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The Logical Choice

Phoenix Software was founded in 1981 by Ron Unrath, out of Lake Zurich, Illinois. Over the following 3 years, the company released 8 games and 5 applications. The first game released was a text adventure entitled Adventure in Time, written by Paul Berker, but Phoenix's best known and best-selling games were the graphic adventures Sherwood Forest and Masquerade. Sherwood Forest was even licensed and translated in Japanese. By a wide margin however, the company's biggest seller was an Apple II graphics and printing utility called Zoom Grafix.

Phoenix employed mostly programmers and artists local to the Chicago area. Illustrator Rick Incrocci: "Back in '82 I bought my first Texas Instrument Computer - then an Apple II. I fell in love with computers and things just started happening. I had been a cartoon illustrator for many years prior - so making the move to computer graphics was no big deal (I bought two very expensive graphics tablets that Apple used to make - back then, they were about $800 each). I was doing computer graphics for a few Chicagoland educational houses - then places like Phoenix and Penguin Software just started calling me out of the blue. It was a small world back then - just a few computer artists in Chicagoland and a lot of small software companies that actually worked out of their homes. Not any more."

The company's logo was drawn by a local Palatine resident who did typesetting for the local newspaper, originally featuring a phoenix rising from a fire, with the word "Phoenix" spelled underneath, all in red. In mid to late 1982, the logo was changed to the word "Phoenix" spelled out in black with a stylized "o" and an overhead view of a flying bird. The logo was changed because the fine lines of the original were impossible to reproduce to small size for letterhead, envelopes, and other items. The second logo was likely done by a local ad agency.

In 1984, shortly after the release of Masquerade, Phoenix was sold. As explained by Ron Unrath: "By 1984, the software world has changed significantly. Very large companies such as Disney and Hasbro were starting to get involved in publishing, and advertising rates were going up. It was difficult for a small company like Phoenix to compete." The new company's name briefly became Zooom Software (yes, three "o"s), before changing again to American Eagle.

-> Phoenix never had a storefront or business office - it was run out of Ron Unrath's house.
-> On-Line Systems' Ken Williams sued Phoenix for the use of the name "Hi-Res Adventure". This was eventually settled out of court, given the fact that by that time, neither Sierra [On-Line] or Phoenix were using the terminology anymore.
-> The 3 arcade games, Mad Rat, Bats in the Belfry, and Gemini, were never widely distributed.
-> Phoenix's catalog refers to an upcoming game called "Adventure in Crime", a title that was never published and probably never even started.
-> A further reason for the sale of Phoenix was that it was being sued by a company over naming issues. Phoenix settled out of court and even without the sale, would have had to change its name.
Adventure in Time
Bats in the Belfry
Birth of the Phoenix
Mad Rat
Queen of Phobos
Sherwood Forest
Sherwood Forest (Japanese)

Bats in the Belfry artwork
Dealer letter
Letter from Starcraft
Mad Rat artwork
Masquerade artwork
Masquerade poster
Promotional material
Queen of Phobos artwork
Sherwood Forest artwork
Sherwood Forest hintbook

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