[Computational Complexity] The Story of Ribbit
Around 1980 for fun in New Jersey we would go visit the electronic video arcades to play various games like Asteroids, Pac-Man, Tempest, Missile Command and many others. I was not much of a player but I was fascinated by the games themselves and wondering what it was like to program them. Between high school and college in the summer of 1981, a high school friend Chris Eisnaugle and I tried programming up a few games on his Apple II. I remember getting a passable version of Asteroids working in a couple of days.
We talked with a computer magazine writer who said we could legally sell a game based on an arcade game as long as we changed the name and slightly changed the user interface. We focused on the game Frogger which was not yet available for the Apple and created Ribbit written mostly over winter break. That spring we sold the program through a local computer store before we got a cease-and-desist order from Sierra Online, who had bought the personal computer rights to Frogger. So we ceased and desisted but not before 1200 copies of the program got sold. I made about $2000 from the program, not bad for a college freshman in 1982. Also a computer magazine review of Frogger liked our program better!
"Sierra Online's Frogger is even worse than the game named after the sound a frog makes."In the summer of 1982 I worked as a instructor/counselor at the Original Computer Camp, Inc. in Los Olivos, California, which had a series of two-week sessions. Early in the summer none of the campers had heard about Ribbit but later on quite a few did. Not because of the 1200 legal copies but because pirated versions of the game were widespread. At first I was quite upset at the piracy, even deleting the game from the disks of the campers who had the game with them ("There is no honor among thieves" one such camper complained referring to the fact that we had stolen the idea of the game from Frogger). But soon I realized that we weren't selling any more legal copies anyway and the game lived on through its pirated versions. Still it wasn't long before Ribbit was mostly forgotten.
On the web page I set up for Ribbit I posted a pirated version of the game I found on the web. To get the original version I would have to find the disks buried somewhere in my mother's house and then find a machine that can read floppy disks from a time when disks were floppy.
Posted by Lance to Computational Complexity at 4/26/2005 08:05:00 PM