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What ever happened to the Swordquest prizes?


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Link stolen from Facebook post by Marty Golberg




Interesting research on what happened to the prizes that were and weren't awarded. Looks like only the chalice remains.

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I was originally quite excited to read about this because I was for sure it had meant that something had been uncovered.


Spoiler: nope. ;-)

I don't know man...the fact that they legally had to hold a private contest for the third prize was kind of surprising.  Was that third prize ever awarded? 


“They held a very quiet, non-public contest with the 10 people who solved the Waterworld contest. The crown was awarded to the third prize winner.” While we could find no hard evidence of this contest, Vendel says the contest had to take place by law.

Edited by RickR
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I don't know man...the fact that they legally had to hold a private contest for the third prize was kind of surprising.  Was that third prize ever awarded? 


“They held a very quiet, non-public contest with the 10 people who solved the Waterworld contest. The crown was awarded to the third prize winner.” While we could find no hard evidence of this contest, Vendel says the contest had to take place by law.

That's the part I hadn't heard about, but I can't tell if Curt is speculating or not.

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I don't know man...the fact that they legally had to hold a private contest for the third prize was kind of surprising. Was that third prize ever awarded?




“They held a very quiet, non-public contest with the 10 people who solved the Waterworld contest. The crown was awarded to the third prize winner.” While we could find no hard evidence of this contest, Vendel says the contest had to take place by law.

I like to think that the contest was held and that there truly is atari royalty somewhere out there. I also think that if someone has the crown they might have been sworn to secrecy Edited by jmjustin6
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I've done more research on the SwordQuest games than anyone else in the hobby.   Here's my SwordQuest Revisited article, which is a compilation of everything to date:




I also recovered the SwordQuest Archive of Adventure website that Lafe Travis created in 1997, which featured Russy Perry Jr.'s solutions for the first 3 games in the series which originally appeared in the 2600 Connection newsletter:




My Revisited article was meant to be a companion to the AoA. I also created the interview webpage for the Michael Rideout interview (on Digital Press).


After reading Eric Grundhauser's article (which btw, features some of my photos but doesn't credit me for them) and seeing that he quoted Vendel and Goldberg, who are less historians and more historical revisionists, I expected it would include some incorrect and/or unproven "facts".


"Earthworld sold around 500,000 copies, and around 5,000 players ended up submitting their answers to the final tournament. "


In the Volume 2, Number 10 issue of Atari Life (Atari's internal newsletter), CED Product Manager Joel Oberman claimed more than half a million EarthWorld cartridges were sold in the U.S., and of those, only 1% - 5,000 - were semi-finalists.


According to Robert Ruiz Jr., who created the "Adventurer's Club" in 1984, over 4,000 entered the contest.



"Work had begun on both the game and comic book of Airworld, which would have been patterned after the I Ching, but neither was ever created,"


Should have said neither were either completed.




"Vendel confirmed that Bell had in fact melted down the amulet for cash. "


Was this confirmed with Bell himself?  If so, why is there no proof of it online?  Why has this never been mentioned anywhere?  As of now, it has NOT been confirmed.



"As to the Crown of Life that would have been given to the winner of the Waterworld competition, Vendel says that it was awarded, but during a semi-secret tournament, the winner of which has never been revealed. “Under contract, Warner was obligated to complete the contest for Waterworld, because players had submitted correct answers, and the game was sold to the public based on the fact that whomever solves the puzzle in the game would be awarded a prize,” says Vendel.


“They held a very quiet, non-public contest with the 10 people who solved the Waterworld contest. The crown was awarded to the third prize winner.” While we could find no hard evidence of this contest, Vendel says the contest had to take place by law."
Again, where's the proof behind this statement?  If someone won a $25,000 crown, you better believe we would have heard about it before now, either from the person who won it or someone who knows them.  Also, the SwordQuest Challenge was a nationally-advertised contest.  Vendel's claim that the WaterWorld contest had to be completed for the sole reason the game was released and people submitted entries for it doesn't ring true because the contest was comprised of FOUR games.  Each game's contest was part of reaching the overall contest- to win the sword!  Why else would Atari have paid off the winners of the EarthWorld and FireWorld contests if they legally didn't have to (because AirWorld was never released)?
From Michael Rideout:


"When Atari discontinued the contests, Steven and I each received compensatory checks for $15,000, and the 15(?) WaterWorld qualifiers each received compensatory checks for $2,000(?). I'm not positive about the number of WaterWorld qualifiers, but I believe it was 15 (see the next paragraph). I'm also not sure if the $2,000 figure is correct; it may have been $3,000 or even $5,000. All of my notes and documents related to Swordquest are stashed in a box somewhere, and it was over ten years ago, so my memory is a bit hazy."
So if Atari indeed had some "super secret" playoff, what of the rumor of Atari paying off the WaterWorld finalists?   If Atari paid off the 10 finalists at least $2,000 each, that would be nearly as much as what the Crown was valued at!
But again, no finalists have ever come forward to corroborate this semi-secret, non-public playoff, and IMO until someone does, this is just another unfounded rumor.
Finally, as to the whereabouts of the remaining prizes, there lies the ultimate rumor.


"So what did happen to the Philosopher’s Stone and the Sword of Ultimate Sorcery? Vendel told us he got the scoop from a former member of Warner management. “Once Atari was sold, those prizes languished at Franklin Mint,” he says. “At some point Franklin Mint disposed of them. They were not retained, because why would they retain the prizes? It’s a lot easier just to smelt it back down and turn them into gold coins or other things they could sell.”
The Philosopher's Stone was housed in an 18K gold box, but the stone itself was actually a large piece of white jade, and not something that could be "smelted back down".  If the remaining prizes ended up back with the Franklin Mint, I'm surprised nobody there would have the foresight to hold on to them because, even though their base materials would always fluctuate in value, the prizes themselves would have eventually been worth more, being they would always be unique, one-of-a-kind items.


"According to Vendel, the rumor stems from an Atari employee who did see a sword over the mantel, but it was a family heirloom, not the Swordquest sword."
For one thing, that rumor stems from Vendel himself, from a post Vendel made on the rec.games.video.classic newsgroup back in 1998:


Curt Vendel
Other recipients: ah...@freenet.carleton.ca
Hi Bill,
    Go to www.atari.nu, goto the Atari Archives Section and read the
Other Atari Projects area titled: Atari SwordQuest, you'll find out
quite a bit, also if you decide to play the game, there is also a link
to the SwordQuest Solution Site, also go to www.atarihq.com, there is an
interview with the winner of the Fireworld contest.
   In breif, Earthworld and Fireworld were widely released, both
contests were run, WaterWorld was only released to Atari Club members
through Atari Age magazine, since it was released in limited quantities
and the company was in the middle of being sold, the Waterworld contest
was cancelled, as to what happened to the crown prize is unknown,
AirWorld was never started and as for the Knowledge Stone prize, that
too is unknown.   However I found out several months ago from a close
friend of Jack Tramiel the former owner of Atari, that the $50,000 sword
of ultimate power is hanging over his fireplace in his home in
So which story is it, and who was involved?  Was the unnamed person a close friend or an Atari employee?  What's the person's name?  Were they a man or a woman?  lol  He offered no other information other than it was a close friend... or an Atari employee.  In my experience, you need to identify your source(s) of information, so that others can independently verify the information, because without that, your story is just that - a story - and it has no value or meaning.
Vendel also claimed in his RGVC post that the WaterWorld contest was cancelled and that AirWorld was never started.  See my Revisited article for statements from Tod Frye regarding how far he got with programming AirWorld (20% completed, by his estimate):
All I know is, if Tod Frye - the person who CREATED the SwordQuest contest to begin with believes the prizes ended up with Jack Tramiel, then until I see some definite proof otherwise, at this time that's the story.
Lastly, the Atari-Warner Bros.-Franklin Mint connection was found by John Hardie, as he mentioned in his Michael Rideout interview:


"Epilogue: Shortly after this interview, my research turned up a few more facts. I could never see the reasoning behind having the Franklin Mint design the prizes. I made a couple of calls to them and discovered that they were owned by Warner Communications at the time. There was the link. I spoke with someone in the Public Relations department who checked to see if any records were kept as to the current whereabouts of the prizes. Unfortunately, they had no records at all on the matter. The gentleman who designed the prizes was still with the company but was not available for comment. Recently, it was brought to my attention by a friend, that the remaining prizes in the contest are now in the possession of Jack Tramiel, who as we all know, bought Atari from Warner Communications. Whether he cancelled the contest as part of cost-cutting measures he was implementing at the time or he just took a liking to the prizes remains to be seen..."
Edited by Scott Stilphen
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In the book, "Art of Atari" by Tim Lapetino, the following info appears on page 264:




"Faced with plummeting sales and the video game market crash, Atari canceled the competition in mid-1984, and previous participants were bought out of their opportunity to compete in the final round with prizes of $15,000 and an Atari 7800 each.  The contest legally needed to be completed, so the "Crown of Life" was allegedly awarded to the winner of a semi-public competition of several entrants."


Both Vendel and Goldberg are mentioned in the acknowledgements section, so it seems their book of errors has started to contaminate others.  At least Lapetino states the crown was "allegedly" awarded (since, as I mentioned, no evidence has been shown to prove it ever happened).


There's also some neat promotional artwork for the Philosopher's Stone that appears in his book, as well as a nice copy of the AirWorld box art:



Edited by Scott Stilphen
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Whilst any  'historian' can only write on information he/she has recovered, at the time, it would of been more....'helpful' had Marty perhaps of worded some of his past claims a little differently.


And there lies the problem with their book, for all the claims it makes are 'absolutes'.  They claim they vetted all their information from multiple sources, and would like you to believe that somehow every previous book and article on the history of the company somehow got it wrong (because they can't be wrong).  I have links to some of the more egregious errors they've made in my Pac-Man article (http://forums.atari.io/index.php/topic/915-).  I pointed out another one on Keith Smith's site, The Golden Age Arcade Historian (https://allincolorforaquarter.blogspot.com/2015/01/atari-depositions-part-1.html), courtesy of a professional author and historian, Leonard Herman.  Vendel and Goldberg claim Bushnell still worked for Nutting when he attended the Magnavox Calvacade and first saw the Odyssey, even though he didn't work for them. They claim Bushnell left Nutting on June 1st, but they picked that date out of a hat because they have no physical evidence to back it up.  From Leonard:


I had come to the conclusion that Bushnell no longer worked for Nutting when he attended the Magnavox Calvacade and saw the Odyssey.  The two men who represented Nutting, both signed in at the same time and wrote "Nutting" next to their names. Bushnell signed separately and has no company affiliation.  In their book, Marty and Curt wrote that Bushnell still worked for Nutting at the time.
They're basing it on Steve Bristow's memory that Bushnell came back from the demonstration and talked about the Odyssey.  Marty and Curt think that Bushnell left Nutting around June 1 and they mention it in the book, although it's only conjecture on their part.
Ted Dabney told me that he's pretty sure that Bushnell was gone from Nutting when he saw the Odyssey.  Ted did say that Bushnell became a contractor for Nutting to help build the two-player Computer Space and that's when he probably went back there and talked about the Odyssey.

So there's a perfect example of them putting a spin on a specific event to fit their opinions (assumptions).  If they're willing to make an unfounded statement like that,  then you have to scrutinize and question everything they say.   Your info about the Panther/Jaguar games is another example.  I remember reading somewhere the claim that the early Jaguar titles were originally designed for the Panther (which was the excuse for them being lackluster).  They claim to have spend 7 years investigating and interviewing people, and yet the book is filled with very few direct quotes from anyone.  And when such errors are pointed out to them, their reaction is instinctively to attack and insult.  

With every interview I've done (50+), I not only include a person's replies to me verbatim, I give them the courtesy of proofing the final draft before it gets published; in other words, they have the last word.
I bought Lapetino's book (both versions) and it's very well done, but I do have some issues with it (most books on the subject do).  On the other hand, Atari: Business is Fun has more than a few; it's nearly impossible to read due to being an incomprehensible mess, and is the sort of book that's ultimately a disservice to the company and its rich history, if not an outright danger to it..
Edited by Scott Stilphen
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At 1 point i had Atari: Business is Fun, down on a save on Amazon, until a good friend suggested i read through some sample pages...



I wasn't about to spend 1 cent on that book, especially since most of it is online for free at Google Books:





Book seemed in need of a good editor, if nothing else...everything seemed thrown in, little thought to pacing, structure etc.

Plus, writers seemed to lack any grasping of how modern assembly lines work and seemed surprised engineers would use a rubber mallet...as an ex-engineer myself who works with T.P.M in a modern factory enviroment myself still,it took me by surprise....

But it was the grammar and punctuation that did my head in, sure MY VERY OWN, IS appalling :) but i'm just putting info up on a forum or for a website to use as they see fit, not putting together a professional publication and charging for it.



Of all the books I've ever read, I have never come across one so appallingly bad as that one, that contains nearly every conceivable grammatical error possible.  It's as though it began as 2 separate books that ended up having a head-on collision with each other, and that's the result.  The punctuation and spelling errors alone should have been enough for any publisher to refuse it (their posts on Atariage are pretty much the same.  I'm quite certain Goldberg still doesn't know Berzerk contains a 'z' instead of an 's'...), but when the tense starts changing all over the place, and you have photos with the incorrect captions (or quite often, no captions)...  it's just a mess from cover to cover, and an insult to anyone with a basic grade school education to try and read it, let alone those with higher education, but then to charge people some $80 for a copy?  And at the end of the day, that's what it comes off as - a money grab.  Leonard Herman told me he sent a copy to Ralph Baer, and he put it down after a few pages.  Shame he attached his name to it.


The editor, Loni Reeder, used to write articles for RePlay magazine.  She was never an editor, and judging from the condition of the book, she still isn't.   She happens to be a friend of Vendel (and I'm guessing her name was attached for no other reason than she used to be associated with an industry mag).  They go back as far as 1999, when Vendel was involved in a scandal involving that year's CGE show:



(major thread on CGE/Nolan scandal.  Loni is posting under "LONBO")


(vendel’s famous backing-out letter, posted under the fake account “mylar”)


What happened was, Vendel wanted to be part of the CGE show, and the people organizing the show had prior (bad) dealings with him, so they weren't about to team up with him.  Vendel decided to try and sabotage the show, using a fake email address that appeared as though he was part of it.  He succeeding in convincing Nolan Bushnell (who was planning on attending the first CGE show) via Loni Anderson (who was the contact person between them) to back out.  When the organizers found out what he had done, they publicly outed him on the newsgroups, and a huge flamewar broke out over it.  Vendel responded by erasing not only his posts, but some from others as well, which resulted in even more backlash against him.  He broke a cardinal rule of the newsgroup in an effort to "calm things down" (ie. save face), but that's typical Vendel.


Even the much-touted photos need to be fixed.  Photos from the 80s and earlier commonly suffer from incorrect color saturation (usually too much red).  The photos on page 786 are a perfect example of this:




How much time would it have taken someone to color-correct them?  Well, it took me less than 5 minutes with Photoshop to drastically improve them.  I'm not sure what they did in the claimed 7 years of putting this book together, but I can tell you what they didn't do...


Lost Dragon, it sounds like you've done some comprehensive research in the Panther's history, as far as which games existed for it.  If everyone you've talked with said there were no "cross-over" games between the Panther and Jaguar, then you're probably right.  If they want to claim the opposite, they need to reveal their source(s), especially since as you mentioned, they're charging people to buy their book.



Edited by Scott Stilphen
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I remember the day my neighbor down the street picked up Earthworld and claimed he was going to win the Talisman or whatever the prize was for that game. He, his brother & I spent hours trying to figure it out. That turned out to be the most ambiguous game I had ever played and we just about gave up about a week later. The Nerd (AVGN) did a retrospective on this series some years back which sheds some light on what became of those prizes. Some likely don't even exist.


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