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INTELLIVISION

Atarisoft for Intellivision


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ATARISOFT GAMES FOR INTELLIVISION

In early 1983, Atari offered Russ Haft (TRON Maze-A-Tron) the opportunity to leave Mattel to form and run his own Intellivision programming group. The office would be in Southern California, close to Mattel Electronics and APh Technological Consulting, from where other programmers would be recruited. Feeling that Mattel Electronics had grown too big and bureaucratic, running a programming office hundreds of miles away from Atari headquarters in Silicon Valley was attractive.

Russ took the job. Mark Kennedy, Mike Winans, Eric Wels and (later) Andy Sells and Eddie Dombrower joined him from Mattel. Peter Farson and Gavin Claypoole joined from APh. They were located in unmarked offices along Lincoln Blvd. in Venice, just south of Santa Monica.

Atari had the Intellivision reverse-engineered to create a programming manual. Russ and his staff were told that they were being hired for their experience, not their knowledge. They could only program using this documentation given them by Atari. They could not use any specific knowledge learned at Mattel or APh. This way, Atari felt, they were protected legally from any claims of industrial espionage.

Mattel felt differently. They promptly sued Atari, Russ and the first programmers who had joined him for 40 million dollars.

But while the suit wound its way slowly through the legal system, Russ's group started work on a slate of Intellivision games based on popular arcade titles. To avoid using as much of Mattel's proprietary material as possible, the group was not allowed to use the Intellivision operating system, the Exec. Instead Russ and Mark wrote their own which would be in every cartridge. They dubbed their operating system the MCP, after the evil Master Control Program in the movie TRON.

Despite the suit, friendships started at Mattel continued. Mattel's management cautioned programmers to avoid talking about current projects with their now-Atari friends, but otherwise there was no attempt to stop "fraternization with the enemy." In fact, programmers from Mattel regularly drove over to have lunch with the Atari staff (and to hang out around their offices - they had better arcade machines than Mattel did) and Mike Winans attended the 1983 Mattel Electronics Christmas party.

Atari introduced their first three Intellivision games - Centipede, Defender and Pac-Man - at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, June 1983. The title screens for the games featured a large Atari logo with colors cycling through it (designed and programmed by Eric Wels). Executives from Mattel were upset when they saw the logo at the show, asking why the standard Mattel Electronics title screen looked so bland in comparison.

The three games came out for Christmas season 1983 under the Atarisoft brand - the only Intellivision games released by Atari. By this time, the video game industry was in full nose dive.

Mattel Electronics closed in January 1984. With the closing, Mattel Inc. dropped the lawsuit against Atari and the programmers.

Despite having a $40 million weight lifted from his shoulders, Russ Haft saw that it was time to get out of the game business. He left to start his own software company. Andy Sells was promoted to run the Venice office, although what its future would be was uncertain. Programming continued halfheartedly on Intellivision titles that were no longer on Atari's release schedule.

A few months later, Atari told the programmers the Venice office would be shut down. The programmers were offered jobs in Silicon Valley.

Only Mike Winans chose to relocate. The job of closing down the Venice office fell to him. He made arrangements for the equipment, files and arcade machines to be shipped to Northern California, gave notice on his apartment and put his personal affairs in order. The day he was set to move, Atari laid him off.

Atari discontinued distribution of the three Intellivision titles in 1984. The remaining inventory was purchased by INTV Corp., which continued distribution through mail order. Dig Dug, the only other Intellivision title completed at Atari, was first released through INTV in 1987.


Centipede

INTELLIVISION CARTRIDGE [ATARI #70254]
Based on the Atari arcade game
Program: Mark Kennedy
Graphics: Eric Wels
Sound: Russ Haft

CATALOG DESCRIPTION
An insidious invasion of multiplying insects (Centipedes, Jumping Spiders, Poisonous Scorpions and Frenzied Fleas) pose different perils to the mushroom patch. Get out your Bug Blaster and save that Fungus!


Defender

INTELLIVISION CARTRIDGE [ATARI #70252]
Based on the Williams Electronics Inc. arcade game
Program: Peter Farson
Graphics: Eric Wels
Sound: Russ Haft

CATALOG DESCRIPTION
Landers, Bombers, Baiters, Pods and Swarmers. The alien attack has come and defeat at the hands of crazed invaders threatens the Humanoids. The planet's only hope is your spaceship, Defender.


Dig Dug

While the Intellivision Dig Dug cartridge was produced at Atarisoft, it was first released by INTV Corp. Credits and history are on the INTV page, here.


Galaxian

INTELLIVISION CARTRIDGE [ATARI UNFINISHED]
Based on the Bally/Midway arcade game licensed by Namco

GAME DESCRIPTION
Shoot descending waves of aliens.

DEVELOPMENT HISTORY
Galaxian
was announced by Atari as a planned title for Intellivision, but it doesn't appear any actual work was done on an Intellivision version.


Joust

INTELLIVISION CARTRIDGE [ATARI UNFINISHED]
Based on the Williams Electronics Inc. arcade game
Program/Sound: Andy Sells
Graphics: Eric Wels

GAME DESCRIPTION
Fly on an ostrich jousting with enemies who fly on the backs of buzzards.

DEVELOPMENT HISTORY
Andy Sells
was scheduled to do this game, but early in development Russ Haft left Atari and the job of managing the Intellivision office fell to Andy. Management left him little time to work on Joust and the game went unfinished.


Jungle Hunt

INTELLIVISION CARTRIDGE [ATARI UNFINISHED]
Based on the Tatio America Corp. arcade game
Program: Gavin Claypoole

GAME DESCRIPTION
Swing through the jungle and swim crocodile-infested rivers to rescue the damsel from the cannibals.

DEVELOPMENT HISTORY
Gavin Claypoole
spent so much time working on Jungle Hunt that he started staying at work 24 hours a day. His office soon resembled a college dorm room, with a mattress on the floor and cinder-block bookshelves. Despite this, progress on the game was slow. When Gavin left Atari, the game was only about 85% completed.


Pac-Man

INTELLIVISION CARTRIDGE [ATARI #70251]
Based on the Bally/Midway arcade game licensed by Namco
Program: Mike Winans
Graphics: Eric Wels
Sound: Russ Haft

CATALOG DESCRIPTION
The refinements of dot chomping lead to high scores as hungry Pac-Man avoids ambush by vicious goblins. All the fun and excitement of the real arcade version!

DEVELOPMENT HISTORY
Since Lock 'N' Chase was Mattel Electronics' answer to Pac-Man, it only made sense that Lock 'N' Chase's programmer, Mike Winans, should program Pac-Man when he moved from Mattel to Atari.

INTV Corp. bought the remaining inventory of Pac-Man cartridges after Atari stopped distributing them. Sales were still strong enough that when the stock ran out in the mid-1980s, INTV bought the software rights from Atari, relicensed the game from Namco and manufactured new cartridges, removing the Atari logo from the game's title screen and packaging (right).


Pole Position

INTELLIVISION CARTRIDGE [ATARI UNFINISHED]
Based on the Atari arcade game licensed by Namco

GAME DESCRIPTION
Point-of-view Indy car racing game.

DEVELOPMENT HISTORY
Little work was actually done on this title at Atari. An unrelated Intellivision version of Pole Position was later developed and released by INTV Corp.



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