Big Five produced nine games for Radio Shack's Model 1/3 TRS-80 computers. They were originally released on cassette, but later we produced disk versions as well. I programmed the first seven.
Here's a nice full color ad that we placed in several magazines. There was also a huge poster version.
The first game that started the company was called "Super Nova" and the goal was, ahem, to destroy asteroids. Here is the full-color package artwork. This packaging method used a thin sheet of Styrofoam with the cassette or disk placed in a cutout with the artwork sheet on the front along with an instruction sheet on the back. The whole thing was then shrink-wrapped together. When we first sold the games we just had single color sheets that were duplicated at the local "Sir Speedy" printing center. Those instructions and the cassette tape were then sealed in a Ziploc bag. We got some pretty strange looks when Jeff and I would go up to the checkout lane at the local supermarket with a cart full of Ziploc's!
Here's the original photograph of Jeff playing "Super Nova" which ran in the early magazine ads. You can see his reflection on the screen of the Model 1 computer. Note the famous "expansion interface" which is barely visible under the monitor.
The follow-up to "Super Nova" was "Galaxy Invasion". I'm still really proud of the game play on Galaxy. I was living at my parent's house when I wrote this one and I remember lying in my bed in the darkened room at night watching the glow of the little aliens flying around the screen. Galaxy didn't originally have sound effects but they were added later in a special edition that featured some additional graphic tricks as well. To get sound on a TRS-80 you used a small amplified speaker plugged into the cassette output port. All of the later games I wrote had sound built-in. Super Nova was the only game that never had sound.
Next came "Attack Force". The goal in AF was to drive your little ship between the white squares and blast the bad ramships. By now our signature "flagship" alien had become a regular character in every game. The dreaded flagship had an evil rotating eye and also possessed a very deadly laser bolt. I liked the laser bolt effect so much that I used it on the title page to draw the Attack Force logo. I still have the original package artwork for Super Nova and Attack Force.
Game number four was called "Cosmic Fighter". You had to shoot down rows of aliens that get progressively closer to you. At the end of each wave of aliens you had to dock with the huge mother ship to get more fuel. It was definitely a bad idea to shoot at your mother ship. Of course the flagship was back but he violated this rule and he would sometimes have a lightning bolt exchange with the mother ship while you were trying to dock. The shiny label proudly proclaiming the inclusion of sound effects can be seen.
Next came Meteor Mission II. The "II" refers to a completely unrelated game I wrote before Super Nova. I never sold a copy...I think. In MM2 your goal is to rescue some trapped astronauts by maneuvering your craft through a meteor field without getting squashed.
Robot Attack is memorable because it was my first talking game. Achieving this somewhat revolutionary effect was done by simply recording my voice with a microphone plugged into the cassette recorder and digitizing the data on the cassette port. There were randomly generated mazes where you walked your character from one side of the screen to the other while destroying robots in the process. I referred to the algorithm to generate the mazes as the "water flow" routine because if "water" could flow from one side of the screen to the other then an acceptable maze had been generated. Robot Attack's artwork was my favorite of the TRS-80 game covers.
My last TRS-80 game was "Defense Command". Here you were in charge of guarding some small cans from waves of incoming aliens that wanted to steal them. If they picked up one of your cans you could blast them out of the sky but the can would fall and you had to catch it before it crashed into the ground. Defense Command was the game Jeff and I demonstrated on Good Morning America.
Here's a magazine ad announcing the release of Defense Command. The color of the artwork came through a lot better on the ad than it did on the package. The package artwork gives a sort of smoggy look to that alien planet whereas the ad has a kind of polar feel.
"Stellar Escort" by Jeff Zinn was the first game Big Five Software released that I didn't write. Jeff wrote it in his spare time at home and we bought and sold it on a royalty basis.
Here's an ad we placed when Stellar Escort came out. There's also a blurb about our futuristic TRISSTICK!
Here's an ad that we ran for our little joystick device we dubbed the "Trisstick". I think that's my mom holding the joystick in front of a Model 3 computer.
Finally there was "Weerd" by Arthur Gleckler. We never even met as Arthur was from out of state. I guess Arthur contacted us because we placed some magazine ads soliciting game submissions but I really don't remember the details. In fact, I don't remember the game either! The package artwork was done by the legendary Scott Ross who also did the original Miner 2049er artwork for us.
Toward the end of the TRS-80 game craze we worked a deal to sell several of my games at Radio Shack in "game packs". This was especially satisfying for me because I used to work at a local Radio Shack as a teenager. Seeing my products with a Radio Shack catalog number hanging from a peg was a big kick!