Apple II game programmer reunion wrap-up

Giant List archive, August 10, 1998

It was astounding: most of the great Apple II game programming talent all in one place for one night only. Everyone from Nasir Gebelli to Bill Budge to Mark Turmell to Eric Hammond to Chuck Bueche (a.k.a. "Chuckles") reminiscing in the penthouse offices of ION Storm this past Saturday as part of a once-in-a-lifetime reunion thrown by Apple II trivia master John Romero.

I talked to Dan Illowsky, now a consultant, and found out about Snack Attack II, an all but forgotten sequel to the Apple maze classic that was released ages ago—for the PC. I asked Jordan Mechner about the "insert the Karateka disk in upside down and the game plays upside down" trick, and found that Doug Carlston gave the go ahead even though it caused manufacturing costs to be noticibly higher. I talked to Andrew Greenberg—who's now a lawyer by the way—about the decision to use Apple Pascal for Wizardy and found that it was because P-code was much more space efficient than raw machine code. I talked to Chris Oberth, who's best known for Stern's Rescue coin-op, and picked up great information about the current arcade business. And that's how the evening went: one mind-blowing encounter after another. Ray Tobey (Skyfox) telling stories about Jim Nitchals. Steve Wozniak (Steve Wozniak!) responding to the question "What do you think of the Commodore 64?"

Some non-Apple personalities were there as well, including Philip Price and Gary Gilbertson. I was floored by Phil's stories of procedural texture creation on a 12 MHz 80286, and greatly enjoyed Gary's philosophies of game music. Alternate Reality Online is going to be a stunner. Warren Robinett did Rocky's Boots for the Apple, but the subject often turned to Atari 2600 Adventure (I give credit to collector and Age of Empires graphics engine guy Matt Pritchard for having the forethought to bring an Adventure cart for him to sign).

More than anything, it was wonderful to be able to attach faces to people I've only known via email or through their games. The egos were non-existent, and I met some genuinely nice people.

The trivia and stories will undoubtedly reveal themselves in the coming weeks, but I can't close without commenting on the ION Storm architecture. Good grief, you go nuts with all the ladders and lofts and huge expanses of vertigo-inducing glass (this is the 54th floor, you must realize). Hats off to whoever cooked up that wacky amusement park of an office suite.

All in all, a fantastic evening.