David L. Craddock writes fiction, nonfiction, and grocery lists. He is the author of the Gairden Chronicles series of fantasy novels for young adults, as well as numerous nonfiction books documenting videogame development and culture, including the bestselling Stay Awhile and Listen series, Shovel Knight by Boss Fight Books, and Long Live Mortal Kombat. Follow him online at www.DavidLCraddock.com, and on Twitter @davidlcraddock.

David L. Craddock writes fiction, nonfiction, and grocery lists. He is the author of the Gairden Chronicles series of fantasy novels for young adults, as well as numerous nonfiction books documenting videogame development and culture, including the bestselling Stay Awhile and Listen series, Shovel Knight by Boss Fight Books, and Long Live Mortal Kombat. Follow him online at www.DavidLCraddock.com, and on Twitter @davidlcraddock.

GameDev Stories 3 by David L. Craddock

Collected from the author's Arcade Perfect archive of interviews, the third installment of GameDev Stories takes readers behind the quarters of more coin-op games and home conversions. Enjoy over 100 pages of exclusive conversations not included in Arcade Perfect, covering platforms from the Atari 2600, NES, and more.


More is better than fewer. That's the stance I take on interviews for my book, and Arcade Perfect was no exception. GameDev Stories: Volume 3 collects over 100 pages of full interviews, the vast majority of which never made it into Arcade Perfect. -David L. Craddock, curator, StoryBundle




If you fed quarters into arcade cabinets during the 1980s, you've probably played at least one of Ed Logg's games. In his time at Atari, he designed classics from Asteroids and Centipede to Gauntlet and, under Atari's controversial Tengen label, coin-op and NES versions of Tetris.

Arcades wound down in the mid-'90s, but Ed was just getting started. He stayed ahead of the curve by developing console ports of games such as new installments of San Francisco Rush 2049 for Midway and left his mark on other hits through compilations such as Midway Arcade Treasures 2.

Seven years before I spoke with Ed about his work on Tetris for this book, I picked his brain about Gauntlet and Asteroids for another project. My intent was to include that interview as a bonus chapter. After I decided it didn't fit with the material as well as I'd initially thought, I set it aside. Years later, I deemed it perfect for Arcade Perfect.

Craddock: What led to your interest in video/computer games?

Ed Logg: I was always doing games. When I first started programming in high school I used games as a means of learning of how to program and to answer questions about the games themselves (the best strategies or what are the odds of….). This carried on to college and my jobs thereafter.

Craddock: What did you do before creating video games?

Logg: I worked at Control Data Corp. (CDC) which was across the street from Atari. Of course I was the one at CDC that did all the games, had the most complete list of printable art, Snoopy calendar programs, complete list of etc. For example I did conversions of the original Adventure and Star Trek between CDC Fortran and the IBM Fortran. So although I was paid to support CDC software and I often did games on the side.

Craddock: How did you receive the opportunity to work at Atari?

Logg: A co-worker had gotten a job at Atari and encouraged me to come over. I do not remember who this was. But I did and as they say the rest was history.

Craddock: What was Atari's culture like when you started?

Logg: I had only one "real" job before Atari and it was dominated by a corporate structure that was out of state. So I only had this job to compare it to. In any case I liked the smaller company atmosphere, although in 1978 Atari was not really a small company any more. I did not have to go through security every day and Atari was connected to Warner Bros. At the time so I could get LPs at a discount at the company store.

Craddock: You're famous for designing some of the industry's most successful coin-op games. Did you enter Atari as a designer?

Logg: I was hired to program video games. Atari has just recently switched over to using a microprocessor to implement games instead of using just hardware. I worked in a group led by Dave Stubben. This group had two programmers, myself and Mike Albaugh, one engineer, and two techs. My job was to replace Dennis Koble who had moved over to the consumer division. So I got to help release Dennis' game of Avalanche and continue work on his game Dirt Bike.

Now, programming in those days was very interesting. The development system did not have a compiler or any means to save our source code. This was all done on a PDP system and there were two ladies who did all the data entry. We provided a listing or marked up sheets of paper and they made the desired changes to the game code and provided us a listing and a paper tape (as best as I can remember it was paper tape) for us to load into the "black box" development system. This system would allow us to stop and start the program as well as examine memory.

Craddock: How did you receive the opportunity to design Asteroids alongside Lyle Rains?

Logg: Lyle called me into his office and said he had an idea for a game. The idea came from a previous game which failed miserably. The previous game had a large asteroid (for lack of a better description). People would shoot this asteroid but nothing would happen because it was just there to provide cover for the other player. In any case Lyle suggested we do a game that allowed the players to shoot these rocks and blow them up.

I am not sure why Lyle suggested this idea to me instead of others in engineering. Lyle was head of engineering at the time I believe so he could have chosen anyone. I had some success by that time with Super Breakout, Video Pinball, and 4-Player Football, so maybe he felt I could do the job better than anyone else. There were other projects I worked on that did not make it into production, but that is another story.

Craddock: The idea of floating around in space and shooting rocks to dust seems simple, but it was revolutionary at the time. How did you and Lyle hit on that idea, and Asteroids' specific implementation?

Logg: I would certainly give Lyle the credit for idea for the game. However, the meeting I remember was more of a brainstorming session. For example I believe I suggested several ideas like breaking the rocks into smaller and smaller pieces so there would be a strategy other than just shooting wildly. In other words shooting all the big rocks just leaves more objects that could hit you. I also believe I suggested the saucer that would come out and shoot you if you did not shoot some of the rocks in a timely fashion.

Craddock: What were the advantages and disadvantages to designing Asteroids as a vector-graphics game?

This was another idea which I suggested in the meeting with Lyle. I had played Space War and I had done some work on the vector hardware we had so I knew the advantages. The most important was the higher resolution, 1024x768 instead of 320x240. I felt we needed the extra resolution to show where the ship was aiming.

Also the color masks on the displays at the time were not good, so a color pixel would be larger and less clear than on a vector screen. The black and white monitor also had a slow phosphor so that the shots and ships left a trail which actually added to the appeal of the game but this was not part of any design.

The only disadvantage was the game was going to be black and white, but being in space, that was not going to be a problem.

Craddock: Was creating Asteroids as straightforward as its design appears?

Logg: It was actually very straightforward. There were no difficult or technical issues. Of course there were limitations such as the amount of stuff I could draw and still update the game at 60Hz. The limited RAM also limited the number of asteroids I could draw so you may see some large asteroids go away with a single shot if the screen if full.

There was issue of the spot killer that was interesting. The spot killer was a feature added so that if the game crashed when the beam was on that it did not burn a hole in the phosphor on the screen. Thus I needed to have enough deflection on the screen so the spot killer did not turn off the beam. Therefore I put the copyright on the bottom of the screen and the scores at the top.

However, no one told me how much deflection was actually needed and I found out later this was not quite enough, so on some games the screen would dim if the player ship and the3 remaining asteroids were at the right spots on the screen.

I enjoyed myself during the development. I enjoyed watching the game come to completion. I enjoyed watching others having full play the game and I certainly enjoyed creating Atari's most successful game.

Craddock: As you mentioned, Asteroids went on to become Atari's most successful coin-op game. How did you become aware of Asteroids' success in those days? Going to an arcade and seeing people crowding the machine?

Logg: I knew early that the game would be popular because those at Atari would ask when I was going home (so they could play the game). Also you come in each morning and see a bunch of new high scores.

But I certainly knew when we field tested the game in the arcades especially after many weeks when the earnings stayed at a high level. I never heard any stories about operators adding larger boxes.

Craddock: Fast forwarding a bit, the home video game market crashed in 1983. How did that affect your work in coin-op games, if at all?

Logg: We had layoffs and it was the first time we had layoffs in the coin-operated division. It was hard to see many coworkers leave. Our market had a serious problem too around that time due to over saturation of games. We were definitely seeing reduced sales.

Craddock: What led to your interest in creating a hack-and-slash arcade game?

Logg: My son had been bugging me for some time about doing a D&D game since he enjoyed it so much. I could not figure a way to do it until I saw the game Dandy. A coworker had brought the game in and we played it at lunch. This game gave me the idea on how to make a D&D game fit into the coin-operated market.

I was working on another game at the time so I had to finish that before I started but more important I had to figure out how to do the game with our existing hardware. We did not have hardware that allowed us to do this game so I asked for a set of features to be added to make this game possible. Unfortunately we were short of engineers at the time and the engineer assigned to the game could not work on it for more than nine months.

By that time I had lost my co-programmer. Fortunately a new engineer, Pat McCarthy, was assigned and he created the hardware necessary to put all those monsters on screen.