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Walter Ives

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About Walter Ives

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  1. It's very misleading to characterize Takeover as a "never released" game cartridge. The original Intellivision games were all developed under the auspices of Mattel's Preliminary Design department, whose basic charter was to investigate new ideas. The ideas that worked were turned into product and released; the ones that didn't were left simmering. None were ever abandoned completely. For example, Jeff Rochlis wanted a line of "gaming network" cartridges. The idea was to bundle sufficient casino-style games into each cartridge of the network to give customers good value for their money. This was done with "Blackjack and Poker." Some work was done on several other gambling games as part of a "preliminary design" style investigation. One of these, a slot machine simulation, was never incorporated into a game cartridge but later became the basis for a TV Poww game, for which purpose it was perfect. Takeover was similarly one of dozens, if not hundreds, of ideas that were in various stages of being investigated. It's going a bit far to call all such ideas "never released cartridges." I'm sure Barbie's clothes designers created tens of thousands of drawings, would you call all of them that didn't result in a product "never released outfits?" Obviously not. Both APh and Richard Chang had long felt that colored-square mode graphics were too crude for the Intellivision cachet but were intrigued enough with the idea of Takeover to investigate it a little anyway. What you have is the result of an investigation that took about a month and a half to write. The philosophy of the game is that you're the commander in chief and you give your armies orders which they follow autonomously, but in real time. Giving complex commands requires complex controls, so you can't just pick up this game and play it—you have to both read the manual and take some time getting familiar with the controls. And as for those awkward Intellivision "buttons" you complain about in the video, just imagine how much easier the game would be to play if you could use an Atari joystick to input your commands. It would be so obvious how to do that you could completely dispense with the manual. The rough cut prototype that you're playing runs much too slowly at the beginning and much too fast toward the end—things can get absolutely frantic. APh knew this and was planning to implement automatically variable time dilation as a next step. But adjusting that to be just right was going to take a lot of playing time and it didn't want to spend the effort unless everyone, including marketing, could see past the graphics. It also wanted to try several other types of commands. Takeover is therefore historically interesting as an example of one of many, many ideas that were investigated rather than as an ostensibly completed cartridge that wasn't released. Although the Mediterranean scenario is more interesting to play, the Australian map was created it in hopes it wouldn't come across as quite as blocky. I don't believe new armies are generated according to a random number generator—I think the generation rate is a fixed function of the amount of territory that you've conquered, that is to say the territory you've turned into your own color. That's the whole reason to conquer territory and have it change color as you do so. Also, it incentivizes your opponent to take territory away from you, so you have to defend it. I also believe that territory near a city is weighted more heavily in army creation for that city than territory farther away, but that may have still been on the to-do list. Also, cities are supposed to gradually conquer territory immediately adjacent to them without needing an army as long as there are no enemy forces nearby, but that may have been on the to-do list as well. So you want to establish lots of cities, but you want them to be far enough apart so they don't cannibalize each other's army generation ability. You might want to experiment a bit. In any event, game play consists of balancing territory conquest, road building, city building, placement of defensive forces and fighting your autonomous armies, all in real time. Later in the game, when you have a lot of armies, things can get quite hectic. You'll find your armies doing what you ordered them to do, not what you wanted them to do. All in 4K of ROM and 256 bytes of RAM. How is that even possible? For comparison, this post alone requires more than 4K. So here's a challenge for y'all. Give the game a real shot, a shot that it was not given in 1982. Learn to play it. Spend enough time with it to play it well (like you had to do for Baseball). Look past its easily correctable deficiencies (like the fact that it plays too slow in the beginning and too fast at the end). Imagine a few additional commands (like one that lets an army conquer territory on either side of its path at the cost of moving more slowly, or one that lets an army be be programmed to stop after moving a certain number of squares, or one that sends an army to a specific place) despite the fact that it makes the controls more complex. Now put yourself in the place of Mattel's highly paid VP of Marketing: do you or do you not green light finishing the game, despite the risk that its crude graphics may hurt Intellivision's reputation for premium graphics? (Utopia's graphics are not exactly stunning....) The Intellivision team had no problem with the fact that some people don't like games you can't just pick up and play. It tried to create something for everybody, and to accommodate these folks it created Sharp Shot, Astrosmash and Roulette. Well, maybe not Roulette—its betting strategy can get a little complicated and most people have to read the manual to take advantage of it all. But Sharp Shot and Astrosmash for sure. Well, people also miss the most important rule for Sharp Shot. So Astrosmash. WJI
  2. "That point" may need to become "now." The General Instrument demo tape contains audio clips made by General Instrument to sell Mattel on the idea of using its voice chip. The "National Weather" segments contain phrases strung together to create automated weather reports for dissemination by radio or telephone (e.g.: 818-841-1384). The tape has no bearing on the Keyboard Component and so probably doesn't fall into your "most interesting" category. The pair of "Diagnostic Test #1" tapes were used to check the quality of recordings made by Mattel's high-speed tape duplication vendor. Again, not a lot of interesting content there. The two Demo cassettes contain the six-and-a-half minute in-store presentation Keith posted on Youtube in 2007. BSRSteve has a copy; Alex.Pace has two; I've heard of a few others. The ones here appear to be in pretty sorry condition--you'd probably want to make copies rather than put them directly into your Keyboard Component. Address Lists and Household Inventory are labeled in a similar style that doesn't resemble any of the other tapes and purport to be BASIC data tapes, so I speculate that they contain programs Chandler wrote for himself. He was, after all, a big promoter of using the Keyboard Component in the home, so he must have played around with it at least a little and if he created any tapes on his own they would be in this collection. The contents of Chandler's address book may be as interesting as the BASIC code that implements it. As to BI Tape 2.0, if you look through the little tape monitoring window in the photograph on the papaintellivision site you can see it only holds about 15 minutes of tape, so it's highly unlikely to be a BASIC data tape. It may not be a Keyboard Component tape at all. https://web.archive.org/web/20160107012355/http://papaintellivision.com/hwKeyboard.php "The keyboard component. This particular unit is fully functional except for the cassette tape unit. The capstan turns and the pinch roller closes on the "Clean" command. There is no tape movement when attempting to access tape contents, just buzzing." This appears to be the same unit. The comment was written in 2012. The drive belts were obviously in tatters; the rollers presumably needed replacing too. By now you can expect that the electrolytic capacitors may be beginning to leak, so you should plan to replace those. None of this is as scary as it sounds. On the other hand, the collection does not appear to have been all that well cared for, so caveat emptor.
  3. Yeah, right. But I see a trade here: BSRSteve controls the rights and DRILK have the data. What do you have that they want badly enough to go thru the trouble to make it happen?
  4. I'm OK with that--if he gets it I'll offer him $20 each for those two original-style hand controllers. But not on an "as-is" basis; he has to represent that they work and appear unused. WJI
  5. That's probably just a pre-manufacture "Data Storage Tape." It's unlikely to have anything other than trivial (e.g.: "Hello World!") BASIC programs Chandler wrote while demonstrating the system. Geography Challenge, Family Budgeting, Crosswords and the Basic Test Tape are written in Microsoft BASIC and so whatever you recover from those tapes should be able run on any Altair 8800 you happen to have lying around.
  6. I've updated my pricing based on various feedback to include a range between a realistic and an optimistic value. We know that Lathe wants one item. No one in this group is going to buy the lot, but we might all willing to crowd-fund as much as two thousand dollars for the cassettes to forward to decle, Ron, intvnut, Lathe and Knarfian (DRILK?) in appreciation of their heroic efforts to resurrect French, Spelling, Football and (hopefully soon) Jack LaLanne. Maybe more if we know for certain that there's a development version of Spanish, Astrology, Diet, Stocks, Tax Preparation, Math, BASIC II, Land Battle, Shiloh, Bear Run, Trek, etc. in the mix. Ron: have you published a list of the tapes you do have anywhere?
  7. The seller doesn't value the cassettes enough to provide a list of the labels. For the ones whose labels I can make out: 2 "Data Storage Tapes" (used for storing user created BASIC programs) 2 "Diagnostic Test #1" (typed labels) 1 "Basic Tape" (handwritten label, presumably a non-production version of a "Data Storage Tape") 1 "French II" (handwritten label, presumably a development version of the second French tape) 1 "Spelling" (handwritten label, presumably a development version of the Spelling cassette) 1 "Geography" (handwritten label, presumably a development version of the Geography cassette, which is just a BASIC program) Decle appears to have already rescued all of these. Only two other people in the world have a prayer of reading them; the rest of us may as well buy loose tapes at a garage sale and stick our own handwritten labels on them. As to the value of the loose Intellivision II controllers: you spotted my joke: there were none listed on ebay, I hate them with a passion, and I valued them accordingly. (I did value the two original-style hand controllers at $20 each.) I also didn't spot on ebay any Alphacom Sprinter 40 printers, Netronics boards or folios with Chandler's name stamped on them so I put my own valuation on those too. As I noted in my post, a Keyboard Component was offered for sale on ebay for $5K about a month ago and the watchers reported the seller offered them a 40% discount by PM--that's where I got the 3K. Many on this board drooled, but none, not a single one of us, jumped at the chance to buy it at that price. Again, for most people it's a brick. The BASIC cartridge uses ordinary ROMs so you could easily make your own board (I think I've seen the binary floating around the net); I valued it at $200 because a collector would pay a premium for the plastic housing. The Jack LaLanne cassette would be nice to own so I valued it at $200, but again, only three people in the world have a chance at making it work and two of them already have one, so wherever it goes it's going to live in a box. This forum attracts the world's most avid Intellivision fans and I'm not convinced any of our wives would let us pay much more. I can't tell from the picture whether the printer sports the original Alphacom label or carries an Intellivision badge. Now that I look more carefully I do see a printer interface in one of the plastic tubs: I should add that to the inventory list with a value of maybe $200. It's a pretty simple circuit that will drive most parallel printers. The seller throws around the phrase "copyright paperwork," whatever that means. Does that just mean pamphlets that contain a copyright notice? That would be kind of shady. But any real copyright paperwork would have been done by Mattel's legal department and would have been retained by them. Chandler himself didn't create copyrightable material. Patentable yes, copyrightable no. Even if he did, he was an employee, so Mattel didn't need him to fill out any paperwork to register its copyright in his work product. In any event, I don't see much paperwork in the photos. The BASIC manual goes with the Basic cartridge (note that the word "Basic" is not upper-cased on the cartridge label), the Keyboard Component Owner's Book with the Keyboard Component and the Sprinter 40 Instruction Manual with the printer. No one cares about the Netronics board documents. An "In Touch with Tomorrow" catalog is currently being offered on ebay for $350, but I sort of doubt it will sell at that price. I should add it to my inventory list at maybe $100. I was in a hurry, so I was kind of generous in valuing the Master Components and handheld games. Nobody wants everything in the lot, so I still only see five thousand dollars of value here, six if you're bidding against cmart. That's "as is" and before tax and the $500 the seller wants for shipping. Please chime in if you would personally pay more than what I've listed for any of the items being offered. Seriously, would you yourself pay $50 for the "Geography" or "Diagnostic Test #1" tapes if you spotted them at a yard sale? Or would you let them go by, like you did for that Keyboard Component that was being offered a month ago? Also let me know if I've grossly overvalued some of the other stuff. Cmart thinks the printer might go for $2K; would any of you take it off his hands at that price if he bought the lot? The Master Component box shows Bowling, so that one's not a low serial number. The other 2609 looks like it's seen a lot of use; would you buy it anyway because of its possible low serial number? Remember, the seller is not responding to inquiries, so you're buying "as is." Maybe the reason Chandler brought home the second 2609 is because the first one gave up the ghost--how does that affect your willingness to pay? Except for the folio and the name plate, the provenance is worth zero to me. Does anyone feel otherwise? I'm interested because I actually know someone who would probably pay $5,000 for the lot, but I can't bring myself to tell him its worth much more. Cmart, you say the lot is worth $10K-$15K, but would you yourself actually pay that much "as is"? I sort of doubt you personally would go as high as $10K. WJI
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