Sunday, November 7, 2010

Ephemera: Whither Software Magic?

One of the reasons I started this blog was to capture historical detail about the early years of video and computer games.  My own personal memories, vivid though they seem to me, are naturally imperfect and incomplete.  And already there are games and companies beyond the reach of Google and Wikipedia, lost in the mists of time barely three decades on.

Case in point: I was looking through an old computer box recently and ran across a Spring 1983 catalog from a Canadian company called Software Magic.  I had completely forgotten that this company ever existed, and I never actually bought anything from them.  But I do have a vague memory of seeing this small advertisement in a TRS-80 computer magazine back in the day (reproduced here from the catalog's cover):

My younger self apparently anted up the $1 for the catalog, which advertised a number of titles -- three adventure games, and a number of generic arcade games with names like Muncher, Sea Wolf, Space Defender, and Kong.  Software Magic also published a series of fantasy role-playing games under the moniker FAROPS, all in the $15-$20 price range.

Here's the complete catalog -- two sides, photocopied, with no screenshots or box art; you should be able to click on the images for a closer view:

What's odd is that I have not been able to confirm that ANY of Software Magic's products actually exist.  The company was clearly operating circa the early 1980's, but their titles were apparently not well-distributed, and therefore not widely pirated backed-up, as I can find no trace of Software Magic or its game lineup in the various online archives.  The closest match I found was another TRS-80 game called Space Defender, but as best I can determine it's unrelated to this one.

Software Magic, we hardly knew ye.


  1. Reading the descriptions, on the second page the phrase 'a machine code arcade game.' pops up a few times. I realize this had to do with running speeds... but it's difficult to imagine a game marketed based on being written in Assembly today. :) (Actually, come to think of it, I think some major title in the past few years used the fact that large portions of it were written in Python as an appeal to modders. Can't think of which one it was though.)

  2. The TRS-80's low resolution and straightforward memory mapping made it relatively easy to get good graphics performance out of a game, but arcade games almost always needed to run as close to the metal as possible. I don't remember many action games coded in BASIC back in the day; it was usually used for simpler games and adventures.