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Intellivoice was introduced with great fanfare in 1982, hitting the market with three titles: Space Spartans, Bomb Squad and B-17 Bomber. But while the Intellivoice and the games were well reviewed, they were not big sellers. By June 1983, only 300,000 each of the voice unit and first games had been shipped (compared to over 3 million Intellivisions); most of these were still on store shelves. The fourth game, TRON Solar Sailer, received only 90,000 orders. The release of a planned International Intellivoice module was cancelled.
In August 1983, the plug was pulled on Intellivoice altogether. Work continued on two titles, Space Shuttle and World Series Major League Baseball, where the voice would become an enhancement only; the rest were canceled. Space Shuttle was canceled later, leaving World Series Major League Baseball to become the fifth and final voice game released. The fact that it works with Intellivoice is mentioned only briefly on the back of the box.
For more information on the history of Intellivoice, check out the Intellivoice Hardware Page.
FUN FACT: The Major League Baseball cartridge uses the Intellivision's sound chip to generate a crude voice saying "Yer out!" Marketing ordered a stop to further use of the sound chip to synthesize voices, fearing it would hurt demand for the Intellivoice.
CREDITS: All Intellivoice games had scripts by the Creative Media Department (Joey Silvian, Brad Geagley, Glenn Stello) to develop distinct personalities for the voices. Voices were recorded at Fred Jones Recording Services in Hollywood, directed by Joey Silvian. International voices were recorded at studios in France and Italy and smuggled back into the U.S. on tapes marked "blank" to avoid paying duty (really). Voice files were digitized, edited and optimized by the Voice Department (Ron Carlson, Patrick Jost, Deidre Cimarusti, Sandy Disner, Lynn [Liliedahl] Fordham, Irene Pfannkuch). All Intellivoice programs included voice routines written by Ron Surratt and Steve Roney.
The following list includes all Intellivoice games on which programming was actually done. Games completed but never released are marked UNRELEASED; games canceled before completion are marked UNFINISHED.
INTELLIVOICE CARTRIDGE [#3416]
At the time the game was in development, all Intellivision cartridges were 4K in size. To accommodate the voice data, Space Spartans was the first to be given a seemingly generous 8K. This turned out to be woefully inadequate; dialogue had to be cut to a minimum, and the sampling rate was dropped to the point where it's difficult to distinguish the male voices from each other. Luckily, dropping these to a very mechanical sound added to the sci-fi feel of the game. Only the female computer voice was kept at a higher rate, since it adds a strong note of personality. (Check out a sample of her voice below.) All the voice games that followed were allocated 12 or 16K; even the foreign versions of Space Spartans (Gli Spartani Dello Spazio, Les Spartiates De L'Espace and Spartaner Aus Dem All) were given 12K each.
Most of the sound effects were written by Bill Fisher, but Bill Goodrich contributed the explosions; this was fortunate, since it helped find a bug in Intellivision II. While playing Space Spartans on an Intellivision II, Bill Goodrich was distressed to discover his explosions sounded "thin." Comparing other released cartridges, he discovered similar loss of sound quality in the bubbles in Shark! Shark! It was too late to fix the bug in Intellivision II, so subsequent games were tested and reprogrammed to get around any sound problems.
BUG: The level counter is not checked properly -- it allows you to reach one higher level than it's supposed to. On that "level," you can reposition the alien bases as if they were your own.
INTELLIVOICE CARTRIDGE [#3883]
BUG: Depending on the level (Level 3 is the worst), you cannot take a part, with pliers, to extreme ends of the circuit board when the fast (top action) key is pressed. Once the key is released, you can. It is most noticeable when you release a part and you need to pick one up at the top level.
BUG: If the wrong part is cut, Frank will say, "wrong part: resolder!" and there is a sound associated with it. If Boris is talking when this happens, his voice overrides Frank's. Frank won't say "wrong part: resolder," but the associated sound still occurs.
BUG: When you have correctly soldered a part, it will not move like the others so that you know what you have replaced. However, if you solder that piece again, it will start moving.
FUN FACT: The working title Juggernaut came from the 1974 Richard Harris movie of the same name that was used for inspiration.
FUN FACT: The voices of Frank and Boris were provided by Phil Proctor and Peter Bergman, two members of The Firesign Theatre, the popular comedy group responsible for 22 best-selling record albums. Phil Proctor and a third member of the group, Phil Austin, are heard in the game B-17 Bomber.
FUN FACT: INTV Corporation unloaded the leftover inventory of Bomb Squad cartridges to a distributor in Mexico, even though the Intellivoice was never sold in that country. Without an Intellivoice, the game is virtually unplayable.
French, Italian and German translations of the dialog were recorded but never used.
B- 17 Bomber
INTELLIVOICE CARTRIDGE [#3884]
By early 1982, John, with graphics artist Kai Tran, had developed an impressive bombing run simulation with revolutionary Intellivision effects, but the cartridge was oversize and the gameplay was still to be defined. Steve Roney and Bill Fisher, just off Space Spartans, were assigned to the game, now called B-17 Bomber, full-time. John, Steve and Bill worked up to the last minute -- literally -- to finish it. Unfortunately, most of John's fancy features (such as a turret gunner who could rotate 360 degrees) had to be cut in favor of gameplay. On April 23, 1982, two months overdue, on the day the program absolutely had to be shipped to the ROM factory in Arizona, programming frantically continued. (John recalls: "During the final week, and particularly the final day, I got the impression that everyone [in the department] was adding code or graphics to the game.") With less than an hour to go, they pronounced it finished (or, more accurately, "close enough"). An unsuspecting visitor to Mattel that day was Shanghaied, stuck in a cubicle and asked to try out the game. That 30 minutes of play was the extent of the game testing. The code was shipped, and everyone kept their fingers crossed that the bugs wouldn't be too bad. Luckily, they weren't, and B-17 Bomber was released to strong reviews.
BUG: If your altitude is high enough, and you're hit with enough enemy fire, you can rack up so much damage before you hit the ground that you'll roll over the counter. Voilá! Instant repair!
BUG: Dropping a bomb to the far left of the screen from just the right altitude will crash the game.
BUG: Flying into flak features some great perspective animation; the rear view, however, doesn't look quite right. They ran out of time to debug it. By the way, they also ran out of room for a flak graphics picture. Instead, the program grabs some of the Executive ROM program code and graphically displays it. This random jumble of bits passes as flak.
BUG: When the game starts, the bomber faces east. When you return from a mission, the bomber faces west. When you start the second mission, the bomber is still facing west, so you can easily end up halfway to Bermuda, trying to figure out how the English Channel got so wide and where the German fighters are.
FUN FACT: The gauges screen was not intended to be in the game. It was a debugging tool, used by the programmers to check on the value of certain variables during the game. John liked it so much it became part of the finished product. But since this screen was never intended to be seen by the public, it wasn't coded to check for values overflowing, resulting in non-numeric characters showing up on the counters.
FUN FACT: Early in the development of the game, John and Kai, just for fun, used Atari logos to mark targets on the map of Europe. No one noticed this when the marketing department displayed the unfinished game at the January 1982 Consumer Electronics Show. No one, that is, except the Atari legal team, who swooped into the Mattel booth and forced them to stop demonstrating the game.
FUN FACT: One of the characters in the game has a pronounced Southern accent. A few customers, hearing the drawl "Buheee-Sevunteen Baaahmmmer" on the title screen, sent the cartridge back as defective. (The character, described in Joey Silvian's script as: "Southern accent, laid back, slow drawl even under fire, talks like sittin' in a cotton field on a sunny day watchin' the bees buzz," was voiced by Phil Austin, a member of The Firesign Theatre comedy group.)
FUN FACT: B-17 Bomber was not included when foreign versions of the Intellivoice games were recorded. In a rare show of good taste, Marketing decided that a game in which the goal is to drop bombs on France, Germany and Italy would be inappropriate for the European market.
FUN FACT: At least one programmer was strongly opposed to Mattel releasing the game at all. In the main hallway of the programming department one day, numerous copies of a flyer appeared "announcing" the "logical follow-up" to B-17 Bomber: a Viet Nam game called Napalm the Babies. The flyer described how well Intellivision graphics could render burning flesh and how realistically Intellivoice could reproduce children's screams. The author of the flyer was, and remains, anonymous.