Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Ads of Dragon: Crush, Crumble & Chomp

I don't think I ever saw a personal computer outside of a science museum prior to my 1981-82 school year, when a new kid joined my class and brought his father's TRS-80 Model III for an extended visit to the classroom. The new kid and I became good friends, owing to our mutual love of science fiction and D&D. I wasted many an hour playing the Star Trek text game on that "Trash-80" over my new friend's house. So, while I didn't own a personal computer myself (though, as I recall, we called them "microcomputers" back then), I had actually used one, at least for playing video games.

In 1982, there weren't a lot of video games, but, of those that existed, the most interesting ones (to me anyway) were produced by a company called Epyx and, for a time, they seemed to advertise in every issue of Dragon. Take, for example, issue #62 (June 1982):
Crush, Crumble & Chomp was a game where you took on the role of one of several movie monsters and wrought havoc on cities like New York or (of course) Tokyo. It's basically an electronic version of the classic SPI game The Creature That Ate Sheboygan -- or at least that's what it looked liked to me at the time. As is a theme in this series, I never actually owned or knew anyone who owned Crush, Crumble & Chomp but I always wanted to. In 1982, it was a clever, if possibly derivative, concept for a game.

Looking back, it's possible derivativeness is what interests me. I don't know that the designers of Crush, Crumble & Chomp had in fact played The Creature That Ate Sheboygan, but the fact that it seemed plausible to me speaks volumes about how different the world was back then. In those days, I could readily believe that a computer game designer was a roleplayer or wargamer and looked to those hobbies for inspirations. Nowadays, I usually feel the reverse.


  1. So that's where the idea for Rampage must have come from :)

  2. C, C, & C came out before my household got our trusty Apple IIe, but I enjoyed the hell out of its unofficial 1986 sequel, The Movie Monster Game.

  3. A buddy had it for hs computer. It was a crude game but it did what it claimed it did as well as normal for the era and was enjoyable back in the day.

  4. It was around this time that my family bought our first computer, a Commodore 64. I have fond memories of coming home from school, popping in the latest cassette tape game (Phantasie, Pogo Joe, etc.), and going to fix myself a snack while waiting the ten minutes or so it would take to "load". Good times. I don't think I ever purchased a game because of a Dragon magazine ad, but I do remember typing in those Basic programs they'd occasionally run (the chi-square one for testing dice comes to mind).

  5. @Justin, man that takes me back. I had The Monster Movie Game as well. I think the summers of 1986 and 87 were spent in front of my C64.

    /but I don't wanna play outside!

  6. I used to play this all the time when it was out. I was lucky enough to have computers in my life from an early age, even though they never became my thing.

    Later, when I got a Commodore 64 the world of computer games opened up with Mail Order Monsters, Adventure Construction Set, Racing Destruction Set, Temple of Apshai, etc, etc.


  7. John Freeman and Jim Connelly, who designed "Crush, Crumble and Chomp" were RPGers.

    From an interview with John Freeman:
    "'Starfleet Orion' was at least one of the first published war games--and certainly the first SF or space war game--written on or for a microcomputer: to wit, an 8K Commodore PET.
    "'Orion' came about because Jim Connelley, the DM of a D&D game I played in, bought a PET to help him with the bookkeeping chores required of a Dungeon Master."

  8. First computer game I ever played was "Temple of Apshai" on a friend's Apple II (two floppies, no hard drive) around 1979-80. It makes me smile now to think how impressed we were at the time. :)

  9. Cassette tape games for the C-64. Oh, the memories! First game I played was Avalon Hill's text fantasy adventure Lords of Karma then Telengard. I (or anyone) could actually tap into the Telengard program and make the monsters easier to kill. Fun times before getting involved in the Infocom games.

  10. I loved Crush, Crumble and Chomp. I recall it being rather difficult to survive but when you are playing the monster, you know that you are in for it anyway.

  11. If you're curious, you can play it at

  12. the difference between then and now is money. Video games went from being "like RPGs" (hobby productions made for a known social group with common ideas of cool) to "like movies" (too expensive to have the luxury of not playing in Idaho or wherever). So production values follow the money and mindshare follows that.

    Marx wasn't wrong about everything.

  13. Crush, Crumble and Chomp was great (for the time). Very satisfying eating all those terrified people (although you would soon suffer hunger pains again, so perhaps they were not that satisfying after all).

    Although the limited graphics capability of the time meant that it was very difficult to distinguish the mad scientist's helicopter (the distinction was a single flashing block), which almost inevitably lead to your downfall.

    [Take a look at the number of designers who in fact entered the emergent computer gaming industry at the time. Paul Jacquay, Greg Costikyan, and Sandy Peterson are only the tip of the iceberg. They brought their experience in both game design (and user-interface design - don't underestimate the flow-on effect that Redmond Simonsen had on the computing industry), to the computer gaming industry when it really needed it.]

  14. I had Crush, Crumble and Chomp for my Atari 800 and played the hell out of it. I have very fond memories of playing this game. The sound effects were really entertaining with the atomic blast distinctive whine and the munching noises you made when you ate people. dhowarth333 commented that the cassette took 10 minutes to load on his Commodore 64. For my Atari, it was more like a half hour, at least. My brother and I would wait what seemed like forever for the game to load, perhaps take in Gilligan's Island while we were waiting. Then we would just leave the computer turned on so that we wouldn't have to load it again.

  15. I loved C, C & C.

    It was a turn-based "strategy" game. You could design your own monster and then attack New York, Tokyo, or San Francisco. (There may have been more cites, I don't remember.) My monster would always be the giant robot.

    Your monster always died in the end. The key was seeing how much of the city you could lay waste to prior to expiring.

    I'm amazed a more modern version of the game hasn't been published.

  16. Cloverfield was the unfortunate love child of this monstrosity, I am sure.

    "In those days, I could readily believe that a computer game designer was a roleplayer or wargamer and looked to those hobbies for inspirations. Nowadays, I usually feel the reverse."

    Yes, I was just lamenting in my walk with the dog in the park at 5am. We hardly see anyone outside anymore kids would role play before they actually knew it. The advent of the microcomputer/playstation/etc. has stolen this aspect from many kids' lives.

    Maybe, I am being a mean daddy but my kids are not going get this technology into the house until they are 17...(10 years from now) and in the meantime, I will monitor their computer use. As Frank Galvin said, in that great film, Television: "Turn it OFF. Is anyone listening? Turn it OFF." the same rule applies to all media save some of the more active pastimes.

    I know, James, you have indicated that you are not intent on raising the next generation of gamers but if we are to avoid what I encountered at a 4e Game, in which the DM had to pause for a "Role Playing Moment" - What The Flowers...we are rather doomed to have our imaginations stolen from us. Games and stories will continue but become ever scripted. It is a frightening future.

    Fortunately, we can lead the charge against it. So, I am not trying to recruit anyone into the RPGLF or RPGLO but we got stop fighting each other and start creating and sustaining umbrella organizations to support our hobby.

  17. @referee - what are RPGLF and RPGLO?

  18. "Pst, come over here away from this light...what's the password?" asks Referee.

    "Gygax sacked Bilbo in the Bag Ends, while, drinking Stout minding his Harfoot. Whilst the Halfling cried, "Hey there, Tall fellow mind your feet..." sez you.

    "Ok, you are legit. Role Playing Gamer Liberation Front & RP Gamer Liberation Organization. Jeez, don't they teach the younger generation anything in schools these days..." replies Referee.

  19. In those days, I could readily believe that a computer game designer was a roleplayer or wargamer and looked to those hobbies for inspirations. Nowadays, I usually feel the reverse.

    Well, you're only half right. I work at a large video game company working on an fantasy MMO, and every Thursday night I stay late to run my after-hours B/X game for a group of coworkers. Recently we've had to contend for space with the guys playing Gurps. There's also a group playing Warhammer FRPG and I believe 4e and Pathfinder games have both been played but I'm not plugged into the newer stuff so I don't know if they're run regularly. I don't believe I've ever been surrounded by so many roleplayers and war-gamers, even in college, as I am at this company.

    That said, do the designers (I'm an engineer) look to these games for inspiration? Well, I suspect yes and no. Obviously the fantasy RPG video game genre owes quite a lot to table top RPGs. However, I believe we all know that table top and video games are two very different beasts, and designers regularly look for ways to leverage the unique qualities of our medium to do things you could or would not want to do in a table top game.

    It's a lesson I fear WotC failed to learn. I wish they tried harder to emphasize the qualities unique to table top rather than trying to ape features that may have been designed specifically for a different medium.

  20. Thanks for the link, Matthew. I'm going to go there now and play me some Ogre. That and Temple of Apshai were the first computer games I ever played.