More reflections on my relationship with Computer Harpoon

November 13, 2014

Looking over the few items I have posted over the years I reflected on the fact that I don’t miss Harpoon one bit.  Granted, I just completed a chapter on Computer Harpoon for a forthcoming MIT Press book tentatively titled “Zones of Control” due out in early 2016.  In some respects writing that provided a lot of retrospective and dredged up some old memories.  I sent draft copies to everyone I tried to mention (only the positive mentions, I skipped the names of the trolls) and received a few corrections and general agreement that my memory was accurate.

I did find it interesting to go through my archive box, including the original design notebooks (which we thought were lost), letters, marketing materials, reviews in the US Naval Institute Press, etc.  The game is actually never far from my mind because i have two of the framed “Tom the Captain” game posters from 1988 in my offices (home and day job). But I don’t really dwell on it.

Tom Frisina Harpoon 1 Poster

Tom Frisina Harpoon 1 Poster

When I guest lecture to classes at Texas A&M I try to provide some insight into what the business was like in the 1980’s and 1990’s but make it clear that I’m there to provide historical context only.  We didn’t have mobile, cloud, nor Facebook so my lessons learned have to be generic (like dealing with publishers, staff and the usual software development issues).

I am probably closer to donating the materials to one of the three museums who have expressed interest in my collection of period naval games.  I think most of the interest is in the Harpoon project archives (including source code).

I haven’t played any naval games and am only interested in beating Diablo in Diablo II and playing the new Homeworld products in 2015 onward.

Besides, I start a new job on Monday with ViaSat and will get to learn about networking while sharing my knowledge of project, product and software engineering managment.  I’m goining to be VERY busy for some time to come.


Initial Thoughts on Suspending Harpoon Operations

October 26, 2013

I’m going to be posting some thoughts about the milestone event of “tying up” the commercial Harpoon Commander’s Edition and Advanced Naval Warfare product(s) after more than 25 years.  Matrix will continue to sell the Harpoon Ultimate Edition .  It’s just AGSI (and friends) will no longer maintain them.  Further, AGSI will continue to support the Harpoon 3 Professional (H3 MilSim) product as long as there is active demand.  See our website for more information (

The original Harpoon was ~20 man years effort, Harpoon II was around 10 man years  Since then both products have had quite a bit more effort invested in them.   Today, developers have access to several different graphic libraries, unlimited CPU, storage, Ram, GPU’s, the internet, digital maps, and collections of unit image libraries.  

NONE of these existed in 1987-1989 when the first Harpoon was shoe horned into 8088 powered machines using 640×350 4 color CGA displays using only integer math, 640k of RAM and 5.25″ floppy disks.  Every unit was hand drawn, the maps where hand digitized, and we had to write some of the graphic libraries ourselves.  That is why the older game took more staff time.

We made the decision over 25 years ago to focus on simulation accuracy, precision, and utility as our graphics were state of the art at that time. Today, the market’s taste has changed and we were not successful in building a business case to develop The Next Generation Harpoon.

When most of us started on this journey we were young, single, childless, and the Internet didn’t bring trolls into our faces.  The market wasn’t filled with competing “I don’t want to think” products, phones only had buttons, music came on cassettes.  Facebook, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and those pesky Birds didn’t exist either to compete for the time and minds of the world.

I’m going to wrap this up based on a comment my wife made one evening when she came into my home office, looked at the original “Tom Frisina” Harpoon poster and asked “He’s been serving for over 25 years, can’t he retire?”.

I wonder what kind of email I’ll receive now.  Will there be people saying “thanks”, or people who think they can be the next Byron or Jesse?  Maybe silence because they are all busy playing the new Matrix product?  I don’t have any expectations.

I’m going to start inventorying all the Harpoon historical artifacts.  I’ve had two different Universities ask for the material.  I see no reason to keep it in my house (well aside from the poster and a few boxed copies).  I have notebooks, source code on floppy, micro disk, CD and DVD.

A long time “Harpoon Head” sent me about a dozen of the original “Tom Frisina” posters.  That’s the one with the Navy caption with the sunglasses reflecting a ship, a sub and an aircraft.  The top read “NATO vs USSR”.  It is a brilliant and powerful poster.  The reason we call it the “Tom Frisina poster” is two fold.  One, Tom Frisina was the President and marketing wizard who positioned the original 1989 release and … we all swear Tom was the model for the officer!  I think I’ll auction them off sometime in the future – I’d like to collect some autographs on them first….



Published Harpoon Utlimate Edition

December 6, 2010

See press release here:

Harpoon Ultimate Edition Released by AGSI and Matrix Games


Second generation of the Digital Military and Aviation Gallery is up!

November 17, 2010

Over 500 pics and counting. All are high rez, some as much as 4000×3000 pixels. We currently offer them printed about 16″x20″ size suitable for framing. Many are featured in our newly released Harpoon Ultimate Edition naval/air wargame

See the gallery at

Harpoon Ultimate Edition

Harpoon Ultimate Edition

You can buy your copy at Matrix Games