Gamer's Edge

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The Mad Gamers

Gamer's Edge was a bi-monthly disk magazine product published by Softdisk that was developed within its own department. It was founded by John Romero in August 1990, including a select group including John Carmack, Adrian Carmack (no relation) and Lane Roathe, and aided from the outside by Tom Hall. Most had previously released games via the Big Blue Disk line.

Softdisk had made its name publishing monthly disks for the Apple II and other systems, but Romero pitched a bi-monthly release targeting PC compatibles to allow more time to polish the game releases to capture this growing market. Games produced included Romero's Dangerous Dave, Sub Stalker and Pyramids of Egypt, Carmack's Dark Designs and Catacomb, and collaborations like Slordax: The Unknown Enemy. The Gamer's Edge Sampler was released to attract interest.

This workflow provided a window for John Carmack to experiment with new approaches to game graphics, ultimately leading to the development of adaptive tile refresh. The crew then moonlighted the first Commander Keen game, entitled Invasion of the Vorticons, and published it with shareware innovator Apogee Software on December 14, 1990 as new startup id Software.

This development devastated Softdisk founder Al Vekovius, who had felt the Gamer's Edge line was a rising star. More concerning was that the id founders had even been borrowing Softdisk computers over the weekends to develop Commander Keen. After an initial pitch for Softdisk to publish id games collapsed due to threat of an internal revolt among other Softdisk departments, legal action loomed.

In a bid to continue the fruitful business relationship, a contract was negotiated that obligated id to keep making titles for Gamer's Edge through to 1991, leading to releases such as Dangerous Dave in the Haunted Mansion, Shadow Knights, Rescue Rover, Tiles of the Dragon, Hovertank 3D and Catacomb 3D. The final game of the deal was ScubaVenture: The Search for Pirate's Treasure, which was actually developed by Apogee to allow id to focus on Wolfenstein 3D.

Softdisk used id's growing fame to market is own The Lost Game Collection of ID Software. The deal also gave Softdisk access to several pieces of Carmack's technology and Romero's design tools, most notably the smooth scrolling engine from Haunted Mansion and the texture mapped pseudo-3D worlds of Catacomb 3D. Managing editor Jay Wilbur also stayed on for awhile, before eventually joining id Software and later Epic Games.

Greg Malone III of Origin Systems, and a team including Mike Maynard and Jim Row, were brought on to produce additional games. This lead to the Catacomb Adventure Series and several sequels to Dangerous Dave, as well as stand alone games like Cyberchess, Change Maker, and Xenopods. This mirrored developments on the Apple II line, where Peter Rokitski adopted Carmack's engines for sequels to Catacombs and Dark Designs, as well as a demake of Dave Goes Nutz! using Romero's original Apple II engine for Dangerous Dave.

In 1992 Maynard and Row left to found JAM Productions, soon joined by artist Jerry Jones. Greg Malone ultimately moved on to work as a producer for 3D Realms, Apogee's later re-branding. Softdisk continued publishing games like In Pursuit of Greed and Alien Rampage, but left the industry in 1995 to become an internet service provider.