Archive for the ‘wizards-revenge’ Tag

Wizard’s Revenge (1981)   3 comments

First catalog, we went around and found every last utility or piece of software that we could put out there, unashamedly.

Paul Cubbage, director of the Atari Product Exchange from April 1981 to January 1984

This post won’t make sense without reading the one on Max’s Adventure; Atari was interested in the game and so it was later packaged and sold as Wizard’s Revenge under the APX label.

All the other APX text adventures (including the ones we haven’t looked at yet) first appeared in the summer 1981 catalog, this one made its first appearance in winter 1981.

As mentioned in the article by Max Manowski last time, he was contacted by Atari — while still scrounging for material, rather than just waiting for things to be sent in — in order to publish his game originally dropped at a Byte store in Seattle. He described the first game as “incomplete” so added a few things (which I’ll get to) but also removed the special font for the screens (which, as he explains in this interview, was using third-party software, so it would have been dodgy trying to sell it).

The default Atari font. Notice the “50% alive” stat — Max’s Adventure didn’t give you any warning if you were about to die in combat, but this game does.

The royalty cut was 10%; Max made about $500, so we’re not talking a huge seller (Chris Crawford’s Eastern Front, on the other hand, sold $1.8 million worth, again with royalties of only 10%). I haven’t seen much comment on if its fair or not; the director of APX, Paul Cubbage, did say people complained:

…and I’d say ‘Go to a flea market and sell [your software] off the back of your station wagon. The royalty is the royalty. I know it’s not much.’

(Compare with modern cuts on digital platforms: Steam gives 70% and Epic gives 88%. Of course, there’s no packaging involved, but the APX packaging was super-minimalist; an identical manual cover for each game with a hole where the title goes.)

If you’ve been following my backlog through 1981, this rainbow image should look familiar.

It should be said, though, that the concept as a whole was almost nixed by Atari entirely; prior to Cubbage there was Dale Yocum, who created the idea in the first place. As Chris Crawford notes:

…[he] was trying to explain to the management that there are a lot people out there that like to write programs and if we can publish these programs for them, it’s a win-win. He put together a business plan for it and said ‘Look, we only need a little bit of money and this thing can be self-sufficient and it might make some money.’ They grudgingly agreed to let him do it because the Atari platform desperately needed a larger software base, a void not being filled by the other publishers of the day.

Then Yocum was pushed by management out of his brainchild (I think that means Cubbage was then in charge?), so he quit a year later. The point here is that having random indie users send things for publications was slightly bizarre to Atari, even though other companies like Adventure International and On-Line Systems were doing much the same; in Atari’s case, they would take not just games, but software for tasks like renumbering the lines of BASIC programs and tracking a newspaper route. Since Cubbage himself admitted “I know it’s not much” the 10% was likely akin to pulling teeth from management’s mouth.

We still have a game to worry about, don’t we? The map is _roughly_ the same but there are definite changes; the bird by the water is out, and the water just becomes an (impassible?) obstacle. There might be some other solution, though, because the object count has been amped up. You can find some things just out in the open; just like the original, sometimes you have to search, but there’s definitely some variety that wasn’t in the last game. I’ve found a flute, a rag, and a bouncing ball, for instance.

However, the monsters are much tougher to battle and I haven’t had a success with just using PUNCH MONSTER, so if I run across one, my best bet has been to reset.

I did eventually find a sword and (now knowing about USE SWORD) was able to put it to use, killing monsters with a minimum of damage received.

I also found at one “fixed search” encounter, where searching at the place just north of the starting location unleashes a ticking time bomb which reduces your health. The advantage of keeping track of health is the game doesn’t have to always punish with an instant death, just regular damage.

However, I’m still rather stuck due to bugs. One run I managed to get a key, get to the room that would previously teleport to the eastern side of the map … and then crash. Using a different copy of the game, I hit multiple lock-ups while trying to do ordinary actions like SEARCH. I’m not sure if all the copies are corrupt somehow, but given I’ve already written about the game once, I’m fine leaving it here.

Here’s an example of the game locking up. I assume SEARCH was intended to spawn an encounter or item, and one or the other caused the problem.

Posted May 17, 2021 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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