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The Creation of the Arcade Sport Centipede



Dona Bailey, who lately left Atari and joined Videa Inc., is outwardly the one lady who designs coin-operated video games in america in the present day, although a couple of different girls design dwelling video games. Centipede was her first try, and it was a smashing success. She attributes it to newbie’s luck, a collection of accidents, and instinct.

“After I acquired to Atari, everybody was doing an area recreation or a struggle recreation,” she stated. “I didn’t wish to do both. I assumed video games may very well be extra enticing, however I didn’t know what to do, so I didn’t say something. I used to be presupposed to do a laser recreation, and I didn’t wish to do it.”

“Atari saved a pocket book of recreation concepts, and there was one sentence—a multisegmented worm comes out, will get shot at, and breaks into items—that I saved coming again to. It wasn’t {that a} worm was enticing, however it was the one completely different thought in the entire ebook. So when a couple of individuals stated perhaps we shouldn’t do one other laser recreation, I stated, ‘Did you see that worm?’”

This text was first revealed as “Centipede: the worm that turned a pattern.” It appeared within the December 1982 subject of IEEE Spectrum as a part of a particular report, “Video video games: The digital large bang.” A PDF model is offered on IEEE Xplore.

“Designing Centipede—it was all the time referred to as Centipede—was a logical development; nothing acquired taken out as soon as it acquired put in, which is uncommon. For instance, I wished to ensure I used to be turning the centipede in the appropriate locations because it moved throughout the display, so I put some visible markers in to assist me program—simply little dots. Individuals got here in and stated the dots had been actually dumb, and I ought to make them rocks. I by no means meant to depart them in, however it made the display a maze, and it was higher. I didn’t like the concept of rocks, so I began playing around with graph paper and got here up with the mushrooms.

“Then I wished one thing that was extra threatening to the participant, one thing that got here near the underside of the display. I considered a spider, as a result of I’ve all the time been terrified of spiders—after I see a spider I feel it’s coming to get me. I did the spider over the Thanksgiving holidays. And I fooled round attempting a bunch of various actions for per week.

“They had been all crummy. Then I hit on the concept of creating the spider bounce up and down—it seemed like bouncing on one thread of an internet. I used to be so completely happy.”

Apart from the spider, the sounds of Centipede had been carried out by Ed Logg, a designer at Atari. “All of the sounds had been deep,” Ms. Bailey stated. “I wished one thing higher-pitched so I did it.”

“Since Centipede did so nicely, Atari has began searching for designers who’re into issues aside from area and struggle.”

Opinions of the sport Centipede concentrate on the “unbelievable colours” that stand out; they had been completely different from something in arcades. “At first Centipede was black and white,” Ms. Bailey recalled, “however Missile Command got here out eight months earlier, and it had colours, so I wished colours. I argued for a very long time and eventually acquired the eight commonplace major colours. I stated that wasn’t sufficient. I wished extra colours, like purple, as a result of there was a vogue craze then for purple, and I used to be all the time carrying purple and brightly coloured garments. They by no means had a feminine programmer earlier than, and so they teased me as if I had been from a distinct planet.

“I saved asking for various colours, and solely my technician would pay attention. He got here up with a distinct set of actually shiny colours, however I wished some pastels. At some point he was standing behind the cupboard, tweaking the resistors, and accidentally he hit on an astounding set of colours. I stated, ‘Cease!’ He hated the colours and wished to alter them again, however I wouldn’t let him. For days I sat round enjoying with new coloration combos. Individuals would come look and say, ‘Blah!’ Even after it did nicely, the opposite designers saved saying ‘Blah!’ however girls inform me they like the colours.”

One other factor reviewers like is the straightforward trackball management used to play Centipede. “They didn’t need me to make use of a trackball,” Ms. Bailey defined. “Ed was actually large on buttons. He thought when you give individuals sufficient buttons to maintain their fingers busy, they’ll be completely happy. I assumed that with all these buttons, I wasn’t going to have the ability to play it—I by no means might play Missile Command or Defender—and I needed to play it to program it. On prime of that, individuals who seemed on the recreation thought I may be designing slightly children’ recreation—and little children can’t deal with a whole lot of buttons.

“For some time it had a joystick, however that was awkward, and I feel controls ought to be pure. I lastly satisfied them to attempt a trackball, simply so I might use it whereas I used to be working—the sport was produced with a trackball.

“Since Centipede did so nicely, Atari has began searching for designers who’re into issues aside from area and struggle.”

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