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If you have a question for me, feel free to send it to owen-at-orubin-dot-com. I can't promise that EVERY question will be put on these pages, but I'll post as many as possible!

All letters are pasted exactly as I get them.

Digital Press holds a contest once a month, where players guess what game a sample sound file came from. July's mystery game was Major Havoc, and having a little fun, I entered the contest. Here is the correspondance that followed:

On 7/9/2002 at 6:07 PM Owen Rubin wrote:

>> Take a wild guess what this is.... :)
>> Brian
>I submitted a guess! :-)
>- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
>Owen R Rubin

On 7/9/2002 at 6:10 PM Owen Rubin wrote:

>That sound is from MY video game Major Havoc, Atari 1984!. In fact, I can
>tell from the speed of the sound that it is actually from a conversion kit
>unit, and not an original Major Havoc. Just in case you wanted to know.
>Owen R Rubin

>> Dear Mr. Rubin,
>> I'm sorry, your guess is incorrect. The Mystery Sound is not from Major
>> Havoc. It's from a game called...uh...Corporal Punishment. Or General
>> Disarray. Or Major Castastrophe. Or something....
>> Psssshh-right!
>> It's been a while since I culled through the entries for this month's
>> Mystery Contest. When I saw your entry and the remark about it being "MY
>> game," I just thought it was the comments of some pompous collector who
>> happened to own one. It never, *never* dawned on me that the game's
>> designer might actually enter the contest! Talk about having an inside
>> track! I am very pleased to make your acquaintance, even if it's just
>> through the computerized ether.
>> Major Havoc is a personal favorite of mine and is indirectly responsible
>> for a D+ I got in a college journalism class. (The campus arcade had a
>> Havok and I spent many an hour in there rather than in class.) Most
>> vector games of the day were space shoot 'em ups of one kind or another.
>> Havok was truly original. A vector platformer/space shooter/maze
>> game/etc. Very inspired. Thanks for a great game and for giving me some
>> great memories.
>> You'd be stunned by the sheer number of entries that are incorrect.
>> "Zelda," "Metroid" and "Pitfall 3 (?)" are the most common incorrect
>> guesses. However, I currently have more than 20 correct entries - more
>> than any other contest. Many others must've played Havok as much as I
>> did!
>> Once again, I am truly surprised and honored to have you entered into
>> the contest. The drawing is Friday. Good luck.
>> Tim "Sniderman" Snider

On 7/10/2002 at 12:09 PM Owen Rubin wrote:

>Thanks Tim. I have a web site on my games that is actually built and
>maintained by a serious Major Havoc collector. He spotted it and pointed me
>to the site. Care if we link your site?
>I could not resist the chance to enter, it was just to tempting. Cool
>site, and I will try my hand at others as well.
>Feel free to stop by our site when you have a chance, and if you wish to
>link to it, thats cool too.
>Later, and nice to meet you. Feel free to drop a line or ask a question any
>By the way, the game was originally Thollian Web, then changed to Rex
>Havoc, and finally Major Havoc!

BTW, Owen didn't win the drawing. Hee hee! - Brian

Hello Owen, Chip would like me to send you a VHS tape to stir your memory regarding the Atari Preliminary Test disc. Please send me your mailing address and I will have a tape sent out to you. (You don't need to worry about returning it or paying for tape and shipping fees-this is my pleasure to do this for Chip as well as the rest of the laser game community) To avoid any confusion, below are the emails that Chip and I have exchanged regarding this issue (as well as your response to Chip).

Brendon Zeidler

NOTE: I left out Owen's reply to this message as it didn't contain anything but contact info.

The VHS tape went out yesterday via priority mail. It's taped in SP mode. Remember that the original laser disc had intermitent sound. There are certain segments that have no sound at all. (I didn't want you to think I did a crappy job recording it) :-)

Let me know if it stirs up your memory or if the stuff on it is, in fact, your early work. I am interested to find out. Hey BTW, would you happen to know of anyone in the Bay Area that has a really nice (cosmetic), completely working Fire Fox? (I figured you were the guy to ask considering it is the ONLY Atari laser game ever made)

Owen: The video tape of the video disk arrived in today's mail believe it or not.

I am watching it now. I forgot ALL about Playland video, our first idea for a video game. I will type my comments as I watch this....

That is a REAL model of an amusement park that was built by the way, and a motion control like camera moved across the model for the shots. There are some graphics used, those places are obvious. Someone actually did program up the game with the spinning disc. Shows how clueless they were at the time, as to do this right, you would only need to record ONE spin of the disc and have the player loop it over and over. The original game had additional point items with graphics objects superimposed over the disc.

If you touched a toy on the disc, you died. Given the graphics capability of those days, it would have been VERY difficult to have rendered the 3D objects on the moving disc anyway.

I believe this disc was done by the "Advanced Research Department" which rarely talked to the game engineering people. There are a lot of wrong assumptions on game play.

The Race Course: We wanted to do a real driving game, and I recall someone on the same team I was on doing this at Sears Point in California near Napa. Doug Phol kind of did what he wanted. Even though I was supposed to be in charge of VD games, he took a team out and started shooting all this stuff (I mean crap!) without talking to anyone. Can you imagine trying to make a game out of that footage? I do not know what they were thinking. I do remember him getting laid off finally. :-)

OH MY GOD!!!!! Thats me running up the stairs walking around the building opening doors, etc. I guess I did have something to do with this disc! :-) We were doing a treasure hunt adventure game demo. It was very silly, but were were trying to show off the video disc hardware. This was shot in the Atari Engineering Building I believe at 1501 Mc Carthy in Milpitas. I had no idea this footage was on the disc. Can you imagine trying to make a game out of this? :-) I think my lab was down that long hall they keep showing.

As for Firefox, I actually did not make that game, I just did some work on it to help the team out. I worked on the Golf Simulator (never shipped or completed) and a Battlestar Galactica game (never got off the ground) and a preliminary test for Knight Rider, and LOTs of preliminary VD work, but nothing that was shipped. As for who has one, no, sorry, I have no idea.


Q: Howyadoin Mr. Rubin?

Thanks for taking the time to read this and thanks for your site. I feel old asking you this but I'm sure you remember lunar lander right? I've been searching for some info on it, hopefully I can find it somewhere for p.c. It's a long shot, I realize but it's been on my mind and I'd like to relive my past.

Thanks to guys like you, I'd skip many a day from school and risk getting caught just to play my favorite games at the corner store! No hard feelings at all, I wish my children had video games as their only temptations nowadays!

Owen: Well, if you feel old asking about it, how do you think that makes me feel since I was there at Atari when it was created?

Yes, I know the game well, and in fact, I remember the game on PDP-11 computers way before it hit the arcades, so that makes me even that much older. :-)

The best way to play this is to get a copy of MAME and find the ROMs by searching the web (I have seen them on Hotline servers from time to time) and then you can play it at home all you like.

See my web sight for link to Mame.

As for other info, here are some links I found by using Google and searched for Lunar Lander Video Game:

For some similar action:

And for info on the game:

Best of luck

From Steven

Q: Hello Owen

I really enjoyed reading through your page. Is there any noticable difference in the prototype DigDug you own in comparison to the final released product (artwork, cabinet, graphics/gameplay, etc.)? Also, when a game was completed that you worked on at Atari, were you offered to keep a copy of the machine, or did they make you purchase one if you wanted one?

Thanks in advance!

Owen: Hi Steven.

Very good questions.

There are no differences as far as I can tell in my Dig Dug prototype and to the arcade final except for my paper graphics.

There were usually several prototypes for any given arcade machine we designed. After the project was over, they were usually offered for sale for a cheap price, and the project team got fist call. If there were not enough, we would hold a drawing to see who got to buy them. Some were given away, but I do not recall which ones.

If no one wanted them from the project, then there was a drawing for the units from everyone in the company.

Thanks for the question.

The following message was partially lost, but offers excellent insight into how early black & white and color video game video hardware worked.

Q: Thanks for the reply and the info. I think my real issue is what you mentioned about how you took the digital signal and made it look like an analog video signal. I'll keep going over schematics to try and get this figured out. And, if you hear from your engineer friend, any insight of book list suggestions would be a big help.

BTW, great website.

Owen: Ok, here is his answer (From Howie Delman). He designed many of the early game Hardware systems. Hope this helps you. Recall, we are NOT outputting RF, but raw video signals in our designs. That means simple counters to count vertical and horizontal lines, memory buffers to hold a line that is clocked out one at a time, and an output section as defined below:


Howie Delman: ... but it is not difficult to explain. On the oldest black and white games, there was no conversion because the "colors" were only black or white. Video was one bit deep, and the output of a logic gate went directly to the monitor through a buffer transistor (emitter follower).

When we added "light grey" and "dark grey", we used a two bit "DAC" made with resistors. The outputs of two logic gates were tied together through resistors in an approximate ratio of 2 to 1. Other resistors adjusted the dc level. Even the early color games used resistors, because the bit depth was small. The Sente SAC-I, for example, had four bits of color for red, green, and blue. I used resistors in an R2R configuration to create a four bit DAC for each color.

In all cases, a transistor was used on the output to buffer the resistors, and to lower the output impedance for the monitor. Eventually, when video depth reached 6 and 8 bits, monolithic video DACs were used.

Hope that helps.

From: Joe Magiera (joemagiera@ameritechDOTnet):

Q: Hi Owen,

I had the pleasure of hearing you and your other Atari buddies talk about the old times (early 80's) at Atari during the video game hey-day.(NOTE: Joe is referring to California Extreme 2002) It was very enjoyable to listen to all the stories. Wish it went longer.

I had been a pinball and video game addict, but never played Major Havoc when it was in the arcades. In fact I don't ever remember seeing one. I didn't get to play it until I started collecting a few years ago. Now I can honestly say it's definitely one of my all time favorites. I have it in a Gravitar conversion, and someday, someway, I'll get a dedicated.

One story from the CA Extreme panel discussion that caught my interest was you mentioning your desk by the dumpster, and your adeptness at dumpster diving and saving many items that would have otherwise been lost forever. I had hoped to ask you about this at CA Extreme, but many people wanted to talk to you there. I was hoping to see you later at the show, but must have missed you if you did come back. Before I ask the question though, need to provide a little background.

My favorite game of all time is Missile Command. I heard about a sequel, Missile Command 2. This is NOT the same Missile Command 2 that was featured in the game "Atari Arcade Classics" which was at CA Extreme, but a separate effort done much earlier, around the time of Missile Command. I did a lot of research and posted to RGVAC a long story about it.

If you want to take the time to read it, you can view the story it at:, from there click on Missile_Command_2.doc.

Since I posted the story, I found more info about it. I had guessed that David Theurer wrote the sequel, but in fact it was Rich Adam. I spoke briefly to Rich about the game; he politely but firmly made it clear he didn't have the rom data/images for the game. His only guess was maybe that Norm Avalier might have them. I tried contacting Norm with no luck.

I've read your web site completely to be sure I didn't ask you something that's already been asked. I noted where you mentioned in one place that you actually sat right next to Rich Adam, and that you also had hard copies of many games.

Now for the big question, in any of your dumpster diving, might you ever have come across any ROM data or program listings for Missile Command 2? I came across a couple of prototype boards for Missile Command 2, but alas, sadly, ROM-less. Any ideas/leads where I might be able to track any more info down on this? I'd really like to hear if the control panels were the same or not as Missle Command (Rich told me it played in a stand up cocktail like game, like Atari Football).

You can see a couple pictures of one of my prototype Missile Command II boards at:

It was the typical classic Atari design, single board, the size of a Major Havoc board. By the way, that is not my web site, but another collector, also named Joe that lets me borrow space on his server.

I'd sure like to try to revive this game. Hope you have some leads. Even if I could just get a listing, I'd be willing to type the whole game in again.

FYI, I also have some pictures of this year's CA Extreme posted at the same web site mentioned above. Since it's borrowed space, I can only keep those pictures up for a couple of more weeks though.

Hope you had a great Christmas and have a great New Years. Thanks.

Owen: Such a great long message, thanks. But I have a very short answer. Yes, I shared a LAB with Rich Adam, but that was not the same as my office. I also worked with Rich at Bally Sente as well. But to be honest, I do not recall this game at all. How strange is that.

And, unfortunately, I have very little of my old Atari coin-op stuff left any more other than a bunch of T-Shirts. I had a bunch of stuff when I moved originally, but it has mostly disappeared (we lost stuff in our move and I suspect it was all lost then. But I did not have this game in any case. Sorry.

Thanks for the question. I hope you find some more info.

A question from the Webmaster to Owen:

Q: I was reading a very old issue of Next Generation magazine (issue 7, July 1995). Within was an interview with Sam Tramiel, during the Jaguar years, and in it he says, "There's an old coinop from the old Atari games called Major Havoc. It was a Tempest game from a technology point of view, with vector graphics. The game featured Major Havoc who goes out and saves a space station. He's a very cool character. We're going to modernize him and make him into an Atari character, bring him back from the '80s."

Know anything about this?

Owen: Oh yes, I know all about this. When Atari split in the 80's, any game ideas before that time were owned by the Tramiel's to create consumer versions. Part of the settlement split. Here is the story as best as I can recall.

After they did Tempest, they wanted to do Major Havoc. I met the Tramiel's on an airplane on the way to January '95 CES, and met with them again at CES. They asked me if I was willing to work with their lead designer to remake Major Havoc into a Jaguar game. I agreed.

The sad part, was they had no intention of paying me, they just wanted me to sit with their guys and consult on game play and design. After a bit of talking, they agreed to hire me as a contractor, but it was obvious that getting paid would be difficult, as the balked on money over and over.

As a result, and also because of what had happened with the Tramiel's and the company that made the Atari Lynx (recall, they sued the company and refused to pay for the product, put the company that made it out of business, and got the unit basically for free) I asked for 75% of my fee up front. The Tramiel's had a reputation in the industry of not paying for what they agreed, always claiming some kind of contract dispute and refusing to pay. I assumed they would also dispute my contract later, so I wanted my money up front. Obviously, they said no. I would do it no other way.

They also did not have a Major Havoc game, did not have the original listings or code, and needed both my game and listings to make this work. They really thought that Major Havoc could become an Atari "mascot", but they were not willing to pay to get it done. The project died shortly after this discussion. Oh well........

From: Brian Stevens

Q: Dear owen

For starters, I would like to thank you for all the hard work that went in to seeding that videogame industry. I love to think about all that went on in the Good ole days. I have heard about The movie "Outstanding in out feild" a humorous look at what happened at Atari. I have read that you were in the film, and I have yet to find a copy of it. I was wondering if you had any insight on where I could find a copy. Any info would be great.

Owen: I received this same question from two people on the same day about the origin of the video, "Outstanding In Their Field".

Yes, I am aware of this video. Not only am I in it, but I was one of the people who created it, filmed it, and edited it. The title is "A Day At Atari" and I showed it to people who attended a video game conference called California Extreme where I was asked to be a speaker.

As for getting a copy, I am sorry, but this video is not now being distributed by anyone. I own the original copy, and if and when I can get permission from all of those who were in it or helped make it, I may post it to my website or sell copies. But until then, sorry, it will just have to wait until I get invited to another game conference.

Thanks for your interest.

From: Peter Freeman (sinistar@sinistarDOTcom):

Q: hi Owen- it's Peter Freeman- we spoke during last CAX and emailed a bit since. Hope you're good.

Quick question, since you're the world authority on such things:

On level 13 in MH, there's a boxed-in timer in blue on the right, requiring a key that never shows up. What's the deal? Is there some hidden way to access this, and what does it do? I seem to remember seeing similar clocks on other levels, no clue about them.

still play my Havoc all the time...
brilliant design through and through.

Owen: Its a great question.

Strangely enough, the code is still in the ROM, but we decided what it did only made the game longer. When that wave was originally written, getting in was MUCH easier than getting out. The Out path had WAY too many fireballs and robots.

If you found the key to that wall, you could open it and touch the clock. It slowed EVERYTHING in the game down considerably. Everything including the timers, but NOT Major Havoc. It made getting out much easier. But we were not sure we liked it, the level reviews said it did not work, so it was easier to simply remove the key from the level and reduce the number of objects.

There is a collision bug that occasionally lets you get through a wall. You have to reverse roller directions AND your velocity EXACTLY on the frame you hit the wall. The computer thinks you came from the other direction and passed through the wall, and will ?transport? you to the other side. It is very difficult to do, but I did see someone get to the clock this way once. Otherwise, they were never put into full use. We just did not remove them.

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