New Mattel Intellivision Article on Gamasutra - Loguidice and Barton

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Gamasutra has just posted the fifth of six entries from me and Matt Barton in the "A History of Gaming Platforms" series, this time on the Mattel Intellivision, here. This was one of my favorite entries to write in the book this series is based off of, so I hope that you enjoy it as much as I did writing it. As a bonus, I've included here on Armchair Arcade the additional captions and images that Gamasutra chose not to include (I think I again improved image quality - by the way, those screenshots are DIRECT video captures straight from an Intellivision II, NOT from an emulator, and everything else of course is also straight from my personal collection). The next and presumably final entry will be on the Atari 8-bit. Enjoy and I'd love to hear some feedback, as I think it ranks right up there with the best overall articles ever written on platform (said with all due modesty and respect, of course ;-) ).

The unused images and all the captions (used and unused):

01

08a

10b

Captions
TYPICAL SYSTEM SPECIFICATIONS/CAPABILITY RATINGS SECTION

01
An Intellivision II Master Component with attached Intellivoice Speech Synthesis Module and cartridge.

HISTORY

02
The inside of a 1981 Mattel Electronics Intellivision catalog, showing the original Master Component and various boxed games in their respective Network colors.

03
Closeups of the infamous Intellivision controller. Despite allowing for an impressive 16 possible movement directions, the control disc was often criticized for its awkwardness with many games. Many add-ons of dubious value were created to purportedly enhance the control disc's functionality, like the Intellivision Attachable Joysticks shown to the far right.

04
A page from a 1980 Mattel promotional flyer advertising the supposedly forthcoming Intellivision Keyboard Component and some of its software.

05
Some of the platform's famous controller keypad overlays were quite useful, like those for Truckin', Space Battle, and Las Vegas Poker & Blackjack, shown in the top row, while others, like Burgertime, Bump 'n' Jump, and Lock 'n' Chase, shown in the bottom row, were more for cosmetics than to serve a particular need.

06a
An Intellivision II with ECS module, keyboard and music keyboard, along with an Intellivoice module.

06b
While certainly not the most powerful system pre-The Great Videogame Crash, the Intellivision's visuals and sound at their best could hold their own against any other system of the time. A direct screenshot from Thunder Castle is shown, which was completed a few years before its 1986 release date.

SOFTWARE

07
Sports games were a system staple, but several excellent shooters also appeared on the Intellivision, including Imagic's Demon Attack (1982).

08a
Thin Ice (1986, but finished earlier), was a fun interpretation of the little known Data East arcade game, Disco No.1 (1982), replacing the disco dancing boy with Duncan the Penguin.

08b
The Intellivision was home to a number of dungeon crawling games, including Tower of Doom (1987), which featured multiple player characters to choose from and 10 different adventures.

08c
Imagic released several original games for the Intellivision, including Safecracker (1983), shown here, casting the player as a spy attempting to recover various items.

08d
The advanced ECS-only World Series Major League Baseball (1983) took a diferent visual approach than other Intellivision baseball games, with multiple camera angles versus a single overhead view.

MODERN ACTIVITY

09
The INTV System III featured nearly the same design as the original Master Component from Mattel.

10a
The Intellivision can be an easy and fun system to collect for with a variety of loose and boxed games readily available for purchase and play on the various systems.

10b
Joe Zbiciak's Tetris clone, 4-Tris (2000), is one of a handful of modern homebrew titles for the Intellivision.

11
The Intellivision had new games in development right up to the closure of INTV, with the unfinished classic computer conversion of Choplifter!, shown here, and the finished, but unreleased, Deep Pockets: Super Pro Pool & Billiards, both featuring 1990 copyright dates.

And what Gamasutra used in their promos:
intv_header

UPDATE!:
http://spatula-city.org/~im14u2c/images/kbd/
After a discussion over at AtariAge, this gentleman came out of the proverbial woodwork to say he was doing work around and in fact had an original Keyboard Component! Unicorn indeed and much appreciated by me to actually get some first hand accounts about the thing, rather than just marketing slicks and contemporary press! By the way, he also offered up that the cassette drives have proven to be very unreliable even on the rare chance a unit is found with one "working"...

Comments

Bill Loguidice
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The Keyboard Component (not ECS)

I'm going to update the post above with this: http://spatula-city.org/~im14u2c/images/kbd/

After a discussion over at AtariAge, this gentleman came out of the proverbial woodwork to say he was doing work around and in fact had an original Keyboard Component! Unicorn indeed and much appreciated by me to actually get some first hand accounts about the thing, rather than just marketing slicks and contemporary press! By the way, he also offered up that the cassette drives have proven to be very unreliable even on the rare chance a unit is found with one "working"...



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Rob Daviau
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Awesome! This article come

Awesome! This article come at a great time as I will soon be receiving an INTV2 unit, I know it's not fully compatible but I like the smaller styling of the revised unit. I was wondering if it was compatible with the voice module and it seems to be according to your pics!

I was wondering Bill, regarding those attachments attempting to improve the controller, did you find any of them helpful? What
about the add-on sticks? Also I am really curious, what is up with those creme colored looking controllers, they look the same but were they made by someone else? Are they any better? What do you recommend regarding controllers since mine are detachable?
Lastly, any game recommendations besides the obvious one? THANK AS ALWAYS BILL AND MATT, you guys are awesome keeping
the retro dream alive......................

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Oldschool games, some people just don't "get it"...

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Bill Loguidice
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Intellivision Lives
Oldschoolgamer wrote:

Awesome! This article come at a great time as I will soon be receiving an INTV2 unit, I know it's not fully compatible but I like the smaller styling of the revised unit. I was wondering if it was compatible with the voice module and it seems to be according to your pics!

It absolutely is. There's nothing the Intellivision II can't do, other than play four games, which if I recall I might have mentioned in the article, but if not, they're (again, if I recall completely) the three Coleco games and Mattel's Electric Company game. In fact, the Intellivision II is the only model that can make use of the Atari 2600 adapter without modification.

Oldschoolgamer wrote:

I was wondering Bill, regarding those attachments attempting to improve the controller, did you find any of them helpful? What
about the add-on sticks? Also I am really curious, what is up with those creme colored looking controllers, they look the same but were they made by someone else? Are they any better? What do you recommend regarding controllers since mine are detachable?

The creme-colored ones are from the Sears version of the system I think. They're actually the same as the original Intellivision model's, which are superior to the Intellivision II's (better build quality and less pain). Frankly, in any case, there's not much you can do about the controllers (there is no availability of third party options), so your best bet is to enjoy them as they were meant to be, warts and all. I don't even use those add-ons that I have as they give inconsistent performance and really push on the discs when you put them in.

Oldschoolgamer wrote:

Lastly, any game recommendations besides the obvious one? THANK AS ALWAYS BILL AND MATT, you guys are awesome keeping
the retro dream alive......................

Well, the ultimate setup is this: http://www.schells.com/cc3.shtml , with this: http://www.beeslife.com/intvgames/cc3/cc3.php , which together allow you to play every game for the Intellivision and ECS (with that add-on) ever, including all the unreleased prototypes, albeit at a combined price of $200+... ;-)

The games I mention in the article are more or less the good ones. It actually has a very strong library, considering, so it's very difficult for me to think of any outside of the usual candidates, which are numerous. Great RPGs, great sports games, great shooters, great strategy games, great voice games, etc. The system is probably so relatively underrated because of the awful controllers, with few games honestly benefiting from the disc control.

By the way, this is a pretty good Intellivision site, which just released a free version of their rarity guide in PDF: http://www.intellivisionworld.com/English/Download/List.asp?iwCat=8

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Oldschool games, some people just don't "get it"...[/quote]


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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

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Mark Vergeer
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Great article -> some gameplay videos?

Kudos to you guys for writing such a nice article! How about some game-play videos?



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www.markvergeer.nl

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Bill Loguidice
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Angry Video Game Nerd
Mark Vergeer wrote:

Kudos to you guys for writing such a nice article! How about some game-play videos?

Not Safe For Work(tm): http://www.gametrailers.com/player/32245.html

Other than saying the control disc also acts as a button (nope, it doesn't), this is a silly and fun look at the old Intellivision and its games....



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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

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Matt Barton
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Thanks for all the great

Thanks for all the great comments, guys. Although Bill did the lion's share of the work here, I am still proud that I was able to contribute to such a definitive piece. I think I actually owned an Intellivision for a brief period in the late 80s or early 90s. Seems like I picked one up at a garage sale. Unfortunately, the unit was too badly used to be of service; seems like the controllers were nearly dead. Anyway, it was always an interesting system and unfairly obscure compared to the coverage for Atari VCS or NES.

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Rob Daviau
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Here is a couple great ones...

Here is a couple great ones, first an Introducing Intellivision commercial which seems to highlight the keyboard componant proclaiming all the things you will be doing with it which it seems didn't pan out like that:

Intellivision® TV Commercial: Introducing Intellivision

Next George Plimpton answers the wish of a child trying to convince his dad to get an Intellivision LOL! He does so by announcing the cheaper INTELLIVISION II!:

Intellivision® TV Commercial: Intellivision II:

Just type Intellivision into Youtube for a treasure trove of related material, hell I could watch all day!

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Bill Loguidice
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Original Keyboard Component Sold!

Original Keyboard Component setup sells for "only" $4000 on eBay: http://intellivisiongames.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=...

Only 4,000 of the Keyboard Components were manufactured and those were only sold in limited test markets. When Mattel Electronics decided not to release them nationally, they recalled all the ones sold for a full refund plus free products. Those who wanted to keep their Keyboards had to sign a waiver stating that they understood Mattel would not support the unit nor publish any more software for it. To find a working Keyboard Component (with its original box!) is one of the rarest finds in video game collecting.



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Calibrator
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Sad
Bill Loguidice wrote:

Original Keyboard Component setup sells for "only" $4000 on eBay: http://intellivisiongames.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=...

Which is a pity as such an exorbitant price probably prevents the successful bidder
to seriously tinker with the item - opening and taking pictures for example.

It'll be locked and collect dust in a vault.

take care,
Calibrator

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Bill Loguidice
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Yes and No
Calibrator wrote:
Bill Loguidice wrote:

Original Keyboard Component setup sells for "only" $4000 on eBay: http://intellivisiongames.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=...

Which is a pity as such an exorbitant price probably prevents the successful bidder
to seriously tinker with the item - opening and taking pictures for example.

It'll be locked and collect dust in a vault.

take care,
Calibrator

Well, supposedly a disassembly is taking place now, including getting working emulation: http://www.atariage.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=125366

So, it's not a total loss. Again, with only about 4,000 produced and many successfully recalled and many others no doubt trashed, there's probably less than a dozen of them in active circulation. So yeah, it would be great to have more active "discovery and analysis" out there, but at least we have a few things.



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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

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