"DEAR AGH" (May/June, 1998)

Subject: First Star Software, Inc.
From: Richard S.

  • In reading about our 'history', as recorded in the third party section of AGH, I thought I could help fill in some blanks and correct other comments.  Boing! was not our only cartridge title (unless you're referring only to cartridges for Atari systems).  Our other titles: Boulder Dash®, Spy vs Spy® and Superman® have been released for the consoles as follows:

    BOULDER DASH® has been released by Nintendo (and others) on Game Boy and on NES by Nintendo and Data East.

    SPY vs SPY® has been released by SEGA on cartridge, by Kotobuki on Game Boy and NES.

    SUPERMAN® has been released by Kotobuki on NES.

    BOULDER DASH® has also been released into the arcades 4 different times: first by EXIDY, then DATA EAST, then ARCADIA SYSTEMS (Mastertronics) and then by DATA EAST again.

    Astro Chase® (which as you say was not released by Parker Brothers on the 2600 nor ColecoVision as planned) was very successful on home cpus and was redone in the mid-'90s by us (Astro Chase 3D®) and licensed to Mac Play/Interplay as a very successful Macintosh title.

    Currently we have just finished a Palm Pilot version of BOULDER DASH® and are in negotiations with no less than two major publishers for a total revision of this classic.  As retro games are taking off again and Sega's Dreamcast machine is announced we have been approached to facilitate redesiging BOULDER DASH® to maximize its addictive game play utilizing today's fastly more powerful platforms.

    I hope that you can correct/update the comments in AGH accordingly.  BTW I really enjoy the site.

    Thank you,

    Richard S.
    First Star Software, Inc.

  • Thank you for sharing some insights about one of the more memorable software publishers during the classic era.

    Subject: Jaguar VR Was Released!!!!
    From: Saint LSD 2000

  • I wanted to comment on something that you said in the Jag Museum.

  • Whether a prototype working Jaguar VR headset exists is a mystery, so we may never know for certain.

  • Well I know that a lot (by a lot I mean about 90%) of people either deny existence or say they don't know but I know they existed and were sold to the public and I have proof. VERY SHORTLY before Atari went out of business a company called Chips and Bits Inc. which advertised in Gamepro Magazine advertized the sale of VR Headsets for $400. GOD I WISH I BOUGHT ONE. Anyway, if you desire I could scan the ad for you but you're going to have to wait a couple weeks because we are moving and it is in a box somewhere right now. Anyway, tell me if you update the page with this VERY important info.

  • Many retailers (Chips & Bits included) put out titles in their catalogs before the games are released. Consequently, when the games never make it out, people point to the listing in the catalogs as evidence of a game's existence. Well, if you believe everything that's listed, you probably also think that SNES Kaboom and River Raid and Jaguar Tiny Toons, Brett Hull Hockey and Barkey Basketball were also released, don't you?

    Subject: How To Make Your Profits Soar!
    From: H. Smith

  • Guess what?

  • Your company is a household name.  Everyone knows you: ATARI.  It's like when people say Mario, everyone knows what they're talking about.  When people say PONG, again, everyone knows the game.  I propose you take your fame to a new level.  I'm sure you know what I'm talking about, but I'll expound. 

  • There are collectors and fanatics out there.  That's good and fine, but most of all, there are people who remember the original game.  These people will be your target market, along with their kids. If you were to sponsor a movie or song based on an older program, like Battlezone or something using today's technology, yet show scenes of the games being played in the movie and have music that rocks, (not to mention great actors), then people would think the game has had a revival, and would seek the game out again.  You could even revamp the game and add special hidden levels, and levels with special graphics, holograms, or differing views.  You could go totally 3D with the graphics, then have a special level where the actual older version of the game must be played (maybe a timewarp or something).  It would be a BIG hit, and it's been long enough to make it a SUREFIRE BLOCKBUSTER. 

  • I know this will work for you, and then you'd be on your way and could finance some of your other gamestations like the Jaguar.  Want to make Jaguar big?  Make it completely compatible with as many other systems as you can, that way, people wouldn't want to buy any other system, because others are too limited.  Yours would have the most options, yet still be simple plug-n-play.  It might be poor businessmanship, but hey, you thought of it first.  You know it will work, so don't tell me it won't. As always, there's a catch, but fortunately not a big one.  Only point five percent of the profits raked in by you should come to the original idea maker.  Even if you use only part of it.  Small price to pay for success.  What can I say, I'm a student, I loved the games, and I want to see you get ahead of all the others.  Nintendo had a movie, why can't you.

  • Spare the time to write back to me, it'll be worth your while.

  • We are very impressed with some of your ideas as we are currently looking into a couple of movie scenarios. We hadn't considered Battlezone, but after reading your suggestions and ideas, it seems like a possibility. To give you some inside info of what we're looking at, and please keep this to yourself, we've considered possible movies for the following:

    Asteroids - initial plot brief:  An out of control Asteroid cluster spirals toward Earth. You're enlisted to destroy the asteroids with the help of a hyper-spacegate.

  • This title is now on the bottom of the list due to recent releases of Armegeddon and Deep Impact.

    Centipede - initial plot brief:  Due to a lab experiment gone bad, a teenager is shrunk down to miniscule size. He must fight for his survival against the many bugs and creatures wqhile trying to find a way to communicate with his professor to help him.

    Major Havok - inital plot brief:  An astronaut is enlisted to infiltrate and destroy the 4 invading alien ships. To destroy them he must penetrate the defense systems and make his way to the nuclear core. After setting the charges he has minimal time to escape.

    I-Robot - initial plot brief:  A student experimenting in psycho-kinetics interfaces his brain waves with a central computer. He is mentally transformed into a robot and must fight and destroy the evil eye to escape and break the kinetic link.

  • This title has been put on the back-burner due to its similarities with Tron.

  • Here's what we envision for Battlezone:  Sort of a futuristic Mad Max type scenario but not cheesey. This wouldn't concentrate on wierd character rather it would be heavy on the action where various factions would meet in a tournament. The addition of various levels and hidden areas would add to the element of surprise, etc.

  • Any movie we make would have the latest 3-D effects and we are also looking into a new, very expensive effect called virtual rotoscoping. By using this method, it gives us much more power to create special effects and such.

  • As we mentioned earlier, we are very impressed with your ideas. Just to clear up some facts to start. We do not pay royalties on projects such as this. If we were to use your idea, we would pay you on a scheduled basis. This is just an example to give you an idea of how it works.

  • If we use your idea, initial payment to you would be roughly $100,000.

  • Future payments would be on a stepped basis.

  • If the movie grosses more than $10 million worldwide, you would receive an additional $100,000.

  • If it grosses more than 25 million, you receive additional $500,000.
  • If it grosses more than 50 million, you receive additional $750,000.
  • If it grosses more than 100 million worldwide , you receive additional $1.5 million.

  • Your payments would cap at the $100 million mark so in the above example, you could possibly earn $2,950,000 (a hair under $3 million).

  • Again, these numbers are not indicative of a contract but are used just to give you an example of what we are looking at if we did decide to use your idea.

  • Anyway, we are considering various efforts at this time. If we decide to use your idea for Battlezone, we will contact you to provide us with some plot outlines and other ideas along the way. Also, it would be customary for you to make a cameo appearance perhaps as one of the characters.

  • Thanks again for your suggestions and interest. Who knows, we may be working together in the future. We'll let you know.

    Subject: Another Laserdisc Game
    From: Andrew H.

  • There is another laserdisc game I've seen that isn't mentioned in your laserdisc section.  I remember watching with fascination as my sister played it when I was younger. Unfortunately I don't remember the name of it. 

  • From what I remember of it the plot was to follow a red car that was racing down busy downtown streets.  Through a steering wheel you controlled the front of a car that appeared over the top of the video. You had to avoid everything that appeared in your path from other cars to pedestrians diving out of the way.  It was very fast-paced.  I only wish I was older at the time as I never got the chance to play it myself.

  • If anyone can fill him in, e-mail us with your answer.

    Subject: First Ever Coin-Op Videogame
    From: S. Shaw

  • My friends and I are having an arguement over what the first video coin-op game was.

  • Was it Pong, Space Invaders or some other game ?

    Interested minds want to know.

  • Bzzzt! The correct answer is: COMPUTER SPACE, by Nutting & Associates (by Nolan Bushnell)

    Subject: YOKO Game Copier
    From: Sandy

  • Today I found a Yoko Game Copier (mint in box) at a garage sale. Your webside is the only one which mentioned this strange machine. I am wondering if you could tell me some more, like if I can make blank cartridges myself, and if you are working with it.

  • A site that we host, the Ancient Atari PAL Division, has a neat feature on the Yoko Game Copier. Check it out!

    Subject: The Last Starfighter Complete?
    From: Reicher

  • I was just playing (and finished) my copy of The Last Starfighter proto for the 5200 and I was pondering something.. is this game complete? I think it is because in the movie, the Gunstar didn't have shields, and you can easily recharge your energy in the sun. I was wondering if you actually know if there is some unfinished code in the cart that says something about shields or if they added those on in Star Raiders II?

  • 5200 Last Starfighter is complete except for the lack of shields. It was later ported to the Atari 8-bit computers, but by the time the port was finished, Atari had lost the license to the movie and renamed it Star Raiders II.

    Subject: 850 Interface Module
    From: D. de Leon

  • It's a sad, sad world when I'm reduced to writing these kind of e-mails but ...

      The 850 interface module certainly was released, but interestingly the one that I had was a nice buff plastic affair matching my Atari 800 and not the strangely naff box in your museum.

      There.  I've said it.  What an anorak I am!

    Keep the memory alive - anyone at your place remember the 8 bit game MULE?

  • The 850 shown on our page was one of a limited number of engineering samples that were made. It's made of metal instead of the brown plastic like most 850 interfaces.

    Sure we spent many an hour playing MULE. Possibly one of the best games ever!

    Subject: Jaguar Test Disc
    From: R. Hague

  • I saw the pic on your AGH Museum. But what does it do?

  • It's a disc for testing the Jaguar CD. Basically the disc contains errors and skewed tracks, etc. From what we know if the CD was able to read the disk, it meant it was within acceptable tolerances. The CD also contains the Tempest 2000 soundtrack.

    Subject: Nowadays...
    From: FuManChu

  • I remember as a kid how the gaming industry evolved...and I really appreciate what has been happening to the industry ever since I first plugged in my Atari 2600 15 years ago...

  • But what I'm writing about is regarding a past idea evolved in a classic movie.  "The Last Starfighter" gave gamers an inspiration to play their games by...it taught gamers to really live the game in order to fully appreciate what the developers had in mind.  What I'm asking is now with the technology available in 3D graphics and superfast processors, regardless of coin-op, console, or PC....will there ever be a full rendering of "The Last Starfighter" Game as it was seen in the movie? I've been nostalgic about the game ever since I first watched that movie, and the 5200(?) version of the game was absolutely outstanding!!!  But now, today, "The Last Starfighter" could really be a great game if it's handled in a professional manner.  I mean, it could be more than a 'space shoot-em-up', there could be strategic elements like in the 5200(again ?) version and more and more different opponents outside Zur and the Ko-Dan armada.

  • I'm a gamer, I'm aspiring to be a programmer, but most of all, I recognize the full potential of such a product showing up in arcades around the world or on CD's for consoles or PC's...with today's technology as it is.  The boundries are endless...thank you for reading my opinions.  And if there's any chance...tell uncle Nolan Bushnell I said "Hi!"

  • We loved the 5200 version of The Last Starfighter as well. Unfortunately, it wasn't exactly a box office smash, so it's doubtful that companies are looking to license the title.

    Subject: Which Emulators Are Best?
    From: Nicholas G.

  • First off I'd like to congradulate you on a wonderful site. Your page has brought back a myriad of memories of days gone by! And thanks to the advancements in PC technology, I've recently gotten into emulators. Of course, nothing beats the real thing, but it's a trip to try out some of the games that I never had (or will have) a chance to check out. Anyways, there seems to be a ton of emulators for just about every system out there, and it's confusing to try and figure out which one is best. I mean, there must be at least a dozen emulators for the 2600 alone!

    If possible, I'd like your take on the best emulators for the Atari 2600, Atari 5200, and Nintendo (NES).

  • There is indeed a wide array of emus for the popular systems. We at AGH prefer the following.... Stella and PC Atari (2600), Virtual SuperSystem (5200) and Nesticle (NES). But the pace of progress moves fast, so you never know what emulator will leapfrog past the pack next week!
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