Ozark Softscape

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Ozark Softscape was a software company based in Little Rock, Arkansas. The company was run by programmers Bill Bunten, Dan Bunten, Jim Rushing, and Alan Watson. Ozark Softscape made games for Electronic Arts in the 1980s. These games included M.U.L.E. (1983), The Seven Cities of Gold (1984), Heart of Africa (1985), Robot Rascals (1986), and Modem Wars (1988). The company operated out of a house in the Broadmoor neighborhood at 27 Lakeshore Drive.

Ozark Softscape began making multiplayer games for the Apple II, Atari 400/80, and Commodore 64 personal computers in the 1980s. The company adopted the motto: "Play with each other, not with yourself." Dan Bunten had an industrial engineering degree and worked for the National Science Foundation doing mathematical modeling. Before co-founding Ozark Softscape he had successfully sold a text-based Apple II game called Wheeler Dealers to Speakeasy Software in 1978. Wheeler Dealer was a four-player auction simulation game. Fifty copies of the game were sold for $35 each. Other Apple II games, including Cartels and Cutthroats, Computer Quarterback, and Cytron Masters were sold to SSI.

Dan Bunten became acquainted with SSI programmers Jim Rushing and Alan Watson during this period, and the three decided to form their own independent company. Their first game M.U.L.E. incorporated elements of Wheeler Dealers and was named for the genetically-engineered mules in the Robert Heinlein sci-fi book Time Enough for Love. The game was sold to Electronic Arts for the Atari 400/800. The company sold 30,000 copies of the game for the Atari, and many more for the Commodore 64.

The single-player game Seven Cities of Gold was inspired when Bunten lost his way during a backpacking trip. It was also inspired in part by the Civilization board game made by Avalon Hill. About 150,000 copies of the game were sold in 1984. The 1985 game Heart of Africa represented a sequel to this popular game. Modem Wars sold less briskly as the game required modem network access, still uncommon among personal computer users.

The company eventually dissolved its relationship with Electronic Arts and made two games for Microprose: Command HQ (1990) and Global Conquest (1992). Ozark Softscape closed its doors in 1993 after failing to reach agreement with Sega on the content of M.U.L.E. II. About the same time Bunten underwent sex reassignment surgery and became known as Dani Bunten Berry. The team of programmers moved to Interval, and Dani Berry eventually moved to Mpath Interactive where she worked on games for girls. Berry died of lung cancer on July 3, 1998.


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