Microprose’s Origin Advertisements

I recently stumbled across an advert for Chris Roberts’ Times Of Lore which apparently has a certain notoriety for being terrible but I’d never run into it before. Without further ado:-


It’s main claim to fame is the hero being so jacked that he’s invented some of his own muscle groups around that loin cloth. That and the understandably surprised looking monster… While the background looks a whole lot like the actual cover art, it has in fact all been redrawn when you compare it to the real thing.

This advert was apparently created by Microprose while they were the UK publisher for Origin games and was used in all of their UK magazine advertising at the time. Microprose only had a few years working with Origin but it got me wondering if there were any others with alternative artwork. I didn’t find many but there was this advert for Moebius:-


It’s a whole lot better than the Times Of Lore cover and certainly more action packed than the original artwork. In this case, it was also used on the UK release of the game shown on the right below:-

Saving my favourite for last, I also found this awesome ad for Auto Duel:-

The actual UK release looked near enough the same as the USA one but I reckon I actually would have preferred this as the cover art. Were there any others that I’ve missed? Please let me know if so.

2400 AD – IBM PC Press Release

This is a press release for the PC version of 2400 AD dated September 16, 1988. As far as I know, this was the only port the game ever received from the Apple II original which is something of a shame as I quite enjoyed playing it and wouldn’t mind having an enhanced Amiga version to try out.

2400 AD PC - Press Release (Front) 2400 AD PC - Press Release (Back)

As an added extra, I’ve played through Legend of Grimrock this weekend and thought I’d give a quick opinion. I’ve heard numerous times that it’s supposed to be influenced by Ultima Underworld which would have warranted a full review if it were true. Instead it’s unashamedly a Dungeon Master clone, with near enough every aspect (other than the automap) being almost straight from that game.

This is my single biggest problem with Legend Of Grimrock. Yes the graphics are quite nice but the gameplay is firmly rooted in 1987. Dungeon Master was regarded as something of a relic on the PC when it finally saw the light of day in 1992 having already being surpassed by games like Eye Of The Beholder 2 and Ultima Underworld. Legend Of Grimrock is so faithful to its roots that I’m not so sure that the same thing doesn’t apply to it as well, fancy graphics or not. There are plenty of dungeon crawlers that have more to them than this, many of which are available on GOG at 1/3 of the price such as Stonekeep, Might and Magic 4/5 and Lands Of Lore. I can’t help but think that anyone who hasn’t already would be better off playing one of those first.

If you’ve played all of those already, or can’t get over 90’s graphics there is plenty of fun to be had with LoG though. The difficulty level throughout was well judged with a reasonable challenge but rarely anything that would hold me up too long. Above all, it has been a long time since I’ve played a new dungeon crawler which is a genre I always liked. LoG certainly had me hooked for the 8 hours or so it took to play to the end, and is a well put together if uninspired game. I came away a little disappointed but I can’t say I was ever a massive fan of Dungeon Master which is arguably key to how much you are going to like LoG.


Updates have been thin on the ground here for the last few days. After a long anxious wait on Friday, I’m glad to say I do still have a job which should have left me with plenty of time for blogging but this seems to have worked the other way around. 10 months of being under threat of redundancy tends to put your life on hold and I have a stack of things to sort out having come safely through the other side.

One of the easier tasks on the list was sorting out a new mobile phone contract. A new phone should mean I can get some half decent photo’s from here on out. So by way of a trial run, I thought I would find something Origin related and photogenic. The first thing that sprung to mind were trinkets.

Origin were famous for including trinkets with their games in the mid 80’s. These were basically useless little items put in the box for gimmick/novelty value or to add some extra atmosphere. They weren’t unique in this with Infocom also being a prime exponent. Combined with the wealth of documentation, cloth maps, etc, it made buying any of these games quite a different experience in my eyes. The practice is still kept alive through special editions at least, but this usually comes with a serious price tag.

There is plenty on the web about the various Ultima trinkets already but there are four other Origin games which got their own little extras. In no particular order these were:-


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In what is potentially one of the most useful trinkets ever included in a game, Autoduel came with a toolkit with a screwdriver with 4 different ends, an adjustable spanner and a miniature hammer all in a little plastic pouch. This is definitely one of my favourites even if it does look like something you might find in an expensive Christmas cracker.



2400 AD came with not one but three little lead figures. These any tiny and proved the greatest challenge for my new camera.




Included with Ogre was a radiation badge and stickers (in a top secret envelope). The principle behind these is that you stick a dot to the badge, walk around a dangerous area with it in view and if it changes colour you know you have taken a certain dose of radiation and need to get out of there. I’ve heard rumours that the dots included with this are the real deal but I don’t expect I’ll ever get the opportunity to try them out.



Last but not least is Moebius which came with a nifty bandanna if you fancied dressing the part while playing the game. This is one step behind another game I have on my shelves (Life And Death) which came with a surgeon’s mask and rubber gloves.

Outside of the Ultima series, Origin stopped including trinkets after these early titles which is something of a shame but they kept their standards of documentation and packaging up which is what I really miss when buying a modern game. It’s hard to make a good case for why these sorts of trinkets should ever have been included but they are one of the things that make collecting old games so much fun.

Day 22-23

I managed to play through 2400AD after all this weekend. Worlds of Ultima with the Ultima 4 engine wouldn’t be a bad description but the gameplay is a little different in this case.

The multi-scale world of Ultima 4 is gone here. Instead the entire game takes place in the city. Its pretty much the equivalent of the towns in Ultima 4 except much much larger and its on 9 levels. The tileset is completely new – it reminded me immediately of the first Commander Keen games for some reason. The colours are a bit brighter than Ultima anyway.

The world is quite alive. There are loads of people around. The game has moving floors you can use to speed around on. If you go in the underground trains will move around (curiously these move at walking speed so you can outrun them).

The conversation system is pretty much the same as Ultima 4 except the usual queries of name and job don’t get you anywhere here. Quite a few characters just give a one line response as in Ultima 3. Others have more information but in general they have less to say than in Ultima 4. These characters don’t really have anything to say that isn’t related to a quest. If you don’t know what to ask them about, they often say nothing.

The controls are the same myriad of keys as in Ultima, except this time they all do different things. Its bad enough having every letter of the keyboard assigned to a particular action, but I am fairly used to the Ultima system. One thing I do like is the climb command which gets you over certain types of scenery. e.g. you can climb over a bar to get to the back room. You can also climb over people if they are in the way (which happens a lot).

There is no combat screen here. Its a one man RPG so there are no parties either. Theres a reasonable range of weapons but the only ones I ever used were various degrees of ray gun. One of the games quests involves fixing a broken plasma rifle you are given. This is the games ultimate weapon and kills all but the stronger robots in one hit. Fixing it involved running around between the cities electronics shops finding, buying and trading for the parts needed.

There is a similar quest to get the games ultimate shield. This time you have to find the blueprints in a particular building, take them to the right person and pay 3500. The clues for what to do are scattered between various people.

The role playing element is fairly light here. You are given three stats to assign at the start of the game affinity, energy, and iq. Energy is your hit points, iq dictates whether you will be able to fix your equipment if it breaks and affinity whether people will talk to you.
Its pretty easy to raise most of these stats. Affinity goes up every time you talk to someone. You can grind it to 99 in minutes, although its hardly neccessary. Energy goes up if you run everywhere. This also doesn’t take long. IQ is trickier, you actually have to be able to fix something before it goes up. I ended up just paying to get my stuff repaired. I did find a guy who increased my stats if I paid him 1000 credits but I still never fixed anything. The plasma rifle and field dispenser don’t appear to ever break so I really didn’t need to.

There are a number of different types of robot of varying toughness. Even right at the start of the game I could still take out two types easily provided I took them on one at a time. Once I got a reasonable weapon and shield, I beat them every time. The plasma rifle and field dispenser made combat in the city ridiculously easy but were essential for the final assault.

The plot of the game is very simple. Right at the start you join the underground who are resisting the robots and from then on you get a few minor quests to achieve. You basically have to get the best shield and weapon, find the access terminal in the underground to get the 3 passcodes to deactivate the robots. Then fight your way through to the terminal and type these codes in.

As a human, you have to report in at a particular building every 2000 ticks or the robots start attacking you. If you do report in you get an SD (Social Demerit?). 5 of these and you have to go to prison. Going to prison is not a big deal. You just climb on the bed and can get straight out again. All your stuff is hidden in a locker in the building but once you know where its easy to get it back every time.

I gather there is an alternative route to the terminal. The one I used meant a frontal assault and then I had to use a jetpack to go the wrong way down a conveyor belt. The building was absolutely full of the toughest robots in the game but its easy enough to take them out a couple at a time then find a corner to pass turns and get energy back. There is no food in this game so you can take as long as you want.

At the end of the game, you type in your codes and there is a brief message saying the Tzorgs will detect this and mobilize a response (hinting at a sequel) + a not too impressive firework display.

I rushed through this game with a walkthrough and now I’ve finished it kind of feel I didn’t really give it a fair chance and should possibly have held back on the walkthrough. Its a pretty short game and wouldn’t have taken that long to play properly. It’s not up to Ultima 4 standards but this is a fun light-RPG.

Day 21 – 2400AD


This will be a short post as I haven’t actually played the game yet. I have quickly read the manual though so I can at least describe the storyline. The plot is that the planet the game takes place on was colonised by humans in the 23rd century with the help of Tzorg scientists. A city called Metropolis was set up, and the Tzorg’s gradually took the top positions in society over the next 100 years. The Tzorg diplomats were then withdrawn without explanation and shortly afterward the Tzorgs attacked. Metropolis was turned into a prison, but eventually the Tzorgs had to withdraw and leave the planet entirely run by cyborgs. Your mission is to get into the mainframe and flick the switch which will turn all the cyborgs off and free everyone.

From the little I know, the game plays very much like Ultima 4 even using the same conversation system. I’m guessing that this will be kind of like the World of Ultima games, with the Ultima 4 engine instead of Ultima 6. It should be a decent game if that is the case so I’ve fairly high hopes for this one. Not sure I’ll get chance to play it much this weekend though.