THE BLUE SKY RANGERS STILL HAVE A FEW TRICKS
The major trade show of the video game industry, The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), took place May 14 through 16 in Los Angeles. While the Blue Sky Rangers are associated with the classic Intellivision system, the Expo showed that many of the Rangers are still on the cutting edge of the industry.
One of the hits of the show was Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. This title from Electronic Arts for PlayStation 2, Xbox, Game Cube, and PC, was created by Stormfront Studios, the development house founded and headed by Don Daglow (Utopia).
Don was also on the panel of the conference session "Grow Your Career in the Game Industry."
In the Namco booth, David Akers, who did the Atari 2600 version of Star Strike, was showing off the game he's been working on: kill.switch. kill.switch will be out for PlayStation 2 and Xbox later this year.
Also attending the Expo were Bill Fisher and Stephen Roney from Quicksilver Software. Quicksilver's Master of Orion III came out earlier this year from Infogrames. Just before E3, Infogrames announced it was changing its name to Atari. This means that Bill and Steve, who got their video game start with Intellivision (Space Spartans and B-17 Bomber), twenty years later have a game being released by Atari!
Other Blue Sky Rangers seen at the Expo: David Warhol (Thunder Castle, Mind Strike), Eric Del Sesto (Apple II BurgerTime), Brian Dougherty (Swords & Serpents), Keith Robinson (TRON Solar Sailer), Traci Roux (Quality Assurance), and Ray Roux (Systems).
The classic work of the Blue Sky Rangers was also on display: the Intellivision games Astrosmash and Skiing were available for play on cell phones in the Boost Mobile booth.
Even with over 20 years experience each, many of the Blue Sky Rangers feel they are just hitting their stride and plan to be contributing to the video game industry for years to come!
At the Classic Gaming Expo in 2000, Intellivision Productions introduced two "lost" Atari 2600 cartridges: Sea Battle and Swordfight. These games had been developed at Mattel Electronics in the early 1980s but had never been released. Collectors quickly snapped them up.
Now AtariAge, under license from Intellivision Productions, has done a new production run of these two cartridges and is selling them exclusively on their web site!
While best known for Intellivision, Mattel Electronics also released a number of Atari 2600 cartridges under the M Network brand from 1982 until 1984. Most of these were conversions of Intellivision games.
Sea Battle is a conversion of the Intellivision cartridge of the same name. (The Atari 2600 version was also announced in some M Network catalogs with the name High Seas.) The conversion was done by Larry Zwick and Bruce Pederson.
Swordfight is of particular interest to collectors since it is a rare original game developed at Mattel for the 2600. It was designed and programmed by Steve Tatsumi.
While both games were completed, tested, and de-bugged, Mattel didn't release them apparently because each requires two players. By the time the games were ready, the video game market was demanding cartridges that were for one player only or that had a one-player mode.
Still, both games are a lot of fun and belong in the collection of every Atari 2600 fan. Says Alex Bilstein of AtariAge:
"We're pleased to partner with Intellivision Productions in getting these unreleased titles into the hands of gamers and collectors. It's an honor to play a small part in preserving video game history, but it's even better when you can share it with the public!"
AtariAge uses the same artwork for the cartridges that we used in 2000, but they've improved on the instructions, printing them in color in a layout matching the instructions of the original M Network games. Each cartridge with instructions is priced at $25.00.
If you missed getting these cartridges in 2000, don't let this second chance pass you by!
INTELLIVISION LORE FROM THE FILES OF THE BLUE SKY RANGERS:
In the fall of 1983, Blue Sky Ranger Tom Priestley (Number Jumble) was walking through a shopping mall when he spotted an unusual item in the Kay-Bee Toy Store: a fifteen-foot plush green snake clearance-priced at $29.99. Without a second thought, he snapped it up and brought it back to his cubicle at Mattel Electronics.
As Tom walked in with the snake coiled around him, a fellow programmer wondered what on earth had possessed him to buy such a thing.
"Are you kidding?" Tom cried. "A fifteen-foot snake for thirty dollars? That's just two dollars a foot!"
The Intellivision programmers were housed on the second floor of a converted windowless warehouse, the roof supported by a latticework of exposed metal struts. Tom climbed up on his desk and wound the snake through the struts above him.
Since the building was mostly an open sea of cubicles, the snake could be seen from almost anywhere in the programming department.
After the initial surprise, the snake quickly became an Intellivision landmark; a source of pride for the programmers, of curiosity for visitors. But a month or so later, people started wondering: was the snake moving? After a couple of weeks it became obvious - yes, the snake was slowly heading east through the roofing struts.
Everyone suspected Tom of moving the snake forward a little bit each night, but he denied it and no one ever caught him doing it.
At some point, the snake took a right turn and started moving south through the building. Speculation grew rampant. Where was the snake going?
One morning in late November, Vice President Gabriel Baum was standing outside his office with a couple of programmers. He suddenly squinted up over the programmers' heads.
"I think that snake is heading toward me!" Gabriel exclaimed.
Indeed, day by day, the snake slithered closer to Gabriel's office. Finally, on December 2nd (not-so-coincidentally Gabriel's birthday), the snake arrived, hanging down, its head blocking the door. Tom also showed up at Gabriel's office that day, axe in hand, offering to help battle the creature.
Tom and Gabriel wrestled the snake down from the roofing struts, then proudly posed for pictures with the vanquished serpent.
Afterward, Tom retired the snake to the playroom of the children's ward at nearby Torrance Memorial Hospital. Driving back from the hospital, Tom laughed to a friend, "That's the best value I ever got out of 30 bucks!"
ASK THE BLUE SKY RANGERS!
Allen Hauser writes:
I was wondering if there are any recorded documents of high scores from personal or gaming events of any Intellivision games? I miss the "old school" stuff really bad. I once scored 345 points against the computer in a Slam Dunk Basketball game. Being the geek that I was at the time, I kept the scoring stats, and they are fun to look back on. I know that Kyle Stevens really poured in the 3's, but as we all know the only way to get that many points was by forcing the Technical Fouls. As they say, it all comes down to free throws at this point.
Anyways, just curious if you guys know of any other records?
Steve Ettinger, programmer of Slam Dunk: Super Pro Basketball, replies:
The Twin Galaxies web site (http://www.twingalaxies.com/) records top scores for thousands of arcade and video games, including most Intellivision titles.
Top score for Astrosmash? 4,201,875. Night Stalker: 95,200. BurgerTime: 332,900.
Currently, though, it appears that they don't have any scores listed for Slam Dunk: Super Pro Basketball. Check it out; maybe you could submit your score!
THE INTELLIVISION TRIVIA CONTEST!
Sixty-eight of you entered last month's trivia contest. The question:
In 1982, an internal Mattel Electronics memo to all programmers instructed them to delete a particular Intellivision game from their computer systems because too much time was being wasted playing it. What was the game AND what was the date of the memo?
Fifty-two of you had the correct answer: the game was Biplanes from the Triple Action cartridge and the date of the memo was April 1st. Biplanes-addict Steve Montero (Night Stalker) sheepishly deleted the file before discovering that the memo was an April Fool's Day joke. (This information could be found on our web site and on the Intellivision Lives! CD-ROM in the Triple Action "Fun Facts." By the way, we accepted either "Biplanes" or "Triple Action" for the answer.)
From the 52 correct answers, the random number generator at http://www.random.org/ selected Paul Nurminen of El Segundo, California as the winner of an Intellivision coffee mug.
Congratulations, Paul! And thanks to all of you for playing!
Now try this question:
What is the only case where the Intellivision cartridge and the M Network Atari 2600 cartridge with the same title are entirely different games?
(If you have trouble following the above link, or if submitting your answer fails, type the URL http://www.intellivisionlives.com/contest.shtml into your browser and try again.)
We'll pick a random winner from all complete, correct entries received before NOON PDT, MONDAY, JUNE 9. The winner will receive an official Intellivision Coffee Mug - just like we use here in the office for serving up steamin' hot java!
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