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Steve Woita

Steve Woita's career has crossed many paths:
Apple, Atari, Tengen, Sega, Nintendo, 3DO, & Sony. Being involved in
both hardware & software creation, Steve has developed for most consoles.

MT> You co-designed the Joyport with Keithen while at Apple. What was it like working beside Keithen - or Andy Hertzfield, Bill Budge, and others during that exciting time?

                 ** For those unfamiliar w/ the Joyport, it was a device released by Sirius Software
                      which allowed 4 game paddles and 2 Atari style controllers to hook up to an Apple II.**

SW>It was a fantastic time. I had just got out of college and received my dream job at Apple. I spent awhile fixing Apple II mother boards on the line. This allowed me to understand almost every aspect of what Woz was doing when he designed the mother board circuitry. I moved over to the R&D building and worked as an Engineering Tech. At this point I was doing a lot of assembly language programming & soldering to test the new digital logic that I was working on. It was at this time that I ran into Keithen and Bill Budge. Bill said that it would be cool to some how make Crazy Climber work on the Apple II, I said I think that I could wire up some Atari Joysticks in such a way that we should be able through software control operate all 10 button closures that the two sticks would generate (the Apple normally couldn't handle that many buttons). At the same time that I was working on the Atari side of what would later be called the Joyport, a guy named Keithen (an engineer at Apple at the time) was working on the 4 player analog paddles that would later be glued to my Atari stick stuff to complete the JoyPort design.

MT> How exactly did you spend your first royalty check from Sirius Software?
SW> I think I used the money to buy some sort of accessories for the Apple II and put the rest in the bank.

MT> In 1983, you created Quadrun for Atari. It is famous for being the first home video game with voice that did not require external hardware. Explain the procedure that you went through to get the Atari VCS to create voice audio.
SW> As far as the "QuadRun" voice it took another programmer & I one solid day to get that whole thing working...Believe it or not it took more time to do the take of my voice and keep the data of my voice down to around 700 bytes, than anything else.

MT> The object of Quadrun was to rescue the helpless Runts in the land of Quad - hence the name Quadrun. Was this story of your design, or an Atari marketing tale?
SW> The story and design were my goofy idea. Marketing left me totally alone...Actually they always left me alone on all of my games, it was so cool to have total freedom.

I started working on Quadrun as an exercise to see what I could do with the 2600. I wanted to get a lot of color going with one line res on both the sprites and the playfield graphics. Another challenge was to make the gun bounce around the screen intuitively on all four sides so that the player didn't feel like they had to think much about what they were doing with the joystick.

The name "Runts" came about because that's the nickname I gave my manager at the time and I figured I'd use it in the game.

It was a lot of fun working on this game because I was working on it in the far extreme end of the building and nobody bothered to check up on me, so I'd come up with these goofy names and then draw characters to match them (at least what I thought they should look like) and then drop them into the game.

MT> You created the VCS games Taz and Asterix. The games seem to be identical, other than Taz's burger sprites were changed to dynamite, and the clocks have become harps. Are there any other differences?
SW> No, not really. I was getting ready to do the pal version of Taz when marketing said that the Asterix character is way more popular over in Europe than Taz. It took marketing about 3 or 4 days to convince me to turn Taz in to an Astrix game (I didn't want to change Taz in any way, shape or form, but I liked the way Astrix turned out and I felt great about the finished product).

MT> Why did you leave Atari - a result of the 80's game crash?
SW> I was working on 2600 Garfield when I heard that we got bought out by the "T" brothers...They wanted people to work on the ST OS and I said I want to finish up Garfield and they laid me off because I wanted to do games and they at that time didn't.

MT> Tell us about your creation, the Mousestick?
SW> I wanted to do a Mac game at the time and it didn't have a joystick so I visited a company that was started by a friend of mine named Walt Brodner that I worked with at Apple. His company was called Video7. One day I was visiting the company and I ran in to another Engineering buddy that I also worked with at Apple named Brian Colvin. I mentioned to him that it would be neat to have a joystick (Atari style) device that would hook up to the Mac and also let you use the mouse at the same time, hence the name MouseStick. Apparently there's another company that took our name years later, but that's another story that I could tell.

MT> What type of contract work did you do for Apple?
SW> I wrote test software to test the new OS that they had coming out for the Apple II GS. (This was totally different time from the 1st time I was an Apple employee)

MT> Upon returning to Atari, you worked for Tengen. What titles other than Super Sprint (NES) did you participate in creating?
SW> I worked on the 1st version of Police Academy for the 8 bit NES. The game tested very well, but for a reason that I still don't understand to this day, it got shelved.

MT> Were these unreleased titles a result of the Nintendo/Atari legal battles?
SW> That could be, I was in the dark on a lot of these issues (legal wise).

MT> You helped Bitmasters, contrived of previous Tengen employees, design NES Krazy Kreatures. With whom did you create KK, and what was your involvement?
SW> I worked with Franz Lanzinger & Dave O'Riva of Bitmasters. My involvement was just to help out on some esthetic issues to help the game be more fun.

MT> While with MediaGenic, you were among the first group of Americans to examine the Super Nintendo hardware. What was your initial reaction at the time?
SW> My initial reaction to the Super Nintendo and what it could do was holy #@# !!! look how many sprites I can get on a line without flicker and the colors!! They had us locked up in a safe. Seriously, there were six of us with keys that could get into this room to use the Super Nintendo dev box. I had a great time there developing the low level object system that we'd use to move stuff around. Another programmer (Keith Kirby) and I had a lot of fun working on that machine, it was a blast.

MT> You were the co-producer, designer, and programmer of one of my personal favorite Sega Genesis games, Kid Chameleon. KC was a massive game with enormous levels, which seemed endless! How did you go about designing and programming such a major venture?
SW> I worked with some the best people in biz on this project. Mark Cerney was in charge of this huge project. My responsibility was to program and design all of the bosses, some of the creatures & some of the special FX stuff. I tried to find peoples strengths & weaknesses and I'd go over this with Mark. With this knowledge at hand we'd make sure people were being placed to where their skills best suit them.

MT> Did Kid Chameleon's multiple helmet transformations, make for some tricky coding?
SW> Bechu Lee (I think that's how you spelled his name) was the programmer for the helmet transformations. He sat next to me and I would have to speak for him here, but I think he'd say that it made for a lot of tricky coding. One thing that was tricky, was designing levels where a character could be one of a hand full of helmets! You had to make sure the player couldn't break the round by using a certain helmet.

MT> Which of the Sonic the Hedgehog games did you most enjoy working on? Why?
SW> Sonic Spinball. I like working on that game a lot because Sega allowed us (Jason Plumb) & I to work out of a building that was closer to our respective houses. The main thing I like about working on Sonic Spinball was programming & designing the last round boss. We were under huge time constraints to get this game out by Christmas & we did. Mind you there were tons of people working on this project, and we did have a lot of fun putting it together.

MT> What was it like creating the movie licensed game, Waterworld, for a movie that really stunk?
SW> While we were working on WaterWorld for the VirtualBoy the movie wasn't out yet, so we didn't know if the movie would be good or not. My wife Susan & I thought the movie turned out better than what the critics were saying. As far as working on the WaterWorld game for the VirtualBoy was concerned, we loved it! We got to do anything we (Jason Plumb & I ) wanted to do as far as programming and designing. The game sold out. I think that may've been a 1st for Ocean of America at that time.

MT> Was the unreleased Saturn version of Waterworld similar in play to the Virtual Boy release?
SW> Yes, conceptually, but graphically it was awesome! We had some great graphic talent working on that game. After InfoGram bought us, they said "Why are we doing a WaterWorld game?" ...The bummer is that our game was code finished!!!! They decided not to release it!!! I couldn't believe it. Those idiots!

MT> Tell us about
SW> Back in 1980 when I worked at Apple there was a problem with people breaking the copyprotection on the games and of course this would effect the sales of the game.

My idea back then was to take advantage of this by convincing a sponsor ("Snickers" candy bar was the example I used at the time) do give the game company enough money to build a game that would show "Snickers" product during load time. So when people ripped off the game and gave it to their friends the sponsor and the game company would both be happy. The game company that I proposed that idea to laughed at me at the time. Oh well, I still think it's the way to go. Games on show this concept. When I first started this Java stuff back in 1996-97 all of the venture capitalist and the likes said that we were 6 to 12 months ahead of the curve, hence they didn't give us money. Oh well.

MT> You currently have four new games which you've created in Java on your website. How does programming in Java relate to your previous programming for the Atari 2600?
SW> It's basically the same in the game design sense. Little small games that I can get my developer hands around. It forces a focus on game play that I still don't see on the bigger games. There's no flicker, but Java still has some huge runtime issues, what plays smooth on one machine & one browser doesn't on another type of machine running a different brand browser. You just don't know what your target system's going to have on it and at least with the 2600 you knew that there wouldn't be any weird variables to mess up the performance of your game.

MT> Please tell us about your current work w/ 3DO, and the PSX versions of Sarge's Hereos & World War.
SW> We've just finished both Sarge's Hereos and World War. They've finally hit the store shelves. My involvement is much smaller on these products than in the past. I'm still learning how to put a game together here at 3DO. It's a huge under taking to get your game idea off of the ground and get the money and people behind it. I'm currently working on some Bosses for the next game which I can't talk about, but I'm getting to design and program the Bosses and that's what I love to do.

Thanks for reading my junk!

MT> We would hardly refer to your comments as "junk," and THANK YOU!

Good Deal Games would like to thank Steve for being such a critical part in many of our favorite games over the years, and wishes him well in in his newest gaming venture, TinyGames. Please visit his website, and try his newest games FREE!"

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