I am not by nature a collector of keepsakes. From my time in the video game biz, I have none of the few awards my games won. I have none of my old games around to play. To do so, I'd also have to have old hardware on which the games were played and I don't own a single video game console, not even one of the new ones. Some of the projects I worked on early in my career were All About Me™. On games like Submarine Commander, Dolphin, Zenji and Double Dunk, everything on the screen was my idea, for good or for ill. Later in my career, I was part of a team on projects, often not the lead programmer. The one keepsake I have is from one of those games.
I worked as a second programmer on a Sega Genesis title called Ballz. It was a 3-D fighting back when the hardware had a difficult time doing 3-D games. Each of the characters was made up of different sized balls, so they looked something like a cross between The Michelin Man and a balloon animal. This caused technical problems, because while the Genesis had a lot of movable screen elements called sprites, the game used more that the system could handle, so the picture would break up. An extra hardware chip had to be installed on the cartridge to fix this problem. Someone may come by the blog to chide me for speaking ill of the project, but looking up info on the game, it ranks #3 on a list of the Ten Worst Fighting Games Of All Time.
I deserve extremely little credit or blame for the project. I was only responsible for the background billboard that put up messages. No technical fuss doing that.
My one souvenir from my time in the business is due to this project because somebody, I can't even recall who, asked me to speak at a middle school career day about being a video game designer. It went very well and could be seen as a preview of my later career as a teacher, though obviously not at middle school. The students wrote thank you notes to the people whose presentations they liked best. I was sent a manila envelope full of them, but there is one I kept and framed. Here is the text.
Dear Mr. Hubbard,
Hi! Thanks for coming to our Career Day. Your demonstration of the video game called "Ballz" was really cool. You know, I am really thinking about becoming a video game designer. Really, I am. Not just because you get to sit around all day and play video games and still get paid, but you also get to work in a big building. THANKS AGAIN!
=) Susan C. Richner (=
If I ever go back into the software business, a very unlikely event by now, and I make a company it will be called Big Building Software, in honor of Susan C. Richner.