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Keithen Hayenga

Keithen Hayenga was an Apple II and Atari hardware and software programmer. Keithen worked on the JoyPort, Computer Foosball, RealSports Football and several other unpublished projects such as Tempest for the Atari 5200.

GR> At last we meet! It took me four years of CGEs to catch up with you, but we finally met in San Jose at CGE '04.Thanks again for spending a few minutes to demonstrate your prototype game Tempest on the 5200 console at the booth. How about a bit of history for us?
KH> I'll do a quick history. I bought one of the first Apple II's and wanted to allow multiple people to play at the same time. Steve Woita and I collaborated to develop the JoyPort that allowed either two Atari style joysticks or four Apple paddles to be used in multi-player games. I programmed Computer Foosball for the Apple II as the first game for the JoyPort that allowed one to four players. So when the original Atari programmers left to form Activision and Imagic, I was an experienced 6502 game programmer that Atari hired as a replacement.

GR> What was the first thing you did for Atari?
KH> My original assignment was to be a war game called FoxFire, not to be confused with FireFox the movie made by Clint Eastwood. Almost everyone still at Atari had turned it down, but I was willing. It was the title of a movie about war games with a Romeo and Juliet aspect and the game (and me) were going to be mentioned in the movie as advertising for the game. The movie and the game were never done.

GR> When did you get to program for the 5200? You were the one responsible for adding voice to RealSports Baseball, correct?
KH> Yes. They needed someone to finish RealSports Baseball for the 5200. Jim Andreason had started it right after having done RealSports Football and he needed a break. Rather than finish his game I started all over and got extra ROM space to put in voice. Jim did come back to help me finish off the game play. It was awarded title best sports game of 1983 by Video Game Update and best sports game of 1984 by Electronic Game Player Magazine.

GR> When did Tempest come along?
KH> After RealSports Baseball, Tempest was the first game that I got to choose to work on. I got great cooperation from Dave Theurer who programmed the arcade version. He gave me listings that I could borrow from.

GR> The graphics in the unreleased prototype are fabulous, and the sound effects are incredible. Are they the arcade SFX?
KH: I was able to use the sound files exactly because Tempest and the 5200 used the same sound chip. I could also use all the tables that told which levels each set of creatures came in. But since the arcade game was vector graphics based while mine was bitmapped, I had to make trade offs. I didn't have enough sprites to show all of them that could exist at the highest game play levels.

GR> So how complete did Tempest get?
KH> The first prototypes, which were shown at an earlier Classic Game Expo, just had the beginning of the game, just enough to show the playing field tubes. It went out just as a preview to show buyers what we were intending to get out for the next Christmas buying season. After I got in some game play, another version was created just to test how far I had come. That is the version that you got a copy of. It mainly had the gun rotating and firing, plus the flippers rotating around the top of the tubes, plus zooming down the tube. I was very surprised to see that anyone had resurrected that version.

GR> This was towards the end of the original Atari before the crash. Is that why the game never was finished?
KH> I continued to work on Tempest right up until the Trammiels bought the company and let most of us programmers go. I had added in spikes and was working on the tankers and fuseballs when we folded. Unfortunately, the ROM lab and testers were the first people to get laid off, so there was no one to burn a copy of my latest version. So when I tested the version you have I was hoping to see the spikes, etc. Oh well, it was still more than I ever expected to see and hope it works out for you!

GR> So what are you doing these days to keep busy?
KH> Since CGE I have been back at a permanent job at PalmOne. It is partially due to game programming. A couple of years ago, a group of us had put out some shareware games for Palms. We made enough to pay for a trip to England and pay for a few new computers, but not enough to have been our daytime jobs. Now here that experience has landed me in a different job entirely. I'm doing DTS work and telling others how to program for us.

GR> By the way, what's the origin of your name? I think the reason I missed you at CGE in Vegas is I was looking for an Asian fellow!
KH> Our family name was originally spelled "Heijenga". I think the Hei should be sounded like "Hi" as in Heidelberg. It is German from around Emden on the Ems River, which is the border with Holland. No German I have met has ever thought it sounded remotely German. So I thought maybe it was more Dutch. I relayed that to a friend I worked with from Amsterdam. His response was, "I guess a lot of Jewish names are like that." I guess it doesn't sound Dutch either. So on my Dad's side, I am all German and Swiss. Keith/Keithen is Scottish in origin.

GR>, Thanks again, Keithen, for sharing some history, and for autographing my 5200 Tempest box!
KH> My pleasure!

Good Deal Games kindly thanks Keithen for his insight on many Atari projects,
especially the Atari 5200 version of Tempest, and wishes him the best of
success with his current crop of games for palm pilots.

A BIG thanks to George Reese for initiating the interview
and sharing it with the GDG community!

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