Just a quick email to let you know that I've now got Charlie Heath on-board for the Anthology project.
Here's an excerpt from an email conversation I've been having with him.
CHARLIE--> Jim McGinnis was the development manager at Parker Brothers who initiated Parker's 2600 development. He brought in the first group of programmers at Parker, and he had the most clearly articulated interest in the creative leadership of the developer. Jim was one of the group of five engineers at Parker Brothers who departed simultaneously to form the Boston design center for Activision.
KEN--> OK... "Who were the five (5) developers?" Also.. "What exactly was the Boston Design Center?" Didn't the Kitchen Bros (Activision East) handle all of the development? If not... "How did the Boston Design group fit-into the picture?
CHARLIE--> Jim was working on fractal terrain generation at Activision - I don't recall much about his work. Since leaving Activision, Jim has mostly worked as a software engineering consultant.
Hmm... OK.. will try tracing him down. Would he more than likely be back east as well?
Tom Lopez was - I don't remember his exact role, but he was something of an evangelist, and he was pivotal in the Parker group's decision to join Activision instead of Imagic.
KEN--> So.. there was talk of you guys possibly leaving to join Imagic then? Interesting.. as they're part of the next "Anothology" project. Haven't pursued their Alumni just yet. So far just Rob Fulop and Bruce Davis.
CHARLIE--> I think he was Vice President of something, and our design group reported to him through Jim Cherney (sp?) - Jim was a manager for the two east coast design centers, one being the Boston group, and the second being the Kitchen's center in New York.
KEN--> Ahhhh.... OK. The whole East Coast Activision group is very odd to me in the sense that I had no idea that Activision had offices out there at that time.
I'll see if I can find Jim as well.
CHRALIE--> Two other engineers from Parker who came to Activision were Mike Brodie and Dave Lampkins. Mike was working on a complex arcade translation at Parker - I forget the name, but it was a chopper scrolling through a horizontal world.
My guess as to what this was... "Super Cobra". One of my favorite coin-op's at that point in time.
Mike was a really unusual character; he was working on a very abstract Atari VCS game that I could never figure out.
KEN--> Can you elaborate on that at all?
CHARLIE--> Dave was a manager at Parker Brothers, but he worked as a designer at Activision.
Hmm...How could this be? I'm not sure I understand. He worked for both Activision and Parker Bros at the same time?
He was working on a game where, if I recollect correctly, you were flying on the back of a large bird - but I don't recollect the game play beyond that.
The members of the Boston design center departed from Parker Brothers at the absolute peak of the Atari VCS marketplace.
Why? If things were going so well?
We left, I think, in early November of '83, and one of our first duties at Activision was to fly out to a limo ride and first class accommodations at the Chicago CES. Unfortunately, the market began to deteriorate shortly after the Boston design center was opened, so the group never really got a firm foundation. Rex Bradford completed a very interesting VCS game that would have been a big hit if it had been released six months earlier, but it was never even published.
KEN--> Possibly "Kabobber?"
I had what I thought was a solid technology basis for a game with Thwocker, but I never quite got the game chemistry right.
KEN--> Right. I have a version here, although... "I'm not sure how far along it is in development." We wanna' include it in the Anthoology package as well.
CHARLIE--> I'd done a prototype of what I thought would be an excellent game for Parker Brothers - it was based on the James Bond movie "Moonraker", but it wasn't the cute spy game that Parker wanted, instead, I'd done a single scene where you're chasing and shooting down a terrorist's biochemical weapon pods that have been released from a space shuttle, before they reached the atmosphere and destroyed mankind.
KEN--> Wow! "Very Cool!" I don't suppose you'd still have that code lying around anywhere would ya'? We'd love to see it.
CHARLIE--> Rex had been working on the first 3D golf terrain display, to be implemented on the Commodore 64, at the end of the Boston Design Center's days. That game was never completed, but the next year, Rex and I formed a company, Microsmiths, and Rex developed a PC based 3d golf game, Mean 18, that Al Miller saw and liked a lot, and that helped turn Accolade in to a major player in sports games.
KEN--> I remember that game very well. "Did very good from what I can recall." I wanted that game so bad, when I was a kid. I couldn't afford to buy it though. My allowance wouldn't permit it. Besides, I was into buying records too. ;-) "Couldn't have both I suppose." ehehehe
CHARLIE--> Rex and I had ups and downs together for several years; Mean 18 did quite well, but we let that slip away to competitors golf games. We had a shot at forming a solid company in partnership with another Parker Brothers spin-off in 1990, when we partnered with a marketing executive and an artist/designer to form a company, NuVision, focused on Sega Genesis games. We got one game published - Bimini Run - and we had two more games nearly ready to go to publication - but the recession of 1990 and punitive interest rates on insufficient bridge-loan credit to get carts burned put that company out of business.
KEN--> Around that time, I was working for Virgin Interactive. Do you recall the name of the other Parker Bros spin-off?
CHARLIE--> NuVision was on roughly the same timeline as THQ, and I think if NuVision had been able to turn the corner in 1990, it could have been a big player.
I wanna' say that I remember that name for some reason or other.. I'm just not sure.
After that, I wound up at Papyrus Design Group in 1994, where I participated in the development of the first NASCAR Racing title - Papyrus was subsequently bought out by Sierra On-Line.
KEN--> Yes, I remember. I believe we did distribution of that title. Again.. that was at Virgin Interactive. Man!.... "That game made MONEY". Even more important than that though, was that the game was fun!
CHARLIE--> My focus there was development of an online racing service, first as a free direct dial prototype called "Hawaii" back in early 1996, and later in partnership with the Total Entertainment Network (TEN) as the Nascar Racing Online Series (NROS). The NROS was the most popular thing on TEN, but it never reached the lofty numbers that marketing had promised - we typically had 600 concurrent users, but we had promised about 10,000 concurrent users to NASCAR. In 1998 and 1999, I acted as technical lead for the NASCAR Racing titles released in those years - "NASCAR Racing 1999 Edition", then "NASCAR Racing 3" and "NASCAR Legends". I left Papyrus a couple years ago, to join an Internet startup -
KEN--> I take you weren't happy there anymore?