Sunday, March 31, 2013

Bouncer and Turbo Sub

Today's post post is a preliminary one covering two rare games from the golden age. I don't have a lot of info on these games beyond what's already out there but I'm hoping to interview some more of the principals in the future.
There is already an excellent website devoted to Bouncer and Turbo Sub at with lots more info, including interviews with the creators and storyboards forTurbo Sub. Turbo Sub is also on MAME.
Entertainment Sciences
           Entertainment Sciences was founded in 1982 in Huntington Beach, CA from a company called Creative Sciences[1] by Ulrich Neumann and a partner (probably Ron Clark, who served as president, or Robert Rauch). Neumann had formerly worked for Gremlin before Sega shut it down and moved to Los Angeles. The two decided to form a company to create a programmable game system that would allow operators to cheaply and easily swap out old, poorly performing games for new ones. While his partner raised the money, Neumann set to work on a state-of-the-art hardware system called RIP (Real-time Image Processor) that was capable of generating high-resolution graphics with 16,000 colors The system also had a megabyte of RAM, a 16-bit microprocessor, three 8-bit microprocessors, and a display with a 500 x 384 resolution.  The system took Neumann about nine months to complete. Meanwhile, in October of 1982 Entertainment Sciences  hired programmer Rob Patton who'd just left Cinematronics.
During his job interview, Patton pitched ideas for a number of games, including Bouncer - a game that cast the player as Mr. B - a burly, chrome-domed bouncer who had to keep annoying barflies from pestering customers, causing barroom brawls, and interfering with the waitress Julie. Enemies included Fatso (who stole the customers' food), Soppy (who stole drinks), Romeo (a flasher who was added as a replacement for a prostitute named Bambi), and Scooter (who tripped people with his skateboard). Shortly after he was hired, Patton's new coworkers took him to lunch and gave him  T-shirt that said "Welcome Rob" and a sleeve that said "Malcom's 10%". At the time Patton was being represented by Malcolm Kaufmann - the first known video game agent. Before long, Patton set to work on the game. He hired an artist who created a large storyboard of a barroom with moveable cutouts to represent the various characters. He also hired an animator from Disney. To help with programming, Entertainment Science brought in Lonnie Ropp from Rock-Ola, which had recently shut down its video game division. Bouncer featured four different settings: Gilleys (based on the famous Pasadena, Texas bar from Urban Cowboy), Hussong's Cantina, The Ritz, and Studio 64. The game was tested in the San Diego area and displayed at the 1983 AMOA in Chicago where it generated a good deal of interest. Steve Harris of the U.S. National Video Game Team (who provided game reviews for Replay magazine) considered it the best game of the show (though he noted that it was not shown in the main auditorium and thus didn't draw as large an audience as it might have). Atari negotiated for rights to the game but never pulled the trigger (one reason may have been its $4000+ price tag). Entertainment Sciences also paid to have the game featured in the 1984 film Ninja III: The Domination (in which the spirit of a dying ninja possesses a sexy aerobics teacher - at one point the spirit actually comes through the game).
In the end, despite having perhaps the most powerful hardware and arguably the best graphics in the industry plus a game that drew rave reviews, Bouncer was never released. So what happened? In a February, 1985 Replay article Ron Clark claimed that the game failed because the graphics were too good. So good that many mistakenly believed the game was a laserdisc game at a time when laserdisc games were getting an increasingly bad reputation for reliability (the website, however, claims that operators at the AMOA show rejected the game when they found out it wasn't  a laserdisc game) . After the failure of Bouncer, Rob Patton left to work for Sega. Lonnie Ropp (who had actually been hired to work on a different game, and didn't want to work on Bouncer to begin with) left as well.

A review of bouncer from the January, 1984 issue of Replay by Steve Harris


An AP article on Bouncer that appeared in various newspapers starting around August 17, 1983

Turbo Sub
After the failure of Bouncer, Entertainment Sciences spent a year and a half doing government contract work while they sold and tried to attract investors for the production of another video game. In early 1985, the game was finally ready. Turbo Sub was a first-person game in which a player navigated a submarine through an underwater seascape of tunnels and rock formations facing exotic sea creatures like manta rays, jellyfish, mechanical sharks, and fireballs.  Turbo Sub shipped in two different cabinet configurations. One was a cabinet with a slide-out drawer called the "Solo" system designed by San Diego's Pacific Coast Games. Other games were mounted in Atari Star Wars cabinets. Both cabinets used the Star Wars yoke controller. The buttons on the front fired the lasers while the thumb buttons engaged the "turbo engines". Once again, the game had stunning graphics - perhaps even more-so than Bouncer. The game appeared at a Los Angeles area video game tournament in February of 1985. Entertainment Sciences announced plans to release fifty "seed" units in May followed by 200 more in June. A series of tournaments was held to promote the game in 1985 with a grand championship in June of 1986 sanctioned by Twin Galaxies and organized by Steve Harris with a grand prize of $3,000 and a Turbo Sub game. Entertainment Sciences also gave away T-shirts to the first players to finish a game at various locations.

The two photos above were taken from the April, 1985 issue of Replay. the creator of says that he thought Jeff Peters won the TurboSub grand championship in 1986, but he might have been thiking about this tournament. Phil Britt won the 1984 Track & Field tournament and the 1985 Coronation Day event (aka the 3rd Annual North American Video Game Challenge).
After Turbo Sub, other games were planned for the RDI system, including a sequel to Turbo Sub that would allow the sub to surface "and face bizarre challenges both on both on and below the high seas". Other planned games included a revival of Bouncer and a "graphically stunning" driving game.  As far as anyone knows none of them came to pass and Entertainment Sciences itself eventually folded after a long legal struggle.
[1] Creative Sciences was incorporated on August 10, 1981 and Entertainment Sciences on January 12, 1983

 RePlay, July 1985





  1. Very interesting. I suppose one could say the game was ahead-of-it's-time in what it could do (what already became possible in another decade as a normal look in 16-bit gaming).

  2. Bouncer looks quite nice!!!

    1. Sure does, sad though the company couldn't quite make it.