Sunday, October 9, 2011

Cover to Cover: Adventure International Spring 1981 Catalog (pp. 15-16)

More from the pages -- actually, literally the pages, 15 and 16, of the Spring 1981 Adventure International catalog.

Page 15 presents an early genre that's still going strong in today's casual and downloadable game market -- computer adaptations of popular (public domain) board games, allowing player vs. artificial intelligence competition:

Lance Micklus' The Mean Checkers Machine 2.0 is a machine-language update of his checkers game originally published in BASIC-language magazine format.  Note that the packaging gets the name right but the catalog logo calls it The Mean Checker Machine, which leads me to imagine the self-checkout machines at the grocery store with more attitude than usual: "I said, put the item in the bagging area!  Idiot!!!"

For some reason, Scott Adams has chosen to offer competition to his own discount-priced Backgammon program with Back-40 III.  The game of backgammon presented some AI challenges, apparently, as the newer program was billed as "the first we have ever seen that uses the doubling cube."  I don't think I've ever played a game of computer 'gammon that didn't support doubling.  And Z-Chess III was a chess program, no mean feat on the humble TRS-80; note that the review included here is by one A.J. Harding at Molimerx, a company that published quite a few computer games in the UK including the Brian Howarth adventures based on the Scott Adams database format.

Page 16 does its best to push a range of fairly generic computer game titles:

The most notable title here is Leo Christopherson's Android Nim -- Christopherson pulled off some amazing character animation on the TRS-80, including the later Dancing Demon, and in 2005 he updated this particular game for modern PC's, as Android Nim 2D

Most of the other titles here are staple early computer game offerings -- simple word games Word Challenge and Scramble, both by Richard Taylor, and Scott Adams' own take on 3-D Tic Tac Toe.  I was always intrigued about Taylor's TRS-80 Opera, but never anted up the $9.95 for it; this wasn't a game, but a music-playing program from the era before the Commodore 64 made computer music listenable, and long before the advent of iTunes and MP3 files.

Next weekend (if things go as planned) we will continue our nostalgic journey, and I'll get back to a more regular schedule!

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