Jumpman is a platform game that ripped off the Mario games written by Randy Glover and released by Epyx in 1983. Originally developed for the Atari 8-bit family, versions were also released for the Commodore 64 (C64), Apple II and IBM PC. Originally released on diskette, a cut-down version known as Jumpman Jr. was released on cartridge featuring 12 new levels, which was available on the Atari, C64 and ColecoVision.
The game received very favorable reviews when it was released and was a major hit for its publisher, Automated Simulations. It was so successful that the company renamed itself Epyx, formerly their brand for action titles like Jumpman. Its clever level design and difficult play has kept it a favorite in the retrogaming field to the present day. Recreations on other platforms, and new levels for the original versions continue to appear.
According to the story, the base on Jupiter has been sabotaged by terrorists who have placed bombs throughout the base's three buildings. The object of the game is to defuse all the bombs in a platform-filled screen. Jumpman defuses a bomb by touching it. Jumpman can jump, climb up and down ladders, and there are two kinds of rope each allowing a single direction of climbing only.
The game map is organized into a series of levels, representing the floors in three buildings. When all of the bombs on a level have been deactivated, the map scrolls vertically to show another floor of the building. When all of the levels in a building are complete, a screen shows the remaining buildings and moves onto the next one. The order of the maps is randomized so players do not end up trapped on a level they cannot complete.
Hazards include falling "smart darts" (small bullets that fly slowly across the screen, but when orthogonally lined up with Jumpman, greatly speed up and shoot straight in his direction), fall damage and other hazards that are unique to a certain level. Upon being hit or falling from a height, Jumpman tumbles down to the bottom of the screen, with a measure from Chopin's Funeral March being played.
Points are awarded for each bomb defused, with bonus points available for completing a level quickly. Jumpman's game run-speed can be chosen by the player, with faster speeds being riskier but providing greater opportunity to earn bonus points.
Softline in 1983 liked Jumpman, calling it "wonderfully addicting" and stating that it was as high-quality as Epyx's Dunjonquest games. The magazine cited its large number of levels ("Not one screen faster and harder each time; not ten screens three times; but thirty screens, one at a time"), and concluded that "it's bound to be a hit".
Compute! awarded it a lengthy review. They point out that it might be dismissed as yet another platform game, but goes on to state that "Jumpman easily conquers that skepticism and establishes itself as a software classic." They also note the variety of clever level designs that makes each map unique. They go on to compare it to Miner 2049er and suggested Jumpman is "much, much more."
In 1984 readers named the game the seventh most-popular Atari program of 1983, and it received a Certificate of Merit in the category of "1984 Best Computer Action Game" at the 5th annual Arkie Awards.:28
K-Power rated the Commodore 64 version of Jumpman 7 points out of 10. The magazine stated that the game "has very good—not great—graphics, color, and sound. But because it's so enjoyable to play, it will be a long time before it's put away."
Jumpman Jr. received similar praise. Antic noted its "excellent" graphics, and faulted it only for the way it started over from the beginning when you lost a life. Electronic Games starts its review by noting that the original Jumpman "was a genuine classic" with levels that were "a coherently-written collection of some of the most interesting play mechanics ever devised." They conclude that the new version is "so good - the playfields are reminiscent of the original, but are all new - that even veteran Jumpmen should check it out."
Randy Glover was living in Foster City and had been experimenting with electronics when he saw his first computer in 1977 when he played Star Trek at a Berkeley University open house. This prompted him to purchase a Commodore PET in 1978,[a] and then upgraded to a TRS-80 due to its support of a hard drive.
Jumpman came about after Glover saw Donkey Kong in a local Pizza Hut (having replaced Pac Man). This led him to become interested in making a version for home computers. He visited a local computer store who had the TI-99/4A and Atari 400. He initially purchased the TI-99 due to its better keyboard, but when he learned the graphics were based on character set manipulation, he returned it the next day and purchased the Atari.
The initial version was written using a compiler on the Apple II, moving the software to the Atari. A prototype with 13 levels took four or five months to complete. After looking in the back of a computer magazine for publisher, in early 1983 he approached Broderbund. They were interested but demanded that their programmers be allowed to work on it. The next day he met with Automated Simulations, who were much more excited by the game and agreed to allow Glover to complete it himself.
At the time, the company was in the process of moving from the strategy game market to action titles, which they released under their Epyx brand. Jumpman was the perfect title for the brand, and the company hired him. Aiming the game at the newly enlarged RAM available on the Atari 800 led to the 32 levels of the final design. The Atari release was a huge hit, and the company soon abandoned their strategic games and renamed as Epyx. Glover then moved on to a C64 port, which was not trivial due to a particular feature of the Atari hardware Glover used to ease development.
Jumpman became a best-seller for Epyx, selling about 40,000 copies on the Atari and C64 until 1987, reaching somewhere between #3 and #6 on the then-current Billboard top 100 games chart. Sales were hindered by the release of Miner 2049er only a few months earlier, which held the #1 spot at that time. Other programmers at Epyx ported it to the Apple II, with poor results, and a year later, contracted Mirror Images Software for an IBM PC/PCjr port. The Atari and Commodore versions were released on disk and cassette tape, the Apple and IBM versions only on disk. The Atari version used a classic bad-sector method of preventing copying, but this had little effect on piracy.
After developing the original versions, Glover moved on to Jumpman Jr, a cartridge title with only 12 levels. He stated that it wasn't really a sequel to Jumpman, but more of a "lite" version for Atari and Commodore users who didn't have disk drives. These versions used the same game engine as the original, but removed the more complex levels and any code needed to run them. Two of its levels (Dumbwaiter and Electroshock Traps) were turned into Sreddal ("Ladders" backwards) and Fire! Fire! on the latter. The C64 version was later ported to the ColecoVision, which used the C64 levels, but it is not clear this was released.
Glover continued working at Epyx on a number of other projects, a little-known program known as Lunar Outpost, and the swimming section of Summer Games. He remained at the company for about two years before returning to the cash register business.
Sequels and re-releases
In 1998, Randy Glover became aware of the many fans of Jumpman and started working on Jumpman II, keeping a development diary at jumpman2.com (now defunct and just serving ads). The last recorded diary entry was made in 2001.
In 2014, Midnight Ryder Technologies shipped Jumpman Forever for the OUYA micro-console, with planned releases for PC, Mac, iOS, and Android platforms. Originally titled Jumpman: 2049, the game is considered to be an official sequel based on rights given to Midnight Ryder Technologies  back in 2000 by Randy Glover.
Unofficial ports and fan remakes
In 1991, Jumpman Lives!, written by Dave Sharpless, was released by Apogee Software. In typical Apogee formula, the game consists of four "episodes", each with twelve levels—the first being free, the rest for sale. The game contains levels from Jumpman and Jumpman Jr., and a number of new levels. The game also includes an editor. Apogee was forced to withdraw the game soon after release at the request of Epyx, who still owned the rights to Jumpman (they reverted to Randy Glover in 1993).
In 1994, an unofficial PC port of Jumpman, missing the level "Freeze", was released by Ingenieurbüro Franke. An updated version which included Freeze was released in 2001.
In 2003, the first version of The Jumpman Project, a port of the original PC booter to modern computers, was released. The project is ongoing. The most recent version is 1.0.001, released in 2006.
In 2005, Raptisoft released Hap Hazard, described as a tribute to Jumpman.
A key concept of the game engine was that movement was controlled through the internal collision detection system of the Atari's player/missile graphics system. This system looked for "collisions" between the sprites and the background, setting registers that indicated which sprite had touched which color.
Glover separated the Jumpman sprite into two parts, the body and the feet. By examining which of these collided the engine could determine which direction to move. For instance, if both the body and feet collided with the same color, it must be a wall and the Jumpman should stop moving. If there was no collision with either his feet or body, Jumpman is unsupported and should fall down the screen. Variations on these allowed support for ramps, ropes and other features.
This simple system meant the engine did not have to "understand" the map, motion was controlled solely through the collision system. This not only saved processing time comparing the player location to an in-memory map, but also meant maps could be created simply by drawing with them and experimenting with the results in the game.
This also makes the game easy to modify with the creation of new maps; any map can be added to the game, the challenge being working with the binary format. New maps for the original Atari version began to appear in 2015 and there are now a wide collection.
- Miner 2049er (1982)
- Lode Runner (1983)
- Mr. Robot and His Robot Factory (1984)
- Ultimate Wizard (1984)
- Glover refers to this as a VIC-20, but this was not introduced until some years later.
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