|Beneath Apple Manor
|The Software Factory/Quality Software
Year of release:
Apple II, Atari 8-bit, IBM
Approximately 20 000
A landmark game, and one of the first computer role-playing games, Beneath Apple Manor is a 1978 release by Don Worth. Essentially a dungeon crawl, the player explores a subterennean labyrinth in search of a magical apple. Author Don Worth explains: "My two main influences were Dungeons and Dragons (I had been playing it a lot at that time and wanted to create a simulation of it) and DragonMaze on the Apple II. I don't think Rogue or any of the other D&D inspired games were out there at that time. There was "Adventure" (the wand with the rusty star and the little bird in the cage, etc.) around but it was a very different type of game. I remember just going through the various D&D rules (like kicking down a door, X-Ray vision spell, etc.) and thinking about how I might implement them on the computer.
I remember I had just purchased my Apple II and didn't have a printer yet. I wrote out all the game code (in Integer BASIC) on yellow tablets and whenever I made a change or addition, I wrote them in on the handwritten "listings" I had created. I think the basic game went together in a few days. Then I got one of my D&D friends to come play it. I would watch him play for hours, making notes on any "killer strategies" he discovered. Then I would go in and program away his strategy. If it was too hard for him, I would program it to ease up on him. Eventually it got pretty well balanced. Originally the whole thing was in BASIC, but the screen map updates weren't fast enough, so I redid that part in assembler. (That's what made the Clairvoyance potion work - it would have been way too slow otherwise.) For the sound effects, I recorded them on a tape recorder and digitized them into the computer through the sound port. When I did the hitting the door sound, I thumped my fist on the table next to the recorder. I think the sword sound was a fork on the side of a water glass.
I did the Software Factory as a partnership with a couple of other guys (Bob Male who did AstroApple and Frank Wood who did TRS-80 games). When we were selling through our "Software Factory" we did all our own layouts and printing (I would take it to the local offset place myself) and my mother-in-law assembled the books and stuffed the plastic bags with them. It was a real cottage operation. I would drive to various computer stores in the area and leave free samples. And we sent a free copy of each of our products to all the software stores that advertised in the magazines at the time. That generated a lot of sales. All three of us had full-time jobs at UCLA at the time and were doing this on the side. We sold our games for a while that way and then, when it looked like we could make more money with some professional marketing, we turned to Quality Software. I did a royalty contract with them with pretty generous (to me) terms. Quality Software was run by Bob Christiansen and Bob Pierce in Chatsworth.
The original version was Lo-Res (colored blocks) or Text (letters to represent things on the map) and was in BASIC in two parts. On tape, you would load the first part in and then load the assembler routine on top of it and run that. Then, when you changed levels, you would load the other side of the tape. It was pretty tedious. It was a lot easier on disk.
When I contracted with Quality Software they sold the original version for a while, then we spiffed it up to do a special edition. The Galfo Integer BASIC Compiler had come out so we compiled it and it ran a lot faster. At that time I did the hi-res graphics. I remember designing all the little icons (ghost, door, chest, etc.) myself, fiddling with the graphics artifacting to produce different colors. I also added some new monsters and spells. We reverse engineered Galfo's runtime module and ported it to the Atari and IBM PC so that we could run the game on those computers too. I did the IBM port - and Bob Christiansen of Quality Software did the Atari port.
The 1978 release came with an 8.5x11 booklet - maybe 20 pages - spiral bound. The cover was brown with a picture of Apple Manor my brother, Steve, did for me in pen and ink - he did all the interior illustrations on that one as well. The book was in a zip-lock bag with either a diskette or a cassette tape. I don't remember how many we sold - maybe a couple thousand.
The Special Edition was done by Quality Software and was much more professional. The Apple version was shrinkwrapped and in a smaller form factor than the old one, with a full-color cover, a rule booklet, and a disk. The IBM and Atari versions came in little boxes that were shrinkwrapped."
The GUE is still looking for an original Beneath Apple Manor tape, as well as an original Apple II disk for the Special Edition, so if you can help, please send an e-mail.