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matthew180

Intrigue Software's interesting history

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I stumbled across this article and found the history of Martin Webb very interesting:

 

https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2019-10-13-the-boy-behind-the-biggest-coin-op-conversion-of-the-80s

 

This paragraph was very unexpected and surprised me:

 

" Although Martin was only 17, he was already a seasoned programmer with more than a dozen games under his belt. The majority of these were original titles for the Texas Instruments TI-99/4A home computer which were mainly sold via mail order. His dad managed the business - and therefore Martin - and also produced the graphics for the games. The company, Intrigue Software, got off to a good start and built up a decent reputation in TI-99 circles. "

 

I have never heard of Intrigue Software or any of their 99/4A titles, does anyone know any of the software they produced?

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Intrigue produced games such as Quasimodo Help, Decathlon, Mania, AdventureMania, and a few others, for the TI99.

Martin Webb has actually had some input on this forum, a couple of years ago.  He also made games independently of Intrigue, he wrote a game or two for "Newday Computing", namely Alpine Quest. (A graphical text adventure).

 

Intrigue were one of the strong-sellers in the UK in the 80's for the TI.  Ciro has a few of their titles on his site and I know Vorticon has or two as well.

 

Some of their games came in nice cassette boxes such as the one shown in the picture.

PRODPIC-2393.jpg

Edited by Firefly
showing picture of intrigue cassette
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Beneath the stars by Intrigue Software was my first cassette game I had back in 1983. Unfortunately don't have that one anymore 😢

Panic on the titanic is the only other title I don't have. 20190429_163357.thumb.jpg.3919853a3c8a11fd1cb9c60bdfa00e4d.jpg20190429_163342.thumb.jpg.e9020ed8e3d9ed087307a2c7ec10ec27.jpg

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I'm just disappointed that the thread isn't titled "Intrigue Software's intriguing history"

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8 hours ago, matthew180 said:

I stumbled across this article and found the history of Martin Webb very interesting:

 

https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2019-10-13-the-boy-behind-the-biggest-coin-op-conversion-of-the-80s

 

Love this byline:

 

"Martyn launched Retro Gamer magazine in 2004 and has been typecast as a lover of rubbish old games ever since."

 

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I tried to check the site out, and I get the result you see below.  This seems to be happening more and more lately, it seems more sites do not like connecting over VPN's.

Maybe I have a setting wrong or something.

 

2053166845_VPNOn.thumb.JPG.8e9d553b5d3c1f5566f9e76cacd09dea.JPG

 

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5 hours ago, JB said:

I'm just disappointed that the thread isn't titled "Intrigue Software's intriguing history"

I almost wrote that, but decided it was too cheeky. ;)

 

Those are some nice looking boxes!  It still amazes me that anyone could make a living or sell games written in BASIC, especially on the 99/4A.  It also makes me wonder how much doing these games actually prepared Martin for the Sega port?  It is quite a leap from BASIC to doing an assembly language port of a high-speed arcade game, and on a system with a different CPU and graphics (not that BASIC prepares you for assembly at all, but maybe he started dabbling in 9900 assembly?)

11 hours ago, Firefly said:

Martin Webb has actually had some input on this forum, a couple of years ago.

Oh really?  Cool.  What is/was his forum alias?

 

Has anyone played any of these?  I'm wondering what the play-ability was like, or how the adventures compared to others of the day like the Scott Adams titles, etc.?

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10 hours ago, matthew180 said:

I almost wrote that, but decided it was too cheeky. ;)

 

Those are some nice looking boxes!  It still amazes me that anyone could make a living or sell games written in BASIC, especially on the 99/4A.  It also makes me wonder how much doing these games actually prepared Martin for the Sega port?  It is quite a leap from BASIC to doing an assembly language port of a high-speed arcade game, and on a system with a different CPU and graphics (not that BASIC prepares you for assembly at all, but maybe he started dabbling in 9900 assembly?)

Oh really?  Cool.  What is/was his forum alias?

 

Has anyone played any of these?  I'm wondering what the play-ability was like, or how the adventures compared to others of the day like the Scott Adams titles, etc.?

I've played his text adventures, I think either adventuremania or mania was one of his, and I owned back in the day, Alpine Quest, that he wrote.

The parser was a strange one; you couldn't just type EAT FOOD ... it wasn't even a two-word parser, you had to type EATFOO so three letters of first word, no spaces, and three letters of last word .... I now realize why i couldn't get off the first part of Alpine Quest because that would have been the same.  

 

I can't remember his handle on here, I think it's just his name? .... I remember me telling him about my difficulties with Alpine Quest and bless him he apologized ! Seems a really nice guy.  I turned around and asked him if he'd like to write any more games for the TI now that he's discovered the hive of activity surrounding it ... it was the last time I ever heard anything from him.  Perhaps after reading that article I see why he might not want to.  I hope he keeps in touch on here anyhow.  

 

I think he learnt 6502 assembly in a certain space of time like a year, and then they dropped on with US Gold. I couldn't imagine the pressure!

 

 

Edited by Firefly
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>I tried to check the site out, and I get the result you see below.

 

More than likely a security plugin for your browser or a setting.

 

Best bet is the plug the original address in to the way back machine, that's what I had to do.

 

 

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Hey Martin! :) i am Ciro from Italy, glad to see you here!

At this link, you can see all the stuff i collected and published on the TI99iuc's DataBase, some of the stuff still missing anyway and i think some titles will be very hard to find still :)


http://www.ti99iuc.it/web/index.php?pagina=cerca&ricerca=intrigue&cerca=Cerca

IntrigueTapes.thumb.jpg.c15ad6a19d65189528498a3f4fe4a024.jpg

 

Yes, i have some questions please 😛 

I still have a pair of original Catalogs to scan and add to the DataBase, in one of these, there are listed some a pair of titles that i never seen published, for example:
image.png.9f96d84bc2bdea8773f9e17b96984330.png  image.png.4abfeca1e2c1d08d16ed0d208144ad66.png  

Have you memories about these?
because, for example, I missing the number G12 in the collected tapes and i always wondered to discover which title could be the missing one :) 

in addition, I found "Panic on the Titanic" numbered as G21 have you memories if this was the last one published, could you confirm, please 😛 ?

 

Edited by ti99iuc
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Cool a programmer from back in the day... I have 3 of the games. Living in Norway it was not so easy to get games. But I got at least 3 of them.

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I am sorry this has been so long. But I do try and participate in answering questions around the web where I can. 

 

So, today I still build software. These days it is SaaS (Software as a Service) I have my own cloud system used by business's around the world. Our system is hugely complex and is used daily by thousands of customers. I am 54 in 2021 so I guess how does building cloud software compare to making tiny games on the TI 99 in basic. - Actually in some respects very similar. The key thing that the TI99 taught me from the age of 12 was solving problems and making my code compact and fast. The TI and in-fact all of the 80's home PC's were dead slow and limited in memory and power.

 

So in order to build stuff you had to always consider ways of making things appear faster and use less memory. This can be seen in games like ATLANTIS and PANIC ON THE TI-TANIC. ATLANTIS has many many screens each different (Rooms) these were made simply by drawing the sea bottom using RANDOM numbers. I soon discovered that if I use random numbers they are actually always the same, this makes it easy to draw random shapes that will always appear the same when replayed. I used this technique on PANIC and ATLANTIS - to position fish, objects and draw rooms. Normally this would be done using mapping - In 'Adventuremania', 'Mainia' and Lionel I mapped everything into dimensional arrays. This is very low level but still effective. Arrays were used to map rooms, doors, keys, objects etc. The downside is the arrays would consume lots of memory thus bottlenecking the size of the game. In other games such as Battle of the Stars - I learnt how to make lots of things move around the screen. In the early days if you had 3 objects on screen moving each, every game cycle would slow down the keyboard response.

 

On the TI this was dreadful. Later I used a technique where only one object is move each cycle this speeded up response times. Now this may all seem trivial - But, the secrets learnt here were all applied to the COIN-ON ports. For example OUTRUN uses 8x8 char graphics for the objects road side, they are moved at different cycles to speed the game play up dramatically and give the illusion of speed.

 

The step from going from BASIC to 6502 was STEEP! - It took possible a year min to make the first game and it caused a lot of trouble at home. I can recall I had a frog on a large pond plant and he would hop around - I spent ages just playing with it, learning how to scroll screens with out flicker, detect collisions and so on. When I am doing this kind of stuff it is 24 hours night and day. Even today I will literally sleep solving problems. It is a painful exhausting process of determination to succeed. 

 

Learning my basic skills on the TI with it's limitations taught me the basics of speed, compression and illusion. All of these are used today in our Business APPS. For example today a customer commented on a live screen share with 10 attendees your app runs really fast - When I here this I know this comes down to understanding that code should run fast even if today we have much faster systems. Speed is everything.

 

From that aspect building BASIC programs on a TI is much like making web pages. When a webpage loads it is identical to loading up a game on the TI - The code runs in sandbox. When we build web pages we use techniques similar to those used in OUTRUN to make the pages load very fast, hiding the bloat in the background.

 

I find it incredible that at the age of 54 I still spend 20 hour days 7 days weeks sat in front of 4 screens building code. As a child I was obsessed with making stuff, it started with cardboard boxes and moved on to wood by the age of 5. By 10 I was constantly visiting rubbish dumps to find broken electrical stuff I could use to build what ever my imagination could imagine. Space ships, cars, satellite dishes to search for aliens - Of course all of this failed. 

 

Discovering the Zx80 changed my life - finally I could make what I imagined in small 8x8 pixels - and to this day that is what I do. I love building stuff, I love ideas and challenges and have an endless passion and energy to make it work no matter how enormous the task is.

 

I guess I am an inventor?

 

Thank you for playing these games and showing interest in the history that made them. For some reason seeing the coloured tape cover of SANTA and the GOBLINS brings back the most Nostalgia - I think that time was very difficult at home when I made this game and as a child (14 or 15?) I guess i had dreams of making $$$ and solving family money issues.

 

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