Major Havoc- 1984 Atari Inc.
I spent almost 18 months working on Major Havoc. For Major Havoc, Doug Snyder beefed up the hardware, added some new special effects -- like a vector that sparkled -- and another processor, and we created a game that had a very strange cult following. To this day, I still receive regular emails and phone calls about the game. There is one person who is even creating more levels for the coin-op game by disassembling the code by hand.
Most games used one 6502, but Major Havoc had a pair. It was originally designed to have three processors because we thought we would do as much real-time 3D as possible. Even with "this much processor power," as my boss once said, there was no way to calculate objects on the fly, so the third processor was left off. And hidden line removal for 3D objects was impossible. So to do a rotating 3D object with hidden lines, I drew the object by hand, then removed all the hidden vectors by hand. The resultant picture was then translated, by hand, back into a new set of vectors that would draw that object.
Animation was also done by hand. Each step in the 3D animation was drawn and edited to create the desired effect. This was quite time consuming, but there were few alternatives. We later wrote programs on the same PDP-11 we used to assemble our programs to do some of this 3D and hidden line work for us at night. But by today’s standards, it was quite slow. Calculations for the fighter spaceship in Major Havoc took all night, and we are really only talking about an object with 200 to 300 vectors and 50 different positions to be drawn. In fact, it took so long that a later change in the design of the ship was not completely rerendered, so if you watch closely, the ship actually changes design as it flies onto the screen.
I was already a year into Major Havoc when Mark Cerny joined the team. He had (I guess still does have) a HUGE ego. Even though he was very new at Atari at the time, he said he would not work on the game unless he got an even say. I really did not care so I agreed. He worked on one of the space waves (the flying fish) and the last 4 base ship mazes. He also added some objects to the mazes (Like the gun and floating boots) and helped clean up old items that never got shipped. We actually worked quite well together. It was a lot of fun working with him, he really IS that good!
See also: Alpha One Page, the Major Havoc prototype.
There are a million stories about Major Havoc all over the web. Here are a few examples:
Memories of a Vector World at Siggraph, an article that I wrote about vector games.
Interview of me done by the Webmaster in 1998.
Link to Mame ROM info onmame.db