BTW I really like The Final Legacy as well. Do you have any interesting stories behind the making of that game? I know there are some prototypes out there that use icons instead of words that we assume were meant for the overseas market: http://www.atariprot...finallegacy.htm
Final Legacy was my first chance to have all the time I wanted, lots of hardware resources. No excuses. It was all my design, my programming, my graphics, music was done by Robert Weatherby I believe. And of course I'm sure lots of other people had suggestions I probably used. But to me Final Legacy was a kind of test. Am I a game designer?
To me it proved I was never going to be a break through original game designer. Don't get me wrong, I've very proud of my work...I'm not a modest person. But there's a reality. I just couldn't see into the future, I didn't have the vision to do games on the systems that were coming. Maybe I just wasn't that into games so I didn't have enough source material to steal from.
When the ST came along I found what I really liked to do, user interface stuff.Final Legacy stories..
There aren't many. It was basically long hard work.
I have little idea how long it took. I started at Atari 4/83 according to my resume and it was done maybe a month before the Tramiels took over. I was told the game was in manufacturing when the Tramiels took over and that some number had been produced. Maybe 8,000? I'm pretty sure someone gave me a copy which was very nice.
Wikipedia says Tramiels took over 7/84 so FL must have been completed say 5/84. Probably started working on it a month or two after starting so I'd say 1 year, 5/83 to 5/84. Seems about right.
I've always liked post apocalyptic stories, new beginings, do it right in 2.0 type deals. So the process is knowing what can be done on the hardware and melting the story idea into that. I kind of imagine myself inside the computer and everything is black, turned off. I can see the RAM, the hardware registers, the CPU. And I start turning on stuff to start building a world.
The main map was first because I was learning the Atari computer and what it could do. The expanding/collapsing map was a simple trick which of course I thought was cool. Now when I look at the videos of people playing the game I'm like "why didn't I speed that up or have a preference for instant switching". It looks painfully slow. Just having a instant switch was a bit jarring so some transition helped, but come on.
The screen with the green grid I was trying to steal arcade Battlezone. Loved that game, loved vector graphics.
Shooting the incoming missiles was basically stealing from arcade Centipede. I loved when you lined up on the centipede and just whale away on the fire button blowing it to bits. This screen was also tweaked for the Atari Track Ball which they were looking for any game to support. Track ball worked well for the missiles, you could get into a rhythm and blow them away like a centipede.
I would have liked to have stolen from Missile Command too, but I wanted perspective and Missile Command really only works in 2D.
The torpedo view was I think pretty original, at least for me. I was proud of the clouds scrolling at different speeds, the light from explosions reflecting off the clouds. Now I wish I would have flashed the white in the clouds when the user got hit.
I think Chris Horseman had done a submarine game for EMI before coming to Atari. Not sure. Seems like he talked about some submarine game a lot. I could be confusing things. I think he made it really realistic which seems like a good idea until you realize being on a sub is a pretty boring 99% of the time. Which Chris understood. So I wanted more action and didn't let too much reality get in the way. So the bow of the user's ship is suppose to look like a sub running on the surface where in theory it could move faster. The torpedos were gray to appear beneath the water.Focus tests and stealing from Atari...
To focus test I made a cart for each tester. These are mostly kids found by a company that test all kinds of products. So I had to make like a 12-15 carts I think. EPROM in the cart which I had to burn. Video game industry was super paranoid about everything. And with good reason, we'd steal anything by almost any means. So I burned a unique serial number into each EPROM. The carts are sent to the kids to play for a week or so and then come in as a group to discuss the game.
One of the kids said "why can't I blow up my own cities". Future game designer.
That was like on a Friday. On monday morning someone, I think Eric, pops his head into my office and says "your game got ripped off". Within a week one of these kids, I assumed, had duplicated the EPROM and was handing out or selling copies and it had already come back to me. Small world.
So someone got me a copy and I find the serial number. This was a world Chris Horseman excels at. Within a really short time he's got the storm troopers at the ready and formulating battle plan to make this kid dump a deuce in his shorts. The plan is to have some PI named "Mad Dog" go have a talk with the kid.
I was in Chris's office when Mad Dog debriefed. To set the scene Mad Dog would be played by Joe Pesci should there ever be a movie.
Mad Dog goes to the kid's house and tells mom that a game got lost and he was investigating. Mind you Mad Dog is telling this like a story...Mad Dog knows we're eating this up. So he gets into the house and asks if he can look through the kid's computer stuff just to make sure the missing game isn't there...you know, by total mistake. Part of the process is Mad Dog flicking thru the kid's floppies one at a time. Mad Dog wears several large rings... Joe Pesci. Mad Dog explains that the rings are strong magnets at which time Chris and I are consumed by laughter and Mad Dog knows he's collecting a bonus. There is justice and there is getting even. Getting even is always better.
Mad Dog then tells the kid and mom that the carts were serialized and we know he was making duplicates. Deuce hits the shorts, mom switches from pro life to pro choice in a heart beat. Kid gives up everything. From his hidden porn stash to where the cart went.
He'd given the cart to a dude working at HP who used HP equipment to down load the EPROM and make copies. Mad Dog wasn't involved in what happened to the HP dude and I have no knowledge of said dude's whereabouts today. I'm guessing a dozen suits showed up at HP and conveyed Atari's concerns.
So, for the collectors out there. There are 12-15 of these. All were returned to me at Atari. Where they all went from there I have no idea except for one which I have. I attached a photo of my cart. The label was a white paper label hand written by me "LEGACY © ATARI 1983 Rev 5.3" and a stamp at the top in red which I can barely see "CONFIDENTIAL". I think they all had exactly the same text. But each ROM image would be different by at least a byte for the serial number. I don't remember which one was stolen so there would be more copies of at least one of these. Not sure how copies could be verified.
I'm getting deja vu so maybe I've already posted this info?
Interesting the cart says © 1983 and not 1984. Maybe I finished Final Legacy late 1983 and not 5/84? So maybe it took 7 months? Not sure. However me not knowing what year it was when I wrote it also sounds like me.How I got hired at Atari and how Final Legacy got started...
After VentureVision folded and I sold Inner Space to Imagic I was still living in a trailer in Denton TX because I'd been going to N Texas State on the GI bill. Time to look for a job.
I looked thru the game magazines and found a bunch of companies looking for programmers. This was kind of the apex of companies looking for people, just before the crash. All the companies seemed to be in CA. I interviewed with a bunch...the smaller the company the faster they repsonded to getting a resume. Very wild, all kinds of companies, all kinds of people.
After a few weeks I was about to except a job I think in Sacramento for a company doing desktop computer games on floppies. Atari called. I'm like peeing. I go out and interview with Chris Horseman...I think he was younger than me. Youngest VP ever at Atari of which he was very proud and rightly so. He's talking a mile a minute about coming from EMI, about his sub game I think. He says he's starting an Advanced Games group at Atari which will have maybe 10 of the best developers in the world. He says he's talking to the dude that wrote Star Raiders which dropped my jaw because that's a mythic game. I assumed at the time that the creator of Star Radiers didn't work at Atari.
So I'm like not really understanding why Chris is telling me all this...Space Cavern != Star Radiers...not even the same zip code. Chris then says something like "obviously you're not of that caliber"...and am back to reality..."but we're willing to take a chance on a couple of programmers that we think we could teach"...sign me the F up. I couldn''t believe my luck.
First day at work it's me Chris and Ritta who was Chris's secretary (personal assistant). Chris was pretty new to Atrai but would never let on. Ritta actually knew everything. She takes me to a huge filing cabinet, flings open the doors and this thing is packed. She says "take whatever you want and if there's anything else you want just let me know and I'll get it". She said "want" not "need". And the way she said it I got the impression if I asked for a lap dance from William Shatner that Ritta would make it happen in a single phone call.
There was only three things missing from the Advanced Games Group. 1. Group. 2. Advanced. 3. Games. I was kind of waiting for the A team to show up and start showing me their secrets, and tell me their lunch orders of course. But Chris wasn't interviewing anyone I could see. I start thinking about Final Legacy and studing the Atari 800 internals. I assume the idea of the sea theme came from Chris, he made have been trying to get me to make a certain game, I don't know. I did know it didn't work that way. You can't spec a game, it has to come from an indivual.
I pretty quickly figured out why I'd been hired into the Advanced Games Group...they couldn't find anyone else. A VP must have at least one employee other than a personal assistant...I think that's a rule. The next hire was a hardware guy who knew nothing about games, didn't really want to know anything about games but I think needed a job to stay in the US. He was from England like Chris. He was a funny guy in a Black Adder way and did some good work on a Last Star Fighter arcade.
Pretty soon Chris says the "group" is moving to new offices. A room in a coin op warehouse in the middle of nowhere. Forklifts, trucks, noise, flumes, the whole enchilada. I don't know the whole story but the impression I got is this is when Warner announced the first big loss, like $500 million which was a lot of money back then. I think Chris saw the crap storm on the horizon and hid us under a rock. I'll bet our budget went tiny real fast. Smart move Chris.
When a company shuts down, which I have a great deal of experience, it's not fun. People just obsess and worry. No work gets done. Out in the warehouse I could just program. And that's where I got most of Final Legacy done. We did move back into a normal building at some point. And I think the group got one or two other people. Eric somebody and an artist working on a laser disc thing, or a music video, using the Twilight Zone song.
As far as I know Final Legacy was the only game to come out of the Advanced Games Group and it barely got out.