Halcyon Days is based around The Giant List of Classic Game Programmers, a list that has floated freely about the net since 1994 and whose official home is at the Dadgum Games web site. Before reading the interviews, browse through the list a bit, and read about the conventions used.
Two quick notes about the list: (1) "classic" generally means "for an 8-bit system released before 1985's Nintendo Entertainment System, so that's why you won't find the author of "Tetris" listed; (2) "uninteresting" ports are not included, which is why the programmer of your favorite C64 game might not be listed (because the game was originally written for the Apple II by someone else). [Editorial note: I loosened up on this second policy since 1997.]
All the interviews are linked to the Giant List (well, a smaller version of the list, actually, for faster loading), so you can see a complete history of what each person has done over the years and where they are now. Hyperlinked names, like Dan Gorlin, always jump to the list and not to other interviews, because some people mentioned weren't interviewed.
Lastly, The Systems gives a quick summary of the popular 8-bit game systems and computers. If you don't know what the heck a Vic 20 is, that's the place to go.
by John Romero
It seems like so long ago, looking back upon the golden age of gaming. I remember when you could walk into virtually any arcade back in the early 80s and revel in the sights, sounds and smells of the latest batch of brand-new arcade games. And every game had a player on it and you normally had to wait in line to play the hottest titles, like "Defender," "Tempest," "Crazy Climber," "Robotron," "Joust," and many others.
There were high score contests going on almost constantly. I remember being in three contests at the same time, all at different arcades. I was completely and utterly hooked. My main problem was "Pac-Man." When "Pac-Man" was released, I was very used to the first batch of black and white games, like "Pong," "Asteroids," "Space Invaders," and "Rip-Off." When I saw "Pac-Man," I was amazed. Color! No shooting, just masterfully navigating a maze and staying away from the monsters. I created my own patterns to the point where I could put a quarter in the machine and play the first level without looking at the screen. That accomplishment cost me over $200 in quarters the first month. I was only twelve, my paper route was paying for my addiction, and my parents were worried.
At that point, my parents bought the home computer of my dreams, an Apple ][+ with 48K RAM and the 16K Language Card. I knew those arcade games were written using computers and I wanted to create my own. To get inspiration, I played all the games available on that system. I played them over and over and over. I now have an encyclopedic knowledge of the games that were written and who wrote them. I lived those games and finished most of them. That was my childhood, programming games for the Apple ][, and later my vocation.
Now it is 1997, and I have been programming games for eighteen years. And the memories of those halcyon days are still fresh in my mind and I think fondly about all those games I loved to play. Many times I had wondered where my old gods had gone, those who programmed my childhood and showed me the way. Over the years I have met a few of them, and through email I have communicated my feelings to a number of them. I know it must seem strange for them to get email from me proclaiming their godliness while all these years they were incognizant of their impact on my life.
There are so many stories to be told about the beginning of this industry. To hear them directly from their creators is like hearing a message from God. I am very thankful to James Hague for taking the time to locate all these important people and ask them the questions that had burned for so long. Go now and read each interview, for it is rare to be treated to such a pantheon.
March 13, 1997
This book started out as the Giant List of Classic Game Progammers, so thanks go out to everyone who contributed to it. Two people deserve special mention, Paul David Doherty and Jimmy Huey, for sending vast quantities of updates and additions. Shane Shaffer started his own game designer list that prompted me to make my list public. Greg Chance put the list on the Web years before I got around to it.
Much of the editing of Halcyon Days was done in collaboration with Jessica Hague. She also did the art for the title page and table of contents. Greg Knauss provided valuable proofreading.
And, of course, thanks to everyone I interviewed for taking the time out from busy projects to reminisce.