MUSE Software is probably most famous for Castle Wolfenstein, already a fairly early game for the Apple II platform, but they got their start much earlier. In 1978, MUSE was already producing quite a few titles on cassette, back when their name stood for Micro Users Software Exchange.

Mazegame tape 4

Already by 1979, they’d switched to referring to themselves as The Muse Software Company or The Muse Company, and then by 1980, MUSE Software, which stuck until the end. I tend to refer to them as MUSE now. The company had an interesting history, and there’s lots to say about them. Someday I’ll write more, though others have already written about them. Ed Zaron, Silas Warner, and Jim Black started the company, and Ed and Silas wrote pretty much everything during the early years.

There’s a nice overview of Silas Warner’s story at the Digital Antiquarian (Silas Warner and Muse Software), and the audio from Silas Warner’s presentation at KansasFest 1992 was preserved and made available. Softalk February 1982 has a company overview (Exec Muse) but I haven’t scanned it yet.

This post here is not about Maze Game (the picture of the tape above was just to show that MUSE was originally an acronym), though I’ll do a post about that later, but rather about ABM, one of the titles that MUSE released shortly before Castle Wolfenstein. Silas Warner speaks a bit about it in the KansasFest talk, I’ll transcribe what he said here.

ABM was written […] just before we started Castle Wolfenstein. […] As far as we knew it was a straight license from Atari Missile Command. Basically we wrote it and then Atari — we knew Atari was going to come back and someday say “We want a license fee from you,” but we figured we could get a few sales in before they actually demanded it. They came back, demanded a license fee, we paid it, and ABM came on that. By the way, there’s an interesting story about the title of ABM. We built a scrolling thing that would print up “ABM” in black and white squares using the text screen. So it would come up and then the rest of MUSE software and all that would come up. The “ABM” would scroll up from the bottom, real quick. Well, we made a mistake in that program, and instead of “ABM” scrolling up from the bottom and stopping, “ABM” would scroll up from the bottom — blip blip blip blip, up continuously. And we thought this looked so good that we kept it in the game, only adding a counter so it would do that five times.

The packaging for ABM was a simple white cardstock with red and black ink, sold in a baggie, the disk the standard Dysan disk (that MUSE pretty much always used) with a typewritten label. The instruction card on my particular copy had been folded in the middle, but was otherwise in remarkably good shape. Both the instruction card and the disk read “Audiovisual licensed from Atari.”

ABM packaging

I made a nibble copy of the disk image, and a scan of the card, which are below. The nibble image works fine in Virtual II.

ABM splash screen

ABM title screen

The gameplay is pretty much just Missile Command. The screen shot below is taken from the self-running demo that starts if you don’t start playing, incidentally. I’d like to think I’d do slightly better if I were actually playing.

ABM game play

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One Comment

  1. Great article. I was an A.B.M. fanatic back when we lived in DefCon 4, perpetually 2 Minutes to Midnight. Nuclear Winter is Coming! Nothing better for our collective psyche then to destroy virtual ICBM’s!

    I remember seeing M.U.S.E. but never spent much time pondering the acronym. Now I know. I followed the links and discovered more on Silas Warner, whom I find a fascinating programmer. Now I see that Silas Warner’s experience with PLATO had to directly bear on Robot War and it’s designed emulation of a multi-player game. Thanks for the momentum along this vector!

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