Video Games

Games haven't gotten better, they've just gotten more pixels.

Frogger 2 Frogger Home Alone Games I've
Worked On
People Trivia

GameBoy Frogger 2—Tips, Hints, Cheats, and Trivia

Try This
Put the name "Frogger" in the third player slot. You'll start each game with 10,000 points, and a free man.

Stuck in the ice?
Check out these maps for the ice world.

Frogger 2 Easter Egg Revealed
I was trying to think of a good sequence of keys for a hidden bonus when I realized I could use the keypad to spell my last name. Left, Up, B, A, Right. If you go to the RECORDS screen and do this LUBAR sequence, you'll get a nice reward.

Frogger Trivia
Part of the fun of writing games is that I can stick interesting (and meaningless) stuff in the text. I named the Pelczarski Penguins after Mark Pelczarski. He started a company called Penguin Software many years ago, and we did several projects together. The Hedren Hawks got their name from the Alfred Hitchcock movie, The Birds. It starred Tippi Hedren. I have a short story in a book about frogs called Ribbiting Tales, edited by Nancy Springer. Since "Springer" could be a frog's name, I used it as one of the high score names. I also used the phrase "ribbiting tales" in the intro text for that level. If you enjoyed the text, you might like some of my stories and books. I can do a lot more with words when I'm not limited to one GameBoy screen at a time.

The Blink-182 Connection
Speaking of high scores, here's how Frogger 2 is connected with Blink-182. First of all—a little secret: in many games, the high-scores that come with the game aren't real (though they are realistic). We just plug in reasonable numbers. Way back when I was writing the game, Blink-182 was my daughter's favorite band. So I used her name for the top score, and gave her a score of 21,820. The initial 2 stands for the second letter of the alphabet. The trailing 0 stands for nothing. I think some of the other numbers might be birthdates and stuff like that, but I can't remember for sure. But since I know that a lot of my readers are also Blink-182 fans, I figured I'd share this little bit of useless information with them.

GameBoy Frogger

A Confession
Frogger was my first GBC game, and I had trouble with some of the colors. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't get the yellow as bright as I wanted. It wasn't until later that I discovered there was a protective plastic cover on the screen of the development system. Once I peeled it off, the colors were a lot brighter. By then, the game had already been released. So if the yellows seem too bright, blame it on my stupidity.

No Goodies
Despite what you might see elsewhere, there are no cheats or hidden goodies in GameBoy Frogger. I had such a killer schedule (three games in three months) that there wasn't any time. There's so much empty space in the cartridge, if you shake it you can hear the bits rattle.

GameBoy Home Alone

Extra Lives
1. Use the shelves to climb the tall dresser in the hall to the right of the bedroom on of level one. Jump over the little guy without touching him. An extra man will fall from the ceiling.
2. In the room where you have to switch on the lights, switch them off before you leave. You'll get an extra life as a thank you for saving energy.
3. When you leave the attic, jump off the ladder to the left. Don't go back into the attic from that ladder. The game will crash. There's a bug. Sorry.

Home Alone Trivia
The alphabet blocks in the nursery show my daughter's initals—ASL. Other blocks have the initials of the game's artist, Mike Sullivan. The short guy was inspired by Boris Badenov from Rocky and Bullwinkle. My favorite part was the mini game with the shovel in the basement.

Games I've Worked On

Original Design and All Programming

Title System Publisher
Bumper Blocks Apple II Creative Computing
Obstacle Course Apple II Creative Computing
Killing Zone Apple II Versaware
Worm War I Atari 2600 Sirius/Fox
Nexar Atari 2600 Spectra-Video
Fantastic Voyage Atari 2600 Sirius/Fox
Flash Gordon Atari 2600 Sirius/Fox
Space Master X-7 Atari 2600 Sirius/Fox
Bumper Bash Atari 2600 Spectra-Video
Pastfinder Atari 800 Activision
Home Alone GameBoy THQ
Frogger 2 GameBoy Majesco
Nabisco Arcade Web based Skyworks

Co-authored Programs

Title System Publisher
The Graphics Magician
with Mark Pelczarski
Apple II Polarware
Special Effects
with Mark Pelczarski
Apple II Polarware

Co-designed Programs

Title System Publisher
River Raid II Atari 2600 Activision
My Golf Atari 2600 HES
Sentinel Atari 2600 Atari
Sentinel Atari 7800 Atari
Personal Organizer GameBoy Gametech
Swamp Thing NES THQ


Title System Publisher
Master of the Lamps Atari 800 Activision
Hacker Atari 800 Activision
Hacker Apple II Activision
Murder on the Mississippi Apple II Activision
Ultima IV Atari 800 Origin Systems
Shanghai Apple II Activision
Shanghai Commodore 64 Activision
Ogre Commodore 64 Activision
Ogre Atari 800 Activision
Ultima I Commodore 64 Origin Systems
Sub Battle Simulator Apple II Epyx
Pharaoh's Revenge Commodore 64 SRI
Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego? Commodore 64 Broderbund
Super Breakout GameBoy Majesco
Frogger GameBoy Majesco
Frogger Super Nintendo Majesco
Oreo Dunking Web based Skyworks

I've also worked on various team projects (including doing minor tasks in The Simpsons: Bart vs. the World and Home Improvement), converted a variety of old GameBoy games to color versions, and written a couple games that don't deserved to be mentioned.

People I've Worked with, Known, or Just Met.

David Ahl—The man who started Creative Computing Magazine. He was the first person who ever gave me a job. The pay was low and the hours were long, but I got to play a lot of games, fool around with all the latest hardware, and write whatever I felt like. Weirdest memory—after a press party, he offered to let the employees buy the leftover cheese at a discount. Someday, maybe I'll explain why I spent my second day on the job searching through garbage bags. In the meantime, here's a link to a site he just set up to sell some of the many thing's he's amassed over the years, including books, magazines, and games: Dave Ahl's Online Swap Meet. No cheese, as far as I could see.

Doug Carlston—One of the smartest fellows in the industry. He started out with a TRS-80 Game, then published a Galaxian clone. Next thing you know, Broderbund is one of the best publishers around, producing a string of hits including Chop Lifter, Lode Runner, and the Carmen Sandiego series. They managed to stay afloat when most of the industry crashed in the eighties. On top of that, he's a nice guy.

Theodore Holm Nelson—A unique figure in the field. Ted Nelson is a visionary who would be ahead of his time no matter when he was born. He was one of the first to suggest that computers could be used to process text. They laughed. Check out his early books. I worked with him at Creative Computing Magazine when he was the editor. Weirdest memory—we were on our way to the New York Institute of Technology to do a story on their computer lab. Ted, who was behind the wheel, decided to change his pants. His van rolled back into a truck. A huge truck. When Ted went to look for damage, the driver just laughed at him and waved him off.

Carol Shaw I met her when I was working for Activision. Her algorithm for creating the landscape in River Raid is one of the most elegant pieces of programming I ever saw. Side note—her brother Steve did the Apple version of Deluxe Paint for Electronic Arts.

Mark Turmell—I worked with Mark at Sirius software. He went on to design a slew of coin-op arcade hits for Williams, including Smash TV and NBA Jam. He has a great talent for design. Weirdest memory—cruising around Sacramento the day Mark bought his Porsche. He was barely out of his teens. A young lady looked at him and said, "Daddy's car?" All the Sirius programmers bought fancy cars. Except me. I had a station wagon.

More to come as time permits


Movie connection #1 -- One of my games appeared in the movie Revenge of the Nerds. I'd written an Atari 2600 game that ended up being named after one of Fox's more obscure movies, Space Master X-7. The game was fairly cool for it's time. I was trying for a vector graphic look. In Revenge of the Nerds you can see them playing the Atari 800 version of it when they're camping out in the gym.

Movie connection #2— In the Barry Levinson movie, Toys (the one with Robin Williams and Joan Cusack), the general plays a video game that shows a first person view from the top of a tank. The game was created using two Super Nintendo programs and merging the images. When I worked at Absolute, I was asked to recreate that game as a bonus level for a SNES tank game. Of course, it had to run on one Nintendo. To make the enemy targets more fun, I tossed in a dirigible.

Bogus Blast (From the Past)— In my first Atari 2600 game, Worm War One, I didn't have any room left to store graphics for the explosions. So I used sections of the program code as data for the explosions. It was a kludge, but it worked out okay. Speaking of running out of room...

How Small Was It?— It's amazing how much more memory there is for games now. The Atari 2600 had 4K of ROM space. Most games used several banks of ROM, giving us a luxurious 16K. That's 16,384 bytes. But that wasn't the problem. The real limit was the RAM. The 2600 only had 128 bytes of Random Access Memory. Anything that changed—player positions, scores, playfield elements—was stored in RAM. If you wanted 10 enemies on the screen, you needed to use 20 bytes just for their positions. Back then, we looked on it as a challenge. How much could we do within those limits? How far could we push the machine?

My First Computer— I started out with an Apple II with 16K of RAM. I believe I bought it in 1979 for a staggering $1,200. Adjusted for inflation, I think that's several million in today's currency. I used a casette player for data storage. At one point, I actually said to my wife, "I don't see why anybody needs a disk drive. I really don't mind waiting two minutes to load Space Invaders." I eventually broke down and bought a disk drive. They cost $400 back then. I loved the Apple. It was perfect for hacking and learning. I'll always be grateful to Steve Wozniak for creating it.

A Bad Nintendo Joke for Revolutionary War Fans -- You have to know about both Nintendo games and American history to appreciate this. (That's one nice thing about the web—even the most obscure items can find an audience.) While I was writing NES Swamp Thing, I came up with the perfect nickname for the main character: "Francis Mario."

More to come as time permits