Formerly known as Karen Notebook (between 1997 and 2008), before that, Swiss Sp. z o.o. (since 1991), and before that – in times so far back, their website doesn’t even mention it – they were known as P.Z. Karen – “Przedsiebiorstwo Zagraniczne Karen”. Karen, since its founding, has specialised in computers – they import computer components, put them together and they sell computers, especially notebooks. They have their own brand, California Access. California Access… hmm, doesn’t that sound a bit like California Dreams? Exactly – P.Z. Karen is the company that stood behind one of the most famous Polish games labels of the late 1980s and early 1990s – California Dreams. However, at that time, P.Z. Karen was not an independent company. It was owned by Logical Design Works.
Logical Design Works
Founded in 1983 in California by a Polish physicist-turned-businessman, Lucjan Daniel Wencel. Wencel then went on to found a subsidiary company in Poland. This company was called P.Z. Karen, and it was Logical Design Works’ development studio – the idea was to tap into the potential of Polish programmers who (this was in the 1980s, before the fall of communism) had very little work opportunities in Poland. The games they developed were published under the label California Dreams, described in more details below. The company existed until around 1993, when Wencel decided to close shop and return to Poland. Apart from developing games under the California Dreams, they also ported a range of games – Zombies (1983), Computer Ambush (1985), Phantasie (1985), Rings of Zilfin (1986) and Phantasie II (1986). I am not sure if these ports were done in the US or at P.Z. Karen in Poland.
First publication in 1987, last one in 1991. As mentioned above, this was not a company, it was only a label. California Dreams developed several games – Vegas Gambler (1987), Street Rod (1989), Blockout (1989), Tunnels of Armageddon (1989), Street Rod 2: The Next Generation (1991), and Solidarnosc (1991). After 1991, no further titles were published under this label.
And so, we are back to P.Z. Karen. Founded somewhere around 1983, possibly later (but definitely not later than 1987). The company’s full name was “Przedsiebiorstwo Zagraniczne Karen” (przedsiebiorstwo zagraniczne” = foreign company). To explain – the “foreign company” bit is actually not a part of the company name, it’s like the terms “limited” or “incorporated” that show up in various company names – a designator of the legal form of the company. Presumably the “foreign company” legal form was something that ceased to exist during the communist era. Anyway, P.Z. Karen was the development studio for Logical Design Works. Their games were published under the California Dreams label. Apart from developing games, P.Z. Karen also developed other software applications, and imported computer equipment. Around 1991, as we can guess from the lack of any further California Dreams titles, the company decided to give up developing games, right around the time it turned into Swiss Sp. z.o.o…