created the 1982 Sega coin-op smash hit Star Trek:
Strategic Operations Simulator, worked for Disney, drives
an electric motorcycle, and saves wolves!
Your entry into the field can be traced back to your programming
days on the Apple II in 1979. Any particular favorites that you
SP> I'd have to say my proudest achievements have been Star
Trek, Wolf, and Nomad. Star Trek is a
favorite only because it was my first hit, and it was such an
adventure to make -- it was also the last game I ever programmed
(I wrote parts of the code, not the whole thing). Nomad
is a favorite because it was a successful experiment. The experiment
was -- could I make a game where people would play just to spend
time with the characters. That game has the equivalent of a 900
page novel inside, and I still get fan letter (I got one last
week) from people who were so entertained by that game that they
still play it on occation. Wolf is the ultimate favorite,
though. It was the first (and perhaps last) perfect marriage of
entertainment and education. The instructions were an interactive
database about wolf facts. The game required you to know these
things to survive. When you finished playing you knew as much
about wolves as many scientists! And, it was completely addictive
While Sega's Senior Designer, what was your part in establishing
their first consumer products division?
I was building coin-op games and Sega was experimenting with the
fancy new home-game systems, including the Atari 2600, VIC 20
and so on. The way the organization was orginally set up, we coin-op
people really didn't speak with the "home game" people. The unenviable
task the "home game" guys had was to translate our spectacular
(at the time) coin-op games into the microscopic 2K and 4K cartridges
of the home systems! And, they were supposed to do it without
any help from us coin-op guys! What I did is re-design the games
to run on the tiny home-game systems, and I forged relationships
with the programmers to make the games as good as possible.
With Sega, you created one of the greatest vector games, Star
Trek. Were you a fan of the television show, as well?
Yes, I'm a Star Trek fan -- at least I'm a fan of "Classic
Trek". I think management chose me, in part, because I really
knew the show and loved it.
What other projects were you associated with at Sega?
I designed and programmed/managed a total of 6 coin op games,
most were released in such small quantities due to management
problems that you'd never have heard of them. I will share one
treat with you though -- one of my favorite "unreleased" coin-op
games that I did just showed up on MAME -- It's called TURBO
TAG -- play it, you'll love it!
You have been in the interactive industry for just over two decades,
certainly you have experienced many phenomenal events. Please
tell us of an amusing moment; or nightmare that, through time,
has become comical in retrospect.
I'm sure most old-timers have similar stories -- the worst horror
is when you're forced to try to save a wonderful project from
company executives who know nothing about games.
I can re-tell one particular tale: It was 1984 and Sega at the
time was investing heavily into Laser Disc coin-op games. One
particular executive was in a brainstorming meeting and he seemed
hooked on a bizzare concept of his creation. He imagined a game
where a player token moved about on a raster-graphics screen,
picking up dots (very original idea). He wanted the game to cut
from the raster-graphics to a laser disc "movie" each time the
token approached a dot. The laser disc movie would show him bending
down and picking up the dot and putting it in his pocket. Then
the game would go back to the raster-graphics until the token
made it's way to the next dot. He was roasting himself on a spit
of his own creation. His boss (the president) correctly thought
that this was a profoundly stupid idea. One of us (designers)
even threw out a life-saver, and he refused to take it. He was
fired shortly after this event, and came to work after he was
fired! Only to be thrown out by studio guards.
Few people can claim that they have driven, less alone own, both
an electric automobile and motorcycle? Please inform us of the
story behind these purchases.
I was driving home and listening to the radio. The story of the
Exxon Valdese was just being broken, and I was listening intently.
I love nature and animals and the destruction and poisoning that
was occuring was beyond my imaginings. I pulled into a gas station
and turned up the radio so I could hear the story as I pumped
my gas. As I waited for my tank to fill I planned how I was going
to boycott Exxon and write nasty letters to everyone who I could
think of. Then, I realized the utter irony of the situation! I
was pumping gas at that very moment! Putting money in the hands
of people who were destroying the enviroment -- directly this
time, less directly every other day of every year. It was then
that I decided that no amount of letter writing was going to do
the trick -- I had to hit them where they hurt -- their pockets.
Only by taking their money away could I weaken them. Within two
weeks I had found an electric car maker and I've been driving
it for almost seven years now. I'm happy to say I don't buy gasoline
Your partner at Brother Wolf is Shannon Donnelly, whose work on
Dragon's Lair is notable. How did the two of you meet and
choose to combine efforts?
I met Shannon at Sega in 1983. I was her supervisor. She and I
fell in love and we've been together now for over 15 years now.
With Disney Interactive, you developed many Mickey related software
packages. Which do you remember being the most enjoyable to build
The "udutainment" titles were wonderfulk to make. I
received a fan letter once from a parent who told me that their
child who was autistic had pointed at the box in a software store.
Mickey talked to her (it was one of the first products with character
speach) and she"came out." It changed her life -- and
mine. Ther is nothing better than making games that improve people's
A Disney title you worked on was entitled Wolf. Your company
name is Brother Wolf. Why wolves?
As an animal lover I would periodically make donations to animal
charities. I'd get letters saying "the elephant will die out without
your support", "there are only 4 Animari left, and they'll surely
die out without your cash donation". It was making me crazy, and
hurting my heart. I decided to specialize -- to find an animal
that I could relate to and put all my energy behind. I had always
been a great lover of dogs (I have dogs instead of children) so
I picked wolves. The more I learned about them the more I loved
them! I donate my time and money to wolf charities and enjoy every
How did you get to be such a nice guy?
<< Blush >>
Twenty years ago, where did you see yourself today?
Ihave no clue. The only childhood memory I have about my future
was when I was 8 or 9 years old. I watched Star Trek and
kept seeing the "computer" do amazing things. I went to the public
library, got a library card, and checked out the only book they
had on computers. I figured I would someday have smart computers
helping me just like they helped the crew of the Enterprise.
I guess it did come true.
Would you do it all over again?
I consider myself a work-in-progress. I'm amazed I've gotten along
knowing as little as I did then. Every year I decide that I'm
just now getting a handle on life. Every year I learn more --
more than I would have ever guessed I could.