You may be shocked to know, but Atarisoft were doing an official conversion themselves back in the early 80’s of Crystal Castles… not only didn’t their version get released, but there was in fact another version developed a little earlier by a company called Thundervision.
We learn of the Atarisoft release thanks to Mat Allen who has documented the conversion briefly in Digital Press. It seemed at first that the game got caught up in the games crash, US Gold getting hold of the game in 1986, tidying it up and releasing it in limited form.
The original Atarisoft version was intended for Cart release, and Mat Allan recently found a prototype of it…
This has been backed up, and we’ve added the download link to the cart image above. The game itself is not hugely different, but its not quite as fully polished as the US Gold version.
However, interestingly around the time of the Atarisoft game – a company called Thundervision worked on what was believed to be an unofficial conversion. Kurt Woloch informed GTW that he read a story from the programmer that the Thundervision game wasn’t made to get the licence to sell, and hence was leaked to the community to play. This was some 1-2 years before US Gold released the game in the UK, but would have been around a similar time that Atarisoft could have released their version.
It suggests that the leak of the Thundervision game could have been the key reason why the completed Atarisoft game didn’t make it beyond prototype release stage. Atarisoft no doubt would have had damaged sales overall had they proceeded to sell their version.
So was the leak of the Thundervision game the real reason why Atarisoft didn’t release their game and US Gold did? We are not sure yet, but hope to hear soon from people involved to find out exactly what happened.
Another source suggests that an Australian programmer did the game and offered it to Atari, but were turned down and as a result leaked the 99% complete version underground. Was this the case?
For now, check out the original version from Atarisoft, and compare against the superior Thundervision version.
Contributions: Mat Allen, Charles Haley, Kurt Woloch, Grinder
Jim (Unknown surname) speaks about work we believe on the Thundervision version (nabbed from Lemon64)….
“I am one of the authors of this game. I did music and half the field research (we had to play the game to the end in the arcade, and photograph every screen!) It is very flattering to hear the stories about who we are (Jim and Jon). So far, no one is right! Live long and prosper. By the way, that’s not our cover art!”
I loved the unofficial Thundervision version back in the day, any coders want to fix the crash bug which occurs when the last level is rendering?
“Crystal Castles” (US Gold) was reviewed in a 1986 special issue of the german magazine “Happy Computer”: http://www.kultpower.de/archiv/heft_happycomputer_spielesonderheft-3_seite84
The editor of the review wrote that the “Thundervision” version of the game came out of nowhere an there were rumours buzzing around that this version of the game was programmed by an australian fan of the game who got no license from atari.
The mysterious programmer was bitter about this and spread the 99 % complete version of the game to the software underground.
Thanks Grinder!… will add that to the review! :)
Here’s the correct link to the review: http://www.kultpower.de/archiv/heft_happycomputer_spielesonderheft-3_seite49
Brilliant find and a great update. I loved playing this back in the day and will check out the alternative version.
Sorry, but I think you’ve got one thing wrong… the Thundervision version of Crystal Castles is a totally different version from the U.S.Gold one. The U.S.Gold one looks like the screenshot above, while the Thundervision one has a slightly different perspective angle which actually looks closer to the arcade version. I read a story that the programmer of the Thundervision version didn’t make it to get the license to sell it and subsequently leaked it to the community. This was 1-2 years before U.S.Gold released their version. I have both versions on disks, and they are really quite different to each other.
Thanks Kurt! … I didn’t realise that in fact the Thundervision version was completely different!
This seems to give the reason why the AtariSoft version never actually got released properly … the leak may have well killed it. I’ve updated the entry accordingly and left things open to confirm in the future. Cheers!