Monthly Archives: July 2015

The armed and dangerous worlds of retired cop Jim Walls

Jim Walls Walks the Beat

Jim Walls joined the California Highway Patrol in 1971, working in the Southern California community of Van Nuys. In 1984 he was injured in a shootout during an enforcement stop, and while on administrative leave met Sierra boss Ken Williams via his wife Donna, a hair stylist who would occasionally cut Williams’ hair in a salon in Oakhurst. Williams was mulling over the idea of a Sierra adventure game about police work, and was looking for a consultant with real-world experience.

 

Working with Sierra, Walls would create the story for Police Quest: In Pursuit of the Death Angel, and go on to make two more games in the series, as well as the naval thriller Codename: Iceman, until leaving the company in 1991. His name would be replaced on the box by none less than former LAPD chief Daryl F. Gates in Police Quest: Open Season, released in 1993. That year Walls would consult for Tsunami Media, made up of mostly ex-Sierra people, producing Blue Force, another police procedural adventure game. 

blue-force-1993

Blue Force by Tsunami, 1993

 

Subsequent to a couple of unsuccessful crowd-funding campaigns to launch a new IP in the vein of Police Quest titled Precinct, Walls settled into retirement. But his work on the Police Quest series, a beloved part of the Sierra adventure game pantheon, writes Jim Walls’ name into the books of video game history.

For more information of the history of Sierra, consult your local Dot Eaters entry.

 

Major Faux Pas

Major Fun with Major Havoc

1983 may have been the waning days of the arcade era, but video game companies were still producing amazing products that pushed the envelope, and Atari’s Major Havoc coin-op was no exception. Designed by long-time Atari coin-op division employee Owen Rubin, and prototyped under the title Alpha-1, I had an obsession with the resultant released game. The “Breakout” and “Galaxian” modes were pretty blah, but the game really shone in the parts where the titular hero Major Rex Havoc would land his spaceship onto an enemy Vaxxian space station. The player would then guide him through the complex, avoiding the local enemies and obstacles, following arrows along maze-like corridors to the station’s reactor, which he would sabotage. Then it was a panicked, breakneck race through the floaty, near-weightless environment back to the ship and a blast off out to minimum safe distance for the explosion. All this while maintaining oxygen levels so Havoc doesn’t asphyxiate.

havoc

Colourful, complex vector graphics and a superbly animated main character added to the mystique of this classic arcade game, one of the few that you can play today and still be challenged and transfixed.

To check out creator Owen Rubin’s webpage, click here.

For more information on the history of Atari, consult your local Dot Eaters entry.

major-havoc-1983

Alan Miller serves an ace

Activision Puts One Over the Net

Alan Miller was an early game designer for Atari and their 2600 (then called the VCS) console. One of his games for that platform was Basketball in 1978, featuring a trapezoid court that startled a lot of people with its illusion of depth. Miller pushed the then-known programming limits of the 2600, and subsequently went on to become one of the founding members of Activision, the first third-party publisher of 2600 games.

While at Activision, Miller would take the trapezoid court of Basketball and rotate it vertically for this game, 1981′s Tennis. When it came to making great sports games as real as they could be on Atari’s flagship video game console, Alan Miller had no reservations.

For more information on Alan Miller, Activision and the Atari 2600, consult your local Dot Eaters bitstory.

Tennis by Activision, for the Atari VCS 1981