Classic Arcade Gaming Postmortems

Every year in San Francisco, the Game Developers Conference (GDC) brings the game development community together to exchange ideas, solve problems, and shape the future of the industry across five days of education, inspiration, and networking. Attendees include programmers, artists, producers, game designers, audio professionals, and business leaders.

A whole series of events and talk take place, but one of the more interesting parts are where programmers get up and give an hour long talk about a classic game that they had a hand in developing.

Some of these talks go right back to the Golden Age and of course of relevance to us here on the blog, arcade titles! So I thought this week would be a good time to dig out and share a few of these for you guys to check out:

At this year’s GDC, friend of the blog Warren Davis, gave an excellent talk about the development of Gottlieb’s seminal Q*Bert. You may recall some time back I wrote a piece about the prototype Q*Bert arcade cabinet, so this talk serves as an excellent companion to that article, which you can find here.

Check out the video:

Warren Davis talks about Q*Bert

2013’s Postmortem was delivered by programmer and designer Franz Lazinger. Franz gave a great talk analysing and spilling the secrets of Atari’s classic arcade game, Crystal Castles. This is a game I’ve played very little of, so to have an opportunity to understand the development process and unique attributes of Crystal Castles is fantastic.

Packed with great detail, you can watch the talk here:

Franz Lazinger spills the beans on Crystal Castles

The following year, Eugene Jarvis, the influential game designer famously known for his work creating titles like Defender and NARC, used his time to talk about the iconic arcade game Robotron at GDC 2014.

Jarvis, currently president of Raw Thrills arcade game studio, breaks down the game design, play mechanics, hardware, software, enemy dynamics and sound synthesis of this classic Williams title. I wrote about the development process a while back here, but Eugene’s talk is a real deep dive and he shares plenty of new detail that you may not be aware of:

Eugene Jarvis breaks down the development of Robotron

John Salwitz was the co-creator of Atari’s Paperboy. Released in 1985, it is regarded as a stone cold classic. His talk in 2019 again dives into some of the design choices and challenges that presented themselves when developing this great title:

John Salwitz talks all things Paperboy

In 2012, Ed Logg talks about Atari’s Gauntlet. What’s particularly great about this talk is Ed is most well known of course for his work on Asteroids and Centipede, so to hear him break down one of his later game is a real treat:

Ed Logg and the development of Atari’s Gauntlet

Generally regarded as the most successful arcade games of the Golden Era, Ms Pac-Man also has one of the most interesting development stories. Steve Golson was on hand at GDC’s 2016 conference to give the low down on how this quirky title came about:

Steve Golson of General Computer Corp talks Ms Pac-Man

Finally I’ll leave you with the talk from 2011. Mark Cerny stepped up to GDC’s stage to give us a comprehensive talk about the development of Atari’s Marble Madness, released in 1985:

Marble Madness gets broken down by Mark Cerny

Many thanks to all the programmers involved and of course the GDC for sharing this great detail and stories for us to enjoy. More information about Games Developers Conference can be found here.

Thanks for reading this week.


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