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As far as I’m concerned, the Wizardry and Ultima series still represent some of the best Role-Playing Games ever made. The nice thing about computer based RPGs was that you could expand and modify them to some extent, even if that was not officially supported. You could do it the hard way with something like a disk sector editor or you could use third-party tools made for the purpose.
This particular ad from 1984 is advertising two different tools from a company called MagicSoft. The first is called “Wizard’s Toolkit #1” and allows you to edit Wizardry I, II and III by adding new weapons, monsters and certain other items. These games were available for multiple computers and it isn’t clear which computers may have been supported.
The second tool is called “Exodus Construction Set” and was made to modify Ultima III: Exodus. From the description, it seems to allow an even more extensive level of editing. However, it apparently was only made for the Apple II version of Ultima III.
A third tool, Wizard’s Toolkit #2, is mentioned as forthcoming as well though I don’t know if it was ever released. Some developers would eventually release official tools for this kind of editing but in 1984 this was pretty new territory.
This ad is sort of odd in that it is more of an introduction to the company making the games than an ad for the games themselves. This ad appeared in the U.K. based magazine The Games Machine in 1988. ActionSoft (or Action Soft…it is written both ways in the ad) was a U.S. based companies and their first two games, Thunderchopper and Up Periscope were originally released in 1986. As far as I can tell, these are the only two games released by ActionSoft though here they are two years later selling them in the U.K.
Both of these games are simulations and that seems to be what ActionSoft was going to be all about. Thunderchopper is a flight simulator. The ad says that it “simulates the flight characteristics of high performance scout/rescue/attack helicopter”. In addition to being grammatically incorrect, it’s also sort of vague. This doesn’t appear to be a simulation of a specific helicopter. I never though flight sims worked very well on 8-bit or even 16-bit computers. The graphics weren’t really good enough and more importantly the frame rates were usually pretty abysmal. Having said that, there were a number of pretty realistic ones at that time given the hardware that was available. This one seems to have been a pretty average one overall.
Thunderchopper (Commodore 64)
Up Periscope! is a World War II submarine simulator. Like Thunderchopper it is kind of non-specific in terms of what is being simulated. It is a generic World War II sub that has the equipment and weapons of subs of that era but if it is simulating a specific sub, it isn’t specified. This game is somewhat similar to the earlier Silent Service. It isn’t a bad game and I think this kind of simulator works a lot better than flight simulators on computers of that era.
I don’t really know what happened to ActionSoft. I remember their ads in the U.S. for these two games but I don’t remember any other games coming from them nor can I find a reference to any. They seemed to have milked these two for a while and even marketed them internationally (at least in the U.K.) but they just sort of disappeared after that. I did find a reference that says ActionSoft licensed the graphics for Thunderchopper from subLogic. Also, there is a later DOS version of Thunderchopper that seems to have been released by subLogic and is compatible with Flight Simulator scenery disks. So perhaps subLogic acquired them….
Up Periscope! (Commodore64)
Thunderchopper was available for the Commodore 64, Apple II and DOS. Up Periscope! was available for the Commodore 64 and DOS. The screenshots above are from the Commodore 64 versions of Thunderchopper and Up Periscope! If you want to play either one you’ll have to find original copies or resort to emulation. While it matters less for Up Periscope!, DOS is probably better for simulations during this time. At least you will get better graphics and frame rates.