Epyx

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Epyx, Inc.
Former type Corporation
Industry Computer and video games
Founded 1978 (as Automated Simulations)
Defunct 1993
Headquarters San Francisco, California
Key people Jim Connelley
Jon Freeman
David Shannon Morse (software manager)
Products Temple of Apshai
Summer Games
Winter Games
California Games

Epyx, Inc. was a video game developer and publisher active in the late 1970s and 1980s. The company was founded as Automated Simulations by Jim Connelley and Jon Freeman, originally using Epyx as a brand name for action-oriented games before renaming the company to match in 1983. Epyx published a long series of "hits" through the 1980s, but nevertheless went bankrupt in 1989 before finally disappearing in 1993.


History[edit]

Formation[edit]

In 1977, Susan Lee-Murrow invited Jon Freeman to join a Dungeons & Dragons game hosted by Jim Connelley and Jeff Johnson. Connelley later purchased a Commodore PET computer to help with the bookkeeping involved in being a dungeon master, and came up with the idea of writing a computer game for the machine before the end of the year so he could write it off on his taxes. Freeman had written on gaming for several publications, and joined Connelley in the design of a new space-themed wargame. Starting work around August 1978, Freeman wrote the basic rules, mission sets, background stories and the manual, while Connelley coded up the system in PET BASIC.[1]

The BASIC era[edit]

The two formed Automated Simulations around Thanksgiving 1978 to market the game, and released it in December as Starfleet Orion.[1] Examining contemporary magazines (Byte and Creative Computing) suggests this is the first space-themed wargame for a personal computer (however, see Star Trek). As the game was written in BASIC, it was easy to port to other home computers of the era, starting with the TRS-80 and then the Apple II, the latter featuring rudimentary graphics. They followed this game with 1979's Invasion Orion, which included a computer opponent so as not to require two human players.[1]

The company's next release, 1979's Temple of Apshai, was a major success, selling over 20,000 copies in an era of few computers.[2] As the game was not a "simulation" of anything, the company introduced the Epyx brand name for these more action-oriented titles. Rated as the best computer game by practically every magazine of the era, Apshai was soon ported from the TRS-80 to additional systems, such as the Atari 400/800 and the Commodore 64. Apshai spawned a number of similar adventure games based on the same game engine, including two direct sequels, branded under the Dunjonquest label. The games were so successful that they were later re-released in 1985 as the Temple of Apshai Trilogy.

Using the same BASIC game engine, a series of "semi-action" games followed under the Epyx brand, including Crush, Crumble and Chomp!, Rescue at Rigel, and Star Warrior, each of which added twists to the Apshai engine.[1]

Growth, action focus[edit]

Freeman left the company to start Free Fall Associates in 1981, leaving Connelley to lead what was now a large company. In 1983 the company assumed its brand name, becoming known simply as Epyx. Connelley reorganized his own development team as The Connelley Group, but continued to work under the Epyx umbrella, releasing Dragonriders of Pern. However 1983 was the year that Jumpman was released and became a big hit. Management decided the future was in action games, and Connelley eventually left the company, releasing games with other labels such as Brøderbund.

A string of successful action games followed, including the hits Impossible Mission and Summer Games. The latter created a long run of successful sequels, including Winter Games, California Games, and World Games. The company also branched out into "Computer Activity Toys", licenses of Hot Wheels, G.I. Joe, and Barbie. In Europe, the British home computer game company U.S. Gold published Epyx games for the Commodore 64, and also ported many of the games to other major European platforms such as the ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC.

The Epyx 500XJ joystick for home computer-era consoles and computers that used Atari compatible joysticks, such as the Commodore 64, Atari ST and Amiga

For the bestselling Commodore 64, Epyx made the Fast Load cartridge which enabled a fivefold speedup of floppy disk drive accesses through Commodore's very slow serial IEEE-488 interface. Additionally, the FastLoad featured convenient disk access commands (for directory listings and program loads/saves, etc.), and a disk editor—a hacking tool allowing for direct low-level access to floppy disks. Another hardware product was the popular Epyx 500XJ Joystick, which used high-quality microswitches and a more ergonomic form factor than the Atari 2600 joystick style then prevalent.

Starting in 1986, Epyx also developed a handheld game system called the Handy. Unable to continue due to high costs, it was sold to Atari, renamed, and sold as the Atari Lynx.[3]

Litigation[edit]

In 1987, Epyx faced an important copyright infringement lawsuit from Data East USA regarding Epyx's Commodore 64 video game World Karate Championship. Data East thought the whole game, and particularly the depiction of the referee, looked too much like its 1984 arcade game Karate Champ. Data East won at the US District Court level and Judge William Ingram ordered Epyx to recall all copies of World Karate Championship. Epyx appealed the case to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, who reversed the judgment and ruled in favor of Epyx, stating that copyright protection did not extend to the idea of a tournament karate game, but specific artistic choices not dictated by that idea.[4] The Court noted that a "17.5 year-old boy" could see clear differences between the elements of each game actually subject to copyright.[4]

Bankruptcy and asset sales[edit]

In 1989, Epyx discontinued developing computer games, began making only console games,[5] and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.[6] According to Stephen Landrum, a long-time game programmer at Epyx, the company went bankrupt "because it never really understood why it had been successful in the past, and then decided to branch out in a lot of directions, all of which turned out to be failures."[7]

At this time, Epyx moved to a smaller office in downtown Redwood City and laid off nearly everyone. Epyx still developed games, but gave up their publishing rights and all the rights to the handheld game console they were developing to Atari (the company they owed most of the money to), eventually becoming the Atari Lynx. Epyx eventually came out of bankruptcy, but in 1993, with eight employees left, they decided just to sell off the rest of the company. Bridgestone Media Group eventually acquired the rights the rest of Epyx's assets. Job offers were extended to the eight remaining employees, but only Peter Engelbrite accepted.

In 2006, British publisher System 3 announced it had acquired Epyx's assets to release games such as California Games and Impossible Mission for Nintendo DS, PlayStation Portable, and Wii in 2007.[8]

Products[edit]

Games[edit]

Name Year Platforms Description
4x4 Off-Road Racing 1988 Amiga An off-road racing game
Amstrad CPC
Atari ST
Commodore 64
DOS
MSX
ZX Spectrum
Alien Garden 1982 Atari 8-bit An early "art game" that required experimentation to understand and win
Commodore 64
Armor Assault 1982 Atari 8-bit A turn based tank strategy game between Soviet and NATO forces
Barbarian: The Ultimate Warrior 1987 Acorn Electron Also known as Death Sword, a fighting game, players fight gory combat against one another or for the sake of a bikini-clad princess. Controversy over the game's packaging in the UK stoked this game's success.
Amiga
Amstrad CPC
Apple II
Atari ST
BBC Micro
Commodore 64
DOS
ZX Spectrum
Barbarian II: Dungeons of Drax 1988 Acorn Electron Also known as Axe of Rage, a fighting game, garnered much less attention than its predecessor
Amiga
Amstrad CPC
Atari ST
BBC Micro
Commodore 64
DOS
MSX
ZX Spectrum
Barbie 1984 Commodore 64 Players must successfully prepare for a date with Barbie's male counterpart, Ken
Battle Bugs 1994 DOS A real-time tactics game featuring bugs battling in common household environments
1997 PlayStation
1994 Windows
Blue Lightning 1995 Atari Jaguar CD One of the first games for the Lynx, a pseudo-flight simulator where the pilot commands a military aircraft
1989 Atari Lynx
Break Dance 1984 Commodore 64 A rhythm game similar to Simon inspired by the then-current fad of breakdancing
Boulder Dash Construction Kit 1986
California Games 1987 Amiga A hit for Epyx, a collection of sport games purportedly popular in California, such as half-pipe skateboarding and surfing
Amstrad CPC
Apple II
Apple IIGS
Atari 2600
Atari Lynx
Atari ST
Commodore 64
DOS
MSX
Nintendo Entertainment System
Sega Master System
Sega Genesis/Mega Drive
2008 Virtual Console
1987 ZX Spectrum
California Games 2 1993 Amiga A sequel to California Games, a collection of more California-themed sports games
DOS
2008 PlayStation Network
1993 Sega Master System
1993 Super Nintendo Entertainment System
2008 Virtual Console
Championship Wrestling 1986 Apple II A professional wrestling sports game
Atari ST
1987 Commodore 64
Chip's Challenge Amiga Originally designed for the Atari Lynx, this puzzle game was subsequently ported to several other platforms, sometimes more than once.
Amstrad CPC
1989 Atari Lynx
Atari ST
Commodore 64
DOS
Windows
ZX Spectrum
Crush, Crumble and Chomp! 1981 Apple II A movie monster strategy game where the player controls a monster and tries to destroy a city without getting killed
Atari 8-bit
Commodore 64
Commodore VIC-20
DOS
TRS-80
Crypt of the Undead 1982
Curse of Ra 1982 An expansion to Temple of Apshai, requiring the original game to play. Included in Temple of Apshai Trilogy
Danger in Drindisti 1981 An entry in the loosely-tied Dunjonquest series of fantasy role-playing video games
Datestones of Ryn, TheThe Datestones of Ryn 1979 Apple II A "prequel" to Temple of Apshai and part of Epyx's loosely-tied "Dunjonquest" series, a role-playing video game, perhaps the first example of an action role-playing game
Atari 8-bit
Commodore PET
TRS-80
Destroyer 1986 Amiga A well-received naval combat simulation
Apple II
Apple IIGS
Commodore 64
DOS
Dragon's Eye 1981
Dragonriders of Pern 1983 Atari 8-bit A strategy video game based on the series of books by Anne McCaffrey
Commodore 64
ElectroCop 1989 Atari Lynx An action game where the player has to rescue the President's daughter
Escape from Vulcan's Isle 1982
Fax 1983
Final Assault 1987 Amiga A mountain climbing simulation. Released as Chamonix Challenge in Europe.
Amstrad CPC
Apple IIGS
Atari ST
Commodore 64
DOS
ZX Spectrum
Fore!
G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero 1985 Apple II An action shoot 'em up game based on the popular action figure
Commodore 64
The Games: Summer Edition 1988
The Games: Winter Edition 1988
Gates of Zendocon 1989 Atari Lynx A sci fi shoot 'em up
Gateway to Apshai 1983 Atari 8-bit An action-adventure role-playing video game that served as a prequel to the earlier Temple of Apshai
ColecoVision
Commodore 64
Hellfire Warrior 1980 An entry in the Dunjonquest series of role-playing video games
Hot Wheels 1985
Impossible Mission 1985 Acorn Electron The player is a secret agent trying to thwart an evil genius's nefarious plans. Debuting on the Commodore 64, this widely-hailed game featured aspects of various different game genres, such as action games, adventure games and platform games.
1986 Amstrad CPC
Apple II
1987 Atari 7800
1985 BBC Micro
1984 Commodore 64
2007 Nintendo DS
Nintendo Entertainment System
2010 Oric Atmos
2007 PlayStation 2
2007 PlayStation Portable
1988 Sega Master System
2007 Virtual Console
2007 Wii
1985 ZX Spectrum
Impossible Mission II 1988 Amiga Rewritten from scratch with the plot a direct follow-on of the original, this game failed to perform nearly as well
Amstrad CPC
Apple IIc
Apple IIe
Apple IIGS
Atari ST
Commodore 64
DOS
Nintendo Entertainment System
ZX Spectrum
Invasion Orion 1979 Apple II A science fiction strategy video game
Atari 8-bit
PET
TRS-80
Jabbertalky 1982
Jumpman 1983 Apple II Designed and programmed by Randy Glover, a platform game, a very successful game for Epyx, who sold it for years after its initial release
Atari 8-bit
Commodore 64
DOS
TI-89
2008 Virtual Console
Jumpman Junior 1983 Atari 8-bit A "lite" version of Jumpman with only 12 levels
ColecoVision
Commodore 64
Keys of Acheron, TheThe Keys of Acheron 1981 An entry in the loosely-tied Dunjonquest series of fantasy role-playing video games
King Arthur's Heir 1982
L.A. Crackdown 1988
Legend of Blacksilver 1988 Apple II A fantasy role-playing video game that was met with lukewarm reception due to its stale graphics and unimaginative presentation
Commodore 64
Mind-Roll 1988
Monster Maze 1982
Morloc's Tower 1979 An entry in the loosely-tied Dunjonquest series of fantasy role-playing video games
Movie Monster Game, TheThe Movie Monster Game 1986 Apple II An action game where the player gets to assume the role of one of various monster movie standards
Commodore 64
New World 1982
Nightmare, TheThe Nightmare 1982
Oil Barons 1983 Apple II A peculiar hybrid of video game and board game, this game sold poorly upon its release and is very rare today
Commodore 64
DOS
Omnicron Conspiracy 1989
Pitstop 1983
Pitstop II 1984 Apple II A widely hailed racing game, the first to implement a split-screen for simultaneous two-player racing
Atari 8-bit
Commodore 64
PC Booter
1985 TRS-80 Color Computer
2008 Virtual Console
PlatterMania 1982
Project Neptune 1989
Purple Saturn Day 1989 Amiga A sports game with a variety of Olympic-themed sci-fi events that garnered high praise
Amstrad CPC
Atari ST
DOS
ZX Spectrum
Puzzle Panic 1984 Atari 8-bit A puzzle game featuring a lightbulb named "Benny"
Commodore 64
Rad Warrior 1986 Commodore 64 Published as The Sacred Armour of Antiriad outside of North America and set in a post-apocalyptic Earth, a combination action puzzle and platform game; came with a 16 page comic book
DOS
TRS-80
Rescue at Rigel 1980 Apple II Probably inspired by the Iran hostage crisis, the player must rescue hostages on an asteroid orbiting the star Rigel
Atari 8-bit
Commodore PET
DOS (PC booter)
TRS-80
VIC-20
Revenge of Defender 1988
Ricochet 1981
Rogue 1983 Amiga A groundbreaking dungeon crawler that introduced a number of game innovations. Originally developed on the Berkley Unix distribution, Epyx paid for three ports to home computers.
Atari ST
TRS-80 Color Computer
Showstrike 1991
Silicon Warrior 1984
Sorcerer of Siva 1981 An entry in the loosely-tied Dunjonquest series of fantasy role-playing video games
Space Station Oblivion 1987 Amiga Released as Driller outside North America, a sci-fi puzzle game
Amstrad CPC
Atari ST
Commodore 64
DOS
ZX Spectrum
Spiderbot 1988 Commodore 64 Originally released in Europe as Arac by Addictive Software in 1986.
Starfleet Orion 1978 Apple II The first game by Epyx, then Automated Systems, a sci-fi turn-based strategy video game. A success, leading to their development of further games.
Commodore PET
TRS-80
Star Warrior 1981 Apple II Branded as being part of their loosely-related "Starquest" series, an early sci-fi role-playing video game when Epyx was still "Automated Systems"
Atari 8-bit
TRS-80
Street Sports Baseball 1987 Apple II A baseball sports game.
Commodore 64
DOS
Street Sports Basketball 1987 Amiga A sports game of basketball featuring 3-a-side games
Amstrad CPC
Apple II
Commodore 64
DOS
ZX Spectrum
Street Sports Football 1988 Commodore 64 A football sports game
Apple II
Street Sports Soccer 1988 Commodore 64 Another in Epyx's "street sports" line, this one featuring soccer
Apple II
DOS
Sub Battle Simulator 1987 Amiga A naval combat simulation game set during WWII where players can play as the American or German forces
Apple II
Apple IIGS
Atari ST
Commodore 64
DOS
Macintosh
Tandy Color Computer 3
Summer Games 1984 Amiga A sports game including several games featured in the Summer Olympic Games such as pole vaulting, platform diving and gymnastics, among others
Apple II
Atari 2600
Atari 7800
Atari 8-bit
Commodore 64
Sega Master System
Windows Mobile
ZX Spectrum
Summer Games II 1985 Amiga A sequel to Summer Games, this sports game features additional events from the Summer Olympic Games
Amstrad CPC
Apple II
Atari ST
Commodore 64
DOS
Sinclair Spectrum
2008 Virtual Console
Super Cycle 1986 Amstrad CPC A motorcycle racing game.
Atari ST
Commodore 64
ZX Spectrum
Sword of Fargoal 1983 Commodore 64 A popular but difficult dungeon crawler featuring several aspects of the roguelike games
1982 Commodore PET
Commodore VIC-20
Temple of Apshai 1979 Amiga An early role-playing video game released during the height of the initial popularity of Dungeons & Dragons, the first entry in the Dunjonquest series was an enormous hit for Epyx, then known as Automated Systems
Amstrad CPC
Apple II
Atari 8-bit
Atari ST
Commodore 64
Commodore PET
Commodore VIC-20
DOS
Macintosh
TRS-80
Temple of Apshai Trilogy 1985 A repackaging of Temple of Apshai with its two expansion packs, Upper Reaches of Apshai and Curse of Ra
Tuesday Morning Quarterback 1980
Upper Reaches of Apshai 1982 An expansion pack for Temple of Apshai that required the original program to run. Included in Temple of Apshai Trilogy
Winter Games 1984 Atari 2600 A sports game including several events featured in the Winter Olympic Games such as alpine skiing, ski jumping and biathlon, among others"
Atari 8-bit
Commodore 64
World Games 1986 Amiga A continuation of their successful Olympic-themed games such as Summer Games and Winter Games, this sports game features several events that are popular in different parts of the world, but not necessarily featured in the Olympic Games, such as log rolling and sumo wrestling.
Amstrad CPC
Apple IIe
Apple IIGS
Atari ST
Commodore 64
DOS
MSX
Sega Master System
2008 Virtual Console
1986 ZX Spectrum
World Karate Championship 1986 Amstrad CPC A karate fighting game, known as International Karate outside North America
Apple II
Atari 8-bit
Atari ST
Commodore 16
Commodore 64
DOS
Game Boy Advance
Game Boy Color
MSX
2008 Virtual Console
1985 ZX Spectrum
Zarlor Mercenary 1990 Lynx A vertical scrolling shooter, praised for its graphics, but overall unevenly received

Other software[edit]

Name Year Platforms Description
Epyx Fast Load 1984 Commodore 64 A powerful disk drive loading accelerator, one of the most widely used peripherals for the Commodore 64, it also contained a number of other useful software tools
Print Magic 1988 Apple II A home desktop publishing suite, it outperformed the contemporary market leader at the time, The Print Shop, on all levels, though not a great commercial success
DOS

Hardware[edit]

Name Year Description Image
500XJ joystick An Atari compatible joystick that was innovative in that its base was molded to more naturally fit a player's hand, so it was easier to use than traditional rectangular-based joysticks Epyx 500XJ.jpg
Handy 1989 A handheld game console that was innovative in many ways. Short on capital at the time, however, Epyx licensed it to Atari, who christened it the Atari Lynx Atari-Lynx-I-Handheld.jpg

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Rusel DeMaria and Johnny Wilson, "High Score! The Illustrated History of Video Games", McGraw-Hill, 2003, pg. 54-55
  2. ^ Paul Freiberger, "This Company Is Serious about Games", InfoWorld, 11 May 1981, pg. 10-11
  3. ^ Peter Latimer, "Atari Lynx", Retro Gamer, Volume 2 Issue 6 (July 2005), pg. 24–31
  4. ^ a b Data East USA, Inc. v. Epyx, Inc., 862 F. 2d 204, 9 U.S.P.Q.2d (BNA) 1322 (9th Cir. 1988).
  5. ^ Ferrell, Keith (December 1989). "Epyx Goes Diskless". Compute!. p. 6. Retrieved 11 November 2013. 
  6. ^ Wilson, Johnny L. (November 1991). "A History of Computer Games". Computer Gaming World. p. 10. Retrieved 18 November 2013. 
  7. ^ Interview with Stephn Landrum from The Unofficial Epyx & SummerGames Homepage, with a timeline of Epyx's history
  8. ^ Brendan Sinclair, "Epyx returns on Wii, PSP, DS", gamespot, 17 August 2006

External links[edit]