Matt chat 57: Tunnels of Doom

Matt Barton's picture

This week's show features Tunnels of Doom, an 8-bit classic rpg for the TI-99/4A. Enjoy, and please spread the word.

I'm curious what folks will think of the extra humor in this episode. Be sure to check out Ed Burns' amazing Tunnels of Doom website for more information about the game.


Chris Kennedy
Chris Kennedy's picture
Joined: 08/31/2008

Great job, Matt! I had a buddy that lived down the street from me when I was growing up, and he had a TI-99/4A. I wish he had had this game. We didn't spend a lot of time on that system, but the keyboard with a cartridge slot made the machine feel more like a combination of a computer and gaming machine than the IBM PC 5150. (Not that I didn't play a bunch of games on the 5150!)

This game is certainly one that fits my tastes. I have always loved games that involve questing.

It is a shame that things went the way they did with the TI computer. Another gaming platform that you hope would have lasted longer.

Some people have called for the "one console future" - People look forward and would like to see a single game console that supports any games published for the current generation. While competition is a good thing among systems, it isn't really about the systems. It is about the games. While today's game consoles don't appear in numbers the way they did in the late 70s/early 80s, having too many platforms is bad.

The point of a game system is to deliver the hardware to the developer for creating games and to deliver it to the consumer for gaming. The games and creators of these games should not have their creative possibilities destroyed simply because the "delivery hardware" didn't succeed.

My main point in saying all of this is to ask the question - What if we did NOT have all of those computers in the early to mid eighties? What if we only had a single computer to play these games? This computer would obviously have to have been successful to support my hypothetical situation, but think about it - One computer system that allows creative minds to create their games and continue to be creative and succeed because they do not have to worry about their work going down the tubes simply because a machine wasn't commercially successful.

Matt - Didn't mean to piggyback your latest Matt Chat with this thought, but it became relevant in my mind when you mentioned the TI-99/4A, TRS-80, etc that was smashed by the C64.

Joined: 05/20/2006
I had a friend who talked

I had a friend who talked about his TI, but I never saw it. He said it could talk. The TI is a mythical beast to me!

Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
Joined: 12/31/1969
Great job as always, Matt, I

Great job as always, Matt, I don't think you could have done any better describing ToD. I have several modules for ToD, but I'm not sure if any of the Star Trek or Doctor Who creations are among them.

The TI-99/4a was very interesting, and I think if TI did THREE things sooner, it might have lasted, particularly given TI's company strength and financial resources, and especially considering that TI lasted into PC clones and did particularly well with PC laptops for a while before pulling out completely. Anyway, the first thing would have been to release the TI-99/4a FIRST, which didn't come out until 1981, and not the TI-99/4, which came out in 1979. They were essentially the same machine, but the TI-99/4a featured a full stroke keyboard, additional graphics modes, and lower case characters, all of which were much needed to be long-term competitive. The second thing TI could have done, would have been lower the price much sooner. The TI-99/4 came out at over $1100, and that's NOT in today's dollars, and, while the TI-99/4a was released for much less (partially because it didn't need a monitor bundled with it, something the previous model did to avoid FCC RF issues), but it still should have been lower. Third, and perhaps most egregiously, TI was NOT friendly to third parties creating and releasing products for their platform. If two or more of those things had not been the case, the TI-99/4a might have lasted through the crash, and we might have even seen the TI-99/8 released, which would have been particularly impressive.

In any case, for a very short time, the TI-99/4a was I believe the best selling personal computer, but that's only after TI dropped the price ridiculously low (I believe at one point you could get the system for as low as $50) when they were clearing them out. This was of course in the face of stiff competition from Commodore with their Commodore 64, where Commodore was in complete control of the supply chain and were able to price all the competition out of business or to also-ran status. Of course the C-64 was nothing technically to sniff at either, offering 64K standard, when other systems were at 48K or, like the TI-99/4a, 16K.

Probably after I do my AA TV episodes on the TRS-80 - whenever that happens (been dealing with house stuff of late that has sucked up all my time) - I'm going to do the TI-99/4a next, since that's also out and about from when I was doing the Infocom captures with Rick Thornquist. Interestingly, I found the Infocom games looked quite pleasing font-wise on the TI-99/4a, though of course it required a Peripheral Expansion Box (PEB) with 32K memory and a disk drive, which was by no means a common configuration at the time (perhaps another factor against the TI-99/4a's ultimate success was the lack of an easy-to-set up disk-based system). Really, there are a bounty of interesting things created for the system, some right on the cusp of its unexpected death, like being the primary personal computer platform for the home PLATO system and for Milton Bradley's MBX, which greatly expanded the TI's game playing abilities and featured things like analog joysticks and speech recognition. I'll try to cover all that in the AA TV episodes.


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