Sunday, December 18, 2011

Cover to Cover: Origin Systems 1985 Catalog (pp. 11-14)

This has been a whirlwind trip through a short catalog. We wrap up Origin Systems' 1985 promo brochure with Ogre, a hex-based wargame (adapted from another Steve Jackson board game) that isn't as well-remembered as some of its publisher's other products:

And then we get a little bit of insight into Origin Systems and the computer game industry of the time. The crash had come and gone, and Garriott's company (unlike many others) was still in business.  Today's multimillion dollar game budgets were nowhere in sight -- most of the company's products were created by very small teams or even single programmers, and Origin Systems, home of so many legendary products, had grown to "about 20 people" in its first two years of existence.

There was no world wide web to allow online purchasing of games, of course, so mail order was king -- the final page provides the usual contact info required and suggests visiting "your local software retailer" as an alternative; I could never really find one in small-town America circa 1985.  Almost as an afterthought, we see a list of upcoming titles, and can see that the Apple II is still the go-to platform.  Ultima V, Space Rogue and 2400 A.D. all saw the light of day -- but the basketball strategy game Homecourt was never released.

Origin Systems would go on to publish the Wing Commander series, and Ultima is still well-regarded today; Lord British made headlines as one of the first civilians to travel to space in recent years.  Origin stayed small and nimble enough to survive the trying period of the mid-80s, and only corporate acquisitions and apathy would eventually put its legacy to rest.  Today, EA owns the Origin trademark -- but they've opted to use the name for their new downloadable PC game service, in competition with Steam, so I don't think we'll see the brand revived any time soon.

And that's the last page of this one (I covered the back cover, which has no real content, in the first post of this series, last weekend), so I'll have to find something new to share next time.

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