Splash screen for Jumpman, a computer video game by Epyx 1983

Splash screen, Jumpman

Epyx - Epyx Journey

Epyx 1983 - 1989

Dungeon Calling

Image of Jim Connelly, co-founder of Epyx, a computer video game company 1983

Jim Connelley, circa 1983

If there’s one thing that goes together with late 70’s computer users, it’s TSR’s paper and dice game Dungeons and Dragons. Jim Connelley is dungeon master of a running D&D game in California, and one of the regular players is Jon Freeman, a neophyte to computer programming but well-versed in game design. After receiving a Bachelor of Arts with honours in English from Indiana University and a master’s degree in English from the University of California, Freeman freelances as a writer. He has two books published under his name on the subject of games: The Complete Book of Wargames is published originally by Fireside in 1978, and later in 1980 by Simon & Schuster. The other is The Playboy Winner’s Guide to Board Games, released in 1979 by Playboy Press. This work appears to be a reissue of a book from 1975 titled A Player’s Guide to Table Games, from Stackpoole Books and credited to a “John Jackson”. Freeman is also a contributor to the hobbyist magazine GAMES. Having been interested in computer programming since being a math and physics major in college in the 60’s, Connelley picks up a newfangled Commodore PET computer after they come out in 1977. Looking to write-off the purchase, Connelley enlists Freeman’s help with designing Starfleet Orion, which Connelley programs in BASIC. When they finish it in December of 1978, they have the first space-based tactical combat game for a microcomputer. Connelley initially sells it through the mail and to  friends and acquaintances, who push him to release the game commercially. In order to market the game, Connelley and Freeman form the first computer game publisher, Automated Simulations, operating out of each man’s spare bedroom in their houses in Mountain View, California. The game is followed by a sequel, Invasion Orion, also for the PET. Both games are a success and are eventually ported to other systems like the Apple II and TRS-80. An indication of the attitude the two founders have towards the type of games they want to produce is signalled by the company mascot, a stylized version of Rodin’s The Thinker holding a joystick, and the slogan ‘Computer Games Thinkers Play’.

Rodin's Thinker, plus slogan for Epyx/Automated Simulations, a computer game maker

I think, therefore I play. Epyx/Automated Simulations mascot and slogan, 1981

Ad for computer video game Invasion Orion

Opponent included! 1980 ad for Automated Simulations computer game ‘Invasion Orion’

With Freeman designing the games and Connelly as the main programmer, Automated Simulations really hits it big in 1979 with the first entry in its Dunjonquest series, Temple of Apshai. Heavily influenced by the two founder’s interest in D&D, the game is the first computer role-playing game (RPG), allowing character creation with six stats, divided into two sets: dexterity, strength, and constitution cover the physical aspect, with ego, intelligence, and intuition covering their mental state. Being a computer game, Apshai can do all the heavy lifting of probability calculations and weapons/armour modifications, leaving players to the fun of creating a character and getting on with the dungeon diving. After visiting the Innkeeper and rolling an alter ego, the player then stocks up on weapons, shield, and armour. An innovative aspect of play is the ability to haggle with the innkeeper, letting adventurers offer a slightly lower price for the equipment than the seller requests for it, in the hopes of saving a few coin on the deal. Once equipped, the player enters the Temple, populated by a variety of monsters, searching 200 rooms and catacombs for chests holding treasure. Featuring a sparse top-down display, the graphics are limited, with the rooms containing only a possible chest, guarding monster, and the bare walls. As the character is moved around the dungeon, the hallways open up to reveal new pathways and rooms, and players are directed to consult the 56-page manual, titled The Book of Lore, for immersive room descriptions and illustrations. These are written by Jeff Johnson, who also designs the dungeons for the game. Befitting the game’s close association with paper-and-dice RPGs, the manual also gives advice on how to convert your character from such a game to Dunjonquest, and how to take your experience and treasure back with you to the real world. To give players a sense of place in the Dunjonquest fantasy world, a short story titled The Adventures of Brian Hammerhand is also included.

Packaging art for Temple of Apshai, a computer video game by Automated Simulations

Manual art for Temple of Apshai, 1979

Cover art from Automated Simulations computer game Rescue at Rigel

You can see the influence of Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers in the cover for Epyx game Rescue at Rigel, 1980

Released after two months of intensive playtesting to get things balanced perfectly, Temple of Apshai goes on to win the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design’s Origin award for 1980’s Computer Game of the Year. Over 20,000 copies are sold of the game through 1981, for the Apple II, TRS-80 and the PET. In the wake of this success follows another entry in the Dunjonquest series, titled Hellfire Warrior. Featuring four new lower levels to Apshai, with over 200 rooms, ads for the game warn that beginners may not up for the challenge. The adventurings of Brian Hammerhand are also continued in Morloc’s Tower. Add-ons that require the original Temple of Apshai are eventually released: Lower Reaches of ApshaiUpper Reaches of Apshai and Temple of Ra. They are all adapted to every major game platform, including a C64 translation by Steve Bryson. The entire trilogy is re-released with improved graphics in 1985 in a package called The Temple of Apshai Trilogy. Other games produced in the early years of the company are Crush Crumble and Chomp, Star Warrior, Keys of Acheron, Datestones of Ryn, and Rescue at Rigel, among others… often released under the Epyx brand name, with another label, Mind Toys, used for puzzle and word games aimed at younger players. The brand name is originally to be “Epic”, to mark a goal of what quality of games the company was shooting for, but it has already been taken by Epic Records. Thus is the new name changed to Epyx, to make it sound a little more high-tech.

When Automated Simulations attends the West Coast Computer Faire in 1980, Freeman meets his future wife and collaborator, Anne Westfall, who is in the neighbouring booth demoing a TRS-80 surveying program for Morton Technologies. He convinces her to join his company in the summer of that year. After various run-ins with Connelley over D&D content slipped into the design of Apshai, along with other matters, on Thanksgiving Day, 1981 the two leave Automated Simulations and later form game development house Free Fall Associates, along with Paul Reiche III. At their old digs, Connelley brings in some venture capitalists to raise funds, and there is a shift of focus as new management officially adopts Epyx as the new company name, with a desire to develop more arcade-like action-oriented fare.

Jumping to Success

Largely self-taught programmer Randy Glover supplies just that kind of action in his first professionally released game Jumpman, a spectacular entry into the platform gaming genre published by Epyx in 1983. Marketing Veep Bob Botch knows he has a hit on his hands: while demonstrating the usual Epyx RPGs in a rented condo off the beaten path at Winter CES ’83 in Vegas, every chance he gets he slips Jumpman into the drive as purchase reps get more and more excited by it. By the end of the show, Botch as a pile of orders for the action game, and Epyx has a new direction. The player takes the role of the character Jupiter Jumpman, running around Jupiter Headquarters in an attempt to defuse bombs littered about by the dastardly Alienators. With three difficulty levels featuring 30 different screens each, the gameplay is fast and addictive, with some levels sporting almost diabolical design. If players are finding moving Jumpman around the levels difficult (or are impatient to get moving), they can access 8 different settings that adjust the speed at which the on-screen character moves. And a randomizing function is also included, preventing gamers from knowing which screen will be next. The game is a success, selling around 40,000 units, and even jumps onto consoles with a version for the ColecoVision. Jumpman is followed by the sequel Jumpman Jr. that same year.

1983 Summer CES booth for Epyx, a computer game company

Better CES digs for Epyx in Summer ’83: a flashy booth on the show floor

Code symbols used by Epyx in their computer video games

Look for a combination of these codes, on Epyx games at your local retailer! 1983

Epyx CEO Michael Katz

Soon to be named Epyx CEO Michael Katz, 1984

As Epyx shifts more towards action-oriented game play, and Connelly feels more and more pressures of management pulling his away from actual software development, he leaves the company he helped found, opting to start up his own software development firm called The Connelley Group. As a guide to the changing nature of its games,  Epyx utilizes symbols on its packaging and catalogs to help gamers gauge how the various games emphasize action, strategy or whatever combination of the two… along with any educational value, of course. Having investors in common, Epyx bolsters its personnel roster by merging with Starpath, called Arcadia until forced to change their name with Emerson’s release of their Arcadia 2001 game unit. Starpath is the inventor of 1982’s Supercharger for the Atari 2600, a device for greatly expanding the memory of the 2600 while playing games stored on cassette tapes, playable through any cassette player. Possibly the best-known game for the Supercharger is Escape From the Mindmaster, an early 3D first-person maze game by Dennis Caswell. Moving over from his position as vice president of marketing and corporate communications at Coleco, industry veteran Michael C. Katz is named the new president and CEO of Epyx.

Randy Glover, creator of Jumpman, from 1984 issue of EFWCG

Randy Glover, creator of Jumpman, from Jan 1984 issue of Electronic Fun With Computer and Games

Lighting Flames

In late 1983, Olympic fever is building through the U.S. as Los Angeles prepares to host the summer version of the games the next year. At the same time, Epyx is under pressure to produce a hit. Scott Nelson, one of the former Starpath programmers, had created a decathlon game for the Supercharger called Sweat!, but when the company merges with Epyx the project is shelved. Although this Atari 2600 game provides little in the way of actual program code, its subject matter is the impetus for Epyx’s sports extravaganza Summer Games. The generic title is purposeful: Atari is the official licensee for the ’84 Summer Olympics, so Epyx must walk on eggshells, avoiding too many allusions to the Olympic games in their sports extravaganza. This project is chosen as a way of getting the new programming team from Starpath all working on the different sections required in the game. It is written in 100 percent assembler machine language, and the lead programmer is Stephen Landrum, accompanied by Randy Glover, Jon Leupp, Brian McGhie, Stephen Murdry, and Scott Nelson. The idea of a dedicated artwork team is championed within Epyx by graphic artist Michael Kosaka, who starts with the company in 1984. Thus is Summer Games the first game at Epyx to assign an artist full-time from the start of the project, in this case Erin Murphy. From then on in they are used in the development of every game, along with a sound designer. There are eight Olympic events presented in Summer Games, including the pole vault, diving and skeet shooting, along with an impressive opening ceremony with the lighting of the Olympic torch. Each section features its own control method, with either frantic joystick waggling or complex timing moves. The various sports are all presented in loving detail, and Summer Games is one of the earlier games providing two-player simultaneous action on one computer. Up to eight people can play, and options include the chance to practice a single event, compete in a number of specified contests or going up against the full roster of competitions. A large selection of countries is available, each accompanied by their flag and a musical sample of their national anthems. The best times are saved as world records, providing motivation to keep practicing. Even though the game development tools must be built from the ground up, Summer Games is completed in under six months, and it goes on to become a huge success with over 200,000 units sold. The Games series become a major franchise for the company, followed by Summer Games II and then Winter Games in 1985. The latter is again contracted out to Bob Ogdon and Action Graphics, doing most of the work on it over a nine-month development time. The wide range of music in the game is composed and programmed by David Thiel; your ears might also remember his wonderful work on the audio for Gottlieb’s popular arcade game Q*bert. Released in the fall, Winter Games goes on to sell 200,000 copies just by the end of the year… and Epyx as a whole posts close to $20 million in revenue for the year. Next comes World Games in 1986, due to its nature an understandable worldwide hit for Epyx, selling between 400,000 – 500,000 copies. California Games, the most successful of the Games games, arrives in 1987, eventually becoming a million-seller for the company. As that game flies out the door, even Epyx president Gilbert Freeman lends a hand boxing copies on the production line to help meet the intense demand. California Games is then followed by California Games II. Also in 1988 comes The Games: Summer Edition, an Olympian effort requiring the use of 17 programmers, eight artists, two musicians and five technical writers to produce versions of the game for different platforms, all at the same time. This is followed by The Games: Winter Edition; both are graphical revamps of the original Summer and Winter Games and both now have official Olympic Games licensing. In 2009, gnarly dudes and duceces can pole vault back to the 80’s with graphical revamps of Summer Games, Winter Games and California Games, all made by Magnusoft Deutschland GmbH and put out for the Android mobile platform and Windows by Epyx Deutschland.

Doing the Impossible

Building on their experience with the Jumpman platform games, Epyx releases Impossible Mission in 1984, quite possibly the greatest platform game ever created. Brought into Epyx via the Starpath acquisition, designer Dennis Caswell is inspired by the hit movie WarGames while making the game over a ten month development cycle. It charges the player with running around a huge underground complex in the guise of an acrobatic secret agent, attempting to put a halt to evil Professor Elvin Atombender’s plans for worldwide nuclear destruction. While traveling up and down elevators searching the various pieces equipment scattered about the place, our hero must avoid the deadly robots populating the rooms who are out to fry him. The robots are all amusingly different in attitude and competence, with about 90 different personality patterns randomized in various combinations and with varying abilities at the beginning of the game. Some of the mechanical guards race at you instantly firing electric death, some see you but lack the ability to fire, while still others can barely get their heads out of their RS-232 ports to notice you’re even there. Computer consoles are scattered about, which when accessed can disable the robots for a few short moments, or reset the elevators in a room. The game gives you a real-time countdown of six hours to collect the hidden puzzle pieces and put them together with your pocket computer, and every time the on-screen agent dies 10 minutes is deducted from the clock. When time runs out, Elvin dispatches the world with an evil cackle. There are also two rooms where the player can engage in a Simon-type game, following a pattern of colours and sounds to earn more lift inits or robot snooze codes.

Every aspect of this game gels amazingly: the unprecedented character animation of the lead character as he runs and does flying flips over his adversaries, the diabolical construction of the various rooms, the various traits of the killer (or not so much) robots, and the atmospheric sound effects. Caswell is responsible for nearly every aspect of the game, from design to programming, graphics and sound… although one particular aural piece of the program is not his: the standout speech synthesis done for the game is handled by Electronic Speech Systems of Berkeley, California. The quality of the voices heard in the game doesn’t quite live up to Caswell’s expectations. However, it still has an amazing effect on the overall feel of the game, with the mad Professor issuing the now-famous ominous welcome at the start of the game, “Another visitor. Stay awhile…..staaaaay forever!”, as well as an occasional command to his metal pants army, “Destroy him, my robots”. And of course, our hero’s agonizing scream of terror when he falls down a shaft, which makes me jump out of my chair the first time I hear it. The only problem is that Impossible Mission truly lives up to its name, with the puzzle component generally regarded as the hardest bit of gaming ever devised. There are dozens of pieces of the puzzle to be found, all of which must be arranged in order by getting flipped horizontally or vertically, making for a huge amount of possibilities. A call can be made to headquarters for help, but only at the expense of two minutes of clock time. Due to time and memory constraints, some planned aspects of the game have to be jettisoned… such as the idea of the player having the ability to reprogram the robots to help his cause, and a final puzzle when Atombender’s control room is breached, instead of the ending animation ultimately shown.
The steep difficulty of the game and its puzzle aspect might go some way of explaining why Impossible Mission isn’t as huge a hit as expected by Epyx in the U.S., only selling around 40,000 units. The game fares much better overseas, where it wins multiple Game of the Year awards. An inferior sequel, Impossible Mission II, follows in 1988 featuring an easier puzzle component but messier graphics. Impossible Mission 2025 is made in 1994 by Microprose’s MPS labs in the UK, for the Commodore Amiga and CD-32 platforms. While you’re STILL dealing with evil Atombender, and he’s STILL ensconced in a well-fortified complex guarded by lethal robots, and you’re STILL trying to find pieces of a puzzle you have to assemble to defeat him, the game does feature a twist in that you can choose between different characters to play as: a robot, a gymnast named Tasha, or soldier Felix Fly. Also included in the game is the complete version of the original. Owners of the Nintendo Switch console users get an updated version of the game (with original C64 version, and re-skinned version thereof) when Impossible Mission infiltrates their system in 2019, made by System 3 Software.

Snap of Impossible Mission II, a computer game for the C64 by Epyx 1988

Ever searching in Impossible Mission II, C64

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A Dream in the Hand(y)

At its prime, Epyx employs 200 people and is making 9 to 10 million dollars annually. Its best-selling product is the Fast Load cartridge, which speeds up the painfully slow loading process of the C64 1541 floppy disk drive fivefold, and sells around 350,000 units. The company also picks up some licensing deals from Mattel, after that company exits the video game and computer industry in early 1984. Barbie, G.I. Joe and Hot Wheels are positioned as pseudo-educational games under Epyx’s Computer Activity Toys line.

Lynx, a portable handheld video game system by Atari

A high-level schematic look at the Atari Portable Color Entertainment System, aka the Lynx, 1989

Heading into the final stretch of the 80’s, product sales are failing to meet company projections. The C64 is dropping off the scope as a gaming platform, and a hardware project called Handy is draining resources,. It is designed by Dave Needle and R.J. Mical, coming from the Amiga computer development team at Commodore. Handy is to be the world’s first colour handheld game device but is proving to be an elongated drag on Epyx, with two years and a reported $8 million sunk into its development. Needle and Mical leverage their other big invention to use for the Handy project – using an Amiga 2000 computer as part of the development environment for the handheld. Besides the expenses Epyx is incurring for this project, another problem is that its games are some of the most pirated computer titles around, with practically everyone with a C64 playing Summer Games and Impossible Mission but few actually paying for the privilege. Amid a lack of funds and little ability to actually manufacture the revolutionary handheld game system at scale, the Handy project is still debuted behind closed doors at the Winter CES in January of 1989; some of those privileged few who got a look must have been from Atari, as Handy is eventually sold to that company, on the verge of the 1989 Summer CES. The deal also makes Atari a part owner of Epyx. Announcing the colour handheld system as the PCES or Portable Color Entertainment System at the Summer CES , Atari eventually renames the system as the Lynx. Meanwhile, Epyx reorganizes, dropping the distribution part of the company to focus on game development for consoles. They also lay off 85% of their workforce, along with the departure of Mical, Needle and company head David Morse.
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The new name of Atari’s handheld device highlights the fact that up to eight of the devices can be linked together via a cable, for head-to-head play. It also sports a 3 1/2-inch colour LCD screen with a resolution of 160×102 pixels, capable of displaying 16 colours at a time out of a palette of 4,096. Inside the case also resides a 16mHz 65C02 processor. Lynx sees a limited rollout, first hitting the New York City area on September 1, 1989. In the early part of 1990, the system begins selling in five more markets: Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago, San Francisco and Boston. It is available nationally through 1990.  While technically superior to the recently released Nintendo Gameboy portable game system, the $179.99 Lynx and its games lineup ultimately fail to compete against Nintendo’s juggernaut, even after a price slash down to $129.99 for Atari’s handheld in the early part of 1992.

[caption id="attachment_2613" align="aligncenter" width="625"]Image of the Atari Lynx handheld game unit, 1989 The ill-fated Atari Lynx

Meanwhile, Epyx has been struggling. In 1988 they report that they will no longer publish games and scale down to a development house. In September of 1989, the same month as the initial release of the Lynx, Epyx starts laying off most of it staff. It later files for bankruptcy. The company struggles out of receivership long enough to port a few games to the PC, but eventually, the remains of the company are sold to Bridgestone Multimedia, specializing in Christian media products. This company, in turn, sells the major Epyx software rights to Atari Corp., who then ALSO go out of business. It appears that Hasbro, picking over the corpse of Atari in early 1998, has gained the Epyx game rights.

Game of Threads

One personal favourite of the Epyx games I feel I have to single out here before I close this entry is Dragonriders of Pern, released in 1983. Based on the seminal fantasy novels by Anne McCaffrey, the game is a stunning mix of political intrigue, diplomacy, strategy, and action. Assuming the role of Bendon Weyr, the player must forge alliances with a picky bunch or neighbouring kingdoms, carefully tailoring the amount of his aggressiveness or sniveling to suit the other leader across the negotiation table. Interspersed with this political chicanery is the occasional aerial battle against a shower of threads, not the most frightening of computer game adversaries ever created but who still provide a workout for your firebreathing charges. All of which is accompanied by a wonderful musical soundtrack. Produced right in the thick of the battle for the creative vision of Epyx, the designers of Dragonriders are The Connelley Group, founder Jim Connelley’s gang of programmers who have left the company, and who prefer the strategy in “action-strategy” more than the action part, but remain associated as game contractors. Dragonriders is not a commercial success, proving the bean-counters right on at least one point. A sequel game for the C64 is commissioned by Epyx for release in 1984, titled Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern, based on the McCaffrey novel of the same name. Announced at the 1985 Winter CES, the plug is eventually pulled on this endeavor, with programmer John W.S. Marvin having around 1/3 of the game finished. As for the original Dragonriders of Pern, I feel if more people had noticed the game, and if the Epyx marketing team had gotten behind the product a little more aggressively, this game typifies the type of epicness we could have looked forward to from Epyx.  logo_stop

Ad for Lynx, a hand-held video game system by Atari

1994 ad for the Atari handheld gaming system Lynx.

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

Jermaine, John. “All About Epyx.” Comp. Savetz. Commodore Magazine Sept. 1989: 50+. Internet Archive. 10 June 2015. Web. 18 July 2021. …business was conducted out of Jim and Jon’s spare bedrooms. From Bob Botch, Epyx Director of Marketing – “Jim Connelley founded Automated Simulations in 1979. He sold his first Dungeons & Dragons-type games to friends and through the mail. They decided these programs were pretty good, so they encouraged him to sell them in computer stores.”
Image of 1980 ad for Rescue at Rigel from Byte, pg. 216, Jun 1980. Retrieved from the Internet Archive, Byte magazine collection

Scott, Jason, comp. Starquest: Rescue at Rigel Manual. Mountain View, CA: Automated Simulations, 1980. Print. Cover of Rescue at Rigel instruction manual. Illustration by George Barr
Image of Jim Connelley and other information from Compute! Gazette, “Inside View – Jim Connelley”, by Kathy Yakal, pgs. 70-71, Vol.1 No.3, Sept 1983
“VGMUSEUM: Epyx: Epyx Catalog5 : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming.” Internet Archive. Ed. Jason Scott. 19 Oct. 2014. Web. 18 July 2021. Company slogan from 1981 Epyx product manual
“slaving too long” Automated Simulations ad from Byte magazine, pg. 101, Oct 1980. Retrieved from the Internet Archive, Byte magazine collection
Byte, “Character Variation in Role-Playing Games” by Jon Freeman, pgs. 186-190, Dec 1980. Retrieved from the Internet Archive, Byte magazine collection
Softline, “New Players: Free Fall”, pgs. 28-29, Jan 1983. “Jon Freeman graduated magna cum laude from Indiana University with the bachelor’s degree in English and received the master’s degree in English from the University of California.” “She (Anne Westfall) had been designing and developing civil engineering programs on the TRS-80 for surveyors at Morton (Technologies) when she was persuaded to move to Automated.” Retrieved from the Internet Archive, Softline collection, Oct 30 2015.
Jermaine, John. “All About Epyx.” Comp. Savetz. Commodore Magazine Sept. 1989: 50+. Internet Archive. 10 June 2015. Web. 18 July 2021. Although Freeman liked the finished product [Temple of Apshai], he didn’t approve of certain elements it contained….[ECT, ECT]…As Temple of Apshai was hitting the market, Freeman and Connelley had a series of business-related arguments. John and his wife Anne Westfall officially left the company on Thanksgiving day of 1981.
Gutman, Dan. “Success: The Epyx Story.” Comp. Pedgarcia. Commodore User Feb. 1986: 68+. Internet Archive. 3 Oct. 2014. Web. 18 July 2021. In 1980, they changed their name to “epyx”. Why Epyx? Because the game they created were “epic” in nature. “The name “Epics” had already been taken by somebody else,” remembers Vice Prisident of Marketing, Bob Batch, “So it was changed to “Epyx” to sound a little more to computer-esque.” ;Epyx took in nearly $20 million in revenue last year. Jim Connelley left in 1983 to form his own software development group…
Jermaine, John. “All About Epyx.” Comp. Savetz. Commodore Magazine Sept. 1989: 50+. Internet Archive. 10 June 2015. Web. 18 July 2021. “In 1982, Connelley sought out venture capital funding, and several companies agreed to provide the money. Shortly after receiving the good news, we changed the game of the company to Epyx. Our first choice was “Epic”, for the epic nature of our games, but that title already belonged to Epic Recordings. So we decided to take a high-tech approach and came up with the name Epyx.”
Jermaine, John. “All About Epyx.” Comp. Savetz. Commodore Magazine Sept. 1989: 50+. Internet Archive. 10 June 2015. Web. 18 July 2021. Pitstop, one of the top-selling computer games of 1983, was the brainchild of Michael Katz. ;From Steve Landrum: “When I started designing and programming Super Cycle, I took the display code from Pitstop II, cleaned it up and rewrote it to be more streamlined.”
Computer Gaming World, “Hobby and Industry News – ‘Jon Freeman and Anne Westfall have left Automated Simulations…'”, pg. 4, Jul/Aug 1982
InfoWorld, “This Company is Serious About Games” by Paul Freiberger, pgs. 10-11, May 11 1981
Edgemundo. “Atari ST 3D Boxes Pack.” EmuMovies. N.p., 10 Feb. 2020. Web. 17 Aug. 2020. Game box images for the Atari ST versions of Datestones of Ryn, Temple of Apshai and Upper Reaches of Apshai
Retango. “Commodore 64 2D Boxes Pack.” EmuMovies. N.p., 02 July 2019. Web. 20 Aug. 2020. Image of box for Temple of Apshai, C64 version
Jumpman Manual, Apple II, Epyx, 1983.
Computer Gaming World, “Inside the Industry – Hobby and Industry News”, “Michael C. Katz, former vice president and corporate communications at Coleco Industries, has been named president and chief executive officer of EPYX, Sunnyvale, CA.”, by Dana Lombardy, pg. 3, Mar/Apr 1983

Scott, J. (1983, October). Special Report: Fall Electronics Review. Video Games, 28. https://archive.org/details/Video_Games_Volume_2_Number_01_1983-10_Pumpkin_Press_US/page/n27/mode/2up?q=%22Odyssey+Command+Center%22. Image of the 1983 Summer CES Epyx booth. Photo by Roger Sharpe or Perry Greenberg
Compute!, “The New Games: Winter Games review” by Selby Bateman and Kathy Yakai, pg. 34, Oct 1985

Electronic Games, Jumpman Ad, pg. 46, Jul. 1983
Jermaine, John. “All About Epyx.” Comp. Savetz. Commodore Magazine Sept. 1989: 50+. Internet Archive. 10 June 2015. Web. 18 July 2021. From Bob Botch, Director of Marketing at Epyx: “So the company decides to send me to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas (in January of ’83)…[ECT ECT]” ;”We concentrated on doing a Summer Olympics product. Unfortunately, we soon discovered that Atari had already become the official licensee of the 1984 Summer Olympics.
Epyx and Summer Games Homepage – rosenkranz.cjb.net
“Tradetalk.” Softtalk Mar. 1983: 227. Internet Archive. Web. 2 Feb. 2016. Michael C. Katz, former vice president of marketing and corporate communications at Coleco, has been named president and chief executive officer of Epyx/Automated Simulations.
Image of Randy Glover, and other information from Electronic Fun With Computers and Games, “Jumpman of the Year” by Phil Wiswell, pgs. 77-79, 94-95, Jan 1984. “RG [Randy Glover]: Yes, [Jumpman] was my first professional, published game.”. Retrieved from the Internet Archive, EFWCG collection, Sep 10, 2015.
Yokal, Kathy. “Hotware.” Comp. Jason Scott. Compute!’s Gazette Dec. 1983: 49+. Internet Archive. 22 Aug. 2011. Web. 19 July 2021. “It’s not a cottage industry anymore,” says Jim Connelley, a game designer for The Connelley Group in Mountain View, California. ;Connelley founded Epyx Software a few years ago…”But as the company grew, I found I had little time left for product development,” says Connelley. ;Now, Connelley and nine other game designers work in a think-tank type of environment. They spend their time conceptualizing and designing games for several different software publishers.
WallyWonka. “Atari 2600 3D Boxes Pack.” EmuMovies. N.p., 26 Nov. 2019. Web. 19 Aug. 2020. Image of game box for Summer Games, Atari 2600 version
Kondorito. “Nintendo NES 3D Boxes Pack.” EmuMovies. N.p., 20 Feb. 2019. Web. 21 Aug. 2020. Image of box for NES version of Winter Games
Retango. “Commodore 64 2D Boxes Pack.” EmuMovies. N.p., 02 July 2019. Web. 20 Aug. 2020. Image of box for Summer Games II, C64 version
Edgemundo. “Microsoft MS-DOS 3D Boxes Pack (732).” EmuMovies. N.p., 17 May 2020. Web. 17 Aug. 2020. Image of game box for World Games
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 California Games, Atari ST version
Cid67. “MS-DOS (ExoDOS) 2D Boxes (Pack 1).” EmuMovies. N.p., 28 Dec. 2017. Web. 20 Aug. 2020. Images of boxes for the MS-DOS versions of The Games: Summer Edition and The Games: Winter Edition
Jermaine, John. “All About Epyx.” Comp. Savetz. Commodore Magazine Sept. 1989: 50+. Internet Archive. 10 June 2015. Web. 18 July 2021. From Stephen Landrum: “Michael [Kosaka] also initiated the idea to hire a staff of artists at Epyx.”.
BLAZER. “Commodore Amiga 3D Boxes Pack.” EmuMovies. N.p., 15 Sept. 2018. Web. 17 Aug. 2020. Image of box for California Games II, Amiga version
Gutman, Dan. “Success: The Epyx Story.” Comp. Pedgarcia. Commodore User Feb. 1986: 68+. Internet Archive. 3 Oct. 2014. Web. 18 July 2021. Winter Games, which was released in the fall of last year, had already sold 200,000 copies by the end of 1985. ;D.G.: Do Epyx games sell differently around the world? B.B. [Bob Botch, Vice President of Marketing at Epyx]: In most cases, no. Impossible Mission was an exception. It was never a super hit in the United States. But in England, Europe and Australia, it won Game of the Year. It’s been our bestseller overseas.;D.G.: What was your role in Winter Games? M.H. [Matt Householder, Product Manager of Winter Games]: The game itself was mostly carried out by Bob Ogdon of Action Graphics. ;D.G.: How long did it take to finish the whole program? M.H.: The total conception to completed product took nine months.
Screenshot from Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern from Electronic Games, “EG’s Forth Annual Fall Software Preview” by the Editors of Electronic Games, pgs. 32 – 39, Sept 1984. Retrieved from the Internet Archive, Electronic Games magazine collection
Jermaine, John. “All About Epyx.” Comp. Savetz. Commodore Magazine Sept. 1989: 50+. Internet Archive. 10 June 2015. Web. 18 July 2021. From Joe Miller, Epyx vice president of software development: “The Games: Summer Edition has done very well on the market. It was also our most massive project to date. Approximately 17 programmers, eight artists, two musicians and five technical writers worked many hours to produce three different version of the same game at the same time.” ;From Bob Lindsey, Epyx director of creative development: “In the end, World Games did very well selling between 4 – 500,000 units worldwide.”;”Gil forgot to tell you that employees with different jobs at the company worked side by side on the production line. Even Gil was there, and he wasn’t giving orders. The president of the copany was boxing software like everybody else.”
“Summer Games (2009).” MobyGames. Ed. Rainer S and Twitek. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Aug. 2020. Image of Summer Games box, 2009
“Winter Games (2009).” MobyGames. Ed. Rainer S and Twitek. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Aug. 2020. Image of Winter Games box, 2009
“California Games (2009) Box Cover Art.” MobyGames. Ed. Rainer S. N.p., 16 Mar. 2018. Web. 21 Aug. 2020. Image of California Games box, 2009
Ceason1987. “Atari Lynx 3D Box Pack (All Official Releases).” EmuMovies. N.p., 11 May 2020. Web. 21 Aug. 2020. Image of Lynx version of California Games
“01-004-Mission_Impossible-TV-fuse-logo.” The Student Printz. N.p., 20 Aug. 2020. Web. 21 Aug. 2020. Image of Mission: Impossible titles
Zxspecticle. “Sinclair ZX Spectrum 3D Boxes Pack.” EmuMovies. N.p., 25 May 2018. Web. 21 Aug. 2020. Images of the Impossible Mission and Impossible Mission II game boxes for the ZX Spectrum
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 Mission Impossible 2
Yaron. “Commodore 64 3D Boxes Pack (Template Included).” EmuMovies. N.p., 26 July 2019. Web. 19 Aug. 2020. Image of C64 box for Mission Impossible II
Kondorito. “Nintendo NES 3D Boxes Pack.” EmuMovies. N.p., 20 Feb. 2019. Web. 21 Aug. 2020. Image of box for NES version of Impossible Mission II
“Master System 3D Boxes Pack (Tab).” EmuMovies. Ed. Jardavius. N.p., 11 Aug. 2016. Web. 21 Aug. 2020. Image of game box for Impossible Mission, Sega Master System version

Jermaine, John. “All About Epyx.” Comp. Savetz. Commodore Magazine Sept. 1989: 50+. Internet Archive. 10 June 2015. Web. 18 July 2021. Caswell interview: “I came to Epyx when the company acquired Starpath in November of ’83.” ;”Impossible Mission was “inspired” (if I may so abuse the word) by the movie War Games…” ;”It took me ten months to complete the project. I dis all of the programming, graphics and sounds, except for the speed synthesis…” ;”So each room contains the same number of robot security guards. It’s interesting to note that their behavior pattterns are randomly assigned at the beginning of every game.” ;”Impossible Mission features approximately 90 of these patterns, displaying various combinations of a few capabilities.” ;”We also had some ideas for the game that didn’t appear in the final product. At one time, I considered making it possible for the user to reprogram the robots to help him in his quest…but time and memory grew short…We even talked about having a game behind the control room door, instead of the cartoon that appears there now. But once again, time and memory came into play.”

Ferrell, Keith. “Ten Industry Leaders Speak Out.” Compute! Nov. 1987: 14. Atarimagazines.com. Web. 30 Aug. 2020. Image of David Morse, 1987
Brown, Mark R. “Winter CES Show Report.” Comp. Jason Scott. Info Mar. 1989: 66. Internet Archive. 30 May 2013. Web. 13 Apr. 2020. It [Handy] made its debut behind closed doors before a Select Few…the machine was designed by a group led by some of the original members of the Amiga design team, including R.J. Mical.
Antic, “News, Notes & Quotes: Atari Unveils Portable Game System” by Stephen Mortimer, pg. 13, Oct 1989
Quartermann. “Gaming Gossip.” Comp. ASleepyTelevision. Electronic Gaming Monthly Sept. 1989: 28. Internet Archive. 3 Feb. 2019. Web. 22 Oct. 2019. <https://archive.org/stream/ElectronicGamingMonthly_201902/Electronic%20Gaming%20Monthly%20Issue%20003%20%28Sep-October%201989%29#page/n27/mode/2up>. …Just prior to CES Atari worked out a deal to get the Epyx hand-held for an undisclosed number of cookies.
Rosenthal, Marshal M. “Ataris As Im Armel.” Comp. Bultro. Joystick (German) Sept. 1989: 70-73. Internet Archive. 9 July 2021. Web. 15 Sept. 2022. Image of Sam Tramiel playing Atari Lynx, image of R.J. Mical and Dave Needle together. Photos by Marshal M. Rosenthal
Dragonz, Ethereal, comp. “Hot Shots!” Game Players Nintendo Guide May 1992: 12. Internet Archive. 13 Aug. 2018. Web. 14 Sept. 2020. …Atari reports that the initial response has been excellent to the permanant [sic] lower price ($129.99) of the portable Lynx.
“News & Views: Epyx Reorganizes.” Info Nov.-Dec. 1989: 32. Internet Archive. Web. 27 June 2017. Epyx has announced that they will no longer be a software publisher, and will become instead a software developer. Epyx has reportedly laid off as much as 85% or their staff, and Amiga alumni RJ Mical, Dave Needle and Dave Morse have all quit the company. …speculation among industry insiders is that the $8 million Epyx reportedly invested int eh development of their handheld Lynx game machine strained the company’s resources, forcing their decision to reorganize.
“Atari Lynx Color System.” Computer Entertainer, Jan. 1990, p. 19.
The bad news was that shipments were limited in number and went almost entirely to the New York City area.

Skelton, Mindy. “An Interview with R.J. Mical.” Info July 1990: 28-30. Internet Archive. Web. 28 June 2017. Dave and I worked on it for two years…
Skelton, Mindy. “An Interview with R.J. Mical.” Comp. Jason Scott. Info July 1990: 29. Internet Archive. 30 May 2013. Web. 8 May 2020. Dave and I worked on it [the Handy project at Epyx] for two years; six months by ourselves and with up to twenty other people over another year and a half. ; We created an excellent development environment for the Handy. it’s all Amiga 2000 based… ; Epyx just ran out of money… Epyx didn’t have the wherewithal to bring Handy to market, so they had to find someone they could make a deal with.
Retango. “Commodore 64 2D Boxes Pack.” EmuMovies. N.p., 02 July 2019. Web. 20 Aug. 2020. Image of box for Dragonriders of Pern, C64 version
Ardai, Charles. “Booted Up Any Good Books Lately?” Comp. Jason Scott. Electronic Games Apr. 1985: 28. Internet Archive. 28 May 2013. Web. 17 July 2021. Photo of Anne McCaffrey signing copies of Dragonriders of Pern computer game.
Games That Weren’t, Moretta – Dragonlady of Pern – http://www.gamesthatwerent.com/gtw64/moretta-dragonlady-of-pern/. Article updated on Oct 4, 2012. Referenced May 23, 2015
Museum of Computer Adventure Game History – Dragonriders of Pern – www.mocagh.org/loadpage.php?getgame=pern
Summer Games.jpg (1199×767). Digital image. The Old Computer. Web. 16 May 2021. Image of cover for the Sega Master System version of Summer Games, by Epyx
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Comments >>

  1. avatarMax Chatsworth

    Synapse and Epyx. The two best game publishers for the Atari 8 bit home computers in my opinion. I got my hands on every title I could that they put out with my limited chore/paper route money in the early 80’s.

  2. avatarPloppy disk

    Purple Saturn Day a game by EPYX sold here at an Alco Department Store was on Floppy disk for PC.
    The year was 1999 I think ?

    1. avatarWilliam

      Interesting. I’ll assume that you mean “1989”, the same year that Epyx went into bankruptcy.

      It sounds really interesting. Kind of a “Summer Games” in space. Or just “Space Games”, maybe. 😉

      Thanks for reading and posting.


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