The Giant List of Classic Game Programmers
The Source for Video and Computer Game History since 1997.
"I wrote my first (non-vector) game, Cannon Ball, while sitting in my small office at a Model 33 teletype connected to a Motorola MicBug 6800 processor, both of which were connected to simple videogame hardware. I hand-assembled the entire program--it was only 2K, but still took several months--including self-test, saving the code on punched paper tape."
--Owen Rubin

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May 5, 2006

Tom Hudson has written-up the story of how he wrote Livewire!, a Tempest-inspired game for the Atari 800. Unlike Centipede, Tempest-like games were few and far between. David Van Brink wrote Tubeway for the Apple II, and John Field wrote Axis Assassin for the Apple II (one one of the forgotten early titles from Electronic Arts). This makes it all the more impressive that Livewire! first appeared as a type-in listing in ANALOG Computing, the magazine Tom worked for at the time. Tom also wrote a primitive 3D drawing program for ANALOG called Solid States. It's significant because it was the first in a series of 3D tools he wrote, eventually culminating in what became 3D Studio MAX.

February 12, 2006

Here's Harvey Kong Tin on HawkQuest, which he worked on with Andrew Bradfield for the Atari 8-bit computers. Harvey did the graphics and helped with the plot, and Andrew did the coding.
For HawkQuest I'm to be blamed for the planning of a huge project, for its time--which took 3 years part time to complete. (We didn't know how long it would take to complete it.) It's two separate games, interlinked: the main game is a Xevious variant, using a helicopter to bomb ground targets and air missiles for air attacks, the secondary game is similiar to Gauntlet/Shamus where you are roaming around underground fortresses in search of a missing crystal segment, but making use of inventory items along the way. A kind of scavenger hunt, all of it is linked via an interface of choosing which planet would you attack in what order. You can load/save saved games via the interface. So you do a Xevious-like run topside of the planet first, bomb a control mechanism at the end, to access the Secondary Game. The Secondary Game takes place within the planets interior fortress, completion of the secondary game takes you via teleport back to your own spaceship. There are five planets which you can attack, each with its own terrain, each underground fortress is completely different.

The game was programmed on an Atari 800 48K computer. The game is supplied on 2 single density (90K) diskettes in which four sides are used. Therefore the whole HawkQuest took up 360K of data. With the decline of the Atari 8-bit computers and the appearance of the Atari ST and Amiga computers, we knew this would be a last hurrah game for the Atari 800/etc computers. I put some Atari ST references in the planetary landscape and level design layout.

Sadly, Andrew died in 2001.

January 19, 2006

I've been in minimal update mode for a while now: occasional updates to the Giant List and no news updates since March of last year. Here's why:

I initially started the list to chronicle the authors of the great games I remembered. Games from Synapse and Sirius and the Atari Program Exchange and so on. In that respect, I've succeeded. The list is huge and fairly complete when it comes to games that were widely distributed and reviewed, plus many, many games that were more obscure. To make the list "complete," would involve hundreds (or thousands) more entries--a tremendous amount of work--for little benefit. I have an email containing author information for all the type-in games from several Apple II magazines, and that information is overwhelmingly long. A majority of these games are what I'd classify as trivial. Though for a different system, consider Bob Polaro's Lemonade. It was a straightforward implementation of a well-known business simulation and was sold through APX. Years later, it appeared as a type-in listing in Antic, where it turned out to be less than a page of BASIC code. In this case, the game is of historical interest because Bob went on to write the Atari 2600 port of Defender. But consider odd little magazine listings for tic-tac-toe and trivia games and Pong. There are hundreds of such games, and they do little more than bulk up the Giant List. The short version is that the list is essentially in maintenance mode at this point.

I have some interesting stories in the queue, and I hope to post them in the coming months.

March 13, 2005

I was at the rant session at the Game Developers Conference in which Greg Costikyan briefly mentioned Donkey Kong and the rash of clones it spawned. That got me thinking about the history of climbing games in general.

The little-known 1980 coin-op Space Panic is generally accepted as the first. More people know about the home computer incarnation, Apple Panic (Ben Serki, 1981). Shigeru Miyamoto's Donkey Kong hit that same year, 1981, and yes indeed the DK-inspired games were right on its tail. Cannonball Blitz was an obvious knock-off (Olaf Lubeck, 1982), as was Canyon Climber (Tim Ferris, 1982), except the latter had the "walk over the rivets" screen before the "climb to the top" screen. Bill Hogue's Miner 2049'er pulled out all the stops with ten different screens, only to have the count tripled by Randy Glover's Jumpman the next year. That's ignoring Doug Smith's Lode Runner with 150 screens in 1982, but that game was more of a souped-up Space Panic than a direct Donkey Kong descendant. There are too many climbing games to list completely, but here are just a couple more from 1982: Infiltrate, Ponpoko, Burger Time, Fast Freddie (Mark Turmell), and Apple Cider Spider (Ivan Strand). Arguably the closest thing to an official sequel to Space Panic was Mr. Do's Castle (1983), as both games were coin-ops from Universal.

February 21, 2005

Amid all the updates that have been happening recently, here are some of note:

Al Lowe's entry has been filled-out, thanks to info from Al himself.

Kris Hatlelid's entry has been added. Kris is best known for Frantic Freddie for the C64. He currently works at Microsoft.

There are only a handful of Microbee game authors on the Giant List, and now John Passfield is one of them. John wrote two Microbee games: Chilly Willy (a Pengo-clone) and Halloween Harry. You can see screenshots of both games on his web site.

January 16, 2005

News items have been few and far between, but updates to the Giant List itself have been steady. Keith Smith sent a massive amount of Apple II information, including all game authors for Softdisk (found by going through all 166 issues). Some of this has been merged into the list, but there's a lot more to go.

A notable new entry is that of Robert Weatherby. Robert designed a number of post-classic era Atari Games coin-ops, including Super Sprint. Of special historical interest is that Robert designed Chuck Norris Superkicks (1983, 2600, Xonox), which may be the first martial arts themed fighting game. Karate Champ, Yie Ar Kung Fu, Bruce Lee, and World Championship Karate were all later.

December 15, 2004

While updating Ed Logg's entry, I came across an interesting quote from an interview with him in Game Design: Theory & Practice. The 1992 PC game Wolfenstein 3D was obviously inspired by Silas Warner's Castle Wolfenstein for the Apple II. That's a given. Tracing backward from the 3D version, searching for games with similar technology, Logg's Xybots coin-op from five years earlier is often mentioned. Ed ties all this together nicely:
Xybots came from a challenge by Doug Snyder, a hardware engineer at Atari. We wanted to do a multi-player Castle Wolfenstein-like game that had no 'bit map' hardware. So I created an algorithm based on 8 by 8 stamps and he did the hardware.
and later:
I started the game as a two-player split-screen Gauntlet III. Partway through, marketing said they wanted something other than Gauntlet. So I changed the characters and enemies to be more like Major Havok. I still regret changing the theme and wish I kept my original concept.

November 4, 2004

Brian Moriarty, later known for the Infocom games Wishbringer and Trinity, got his start as a technical editor for ANALOG Computing. In issue #16, Brian wrote a review of the then-new Action! programming language for Atari 8-bit computers. For comparison, he timed each language on the famous sieve bechmark to count the prime numbers between 1 and 8191: 5 minutes, 41 seconds for interpreted Atari BASIC, and 1.5 seconds for compiled Action!. Fast forward twenty years, and instead of 5 minutes, 41 seconds, a modern interpreted language, Python, clocks in at 16.7 seconds on the sieve. Of course I should mention that the sieve was being run once in the Atari BASIC benchmark and 1200 times for the Python benchmark. That's a total of 24,503 times faster (and for the record, 106 times faster than the Action! version). And Python is one of the slower interpreters available.

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