Saturday, December 10, 2011

Cover to Cover: Origin Systems 1985 Catalog (cover - p. 3)

Ultima.  One only has to invoke the name of Lord British's seminal computer RPG series to bring memories of long hours at the keyboard roaring back to anyone who was gaming in the 1980s.  Compared to today's publishers, Richard Garriott/Lord British's company was still a small outfit in 1985 when the Apple II still dominated the market and Garriott's Ultima IV pushed the state of the art forward yet again.  And as it's time for us to embark upon a new cover-to-cover series, we're going to take a look at Origin Systems circa the mid-80s, as documented by the company's full-color 16-page catalog.

The cover is elegantly simple -- a black background and a list of the company's hottest new and current titles, and a tagline that's clearly meant to be continued...

There's no mailing address on the back cover, which probably means that this particular copy was packaged inside a game box.  The inside cover finishes up the tagline and shows off the painted box art for the same five titles which will be explored in more detail on the following pages:

The industry was maturing, but still young and far from mainstream -- the copy on page 3 evokes the early, giddy pleasure of what seemed like alchemical techno-magic at the time:

Origin Systems has translated complex fantasies to the physical circuitry of the computer and shared the fantasy in role-playing experiences.  Enter the highly complex world of computer gaming...
Computer and video games were still incredibly new, and primitive by today's standards, but there was no doubt that they were delivering a new and engrossing type of entertainment.  Lord British invested heavily in the Ultima series and its forerunners and siblings, and came out on top of a burgeoning market.  Many (unlicensed) attempts were made to translate the pencil-and-paper  Dungeons & Dragons experience to computers, but nobody did it better than Ultima at the time.

Founded in 1983, Origin Systems was just a few years old when this catalog was published, and survived until it was finally disbanded by its final corporate owners in 2004.  In the remainder of this cover-to-cover series, we'll see how these seminal computer RPGs were marketed by one of the few early publishers during the lean years of the mid-1980s crash.

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