It may be a decade bookended by console success, but the 1980s were, for many gamers, dominated by personal computers; machines that were purchased by doting parents to ostensibly aid their offspring with troublesome homework, but were in fact used to play a dazzling array of visually stunning games in a wide range of genres.
Of these machines, the Commodore Amiga remains perhaps the most loved. Following in the footsteps of the equally treasured Commodore 64, the 16-bit Amiga delivered the kind of gaming experience that few players thought was possible in a home setting; despite its beige casing and business-like mouse and keyboard, the heart of a purebred gaming platform was found beating within the Amiga – unlike its rivals, Commodore's machine benefitted from custom chips to take its graphic and audio capabilities to a whole new level.
The reason for this little history lesson, you ask? We're proud to confirm that we're reprinting one of our most popular Visual Compendiums, and there are sadly no prizes for guessing which machine it focuses on. Packed with amazing pixel imagery, in-depth features, beautiful cover art, stunning product photography and input from developers, artists and fans who really know the hardware inside and out – such as Stoo Cambridge, Jon Hare and Julian Eggebrecht, amongst others – Commodore Amiga: a visual Commpendium showcases 140 of the most notable Amiga titles across more than 420 lavish, full-colour pages.
The Origins of a Legend
The genesis of the Amiga is one of the more fascinating tales from a period in gaming history which is packed with incredible stories of corporate one-upmanship, astounding foolishness and unexpected moments of genius. At the center of the story are former Atari staffers Jay Milner and Larry Kaplan; in 1982, the pair were involved in the creation of the Amiga Corporation, which was working on a revolutionary home computer platform codenamed 'Lorraine'. As one of the gaming market's leading lights Atari was in line to acquire and produce the system, but the slow nature of discussions between the two firms and lack of a solid deal meant that Amiga Corp was burning through its cash; A $500,000 loan was paid by Atari to keep Amiga Corp running, but with a rather sizeable catch – the loan had to be repaid within a month, or the Lorraine design would become Atari's property.
However, while this was happening, Atari was collapsing from the inside. The video game crash of 1983 had hit the company hard, and parent company Warner was desperate to offload the firm. On the other side of the fence, Commodore boss and founder Jack Tramiel resigned following internal disagreements in 1984; he had lost the firm he had built from the ground up, but he simply found himself a new one. Later that year Tramiel agreed to take over Atari; he had effectively switched sides, taking many key Commodore technical staff with him – staff which would go on to help create the 16-bit Atari ST computer, which launched in 1985.
This exodus of talent left Commodore without the means to produce a successor to the C64, so it turned to Kaplan and Milner's struggling Amiga Corporation, which had just accepted Atari's life-support loan. A deal was struck and the debt to Atari debt was quickly repaid; Commodore then bought Amiga Corp for $24 million, buying itself a formidable 16-bit home computer in the process. It's one of the most ironic twists in gaming history; Atari's home computer began life at Commodore and Commodore's began life at Atari.
After a somewhat shaky start against the popular Atari ST, the redesigned Amiga 2000 and 500 arrived in 1987 and changed everything; the former was a high-end system aimed at creatives while the latter was a cheaper and therefore more commercially viable model; it would become the best-selling iteration of the Amiga and the one fans remember with the most fondness. Irrespective of which version you bought, one thing was clear – Commodore's system had the edge over the ST when it came to gaming and soon developers were favouring it over Atari's machine – a shift in attitude which propelled the Amiga to the head of the 16-bit computer market. The Amiga family would eventually sell almost five million units worldwide.
Kickstarting a Revolution
If you're keen to hear about the genesis of this iconic system then it's all included in Commodore Amiga: a visual Commpendium, straight from the mouths of those who made it happen. Collected quotes from Jay Milner, RJ Mical, Dave Needle, Dale Luck and Howard Stolz explain how the Amiga was transformed from a neat idea to hard reality, and how at the 1984 CES a simple bouncing ball demo won the hearts and minds of attendees and convinced an industry that this system could be the next big thing.
The joys of the Kickstart OS, the amusing terminology of "Guru Meditation" and the tremendous versatility of Deluxe Paint are all covered within the book, with particular emphasis given to the Amiga's impact on an entire generation of digital artists; even the late Andy Warhol is quoted professing his approval of Commodore's system. With an impressive palette of 4096 colours to choose from, it's little wonder that the Amiga was so beloved by graphic artists at the time; it offered incredible power at a much lower cost than your typical PC workstation and was capable of presenting images that far surpassed anything anybody had seen on a computer screen at that time.
Commodore Amiga: a visual Commpendium doesn't just catalogue the origins and history of the system, however; it's packed to bursting point with imagery taken from some of the system's most influential and iconic games. Titles such as Shadow of the Beast, Lemmings, Monkey Island, Lotus Turbo Challenge, Eye of the Beholder, James Pond, Speedball 2, Zool, Putty, Worms, Sensible Soccer and many more besides are featured within; these are games that would revolutionise their respective genres and – in some cases – create entirely new ones. Many more of the Amiga's key releases are represented too, making Commodore Amiga: a visual Commpendium the perfect read for seasoned fans looking for a pure kick of pixel-based nostalgia.
As well as paying a fitting tribute to the games which defined an era, the book contains insightful interviews and contributions from individuals such as Dan Malone (Bitmap Brothers), Andrew Morris (Magnetic Fields), Simon Woodroffe (AdventureSoft), David Braben (Frontier Developments), Andrew Hewson (Hewson Consultants), Charles Cecil (Revolution Software), Eric Chahi (Delphine), Martin Edmundson (Reflections), Dino Dini (Anco) and Jim Sachs (Cinemaware), as well as comments from the journalists and fans who played, lived and worshipped the machine and its software. Commodore Amiga: a visual Commpendium isn't just a love letter to the system's amazing graphical power; it's a catalogue of emotions delivered by the people who not only made the machine sing, but also experienced its halcyon days.
The Games and Those Who Made Them
When your eyeballs have eventually had their fill of the gorgeous pixel-based artwork and you've fully digested the insights of the people who made it all possible, you can delve deep into the histories of some of the most beloved Amiga-focused software houses. Sensible Software – creator of famous Amiga games such as Cannon Fodder and Sensible Soccer – made its name on Commodore's machine, while DMA Design impressed with titles like Blood Money before turning in one of the most famous video games of the early '90s: Lemmings. This was later converted to practically every gaming system under the sun, but it began life on the Amiga.
There's also the truly legendary Cinemaware, a company whose name became synonymous with Commodore's home computer; sumptuous visual epics such as Defender of the Crown, It Came From The Desert and Rocket Ranger seemed to effortlessly combine the thrill of gaming with the impact of Hollywood movies, and they wouldn't have been possible without the power and graphical prowess of the Amiga. Commodore Amiga: A Visual Commpendium also covers the histories of Team17, Factor 5 and System 3 – three other firms without whom the 16-bit era would have been very different indeed. If you'd prefer to venture off the beaten track then you'll surely appreciate our investigation of the oft-neglected underground Amiga demo scene, in which many bedroom programmers and artists pushed the platform to its limits before moving onto more gainful employment elsewhere in the industry.
As ever, the attention to detail that makes our range of books so popular is present and correct; we've utilised high-quality lithographic printing on superior paper stock with thread-sewn binding, included bookmark ribbons in the colours of the Amiga logo and presented the whole thing in a lush, premium hardback format. Acclaimed by critics and fans alike, the initial print run in 2015 quickly sold out, and demand for a second run simply became too intense for us to ignore. This is a must-have coffee table book for every Amiga enthusiast and simply should not be missed, so make sure you order your copy before this run is snapped up, too.