Title: ||Elysian Fields
||Publisher: ||American Eagle|
Mark Novembrino |
Year of release:
Apple II |
|Copies sold: ||
Several hundred |
The Elysian Fields and Other Greek Myths (Elysian Fields) is an educational graphic adventure game about Greek mythology, where the player must find a way back to the present. |
The game is the work of Mark Novembrino: "The Elysian Fields was released by American Eagle Software in 1984. I began development on the program about a year and a half earlier when I was 13 years old. Of course, at the time, I was certainly not the only teenager developing software, and my young age was not unique in this field.
I created the Elysian Fields as a labor of love (at least to my 13-year-old concept of such things) because I was fascinated with Greek mythology, enjoyed drawing and art, and was obsessed with programming the Apple II. It was a fun, experimental time for computer enthusiasts and designers in ways that modern software developers could not fathom. (Remember punching a hole in a 5 1/4" disk with a hole punch to free up space on the back side of the disk? Imagine doing that today with a CD-ROM!)
I developed the core code for Elysian Fields in Applesoft BASIC, but supplemented the BASIC code with a lot of assembly language programming. It was difficult to pack everything onto two sides of a 5 1/4" disk, and especially difficult to fit the running code into 48K of RAM. As a result of various tricks to force things to "fit", the program featured a number of technical innovations that were essentially unnoticed in the industry due to lackluster sales of the game. One trick was the usage of custom-designed track/sector read/write routines instead of Apple DOS. This caused the program to load significantly faster than other programs of the day, and disk access (for picture display) was speedier than any other adventure game of the era. I also made use of other software available at the time, such as "The Graphics Magician" by Penguin Software/Mark Pelczarski, and some picture packing routines written by John O'Fallon. (Considering the plethora of compression-algorithm - JPEG, GIF, etc - images on the web today, John was way ahead of his time!)
Like Michael Giltzow's Kukulcan, I intended my program to be an educational adventure. At one point, I even created Latin and French translations of the game to be used in classrooms (I was inspired by On-Line's "Mystery House", which was available in a French edition). However, I had to abandon these versions because of memory/space constraints in getting it all on one disk.
Also like Michael Giltzow, I originally sent my game to be reviewed by Phoenix Software, publishers of Sherwood Forest, Masquerade, and several other great titles. I did not know that Phoenix Software had been sold to Norb Svanascini and renamed American Eagle Software. When Norb accepted my software submission, I was thrilled. He was actually responsible for the name Elysian Fields, which, although a location in the game, I had not actually used for the title. Sad to say... but I had called it "Time Warp"! (Hey, I was only 13 at the time!) I think I saw the movie "Time Bandits" at the time, and really liked it. And in the end of my game, there is a time door - located in the Elysian Fields - where you return to the present time from Ancient Greece. Of course, absolutely nothing else in the game was related to this "time" idea - something that Norb wisely pointed out, and I agreed. Norb also provided me with some resources to improve various technical and artistic features of the game. (Anyone remember "The Koala Pad" graphics tablet?) American Eagle also introduced a few glitches, as well: for example, the map provided with the instructional booklet did not include the numbered locations to correspond with game play. Also, the advertised Commodore 64 version of the game did not actually exist, and was never produced.
A number of factors conspired to push my game quickly into obscurity, and the sales were lackluster. One problem was the end of publishing for Softalk magazine, the quintessential Apple II magazine of the day. (Six-month subscriptions to Softalk were given free to Apple II owners, resulting in a significant subscriber base.) In August 1984 - the month before "The Elysian Fields" was scheduled to advertise in the magazine - Softalk "disappeared" from the computer scene. American Eagle Software had to reposition its advertising strategy quickly, and chose Nibble and A+ magazines to run its ads for the months of October, November, and December 1984. But it was too little, too late, not only for advertising, but for these kinds of games in general. The days of creative, one-person, "basement" programming jobs were waning - as were the days of the Apple II itself.
For me, regardless of the lackluster sales of Elysian Fields, it was a project that would provide valuable benefit for years to come. As an adult, I pursued writing, editing, and graphic design work, and eventually found myself back in the programming world with the introduction of the web and web browsers. I am currently employed at a large networking company as a senior technical writer, and I develop software (VB, C++, .NET, XSLT) as part of my work. I live in New Hampshire with my wife, Joanna, and 6 cats.
I did not develop any other software that I submitted for publishing. I did develop various pieces of Apple II software just for my own experimentation (including a version of the popular RISK board game long before the game manufacturer’s version). I went on to pursue a career that involved computer software development. But I have worked on mostly internal company projects over the years, and did not continue to produce commercially available software."