[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Eye of the Beholder

May 5th, 2014 by Benj Edwards

Eye of the Beholder magazine advertisement 1991How does he see… WITHOUT EYES. More like eye of the not-beholder, am I right?

Eye of the Beholder (1991) took the formula of Dungeon Master formula and ran with it, resulting in one of the best the first-person real-time RPGs of the pre-3D era. It's definitely one of the best early VGA games for the IBM PC as well.

As far as games of this category go, I'm quite partial to Lands of Lore myself.

[ From Video Games & Computer Entertainment - January 1991, p.175]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What's your favorite first-person RPG game of the 1990s?

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[ Retro GIF of the Week ] Delicious Strawberry

March 1st, 2013 by Benj Edwards

Amiga Strawberry Art 1986 Retro GIFClick to see other views of this image: [ Original Size ] [ 2X Zoom ] [ 4:3 Ratio ]

It's hard to believe that an artist created this delectable representation of a strawberry using only tiny digital squares in a mere 16 different shades. Whomever made it did so in 1986 on a Commodore Amiga: the signature date, image dimensions, color depth, and color resolution all point to those facts.

Obviously, due to its age, this image did not originate as a GIF. CompuServe introduced the first GIF standard in 1987.

I know of three other works by this same artist (all signed with the same signature), and they're all amazing. I'll probably post them in the future, but for reference, those other works depict a stylized lion head, a pair of feminine human lips, and a "Liquid Light" logo.

But I can't quite read the signature. It looks like it starts with a "K." Can anybody out there help me find this artists' name?

[ Update: 03/06/2013 - Gino in the comments identified this image as the work of Kara Blohm, a well-known Amiga font and graphics artist who is now sadly deceased. Thanks, Gino! ]

[ Wondering what a GIF is? Read the introduction to this column. ]

Retro GIF of the Week Fact Box
Source File Name: STRAWBRY.GIF
Oldest Known File Date: January 21, 1993 - 2:43:32 AM Eastern
Source File Format: GIF - 87a (non-interlaced)
Dimensions: 640 x 400 pixels
Color Depth: 4-bit (16 color)
Color Resolution
(palette size):
12-bit (4096 colors)
Origin Platform: Amiga
Derived From: Unknown
Creation Date: 1986
Artist: Kara Blohm
If you know more about the origin of this image, please leave a comment.

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[ Retro GIF of the Week ] The Feminine Eye

December 10th, 2012 by Benj Edwards

Eye Retro GIF - circa late 1980sClick to see other views of this image: [ Original Size ] [ 2X Zoom ] [ 3X Zoom ]

This eye is more than meets the eye. You probably can't see it at this size, but click on the "3X Zoom" link above and you might notice a face and what might be a shoulder (or a six-fingered hand) reflected in the pupil of the eyeball. Neat detail.

Unlike many GIFs that circulated back in the day, this one is signed — twice, in fact. In the upper left, we see a small box containing stylized letters spelling "The Mage." In the lower right, we see "A.H."

I've seen other GIFs with the same resolution and color depth signed "A.H.", so I assume that is the artist. "The Mage" might have been the name of a BBS that happened to tag the image, or perhaps is was simply an alias of A.H.

When combined with its 320 x 200 dimensions, its odd 5-bit / 32-color color depth reveals that this image was created on an Amiga. That means it is likely that it did not originate as a GIF file, and that it could be older than the 1992 file date. But until I find an older source of the image, I won't know for sure.

Retro GIF of the Week Fact Box
Source File Name: EYE2.GIF
Source File Date: August 6, 1992
Source File Format: GIF - 87a (non-interlaced)
Dimensions: 320 x 200 pixels
Color Depth: 5-bit (32 color) (Amiga OCS)
Origin Platform: Amiga
Derived From: Unknown
Creation Date: Unknown
Artist: Avril Harrison (Updated 12/11/2012)
If you know more about the origin of this image, please leave a comment.

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[ Retro GIF of the Week ] The Empire Strikes Back

December 3rd, 2012 by Benj Edwards

Star Wars AT-AT Empire Strikes Back Retro GIF - circa 1988Click to see other views of this image: [ Original Size ] [ 2X Zoom ]

The Empire Strikes Back is one of my favorite films of all time, so I have always cherished this particular image that someone uploaded to my BBS in the early 1990s. It depicts two AT-ATs walking through the snow in a scene recalling the Battle of Hoth from the 1980 film.

Its 16-color 640×400 format suggests a few possibilities as to its origin platform. IBM's little-used MCGA standard (introduced in 1987) could do 640×400 at 16 colors, and so could a few "extended EGA" graphics cards on the IBM PC platform.

But so could the Amiga — in fact, 640×400 at 16 colors was its original high-end graphics mode. Since many early GIF files originated in the graphically rich culture of the Amiga (a machine well-known for its graphics capabilities), and since this file is dated 1988, and since MCGA adapters were scarce, I'd say this image most likely originated on the Amiga platform.

[ Update: 11/04/2012 - Since I originally wrote this, I've realized that this AT-AT image uses a 12-bit (4096) color palette (from that palette the artist could use 16 colors on screen at a time), which was unique to the Amiga platform. So this image definitely originated on an Amiga. ]

By the way, this image is actually signed by the artist. You can see a small "BMW" in the lower right corner (and we're not talking about the German car company here). If anyone knows who BMW is, please leave a comment. That would be fascinating to find out.

[ Wondering what a GIF is? Read the introduction to this column. ]

Retro GIF of the Week Fact Box
Source File Name: ATAT.GIF
Source File Date: June 26, 1988
Source File Format: GIF - 87a (non-interlaced)
Dimensions: 640 x 400 pixels
Color Depth: 4-bit (16 color), 12-bit palette (4096 colors)
Origin Platform: Amiga
Derived From: Unknown
Creation Date: circa 1988
Artist: BMW
If you know more about the origin of this image, please leave a comment.

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] When EA Wasn't Evil

April 15th, 2012 by Benj Edwards

Why Electronic Arts is Committed to the Amiga Ad - 19851980s breakthroughs in workplace ergonomics led to this optimal seating position.

Long before the gaming public considered Electronic Arts the worst company in America, EA made its name as a creative haven that valued its talent.

No, really.

EA went out of its way to convey a developer-friendly image in its early years, prominently featuring designers' names in the company's box art and marketing materials. Gamers bought into it, in large part, because EA developed and published some of the most advanced and highly regarded early home computer games of their time (think Archon, M.U.L.E., The Seven Cities of Gold, etc.). EA must have been doing something right.

Of course, things changed over the years. From a personal standpoint, I remember when public sentiment seemed to turn against Electronic Arts in the mid-1990s after it acquired legendary development house Origin (most famous for the Ultima series) and proceeded to drive it directly into the ground. Origin would not be the last highly regarded game development firm to suffer this fate at the hands of EA.

[ Continue reading [ Retro Scan of the Week ] When EA Wasn't Evil » ]

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