A while back, I shared a special archival find: the first ad ever printed for Sierra On-Line/On-Line System's Mystery House, from the May 1980 issue of MICRO 6502. While this ad has long been "findable" on the 'net, it required a special bit of diligence to go looking for this ad in particular and circulate it as a historical document.
The ad On-Line ran in June 1980 was the same as May. But in July 1980, the ad changed rather dramatically. The long, onerous text has been cut. Moreover, the ad moved far forward in the magazine, all the way to page 1. When eager readers flipped the cover on their July issue of MICRO 6502, they'd have been staring at the latest selection of software offerings from On-Line Systems.
Obviously, On-Line was doing quite well for themselves--they no doubt paid a considerable fee for "page 1" property. The blessedly improved layout and typography also speaks to a quickly refining profile. Gone is the home coupon style sales/shipping form crammed into a corner, although the Williamses were still receiving orders at their home and on their home phone line.
The cassette versions of Trapshoot and Skeetshoot (available in the previous two months' ads) have been jettisoned. Two new pieces of software are offered in this July ad: Paddle Graphics and Tablet Graphics, both graphics utilities for enterprising programmers ("Tools for Making Tools" as Steven Levy terms this kind of software in Hackers). For a talented programmer such as Ken, these programs were likely easy one-offs derived from his experience designing Mystery House's hi-res graphics and the new work he was doing developing a machine language system for Roberta's upcoming project at the time, The Wizard and the Princess (the first adventure game with color graphics). What was called Hi-Res Adventure ("Mystery House") in the May and June issues is now Hi-Res Adventure #1, an anticipatory numbering gesturing to a future series of hi-res adventure games.
The copy also gives a subtle clue to one of the more frustratingly unprompted puzzles in the game: you'll need to smash a wall. (Roberta Williams had a real kick for making her players deconstruct houses). My favorite part? The description for Hi-Res Adventure #1 mentions "French version available upon request." What I wouldn't give for a French copy of Mystery House! Who was doing your translation, On-Line?
Today I'm posting the press release for a great project being co-piloted by my colleague at Illinois Institute of Technology, Carly Kocurek. So, aside from being a great game historian, Kocurek's also breaking into the realm of game design--a move I'm glad to see more and more game academics make. Read through the press release for this provocative game, and donate something if you can. We need a game world with more options like these.
"Choice: Texas" // An IndieGoGo Campaign Launch
Game addresses reproductive healthcare access in the Lone Star State
PRESS RELEASE: Austin (August 19, 2013) – Choice: Texas, an interactive fiction game addressing abortion access in Texas, officially launches its IndieGoGo fundraising campaign on August 19, 2013 (http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/choice-texas-a-very-serious-game/x/3912619). Billed as “a very serious game,” Choice: Texas draws on research into Texas legal regulations, geography, and demographics and asks players to consider the plight of women seeking reproductive healthcare in the lone star state. Funds raised through the campaign will assist in game development and publicity.
“This game is about an important issue effecting women in Texas, and is intended as a means of furthering discussion and empathy,“ said game co-developer and co-designer Carly Kocurek. “We really think games can facilitate further conversation about and understanding of these kinds of issues.”
The game, developed and designed by Kocurek and Allyson Whipple, invites players to experience the story of one of several Texas women, ranging from a high school honors student not ready to be a mother to an excited mother-to-be confronted with dangerous medical complications. While the women are fictional, they are reflective of Texas’s population and the regulations, financial barriers, and geographic limitations faced by the characters are also drawn from the state’s real environment.
A prototype of the game will be presented at the Future and Reality of Gaming (FROG) 13 conference in Vienna this fall, and a complete version of the game will be published as a browser game in January 2014. The game will be free to play, and will feature original artwork by illustrator Grace Jennings.
Fundraising for the game will be open through September 15, 2013. Further information about the game is available on the game’s Tumblr, at choicetexas.tumblr.com. Kocurek and Whipple are both available for interviews, and can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone at (940) 224-2235.
Much referenced but never actually seen is the original ad Roberta and Ken Williams took out as On-Line Systems for Hi-Res Adventure: Mystery House, in the May 1980 issue of MICRO: The 6502 Journal. The 6502 was the microprocessor used in the Apple II, which was the machine On-Line initially produced all their products for during their first couple years in operation in the early 80s.
While some sources claim it was a quarter page ad, we can clearly see that it was a full-page piece. From the extensive text to the prices to the almost entirely unknown two other arcade games sold alongside Mystery House (Skeetshoot and Trapshoot), there's lots to chew on here. I'm not one for "Holy Grails" of game history, but...I must admit to certain fascination with this ad. It's a pleasure to put this back in circulation.