Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Great Unknown Bronze/Golden Age Game Designers

Back in the day, game designers got no respect. Most companies did not identify them and many were determined not to give them any public credit.

In the years since then, things have changed. Most gamers know who all the Atari designers were. Same thing with the Williams designers of the  1980s. Toru Iwatani, Tomohiro Nishikado, and Shigeru Miyamoto have become, if not household names, at least fairly well known.

Nonetheless, there are still a number of designers out there who haven't gotten the recognition they deserve.

Here are a few of them (only games through 1984 are included).

Howell Ivy
Clean Sweep – Ramtek – 1974 – Designer
Trivia – Ramtek – 1975 – Designer
Death Race – Exidy – 1976 – Designer
Robot Bowl – Exidy – 1977 – Designer
Circus – Exidy – 1978 – Designer
Mouse Trap – Exidy – 1981
Pepper II – Exidy – 1981
Venture – Exidy – 1981
Victory – Exidy – 1982
Vertigo – Exidy – Unreleased – Designer

Ivy was the head designer at Ramtek and was the second employee at Exidy (after founder Pete Kaufmann). Clean Sweep was actually fairly popular in its day. Death Race is well known. Robot Bowl and Circus were popular as well (the latter was Exidy's biggest hit in terms of units produced).

Bill Adams et al
Kickman – Bally/Midway – 1981 – Project Leader
Tron – Bally/Midway – 1981 - Programmer
Satan’s Hollow – Bally/Midway – 1981
Discs of Tron – Bally/Midway – 1983 - Group Manager
Spy Hunter – Bally/Midway – 1983
Curve Ball – Mylstar – 1984 – Designer, Programmer

These games (except the last) were created by Midway's internal team, thus I could have included a number of others instead (George Gomez, John Pasierb etc.)

Richard Ditton et al
Domino Man – Bally/Midway – 1982 – Programmer
Journey – Bally/Midway – 1983 – Programmer
Tapper – Bally/Midway – 1983
Wacko – Bally/Midway – 1983
Root Beer Tapper – Bally/Midway

Same thing here. I could have included others from the Marvin Glass team (Elaine Ditton, Scott Morrison, Steve Meyer etc.)

Alan McNeil
Boot Hill - Bally/Midway - 1977
Seawolf II - Bally/Midway - 1978
Berzerk – Stern – 1980 - Designer, Programmer
Frenzy – Stern – 1982 - Designer, Programmer

Some sources have him working on Wizard of Wor as well.

Ted Michon
Air Combat – Digital Games – 1976 – Hardware
Night Racer – Micronetics – 1976 – Designer
Star Fire – Exidy – 1978 – Designer
Fire One! – Exidy – 1979 – Designer
Kreepy Krawlers – Exidy – 1979
The Last Starfitghter – Atari – Unreleased – Hardware

The last four were created by Technical Magic, where others like David Rolfe also worked on them.

Larry W. Hutcherson
Mouse Trap – Exidy - 1981
Pepper II – Exidy – 1981
Hard Hat – Exidy – 1982
Crossbow – Exidy - 1983
Fax – Exidy – 1983
Cheyenne – Exidy – 1984
Teeter Torture – Exidy – Unreleased

Perhaps Exidy's most prolific programmer/designer of the 1980s. Probably the biggest Exidy name I've yet to contact. As with lists above, others (like Vic Tolomei) worked on many of these games.

Dave Thiel
Q*Bert – Gottlieb – 1982 – Sound
Reactor – Gottlieb – 1982 – Sound
M.A.C.H. 3 – Mylstar – 1983 - Sound
Mad Planets – Gottlieb – 1983 – Sound
Q*Bert’s Qubes – Mylstar – 1983 – Sound
Arena – Gottlieb – Unreleased – Sound
Insector – Gottlieb – Unreleased – Sound
Videoman – Gottlieb – Unreleased – Sound

Dave Thiel is somewhat well known and Q*Bert designer Warren Davis is quite well-knonwn. Artist Jeff Lee also worked on pretty much all of these games.

Larry Rosenthal
Space Wars – Cinematronics – 1977 – Designer
Scramble – Vectorbeam – 1978
Speed Freak – Vectorbeam – 1979
Tailgunner – Vectorbeam – 1979
Oops! – Vectorbeam – Unreleased

Rosenthal is well known for Space Wars but his other work isn't so well-known

Dave Nutting
Gun Fight – Bally/Midway - 1975
Seawolf – Bally/Midway – 1976
Tornado Baseball – Bally/Midway  - 1976 – Hardware Effects
Boot Hill – Bally/Midway  - 1977 – Hardware Effects
Seawolf II – Bally/Miwday – 1978
Adventures of Robby Roto – Bally/Midway - 1981
Wizard of Wor – Bally/Midway - 1981

I'm sure Dave worked on a number of other games. I known that he played some role on Tron.
 
George Opperman
Not a game designer, per se but in my mind perhaps the greatest unsung hero of Atari. Opperman designed the company logo, but his real legacy is that he was the main driving force behind the cabinet art work for almost all of their golden era hits.
I think the cabinet art for these games was a bigger part of their success than many people credit.

On the same lines, I could have included Pat "Sleepy" Peak, who did cabinet art for Exidy (most famously for Death Race).

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