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Epyx

Epyx
Epyx/Automated Systems
1043 Kiel Court
Sunnyvale, CA 94089
USA
Year Founded:
Year Defunct:
1978
1993
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Automated Simulations was founded in 1978 as a vehicle for publishing Freeman and Connelley's first game in BASIC, Starfleet Orion for the Commodore PET. The game used simple character graphics and was easily ported to other platforms, starting with the TRS-80 and then the Apple II, the later featuring rudimentary graphics. They followed this with Invasion Orion, similar to the original but including a computer opponent as opposed to requiring two players.

The company first made the "big time" with their 1979 release of Temple of Apshai, which was a major hit. Rated as the best computer game by practically every magazine of the era, Apshai was soon ported to additional systems such as the Atari 400/800 and the Commodore 64 in addition to the previous platforms. Apshai spawned a number of similar adventure games based on the same engine, including two direct sequels, branded under the Dunjonquest label. The games were so successful that they were later re-released in 1985 as the Temple of Apshai Trilogy. A series of "semi-action" BASIC games followed under the Epyx brand, including Crush, Crumble and Chomp!, Rescue at Rigel and Star Warrior, each of which added little twists to the Apshai engine.

Freeman left the company to start Free Fall Associates in 1981, leaving Connelley to continue at what was now a large company. In 1983 the company took on its brand name, and became known simply as Epyx. At some point during this period Connelley reorganized his own development team as The Connelley Group, but continued to work under the Epyx umbrella, releasing Dragonriders of Pern. However it was also the year that Jumpman was released and became a big hit. Management decided the future was in action games, and Connelley eventually left the company. The Olympic games series, including Summer Games on the Commodore 64, was one of Epyx's best selling franchises for many years.

A string of successful action games followed, including the hits Impossible Mission and Summer Games. The latter created a long run of successful sequels, including Winter Games, California Games and World Games.

The company also branched out into "Computer Activity Toys" licenses of Hot Wheels, GI Joe and Barbie. In Europe, the British home computer game company U.S. Gold published Epyx' games for the C64, and also ported many of the games to other major European platforms such as the ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC range.

For the bestselling Commodore 64, Epyx made the FastLoad cartridge which enabled a fivefold speedup of floppy disk drive accesses through Commodore's very slow "serial IEEE-488" interface. Additionally, the FastLoad featured convenient disk access commands (for directory listings and program loads/saves, etc.), and a disk editor hacking tool allowing for direct low-level access to floppy disks. Another hardware product was the Epyx 500XJ Joystick, which used high-quality microswitches to produce a well-liked joystick.

Starting in 1986 Epyx also developed a handheld game system called the Handy. Unable to continue due to high costs, it was sold to Atari. Atari then renamed and sold it as the Lynx.

In 1987, Epyx faced an important infringement lawsuit from Data East USA regarding the Epyx's Commodore 64 game World Karate Championship. Data East thought the whole game, and particularly the referee in it, looked too much like its 1984 arcade game Karate Champ. Data East won the lawsuit and 9th Circuit US District Court Judge William Ingram ordered Epyx to recall all copies of World Karate Championship from store shelves. But Epyx appealed the case to the US Federal Court, who reversed the judgement and ruled in favor of Epyx, stating that copyright protection did not extend to the idea of a Karate game, but specific artistic choices not dictated by that idea. The court noted that a "17.5 year-old boy" could see clear differences between the elements of each game actually subject to copyright.

In 1989, Epyx filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. According to Stephen Landrum, a long-time programmer at Epyx, the company went bankrupt "because it never really understood why it had been successful in the past, and then decided to branch out in a lot of directions, all of which turned out to be failures."

At this time, they moved to a smaller office in downtown Redwood City and laid off nearly everyone. Epyx still developed games, but gave up their publishing rights and all the rights to the handheld game console they were developing to Atari (the company they owed most of the money to), eventually becoming the Atari Lynx. Epyx eventually came out of bankruptcy, but in 1993, with 8 employees left, they decided just to sell the rest of the company off. Bridgestone Media Group eventually got the rights to everything else Epyx had, only Peter Engelbrite took the job offers issued to these 8 employees.

In 2006, British publisher System 3 announced it has acquired Epyx's assets to release games such as California Games and Impossible Mission for Nintendo DS, Sony PSP and Wii in 2007.

From Wikipedia