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.

1988 Origin Intro + Quest For Clues II Press Releases

Updates have been thin on the ground here recently which is likely to continue for a while. I tend to be all or nothing with most things and my enthusiasm for blogging has been waning recently. I had thought about taking a complete hiatus but I’ll just reduce posting to as and when I feel the urge instead. The main distractions are work and a huge backlog of games crying out for my attention.

Having offered far too much money for her Kickstarter, I’ve been playing Jane Jensen’s Gray Matter most of the last week which I’m seriously enjoying. I’m a sucker for point and clicks and this is a about as traditional as it gets, with the sort of involving storyline I would expect from Jensen. When I get that finished, I have near enough the entire catalog of Legend sat on a shelf unplayed which I intend to make a start on.

That isn’t going to leave much time for this site but I’ll fit in some posts and the occasional Origin game somewhere. Today I have the last couple of items in a folder of press releases I’ve been slowly working through. They aren’t the pick of the crop but getting them on here does mean I can finally tidy the folder away. The first of these is a concise 1 page introduction to Origin circa 1988. This describes the company goals, foundations and gives short descriptions of the newest games at the time. It contradicts the official book of Ultima claiming that the move away from Sierra was to achieve greater creative control rather than being due to the poor royalties received on ports but I’m sure there were plenty of factors:-

Origin Press Release 1988

The second scan is a press release for Quest For Clues II from August 1st 1989. This appears to be a test run as it’s not on the usual headed paper and would probably have had a further product spec. on the back.

Quest For Clues 2 Press Release

Origin Sales News Bulletin – Issue #1

Back in 1987 Origin signed a deal with Broderbund for them to distribute their games. Dating from a year later, this is a scan of the first sales bulletin provided to the Broderbund sales and marketing team. It gives the basic info of the various ports that were just being released at the time + the Ultima 5 cluebook. That cluebook followed some months behind the initial release of the game which definitely wouldn’t happen these days. It also mentions problems with the first version of Ultima 4 on Amiga although it never shipped to customers. This does make me wonder what happened to all those faulty copies:-

Origin Sales News Bulletin - Front Origin Sales News Bulletin - Back


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.

1988 Origin Macintosh Advert

I’m still several days away from finishing Wings Of Glory on the VFX-1 so I’ve dug out some more documents to scan in. This is a set of design templates for a 1988 advert for Autoduel, Moebius and Ultima 4 on the Macintosh. I’ve got three versions of this:-


This version which I’m assuming to be the oldest of the three has large box covers for each game. It may not show in the scan but these have been cut out and stuck over the top of the sheet. I still find it hard to imagine anyone doing desktop publishing like this but the computer equivalent only came into being around the mid 80’s. I can only speculate what happened after this stage of the process and if anyone actually knows how it would have worked I’d love to know.

I’d expect that the Ultima 1 logo that Paul Barnett was showing off on Ultima Aiera a few days back must have been done in the same way when adding the I. It’s clearly the logo off the 1986 remake box anyway so his explanation of a sudden realisation of possible sequels doesn’t fit. I can easily imagine the decision to add the I to the remake cover being made late on or there may even be an alternative design underneath. Even if it’s not the original 1980 Ultima logo as such, I’d still love to have it hanging it on my wall.


This second version of the advert has a different design incorporating screenshots. All the boxes and screenshots have been stuck on afterwards once again with the same screenshot being used for all 3 games.


I’m assuming that this is a test run for the final version as it’s a glossy print with no later additions and it has the correct screenshots. I’d need to find it in an actual magazine to know for sure. This isn’t a perfect print with a glitch in the text for Ultima 4 and a few darker splodges visible within the larger letters.

For all those versions, it’s not the most aesthetic or interesting of Origin adverts but I would quite like to try these games out with the added mouse interface. Judging by other games of the era, I don’t expect it would have added anything when introduced as an afterthought but I could be wrong. I’m really curious as to how the combat in Moebius and Autoduel would have worked with a mouse.