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The Creation of the Arcade Sport Centipede

Dona Bailey, who not too long ago left Atari and joined Videa Inc., is outwardly the one lady who designs coin-operated video games in the US in the present day, although just a few different ladies design residence video games. Centipede was her first try, and it was a smashing success. She attributes it to newbie’s luck, a collection of accidents, and instinct.

“After I obtained to Atari, everybody was doing an area recreation or a battle recreation,” she mentioned. “I didn’t need to do both. I assumed video games could possibly be extra enticing, however I didn’t know what to do, so I didn’t say something. I used to be imagined to do a laser recreation, and I didn’t need to do it.”

“Atari saved a pocket book of recreation concepts, and there was one sentence—a multisegmented worm comes out, will get shot at, and breaks into items—that I saved coming again to. It wasn’t {that a} worm was enticing, nevertheless it was the one totally different concept in the entire e book. So when just a few folks mentioned perhaps we shouldn’t do one other laser recreation, I mentioned, ‘Did you see that worm?’”

This text was first printed as “Centipede: the worm that turned a pattern.” It appeared within the December 1982 subject of IEEE Spectrum as a part of a particular report, “Video video games: The digital huge bang.” A PDF model is out there on IEEE Xplore.

“Designing Centipede—it was at all times referred to as Centipede—was a logical development; nothing obtained taken out as soon as it obtained put in, which is uncommon. For instance, I wished to verify I used to be turning the centipede in the suitable locations because it moved throughout the display screen, so I put some visible markers in to assist me program—simply little dots. Folks got here in and mentioned the dots have been actually dumb, and I ought to make them rocks. I by no means meant to depart them in, nevertheless it made the display screen a maze, and it was higher. I didn’t like the concept of rocks, so I began playing around with graph paper and got here up with the mushrooms.

“Then I wished one thing that was extra threatening to the participant, one thing that got here near the underside of the display screen. I considered a spider, as a result of I’ve at all times been terrified of spiders—once I see a spider I believe it’s coming to get me. I did the spider over the Thanksgiving holidays. And I fooled round making an attempt a bunch of various actions for every week.

“They have been all crummy. Then I hit on the concept of creating the spider bounce up and down—it appeared like bouncing on one thread of an online. I used to be so glad.”

Aside from the spider, the sounds of Centipede have been achieved by Ed Logg, a designer at Atari. “All of the sounds have been deep,” Ms. Bailey mentioned. “I wished one thing higher-pitched so I did it.”

“Since Centipede did so nicely, Atari has began looking for designers who’re into issues apart from area and battle.”

Critiques of the sport Centipede give attention to the “unimaginable colours” that stand out; they have been totally different from something in arcades. “At first Centipede was black and white,” Ms. Bailey recalled, “however Missile Command got here out eight months earlier, and it had colours, so I wished colours. I argued for a very long time and at last obtained the eight normal major colours. I mentioned that wasn’t sufficient. I wished extra colours, like purple, as a result of there was a vogue craze then for purple, and I used to be at all times carrying purple and brightly coloured garments. They by no means had a feminine programmer earlier than, and so they teased me as if I have been from a unique planet.

“I saved asking for various colours, and solely my technician would pay attention. He got here up with a unique set of actually vibrant colours, however I wished some pastels. At some point he was standing behind the cupboard, tweaking the resistors, and by chance he hit on an astounding set of colours. I mentioned, ‘Cease!’ He hated the colours and wished to alter them again, however I wouldn’t let him. For days I sat round enjoying with new colour combos. Folks would come look and say, ‘Blah!’ Even after it did nicely, the opposite designers saved saying ‘Blah!’ however ladies inform me they like the colours.”

One other factor reviewers like is the easy trackball management used to play Centipede. “They didn’t need me to make use of a trackball,” Ms. Bailey defined. “Ed was actually huge on buttons. He thought if you happen to give folks sufficient buttons to maintain their fingers busy, they’ll be glad. I assumed that with all these buttons, I wasn’t going to have the ability to play it—I by no means might play Missile Command or Defender—and I needed to play it to program it. On high of that, individuals who appeared on the recreation thought I is perhaps designing a bit of youngsters’ recreation—and little youngsters can’t deal with plenty of buttons.

“For some time it had a joystick, however that was awkward, and I believe controls needs to be pure. I lastly satisfied them to attempt a trackball, simply so I might use it whereas I used to be working—the sport was produced with a trackball.

“Since Centipede did so nicely, Atari has began looking for designers who’re into issues apart from area and battle.”

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