ANALOG Software

In the 80′s we produced a line of software for the Atari personal computers. The first few were on cassette tape and packaged in Zip-Lock bags. They consisted of ANALOG Adventure, which was a rewritten BASIC program of the Colossal Cave Adventure, Movie Themes; basically what is sounds like and designed to play simple movie tunes using Atari’s Music Composer cartridge, and Thunder Island, an adventure game written by Craig Patchett.

Later I pitched the idea of developing games a notch or two up from the ones we ran in ANALOG Computing. Atari fans know how good our stuff was and there is still a huge and loyal following of our 8-bit software from the pages of ANALOG and ST-Log. We also worked with an artist broker in Los Angeles to help us package up the games with top shelf art on the front of the custom-made boxes.

Front cover of the ANALOG Software catalog

Race in Space was written by Charlie Bachand and was simple in its presentation and game play but the real fun lay in head-to-head competition with two players. And it was fun as each player rushed to get their spaceship to the top of the screen while dodging “meteors”, comets and so on. I met Charlie years before ANALOG, as a teen I worked at Hobby Town at the local mall and Charlie was in shoe sales. But he was way ahead of his time and bought and built the first real home computer, the MITS Altair. I later did the same with the Altair 8800B. When Mike and I founded ANALOG Charlie was our first hire and wrote the first ANALOG in-magazine game ever, Motorcycle Rider.

Race in Space front box art

Famous space artist Don Dixon rendered the art and it’s still a beautiful piece. I still own the original painting however before Don sent it out, he photographed it and it can be found on his website here. The graphics for the game’s title is a separate piece of art overlaid on the larger painting and can be removed without ruining either one.

Original Race in Space art by Don Dixon

One day a local ANALOG reader showed up and demoed up a game he wrote called Shooting Gallery. It was patterned after the Sega arcade game Carnival, so we approached Sega for the rights to sell the game for Atari home computers. We were granted the rights, but it was only for the 8-bit Atari computers, no ST-line, 2600 VCS, etc. We tweaked the game it had all of the elements of the arcade game, the music, etc. The box art went through a few revisions and till this day I’m still not sure about the cowboy. I still have the original painting for this one as well.

ANALOG contributor Craig Patchett pitched Star Sentry to us as a space-based game and it slowly took shape with the mission and game play being invented on-the-fly as he wrote the code and came up with the graphics, some of which were innovative for the Atari at the time. The graphics were pretty good and not as far a stretch from what was on the box then, say, Race in Space was. Craig was a long-time contributor to the magazines and never afraid to voice an opinion. He later became my editor-in-chief for PC Laptop magazine when I launched that publication.

ANALOG in-house programmer Tom Hudson was working with some graphic designs and animations including explosions. When overlapped on a color background the blobbish-explosions left holes. This led to a rough early game design that in turn became the basics for Buried Bucks. As it progressed, we realized it was really, really run to play and decided to sell it rather than run it as a type-in game in ANALOG. We added more challenges to the game like the water reservoirs and off it went. I really like the art for the box on Buried Bucks…the retro plane, flying ace, Dr. Muta.

The art was rendered for us but we didn’t wan to pay what the artist wanted so we used it and turned it back to him. Tom and I were at CES a few years later and saw the artwork modified and on anther game company’s box. That kind of blew us away. Sometime after Bucks was out, we were approached by iMagic, one of the premiere cart developers for the Atari 2600, to do a version for that system. We licensed it to them, and it was released as Chopper Hunt. To this day Buried Bucks has a legion of fans and we caught a posting online a couple of years ago of a Buried Bucks competition weekend. I also spotted a copy on eBay UK October 2012 where it sold for £56.

Chopper Hunt from iMagic for the Atari 2600
This sold on eBay UK for ¢56 in Oct 2012

Sunday Driver. This game was never completed or even close to it actually. Charlie Bachand was lead programmer on this top down driving game, but it never got much traction, so Tom Hudson took over. According to Tom “I took it over and started coding (with no spec). I came up with a map generator and car graphic driving on a scrolling playfield generated from the base maps, but it never got much beyond that.” We had a working version with full panning roads, etc. with your car at the center. We also had a fairly detailed list of objects to avoid and interact with such as cars, trucks, bikes, scenery. Plus, you could race other cars, play as a James Bond wanna be in a tricked-out spy car, encounter weather and night driving. We had ghosts in the but I can’t remember why or what they did other than avoiding them (can’t a car simply drive through a ‘Casper’ with no damage to either party?).

We did run into problems with the folks at Steve Jackson Games, as they owned the rights to the Sunday Driver name, though their game was craptastic. And the artwork for the games were even worse while our artwork was colorful and fun. I always hated the Steve Jackson products after this and when I pass by their games at PAX East, I always give them the scorned eye. Rockstar later came out with a Sunday Driver game, but unlike Steve Jackson Games, Rockstar is cool (GTA, Red Dead Redemption, etc.). I still own the original art for this game also. I need to get it accurately reproduced here. BTW, the businessman in the purple jacket in the art looked uncannily like Mike DesChesnes, my co-ANALOG publisher. Just a weird coincidence as the illustrator for the game was in LA and never met us.

Another game that never was wrapped up was Crash Dive!. ANALOG Editor Jon Bell loved submarines. He still does. While at ANALOG he and Tom Hudson set up two days for us aboard the USS Nimitz that led to a visit and lunch aboard the sub USS Dace. Jon later worked on submarine miniatures for the film The Abyss. The game was never even really fleshed out, just a bunch of ideas at the time. ANALOG programmer and writer Brian Moriarty ended up writing a text adventure in the magazine. “ANALOG Software announced a game called ‘Crash Dive!’ several years before your type-in game of the same name. What’s the connection?” “A game called ‘Crash Dive!’ was announced by ANALOG Games [the commercial software division of ANALOG Computing] in 1982 and cover art was commissioned, but no design or code was actually produced. A year later, I saw the forgotten artwork hanging on the wall and decided to write a text adventure around it.”

Crash Dive! article from ANALOG issue #18
Poor photo of the original Crash Dive! art

I still own the original art for the games like Race in Space and Sunday Driver. Brian Moriarty’s Titan was the least worked out of the games. We threw around some ideas, but nothing was ever finalized. All I have left of this project is an empty box. Mike DesChesnes sold the original art on eBay years ago. Like Crash Dive! the art was folded into ANALOG in a game by ANALOG programmer Clayton Walnum in issue #46 titled Moonlord. Moonlord used the Titan art in ANALOG Issue 46.

Titan art used on ANALOG issue #46

UPDATE. I found 4×5 transparencies of all the original artwork and will posting those as soon as they are professionally scanned.

2 Responses

  1. Hi Lee,

    I am 51 years old and I’ve keep this catalog since 1981. I had Kevin Savetz add it to the Internet Archive. Just thought you’d like a blast from your past. Thanks for all you did for Atari fans.

    Mark Bessert
    Dedham, MA

    1. Thank you Mark, we had a lot of fun back then publishing our Atari products. I’m still in touch with most of the ANALOG team, a great bunch of people!

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