. Dragon’s Lair lasts one season on ABC between 1984-85, featuring Dirk’s repeated rescuing of Daphne from the clawed clutches of Cinge (note the name change). Aping the game on which it is based, the show pauses the action occasionally, offering the audience a chance to make a hypothetical decision on what Dirk should do next. The various possible ramifications are then played out (usually after a commercial break), some of which lead to the hero’s demise. In true Wile E. Coyote fashion, however, Dirk would soon appear unmolested as the correct choice is portrayed. In 1984, the cartoon Space Ace airs as part of CBS’s Saturday morning toon show Saturday Supercade, produced by Ruby Spears. with Ace’s segment replacing Pitfall Harry who apparently falls into the blackened pit of the home video game crash. Kimberly is voiced by Nancy Cartwright, who also does voices for NBC toon shows Snorks and Pound Puppies before ending up as the voice of Bart on the long-running The Simpsons on Fox. Saturday Supercade itself gets zapped off the air in August of 1985. Sea Beast and Barnacle Bill is another laser game concept created by Bluth Group, in 1984. While Bluth, Goldman, and company float improvements to the technology like even more advanced graphics, a two-player mode, and full character control, the new Barnacle Bill IP ends up shelved along with Dragon’s Lair: Legend after Bluth and company move back into theatrical animation and accept Steven Spielberg’s offer to do the animation for the more traditional An American Tail, released to theatres in 1986.

Thayer’s Key(board)

While Bluth and company move out of video games, Dyer and RDI remain, producing another arcade animated laser game called Thayer’s Quest in 1984, offered as a conversion kit for Dragon’s Lair and Space Ace cabinets. Utilizing a version of Dyer’s Halcyon home laserdisc game project (see below), the game mechanics are truly unlike anything seen in the arcades before. Instead of a joystick and buttons, the game features a membrane keyboard for players to input their actions. It is the first realization of Dyer’s long obsession with the Shadoan project that spun off Dragon’s Lair. Taking place 1000 years in the past, the five kingdoms of Weigard, Illes, Iscar, the Far Reaches and Shadoan live in peace under the auspices of the benevolent Elder leaders. But throwing in with the dark forces of Shadoan is the evil wizard Sorsabal, who overruns the five kingdoms and destroys the Elders. Realizing their approaching demise, the Elders preserve their power by breaking up the Hand of Quoid (pronounced kwode), a powerful amulet that is the source of all magic in the kingdom. Each of the five amulet relics is hidden in each land. The player assumes the role of Thayer Alconred, last in the bloodline of the Elders, in his quest to reunite both the amulet and his fallen homeland. The game, however, contains only three of the five lands: Weigard, Illes and Iscar. Thayer’s Quest is a remarkable attempt at recreating the feel of a role-playing game in arcade game form. During his travels, Thayer finds various magic items that are all listed on the keyboard, and players must realize where and when to use each item. When gamers first start the game, they are given an opportunity to enter their first and last name on the keyboard. When they are finished a voice synthesizer says their name, and if people are unhappy with the pronunciation they are allowed to try another spelling to improve how it sounds. The player is then called by name throughout the game. The various items retrieved by Thayer are stored on his person, and players can look at them through an inventory review system. Other features include such innovations in the laser game field are multiple points in the game where Thayer can heal himself, and even a save game system. When players lose one of their lives, they are resurrected at a point near when they died. When they lose their last life, the game ends and saves their game. With the game’s ability to save up to ten games, the player is able to continue if he is one of the last ten people to play. If they make it to the end, the game promises that the story will continue on a second disc, which unfortunately never materializes.

Gameplay video of Thayer’s Quest, a laserdisc arcade game from RDI, 1984

Halcyon Days

Dyer’s moonshot home laserdisc video game console Halcyon is eventually declared ready for primetime. As well as a game machine, Dyer promises that like its namesake Halcyon will eventually have the ability run an entire household through various modules to be released. Not only will the unit be revolutionary in its laserdisc technology, it will also be controlled by voice-recognition technology. After the user dons a headset and orients their voice with the unit, they can call out commands and items during the game to input their actions. Halcyon also has a vocabulary of over 1000 synthesized words. Nearly $2 million in R&D costs has been sunk into the system’s development. The console is to be bundled with a home version of Thayer’s Quest, a double-sided disc as opposed to its arcade counterpart’s single-sided platter, containing much more animation than the original. It also sports a musical soundtrack provided by The Turtles, aka Flo and Eddie, aka Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan. They hit it big with the smash single Happy Together in 1967. Their music for Thayer is recorded with a 360 Systems Digital Synthesizer, which allows real musical instruments to be loaded and played on the keyboard. The other game readied for Halcyon‘s release is called NFL Football, utilizing footage from a Dallas/Redskins game.

JUMP: Playlist of Halcyon game trailers, YouTube

Premiering at the 1984 Summer CES in Chicago, units are finally shipped in very limited quantities early in 1985. Due to the high-technology on display, Halcyon carries the daunting retail price of US$ 2500. Some amazing new laserdisc games are demonstrated along with the system, including the mythical Greek tale of Orpheus, SF story Shadow of the Stars, creepy live-action horror game Spirit of Whittier Mansion, and the 17th-century adventure game Voyage to the New World. Unfortunately, the high sticker price and sagging market sink this promising system along with the planned games.

1984 flyer for the Halcyon Home Laserdisc video game system, from RDI Video Systems

1984 flyer for the Halcyon Home Laserdisc video game system, from RDI Video Systems

Star Rider, an arcade video game by Williams

Star Rider, Williams’ late entry in the laserdisc race, crashed and burned in arcades, 1983.

Gunned Down

And so it goes with every entry into the laser game sweepstakes of the 80s. What started as the future of arcading is rapidly buried by lack of interaction, technical problems, and the inherent failure of full-motion video to provide a singularly compelling videogaming experience. Other attempts include Konami/Centuri’s Badlands (1984), Data East’s Bega’s Battle (1983) and Cobra Command (1984), Simutrek’s Cube Quest (1984), Stern Electronics’ Goal to Go (1983), Taito’s Laser-Grand Prix (1983), Universal’s Super Don Quixote (1984), and Williams’ Star Rider (1984)

Video of all the ways Buck can die in Konami’s Badlands laserdisc arcade game

1983 flyer for Star Rider, an arcade laser video game by Williams

Williams laser game Star Rider, 1984

 Crazy Like a Firefox

Firefox, a laserdisc video game by Atari, 1984

Anon. pilot gives the thumbs up to Atari’s laserdisc game ‘Firefox’, 1984 promo image

Industry leader Atari gives the laser game genre a go with Firefox, a tie-in with the 1982 Clint Eastwood action movie of the same name, made by Warner Bros. The gravelly-voiced tough guy Eastwood seems like he’d be a tough nut to crack to help make a video game.  However, according to Atari’s coin-op division marketing head Don Osborne, turns out Dirty Harry and nameless gunfighters from numberless westerns is a huge fan of video games, playing pretty much every product Atari ever put out. The company’s Firefox arcade game charges players to steal an advanced supersonic fighter jet from the Russians and bring it home to Mother One base in the Arctic. The game features edited movie visuals culled from hours of footage, some unseen in the finished film, with the total footage equaling at least 12 minutes of play time. Atari’s laser game also sports 28 digitized dialog phrases from Eastwood, including extra lines recorded by the actor, and a specially created music soundtrack all presented in stereo sound. Similar to M.A.C.H. 3, Firefox has players swooping over filmed landscapes while shooting at computer generated targets, although Atari’s game adds the ability to change altitude at certain points, taking to the open skies to conserve fuel and shake off radar detection or stay low to the ground for better cover. In the harder escape paths available to players during the level selection screen offering four different routes, day turns to night and pilots must rely on their display to control the craft. A new laser disc player co-designed by North American Philips and Atari provides quick access to the data on the disc, eliminating the “blanking” that has plagued other games of the genre. Firefox has another ace up its sleeve as well, in the form of the same solid-feeling flight yolk used in Atari’s classic vector shooter Star Wars.

Dubbed a LASERVIDEO product, Firefox‘s cockpit cabinet makes its debut at the October 1983 AMOA show in New Orleans, but only the cabinet. No game is running inside it, due to what VP of Marketing Don Osborne explains as “technical difficulties”, and trade paper Cash Box describing in more detail as “problems with the disc software”. Despite frantic efforts to get the game running, including flying the “master disc” in by private Lear jet from Grass Valley, the game remains grounded for the entire show. Firefox finally does take off, beginning shipping to arcades in early February of 1984. Atari struts its stuff on March 15, holding a press conference officially introducing the game. Covered by major press outlets, present at the gathering are co-designers Mike Hally and Moe Shore, who explain the technology behind their creation. Then Firefox movie star Clint Eastwood takes the stage and puts the game through its paces. Atari also utilizes the same promotional techniques they had with the Star Wars vector game in 1983, creating video promo packages that news outlets can edit into their nightly broadcasts, and thereby get priceless free promotion for their product. Atari also states at the presser for Firefox that they plan on releasing around four more laserdisc games by the end of 1984… a highly optimistic forecast, with hindsight on the fate of laser games being 2020.

Fallout from Dragon’s Lair

While Dragon’s Lair had been a massive hit, gamers rapidly tire of the limited gameplay offered by it and the influx of all these other laser games following in its wake. Coin-op video game sales are cut in half from one billion in sales the previous year to $500 million in 1983. Perceived by the trade as the knight in shining live-video armour riding in to save their profits, laser games as a subgenre of video games have completely dropped off the radar by 1985. At the height of the craze, both Atari and Coleco plan to release laserdisc add-ons to their systems, which never make it off the drawing boards. The genre enjoys a brief renaissance in the arcades during the early 90s with new laser shooting games, created by a company called American Laser Games, founded in the late 80’s by Robert Grebe. It is spun off from original company I.C.A.T., makers of situational trainers for police officers. The Last Bounty Hunter, Crime Patrol, Crime Patrol 2: The Drug Wars, Fast Draw, Gallagher’s Gallery, Mad Dog McCree, Mad Dog McCree II: The Lost Gold, Space Pirates, and Who Shot Johnny Rock? are all produced by the company. The system revolves around an Amiga 500 computer, providing for easy superimposition of video graphics like scores and hit squibs.

The company releases their first fully computer graphics game in 1994, called Orbatak, with players controlling rolling orbs across multiple playfields using a trackball. Hoping to attract more of the female segment of video game players, ALG moves to cater to that relatively untapped demographic with a new division called Games for Her Interactive in May of 1995. Their first product is released the same year, an FMV dating sim titled McKenzie & Co. Meeting with success, Her Interactive is spun off from ALG, and would eventually buy out their former mother company. They would find future success in a line of Nancy Drew adventure/mystery games.

JUMP: Full Motion Vidiots have fun with ALG’s Space Pirates, YouTube

Rick Dyer himself comes back to the FMV stage in 1991, in a bid to revolutionize arcade games again, with Sega’s release of “holographic” arcade game Time Traveler. The game features display technology first introduced as a tech demo at the March 1991 American Coin Machine Exposition (ACME), as well as the Summer CES that year. The unique display process is called MicroTheatre by its developer, With Design in Mind. The system uses images that are transmitted via laserdisc to a monitor and reflected off a black concave mirror inside the cabinet, images that then appear “holographic” in pseudo-3D on a stage above the mirror. The result of a $2 million budget just in its research and development, this imaging technology paired with a Time Traveler FMV game created by Dyer’s company is unveiled by Sega as a full-fledged arcade game at their distributors meeting in June 0f 1991. In it, players control the actions of old-west Marshal Gram in his quest to…do you see it coming?…rescue the Princess Kyi-La who has been kidnapped by some evil timelord. All of the action takes place on a surreal, sparsely decorated set with a black background. Along with some player input as to what paths to take in the story, a full playthrough of Time Traveler covers 20 random scenes out of a pool of a possible 60. As players progress, the amount of time given to make correct decisions is reduced. As a hidden bonus, if someone holds down both the player one and player two select buttons and presses down on the joystick during the attract mode, they can watch Dyer cavorting around the stage with his young son on his shoulders.

While Time Traveler certainly offers an interesting visual effect, the gameplay is still “on a rail” and the sets and acting certainly leave a lot to be desired. It does, however, offer the innovation of letting players actually travel back in time: when Marshal Gram dies, one can immediately hit a flashing button on the control panel and activate a Time Reversal Cube and rewind things to before their mistake, and try again. One of these cubes is given at the start of the game, with other available via a merchant throughout the game at the cost of a token. Factory set at 75 cents a play, the visual flash of Sega’s Time Traveler eventually pulls in $18 million in sales. Further arcade games utilizing more refined versions of the holographic technology are promised by Sega.

Beyond Dragon’s Lair

Both Rick Dyer and Don Bluth move on after their laser efforts, with Bluth directing such films as An American Tale and The Land Before Time, executive produced by Steven Spielberg, along with All Dogs Go to Heaven, Rock-A-Doodle, A Troll in Central Park, Thumbelina, The Pebble and the Penguin, Anastasia, and Titan A.E.. In 1992, Rick Dyer founds Virtual Image Productions. His Thayer’s Quest goes through a remarkably serpentine comeback process, surfacing first in 1995 as a game called Kingdom: The Far Reaches aka Reaches, on Philips’ CD-i platform, Panasonic’s 3DO, and MS-DOS, with Windows and Mac versions following later. A sequel is planned but falls through along with the CD-i technology. Here, the character names have been changed but the artwork and gameplay remain relatively the same. While this game is a rejig of the original arcade game, Dyer is finally able to fully realize his Tolkien-fuelled obsession with the initial 1996 Interplay release of the definitive Kingdom computer game. Shadoan, aka Kingdom II: Shadoan, is produced with a budget of 3 million dollars, putting it in the top ten of the most expensive games at the time. The plot and characters from Thayer’s Quest are redesigned in this sequel, with a team of 300 animators working non-stop for nine months creating 700,000 hand-painted cells for 70 minutes of animation. In this version, players control Lathan Kandor in his quest for the last three missing amulet parts to defeat the evil wizard Torloc. As well as the top-flight animation, Shadoan is the first game to be mixed in 5.1 six-channel DTS sound and boasts 30 original music tracks created by Martin Erskin and Andy Brick, along with Doug and Brian Bestermanthe, the musical team behind Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and Pocahontas. Also featured are multiple solutions and, in keeping with Dyer’s newly-formed crusade against videogame violence, a Parental Guidance Mode is available so kids aren’t subjected to intense fighting scenes. The game is a refinement of the same type of play as Thayer, with players choosing paths and actions and the ramifications of such played out. The game makes history as the first computer product to spawn a hit song, Where Do We Go From Here?. Known as Calace’s Song in the game, the ballad is sung by Julie Eisenhower. Both The Far Reaches and Shadoan go on to win numerous awards and accolades from game reviewers, including the re-release of Kingdom II: Shadoan from Dyer’s Virtual Image Productions receiving the Best of Show award at the 1998 MacWorld.

Even though laserdisc games succumb to a thousand Dirk-like deaths, Dragon’s Lair lives on. In April of 1983, in a startling move, Coleco licenses the home video game rights to Dragon’s Lair for 2 million dollars, although this deal also includes first options on further Bluth and Co. video games. There are reports that Coleco plans to develop a laserdisc add-on for their ADAM computer, to be sold at a price of $150 or less, and a laser version of Dragon’s Lair to go with it. Although timelines such as ‘late in 1984’ and ‘beginning of 1985’ are touted for its release, this add-on never materializes, although Dragon’s Lair does make it to the ADAM in conventional graphics form. The various other  incarnations of Dragon’s Lair product have generated hundreds of millions of dollars over the years. There are at least 30 translations of the game to such platforms as the Commodore 64 and Amiga, Atari ST and Jaguar, Apple IIGS and Macintosh, 3D0, CD-i, Nintendo NES and SNES, Sega CD and IBM PC DOSWindows CD-ROM and DVD. 14 years after the original is released, it ends up on the pedestal of history as one of only three videogames in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C., alongside fellow trendsetters PONG and Pac-Man.

Further games based on the material are released by Readysoft Incorporated for computer platforms of the time, starting with Dragon’s Lair: Escape from Singe’s Castle, developed by Sullivan Bluth Interactive Media, Inc. and released in 1990.  The game contains the levels that were left out of the original ReadySoft computer version of Dragon’s Lair due to space constraints. Space Ace gets a similar treatment, with sequel Space Ace II: Borf’s Revenge zooming in for computers of the era in 1991 with scenes that were left out of the original computer release, with some new animation added. Following this is the computer game Dragon’s Lair III: The Curse of Mordread, developed by Don Bluth Multimedia, Inc., appearing in 1992. Even a Color Gameboy version is announced by Dyer, developed under the Dragon’s Lair LLC banner in partnership with Digital Eclipse. Practically every scene is rendered for the portable device, and the game is scheduled for release by the end of the year 2000. The aborted Dragon’s Lair movie is occasionally taken off the shelf and dusted off, as rumours begin surfacing at the end of the millennium of its development. And Bluth and Dyer create game production house Dragonstone Software to create a new generation of games, including new 3D remakes of both Dragon’s Lair and Space Ace. Their first is called, unsurprisingly, Dragon’s Lair 3D: Return to the Lair, released in 2002. The game is put out by Blue Byte Software, best known as the makers of the Settlers series. Distribution duties are later handled by Ubi Soft. The game features state-of-the-art graphics and finally offers players what they’ve been waiting 18 years for: full, free-roaming control of bumbling Dirk the Daring in his eternal struggle through the castle to reach his purloined princess.

A still from Dragon's Lair 3D: Return to the Lair, a video game by Dragonstone/Blue Byte 2002
Dragon’s Lair 3D: Return to the Lair – Reaper Room

Dirk and company also grace the pages of a 6-issue comic book series, published by Arcana Comics in 2008.  Presenting a story that fleshes out the events of Daphne’s capture and Dirk’s battle to rescue her from Singe, they feature a plot by Andy Mangles and art by Fabio Languna… although Don Bluth lends a hand, drawing the cover for issue #1.

Although the arcade laserdisc has met a permanent demise, Dirk, Daphne and the rest of the gang continue as some of the most enduring characters in video game history. Lead on, adventurers…your quest awaits!  logo_stop

Sources (Click to view; inert links kept for historical purposes)


Page 1 – The Tick-Tock Man
Dragon’s Lair Creator Rick Dyer
Poole, Stephen, and Lance Elko. “Dragon’s Lair: Re-Creating a Classic.” Game Players Encyclopedia of Nintendo Games, pp. 24–29. Working from the initial plans he drew on cash register tape, Dyer moved his images onto film strips to sequence the game’s events.
Horowitz, Pam. “Compuzine: Coming Attractions in Video.” Editorial. K-Power May 1984: 6. K-Power Magazine Issue 4. Internet Archive. Web. 05 Feb. 2016. Rick Dyer, the genius behind Dragon’s Lair, is president of RDI and has been working with interactive discs since 1978.
FYIowa – Q&A: Rick Dyer – vgames.webpoint.com/vid/fyiowa/q_and_a/0,1363,30,00.html
YouTube video – Dragon’s Lair and Space Ace Inventor Rick Dyer – wn.com/john_dyer_(inventor)
 
Page 1 – Disney Calling
Dragon’s Lair Creator Don Bluth
Zorn, Eric. “Coming Soon to a Laser Game near You…” Chicago Tribune 15 Mar. 1984: C1 – C3. Newspapers.com. Web. 9 Apr. 2021. “…tight scheduling made us take the kind of shortcuts you see on Saturday morning cartoons. We were just billboarding for characters and stuffed toys.” ;”We were losing the subtle touches of Walt’s original vision – the contact shadows under the characters, backlighting and sparkles and reflections in water that made his early movies so magical.”
Don Bluth Shrine – www.geocities.com/Hollywood/Cinema/7100
Van Eaton Galleries – www.vegalleries.com/index.htm
Omni, “Video Worlds”, by Phil Wiswell, pgs. 54 – 58, 99 – 100, Jan 1984

 
Page 1 – Exploring the Dragon’s Lair
Astron Belt First Previewed by Sega, Provided Impetus for Dragon’s Lair Creators
Bloom, Steve. “Astron Belt! The First Videodisk Game.” Comp. Jason Scott. Video Games Apr. 1983: 17. 31 May 2013. Web. 13 Oct. 2019. Three images of Astron Belt prototype gameplay, 1983

Electronic Games, “Electronic Games Hotline: Sega Showcases Laser Game”, pg. 18, May 1983. Retrieved from the Internet Archive, Electronic Games magazine collection

Bloom, Steve. “Astron Belt! The First Videodisk Game.” Comp. Jason Scott. Video Games Apr. 1983: 17. 31 May 2013. Web. 13 Oct. 2019. Three images of Astron Belt prototype gameplay, 1983

Electronic Games, “Electronic Games Hotline: Sega Showcases Laser Game”, pg. 18, May 1983. Retrieved from the Internet Archive, Electronic Games magazine collection

Gelmis, Joseph. “Dragon’s Lair Brings Movies into the Video-game Arcade.” Star Tribune (Newsday News Wire) [Minneapolis, Minnesota] 12 Aug. 1983: 5C. Newspapers.com. Web. 26 Sept. 2020. “There are 22 minutes of information on the disc. A winning game takes 8 minutes to play.”
 
Dragon’s Lair Development
Creative Computing Video & Arcade Games, Fall 1983, Page 21, Top Ten Games at the AOE ’83 by Steve Arrants Electronic Games, November 1983, Newsmakers: Dragon’s Lair article “Don Bluth Builds a Dragon’s Lair”, pgs. 22-24 Video Games Starburst
Wisconsin State Journal (Knight-Ridder News Service), “Dragon’s Lair: Hot animation”, by Steven X. Rea, Section 7, pg. 1,6 Aug. 14 1983
Compasio, Camille. “Around the Route.” Comp. Associate-manuel-dennis. Cash Box 6 Aug. 1983: 31. Internet Archive. 26 Sept. 2016. Web. 6 Oct. 2019. <https://archive.org/details/cashbox45unse_8/page/30>. …Cinematronics promised distribs and ops it would deliver its first laserdisc game, “Dragon’s Lair,” in July – and sure enough, container loads (rather than sample shipments) of the new piece have been in delivery since just after the first of July.
Robley, Les Paul. “Dragon’s Lair.” Comp. Desmond Pfeiffer. Cinefantastique Sept. 1983: 22-23. Internet Archive. 27 Sept. 2019. Web. 18 Nov. 2020. Don Bluth Animation Studio’s Dragon’s Lair opened at arcades in July.
St. Games, ne: Softline, “Infomania, The Laser Connection”, by Roe Adams, pg. 48, Mar/Apr 1984. “Although the games sold for a very high $4,300 each, ten thousand of the machines were sold in the first three months.” Retrieved from the Internet Archive, Softline collection, Nov 2 2015.
Atari Coin Connection, “Introducing Missile Command”, pgs. 1-2, Jul 1980. “…Missile Command is the first production video game designed for both street and arcade locations to be set for 50 cent single play as it is shipped from the factory.” “In making the announcement, Frank Ballouz, Atari’s Director of Marketing said, ’50 cent play has been need [sic] by the industry for some time…” Retrieved from Pirate Pinball, Atari Coin Connection archive, Sep 16 2015.
Hero Envy: Dragon’s Lair, The Quest for a Perfect Video Game – hero-envy.blogspot.ca/2011/08/dragons-lair-quest-for-perfect-video.html
Digital Press Interviews… Don Bluth – www.digitpress.com/library/interviews/interview_don_bluth.html
JoyStik, “Dragon’s Lair”, by Joe Menosky, pg. 32, Vol. 2 Num. 2, Nov. 1983>/span>
Sternberg, Marc. “Don Bluth Video Magician.” Comp. Associate-manuel-dennis. Cash Box 18 Feb. 1984: 42-44. Internet Archive. 26 Sept. 2016. Web. 8 Oct. 2019. The laser disc players we used for “Dragon’s Lair” had been sitting in a warehouse for four years…But we knew that if “Dragon’s Lair” went, we had a ceiling on the number of games that we could produce and that was a heartbreaking thing. ;We Spent $2.5 million making “Space Ace”. ; …it’s about a 50 percent faster game ; We said, “Well, should we close our doors because we don’t have any other contracts…” ;We found one man who was willing to put up $300,000 ;We made about $600,000 worth of animation and we found out there was no game play…So I got very involved in how the game worked…So, we redesigned the game in about four days. We got into this room and went nuts for about four days and didn’t come out. After that we had what is “Dragon’s Lair” right now. Then Coleco saw that little bit of footage we had on film and said “We’re working on something for the home that is laser disc and we would like to buy the home rights to ‘Dragon’s Lair.'” At that time they said. “We’ll buy them (the home rights) for $2 million” and they put $1 million up front. That allowed us to finish “Dragon’s Lair.” ;There is an operator up in Berkeley who put a television monitor above the game (“Dragon’s Lair”), then he put seats by the game….[etc. etc.] ;Now with “Space Ace” to help support that, we have come up with a whole package for the distributer and the operator…[etc. etc.] ;What we’re doing at great expense – we’ve spent almost $100,000 to make sure all of this is in place for the arcade owners… ;Yes, Coleco. With the $2 million they got the license to do “Dragon’s Lair” and first right of refusal on any future game that Magicom makes. They have already purchased the home rights to “Space Ace”. They purchased them in New Orleans (the AMOA convention last October).
Gelmis, Joseph. “Dragon’s Lair Brings Movies into the Video-game Arcade.” Star Tribune (Newsday News Wire) [Minneapolis, Minnesota] 12 Aug. 1983: 5C. Newspapers.com. Web. 26 Sept. 2020. “We spent $600,000 and we found what we’d made wasn’t a game. It didn’t work. We got for of the computer engineers from AMS into a room and brainstormed….. Then we got a great cram course in game design from Eric Bromley of Coleco Toy Co. He liked what we were doing so much that Coleco has purchased the home rights to the game for $2 million and paid us half up-front.”
Arcader, Unknown. “The Unknown Arcader: Arcades of Boston.” Comp. Scottithgames. Electronic Fun with Computers & Games Mar. 1984: 46. Internet Archive. 28 May 2013. Web. 16 Aug. 2020. Photo of front signage of 1001 Plays arcade, Boston ;people gathered around a Dragon’s Lair player, at 1001 Plays video arcade in Boston.
Brown, William Michael. “Hot Fun in the Summertime.” Comp. Scottithgames. Electronic Fun with Computers & Games July 1983: 24. Internet Archive. 28 May 2013. Web. 11 Oct. 2019. <https://archive.org/details/Electronic_Fun_with_Computer_Games_Vol_01_No_09_1983-07_Fun_Games_Publishing_US/page/n23>. Image of Dragon’s Lair on display at 1983 AOE. Photo by Andrea Brizzi. Other info: We’re told that the final version of the game will contain 42 episodes and over 1,000 life-or-death situations… ;…three months later (and every three months thereafter), Starcom plans to release an entirely new game in kit form that arcade operators can just plug into the old Dragon’s Lair cabinet.

“Hotline: Don’t Count Out Arcades.” Editorial. Electronic Games May 1984: 8. Electronic Games – Volume 02 Number 12 (1984-05)(Reese Communications)(US). Internet Archive. Web. 09 Feb. 2016. Dragon’s Lair not only rewrote the record book for dollar-earners in the pay-for-play world, but its traffic-building presence in the fun parlours is said to have boosted revenues as much as 40% across the board.
Dragon’s Lair Collectables – www.dragonslairfans.com/collectibles/collectibles.htm
Starcade – www.jmpc.com/Starcade/starframe.htm
Dragonstone Software – www.dragonstone.com Pioneer LD-V1000 manual

 
Page 2 – Ace in the Hole
Dragon’s Lair Follow-up Space Ace
Zorn, Eric. “Coming Soon to a Laser Game near You…” Chicago Tribune 15 Mar. 1984: C1. Newspapers.com. Web. 9 Apr. 2021. Photo of Don Bluth with Space Ace cabinet, photographer George Thompson.
Robley, Les Paul. “Dragon’s Lair.” Comp. Desmond Pfeiffer. Cinefantastique Sept. 1983: 22-23. Internet Archive. 27 Sept. 2019. Web. 18 Nov. 2020. A space game tentatively called Space Age involves a 14-year-old nerd who becomes physically energized at certain moments… ;(Goldman said they originally wanted to call it Space Nerd)…
Hunter, David. “Newsbits: Ace of Space.” Softtalk Apr. 1984: 198. Softalk V4n08 Apr 1984. Internet Archive. Web. 27 Feb. 2016. The game [Space Ace] features fourteen minutes of animation…The animation for Space Ace cost 1.8 million to create, up from the $1.3 million it cost to make the twelve animated minutes of Dragon’s Lair. Bluth and his studio are currently working on Dragon’s Lair II, which has an animation budget of $2.3 million. Dragon’s Lair has grossed more than $32 million and has spawned a home version (due out soon from Coleco). …Space Ace, which sold fifteen hundred arcade machines in its first week on the market. To date, Dragon’s Lair has sold more than eight thousand units. Various game technical manuals
The Arcade Flyer Archive – flyers.arcade-museum.com/?page=home
Mehren, Elizabeth. “Beyond the ‘Dragon’s Lair'” Enter Apr. 1984: 42-47. Enter Magazine Number 06. Internet Archive. Web. 10 Mar. 2016. “We’re trying to develop two-player games. We’re working on more branching, faster pacing, more sound and even better graphics,” says Gary Goldman. “As for more control over characters, that’s coming too – but slowly. We hope to develop games that will allow you to move a character in four directions, instead of the two now possible.” Image of Don Bluth sitting in front of NIMH characters, photo by David Strick.

 
Page 3 – Astron Belted
The Release of Astron Belt
Bally/Midway Monitor, “Special Report: 1983 AMOA” pg. 1, Dec 1983. “Generating excitement for the second year at AMOA was Astron Belt, Bally Midway’s new laser disc odyssey, which had been shown at last year’s AMOA in an early prototype stage…” Retrieved from Pinball Pirate, Bally/Midway Monitor archive, Sep 17 2015.
“Newspeak: Videodisc Games to Hit the Arcades This Summer.” Softtalk Aug. 1983: 268+. Softalk V3n12 Aug 1983. Internet Archive. Web. 18 Feb. 2016. The Yellow Brick Road Arcade in San Diego, California is currently previewing the Sega/Paramount laserdisc game Astron Belt…the game is doing ‘extremely well’, having already scored a major success in Japanese and European arcades.;According to Brenda Mutchnick of Sega Games, ‘We hope to release a few new games of this type by the end of the year. We don’t know if Astron Belt will be one of them…when we got a look at the game here we didn’t feel the game play was as good as that of current home computer games. We are now redesigning the cabinet itself…’;Additional games are already under development at Don Bluth Productions. A space game, tentatively titled Space Ace…;A home version of Dragon’s Lair is under way at Coleco, tying the game into a home laser-disc player. It should be ready by next year.
Robley, Les Paul. “Dragon’s Lair.” Comp. Desmond Pfeiffer. Cinefantastique Sept. 1983: 22-23. Internet Archive. 27 Sept. 2019. Web. 18 Nov. 2020. Paramount’s Astron Belt may hit the arcades in the future. (It is currently previewing at the Yellow Brick Road Arcade in San Diego, California.)
Scottithgames, comp. “Top Secret.” Electronic Fun with Computers and Games Feb. 1984: 80. Internet Archive. 28 May 2013. Web. 12 Feb. 2020. Sega Japan is all set with a replacement laserdisc for Astron Belt, and the name is Star Blazer…
 
Page 3 – Ahhh, MACH…
Gottlieb, Mylstar and the M.A.C.H 3 and US vs. THEM Laserdisc Games
Associate-manuel-dennis, comp. “HEERE’S Q*BERT!” Cash Box 07 May 1983: 44. Internet Archive. 26 Sept. 2016. Web. 28 Sept. 2019. <https://archive.org/details/cashbox44unse_46/page/44>. Image of Q*Bert with Gottlieb president.
M.A.C.H. 3 – members.home.net/e40/mach3
Associate-manuel-dennis, comp. “New Equipment.” Cash Box 24 Sept. 1983: 34. Internet Archive. 26 Sept. 2016. Web. 26 Sept. 2019. <https://archive.org/details/cashbox45unse_15/page/34>. The new game [M.A.C.H. 3]…is the product of over eighteen months of development.
Ressner, Jeffrey. “Sequel Games, New Technology Shown At Expo.” Comp. Associate-manuel-dennis. Cash Box 4 Dec. 1982: 34+. Print. Though some kinks have yet to be worked out (such as making the player-controlled spaceship seem as realistic as the ones in the film and smoother transitions between sequences)…
arcarc.xmission.com/Web%20Archives/Jeff%20Andersen%20(Sep%2027%202003)/flyers/default.htm
“Name Change Big News.” Electronic Entertainment, Sept. 1983, pp. 18–19. D. Gottlieb & Co., manufacturer of coin operated games for the past 56 years, has changed its name to Mylstar Electronics, Inc. The change took effect the third day of July.
Associate-manuel-dennis, comp. “Premiere – Mylstar Agreement Reached.” Cash Box 3 Nov. 1984: 29. Internet Archive. 26 Sept. 2016. Web. 9 Oct. 2019. <https://archive.org/details/cashbox47unse_20/page/29>. Cash Box has learned that Premiere Technology Co. will buy from Mylstar Electronics Inc. (formerly D. Gottlieb and Co.) certain equipment and parts of its discontinued product line. On September 30 of this year, parent company Columbia Pictures Industries announced that Mylstar was closing its doors, discontinuing operation at the Northlake, Illinois facility.
“Hotline: Goodbye Q*bert – Mylstar Ceases Operation.” Electronic Games Jan. 1985: 14. Electronic Games – Volume 03 Number 01 (1985-01)(Reese Communications)(US). Internet Archive. Web. 09 Feb. 2016. Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. closed the doors of Mylstar Electronics (formerly Gottlieb & Co.) at the end of September…Astron Belt was first selectively showcased to members of the industry and press at a November, 1982 trade expo by a company then known as Gremlin/Sega… Even Sega was being cloudy on hard data – “sometime in the next two years” was about as close as anyone came to actual specifics…
Associate-manuel-dennis, comp. “JVW Acquires Mystar’s Microprocessor-based Graphics Technologies.” Cash Box 16 Mar. 1985: 35+. Internet Archive. Web. 28 Jan. 1984. John C. von Leesen, president of the newly formed JVW Electronics, Inc., announced that JVW has acquired the exclusive world-wide rights to certain of Mylstar Electronics’ microprocessor-based graphics technologies.

 
Page 3 – Leaping Lupin
Stern Laserdisc Game Cliff Hanger
Uston, Ken. “Will Laser Discs Save the Coin-Op Industry?” Creative Computing Feb. 1984: 111-24. Creative Computing Magazine (February 1984) Volume 10 Number 02. Internet Archive. Web. 29 Feb. 2016. …signs prepared by Stern suddenly appeared notifying us that the cadaver-hanging scene could be omitted, if desired, through some kind of dip switch adjustment.
Cliff Hanger/Lupin III – lonestar.rcclub.org/%7Ecggraham/Title.html
Lupin III FAQ – www.ccs.neu.edu/home/cruzl/lupin/faq/index.html

 
Page 4 – Thayer’s Key(board)
Thayer’s Quest Arcade Game
“Micronotes.” Editorial. K-Power July 1984: 32. K-Power Magazine Issue 6. Internet Archive. Web. 06 Feb. 2016. The Turtles (alias Flo and Eddie, or Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan) have recorded the soundtrack for the first animated home videodisk fantasy game, called Thayer’s Quest. The Turtles recorded it on a 360 system – a brand-new music synthesizer that records instrument sounds on computer chips. Nearly $2 million has gone into research and development for the videodisk system. 
 
Page 4 – Halcyon Days
Rick Dyer’s Home Laserdisc Game Console Halcyon
MicroTimes, “Sweet Savage Byte: HAL Comes Home” by Jina Bacarr, Nov 1984. Both this and the above article retrieved from the Internet Archive, MicroTimes newsletter collection.
Persons, Dan. “Laser’s Last Stand.” Electronic Games Jan. 1985: 78-81. Electronic Games – Volume 03 Number 01 (1985-01)(Reese Communications)(US). Internet Archive. Web. 10 Feb. 2016. He’s [Rick Dyer] understandably quite excited about the system’s [Halcyon] prospects: “…Dragon’s Lair was spun out of the Halcyon technology. Halcyon’s been under development now for five years. We were prepared two years ago to introduce Halcyon into the home. The problem we had was that market research showed that it was premature… so we decided to introduce Dragon’s Lair.”
Image of the Halcycon laserdisc system with Thayer’s Quest keyboard template installed taken by William Hunter at the Videogame History Museum display, CGE 2014 in Las Vegas

 
Page 5 – Crazy Like a Firefox
Atari Laserdisc Game Firefox
Associate-manuel-dennis, comp. “Atari Delves Into Brave New World Of Laser Disc Games With “Firefox”.” Cash Box 20 Oct. 1983: 50. Internet Archive. Web. 22 Sept. 2019. “The disc can store 30 minutes of film on it, and the game has at least twelve minutes worth of playing time.” ;”We’ve worked with him [Clint Eastwood] for years because he’s a real video game enthusiast,” said the marketing exec [Don Osborne]. “Over the years he’s had just about every Atari video game there is.” ;”More than likely, we’ll go with an ‘electronic press kit’ like we did on ‘Star Wars’.” ;The firm plans to have approximately four more discs out by the end of 1984.”
MicroTimes, “Edit Mode: Atari’s new ‘Firefox'”, by Don Hamilton, Sept/Oct 1984

Associate-manuel-dennis. “Industry News-New Equipment-‘Firefox’ Laser.” Cash Box, 17 Mar. 1984, p. 33. Internet Archive, Accessed 22 Sept. 2019. Hours of movie footage, some of it never before seen by moviegoers, was viewed by Atari’s Firefox project design team to ensure that only the most dynamic sequences were used for the game. ;The specially developed flying controls featured in “Star Wars”, a previous Atari game, are also found on Firefox…
Image of Firefox games and pilot, as well as other information from Atari Coin Connection, “Atari Firefox Sets New Standard in Laser Disc Entertainment” by Debbie Note, Pgs. 1,4, Jan/Feb 1984. “Firefox utilizes a new technically superior laser disc player co-designed with North American Philips to Atari specifications for industrial/commercial application. Designed for high reliability, the system gives extremely rapid access to “interleaved” video segments, creating continuous action and no ‘dead spots'”. Retrieved from Pinball Pirate, Atari Coin Connection archive, Sep 17 2015.
Associate-manuel-dennis, comp. “AMOA: The Mood On The Display Floor.” Cash Box 12 Nov. 1983: 31+. Internet Archive. 26 Sept. 2016. Web. 25 Sept. 2019. <https://archive.org/details/cashbox45unse_22/page/30>. Although Atari spokespersons said the company was trying everything in an attempt to get the game to function – including flying in the game’s “master disc” on a private Lear Jet from Northern California – it was to no avail and the elaborate unit sat dormant throughout the three-day run of the Expo.
Mace, Scott. “Can Atari Bounce Back?” InfoWorld 27 Feb. 1984: 100. Print. …Firefox, Atari’s first videodisc-based game, which started shipping to arcades early in February.
Associate-manuel-dennis, comp. “AMOA .” Cash Box 12 Nov. 1983: 33. Internet Archive. 26 Sept. 2016. Web. 25 Sept. 2019. <https://archive.org/details/cashbox45unse_22/page/32>. Atari’s “Firefox” lasergame, unfortunately inoperable during the entire event due to problems with the disc software.
Image of Clint Eastwood and Firefox game, as well as other information from Atari Coin Connection, by Debbie Note, pg. 2, Spring 1984. “Assuming center stage is nothing new to Eastwood, except he wasn’t filming at the time but lending his presence and video game playing skill to a major media press conference, held March 15 at The Burbank Studios in southern California.” Retrieved from Pinball Pirate, Atari Coin Connection archive, Sep 17 2015.
 
Page 5 – Fallout from Dragon’s Lair
Games Come and Go in the Wake of Dragon’s Lair
Fallout from Dragon’s Lair
Harrisonburg Daily News Record (N.Y. Times News Service), “Laser-Disk Game Scoring Big”, by Aljean Harmetz, pg. 14, August 3 1983
Williams Electronics, Inc. TAFA Original. N.p.: Williams Electronics, n.d. Star Rider. The Arcade Flyer Archive. Web. 29 Feb. 2016. Image of front page of flyer for Williams’ Star Rider
Time Magazine, “Video Games Go Crunch!”, by Charles P. Alexander, Oct. 17 1983

Uston, Ken. “Will Laser Discs Save the Coin-Op Industry?” Creative Computing Feb. 1984: 111-24. Creative Computing Magazine (February 1984) Volume 10 Number 02. Internet Archive. Web. 29 Feb. 2016. The coin-op business has been in serious trouble during the past year or so. According to The Los Angeles Times, annual sales of new coin-op games have dropped from one billion dollars to $500 million…
American Laser Games by David Fikers – www.geocities.com/TimesSquare/Cauldron/7168
Hubz, comp. “American Laser Games Appoints Dealer Net.” RePlay Dec. 1992: 36. Internet Archive. 15 Feb. 2021. Web. 10 Apr. 2021. Image of Stan Jarocki and Robert Grebe pointing guns at each other, 1992
Kunkel, Bill. “The New Coin-Ops.” Electronic Games May 1984: 70-73. Electronic Games – Volume 02 Number 12 (1984-05)(Reese Communications)(US). Internet Archive. Web. 09 Feb. 2016.
Hubz, comp. “Amusement Industry Converges On Las Vegas Hilton For AMOA Expo ’89.” Vending Times Sept. 1989: 116. Internet Archive. 15 Mar. 2019. Web. 7 Apr. 2021. 1989 image of Leland Cook at 1989 AMOA Expo
Scott, Jason, comp. “Summer Consumer Electronics Show ’91.” Amazing Amiga July 1991: 95. Internet Archive. 11 Sept. 2011. Web. 9 June 2020. One of the most interesting displays….was the animation images created by the MicroThreatre manufactured by With Design in Mind. ;image of MicroTheatre game
Associate-manuel-dennis, comp. “Sega’s Time Traveler.” Cash Box 6 July 1991: 29. Internet Archive. 26 Sept. 2016. Web. 25 Sept. 2019. <https://archive.org/details/cashbox54unse_45/page/28>. Image of Sega execs gather around Time Traveler game. Other info: When Sega first introduced its Hologram at the ACME ’91 convention in Las Vegas, the intention was not to show a game but a new technology. However, on June 14 when distributors gathered… Time Traveler, in its completed form was unveiled.
“New Video Game Is ‘wild…and a Little Weird’.” The Times [Shreveport, Louisiana] 07 Aug. 1991: 1B. Newspapers.com. 10 Aug. 2020. Web. 7 Apr. 2021. Regular play involves 20 senes randomly selected from 60. Each level becomes tougher as the micro-processor cuts down the amount of time allowed to make decisions. ;At 75 cents per play, the Hologram Time Traveler is steeper than most elaborate games. ;Sega spent about $2 million just researching the system. Sega President Tom Petit said the company is designing new games to improve on the technology. Expect to see them in arcades in the next year or so.

 
Page 5 – Beyond Dragon’s Lair
Rick Dyer Continues Thayer’s Quest
Edgemundo. “Microsoft MS-DOS 3D Boxes Pack (732).” EmuMovies. N.p., 17 May 2020. Web. 17 Aug. 2020. Image of game box for Shadoan, by Interplay
Shadoan – www.thecomputershow.com/computershow/reviews/shadoan.htm

 
The ColecoVision/ADAM Laserdisc Game Add-on
Delson, James. “A New Kind of Entertainment.” Comp. Jason Scott. Family Computing Feb. 1984: 24-28. Internet Archive. 30 Aug. 2011. Web. 27 Jan. 2020. But the course of video and arcade games changed last July with the introduction of Dragon’s Lair, the first fully animated arcade game on laserdisk. Produced for $3 million, Dragon’s Lair has already made well over $24 million, with another $18 million in back orders. Coleco, makers of the celebrated new ADAM computer, has purchased rights to the game for $2 million. This year they’ll be trying to come up with some feasible laserdisk version priced for the home market.
Robley, Les Paul. “Dragon’s Lair.” Comp. Desmond Pfeiffer. Cinefantastique Sept. 1983: 22-23. Internet Archive. 27 Sept. 2019. Web. 18 Nov. 2020. A home version of Dragon’s Lair is underway at Coleco, tying the system into a home laserdisc player. It should be ready by next year…
Ed1475. “Dragon’s Lair (1984) Coleco Adam Box Cover Art.” MobyGames. N.p., 4 Jan. 2015. Web. 18 Aug. 2020. Image of ADAM computer version of Dragon’s Lair
Mccorkled. “Atari Jaguar CD 2D Covers.” EmuMovies. N.p., 01 Mar. 2019. Web. 18 Aug. 2020. Image of cover art for the Atari Jaguar version of Dragon’s Lair
“Dragon’s Lair (2000) Game Boy Color Box Cover Art.” MobyGames. Ed. Charles Lippert. N.p., 18 Sept. 2003. Web. 18 Aug. 2020. Image of cover art for Windows 95 version of Dragon’s Lair: Time Warp
Electronic Fun With Computers and Games, “Top Secret” by The Fly, pg. 98, July 1983. “…Coleco bought the rights to Dragon’s Lair all the back in April…”. Retrieved from the Internet Archive, EGWCG collection, Sep 9, 2015.
Fly, The. “Top Secret.” Comp. Scottithgames. Electronic Fun with Computers & Games July 1983: 98. Internet Archive. 28 May 2013. Web. 12 Oct. 2019. <https://archive.org/details/Electronic_Fun_with_Computer_Games_Vol_01_No_09_1983-07_Fun_Games_Publishing_US/page/n97>. …The Fly’s betting on Coleco – they bought the rights to Dragon’s Lair all the way back in April…
Powell, David B. “Ask Enter.” Enter May 1984: 8. Print. By the beginning of 1985, Coleco plans to introduce a videodisc version of the game [Dragon’s Lair] and their own videodisc player for the Adam system.
Videogaming and Computergaming Illustrated, “Close Up: Laserdisc!” by Bernhardt J. Hurwood, pgs. 25-27, 52-53, Nov 1983. “The home distribution rights to Dragon’s Lair have already been bought by Coleco for two million dollars…” Retrieved from the Internet Archive, Videogaming Illustrated collection, Sep 18 2015.
St. Games, ne: Softline, “Infomania, The Laser Connection”, by Roe Adams, pg. 48, Mar/Apr 1984. “Coleco signed an estimated $2-million deal with Bluth for the computer rights to Dragon’s Lair, as well as future options on all of Bluth’s laser disk games.” Retrieved from the Internet Archive, Softline collection, Nov 2 2015.
Horowitz, Pam. “Compuzine: Coming Attractions in Video.” Editorial. K-Power May 1984: 6. K-Power Magazine Issue 4. Internet Archive. Web. 05 Feb. 2016. Coleco purchased the rights to the game [Dragon’s Lair] for a whopping $2 million, and already has released a computer-generated graphics version.
Edgemundo. “Atari ST 3D Boxes Pack.” EmuMovies. N.p., 10 Feb. 2020. Web. 17 Aug. 2020. Game box image for the Atari ST version of Space Ace II: Borf’s Revenge
“Dragon’s Lair 3D: Return to the Lair (2002) Xbox Box Cover Art.” MobyGames. Ed. Corn Popper. N.p., 20 Mar. 2003. Web. 18 Aug. 2020. Image of the box art for the Xbox version of Dragon’s Lair 3D: Return to the Lair
“Dragon’s Lair (2000) Game Boy Color Box Cover Art.” MobyGames. Ed. Corn Popper. N.p., 6 Apr. 2003. Web. 18 Aug. 2020. Image of the Game Boy Color version of Dragon’s Lair
 
Dragon’s Lair Comic Book
Arcana comics website – www.arcana.com
 
Unannotated, Uncategorized or I Just Don’t Damn Remember
The Dragon’s Lair Project – www.dragons-lair-project.com
Syd Bolton’s Dragon’s Lair HomePage – www.pixelpower.on.ca/dl
Blam Entertainment Group – www.blamld.com
Don Bluth – www.donbluth.com
Digital Leisure – www.digitalleisure.com
AGH Coin-Op Special: The Rise and Fall of Laserdisc Arcade Games – www.atarihq.com/coinops/laser/index.html
Cartoon Depot – www.cartoondepot.com
retroland.com – www.retroland.com/retroblog/
Ahoy!, “Playing the Light Fantastic” by Richard Herring, pgs. 41-48,79, April 1984

Electronic Games, “Games on Disc” by Les Paul Robley and Bill Kunkel, pgs. 40-46, Jan 1984. Retrieved from the Internet Archive, Electronic Games magazine collection
Starlog, “The Big Box Office $weepstakes”, by Robert Greenberger, pgs. 58-60, Jan 1983
Revista Games – Top 10 – Os piores video games da história! – revistagames.wordpress.com/2009/08/07/top-10-os-piores-videogames-da-historia/
Dragon’s Lair On-line – www.fortunecity.com/underworld/doom/147/index.html
Compute!, “Nonviolent Games” by Kathy Yakal, pg. 40-48, Oct 1983
Cineposters – www.cineposters.com/site/index.html
 
Plus email interviews with:
Warren Davis Shannon Donnelly

 

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Comments >>

    1. avatarWilliam

      Makes sense, early CD platforms were seen as the gateway to “Interactive Movies” at home. They didn’t learn their lessons from Dragon’s Lair and all the other laserdisc games that came and quickly went from arcades…. pretty pictures and no play makes Dirk (and the others) dull games.

      Reply

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