In 1982 William Murray “Trip” Hawkins was about to leave his well-paid and secure position as Director of Strategy and Marketing at Apple Computers. Hawkins had been an employee with Apple since 1978, now four years later the market for personal computers and the software that followed had exploded. Apple had completed its initial public offering and become a Fortune 500 company with over a thousand employees. While Apple was evolving into one of the most successful companies of the time, Hawkins’ urge to work with games led him to invest around $200.000 of his own money to create a video game publishing company with the explicit intention to wheel in some of the times best electronic artists.
By October of 1982 Hawkins’ company, initially called Amazing Software, became Electronic Arts with the headcount rising to 11, including former employees from Apple and Atari.
At the end of 1982, Hawkins and his team had captured some of the most prominent talents in the business, including graphics and programming prodigy Bill Budge and software pioneer Jon Freeman of Automatic Simulations (Epyx). Young computer prodigy and darling of the press Jim Nitchals from Cavalier Software (a company I’ll cover in a future article) connected Hawkins with two of his former associates, Mike Abbott and Eric Hammond, both of whom would go on to play a critical role in the early success of Electronic Arts.
While the majority of developers Electronic Arts contracted with had vast experience creating software, Hammond was definitely an outlier. In 1983 he developed the basketball game Julius Erving & Larry Bird go One-on-One for Electronic Arts, a title that not only would become the company’s very first sports title but also the company’s best-selling game for years to come. Hammond, being an avid basketball fan, had during the development pushed himself, adding features that most programmers at the time would have deemed impossible. With dunks, shattered backboards, instant replay, hacking fouls, simple AI, etc. One-on-One was an impressive feat for a programmer with only a year of experience and only two rather simple commercially released games behind him.
The most successful Electronic Arts game in the company’s early years was Eric Hammond’s One-on-One basketball game, initially released for the Apple II in 1983
Hammond was musically and academically talented. He had received the Bank of America‘s award for proficiency in math and was generally good at everything he put his mind to. When he was introduced to the incredible world of computers he proved to be an extremely fast learner. Logic and programming came naturally and the computer quickly became an extension of his creativity. Over the course of only a few days, he had learned to program in BASIC on the Apple II and everything he learned about 6502 Assembly Language was self-taught.
Inspired by the popular arcade and action games of the time, Hammond soon put his programming skills to the test when he together with friend Rorke Weigandt, on Weigandt’s Apple II, created Marauder, a simple two-part space seek-and-destroy game. The first part, a hybrid of Taito‘s hugely successful Space Invaders and Atari’s 1980 shoot’em up Missile Command. The second a variation of Stern Electronics‘ Berzerk. Each part represented an independent game and could be played either individually or in concession.
Eric Hammond, and friend Rorke Weigandt’s first game, Marauder.
The game was picked up by Ken and Roberta Williams’ On-Line Systems and published for the Apple II in 1982.
I believe the version on the left is the first release
Marauder was made up of two separate games that could either be played individually or in concession.
In the first part, Level 1, the player controls a jet blasting away at the planetary defenses. In the second part, Level 11, the player roams through an underground maze trying to destroy the planet’s main power supply.
The second part definitely requires some practice getting used to the quite challenging controls
Marauder was picked up by Ken and Roberta Williams‘ On-Line Systems and published for the Apple II in 1982. On-Line System had the same year been approached by Illinois-based toy manufacturer Tiger Electronics with a proposal to convert some of its best computer games into Atari 2600 versions. Tiger Electronics had reversed engineered the Atari console and created the subsidiary Tigervision to publish games for the aging but still immensely popular video game console. Three programmers from On-Line systems, among them John Harris, were flown out to Chicago to learn about the Atari 2600.
Weigandt went on to program a version of Marauder for the Atari 2600 under the Tigervision label. At only 128 bytes, the Atari 2600 had vastly less internal memory than the Apple II home computer and with the cartridges only storing 4KB of data (more via bank switching), Weigandt had to cut corners to make Marauder a possibility. When released later in 1982 the game only included the second part of the original Apple II game.
When Rorke Weigandt rewrote Marauder for the Atari 2600 video game console, it came to only include the second part of the original Apple II game.
Marauder was released by Tigervision, a subsidiary of Tiger Electronics, in 1982
By Autumn of 1982 On-Line Systems had become Sierra On-Line, following the sale of 20 percent of the company to investor Jackie Morby, a partner at TA Associates. Shortly after the reconstruction Sierra ventured into the lucrative action and cartridge-based market with its short-lived SierraVision brand, dedicated to the company’s action and arcade titles. One of the first titles to be released was Hammond and Weigandt’s Marauder.
The duo started porting Marauder to the Atari 400/800. During the development, it became apparent that their programming skills had evolved significantly. While the Apple II version had taken up most of the Apple II’s 48KB of memory, now with the rewrite, the duo managed to squeeze the game into only 20KB. In late 1982 the Atari 400/800 version was completed and released alongside a rerelease for the Apple II under the SierraVision brand. A year and a crash of the North American Video game market later, the SierraVision label was canned for good and most of the released titles were largely forgotten.
Despite offering excellent graphics, sounds, and hours of fun for the novice player, Marauder only saw modest success. The shelf life of games in the early ’80s was merely a few weeks, that was all it took before the copy protection was cracked and piracy took over. Weeks before Marauder was released, a copy was given to a joystick manufacturer to use at a tradeshow, days later copies showed up on pirate boards around.
Being widely pirated from the get-go combined with the decreasing popularity of simple mindless action games didn’t leave many chances for commercial success.
Following Marauder, Hammond, over an eight-week period, created Maze Craze Construction Set, a combination of Pac-Man games with an added construction set for creating players, enemies, and mazes, all for one or two players. The game was picked up by brothers David and Scot Cheatham‘s Data Trek, Inc. and published for the Apple II in 1983.
Data Trek was founded in 1981 to combine state-of-the-art microcomputer technology with international library standards for the improvement of libraries and information centers worldwide. Maze Craze Construction Set was only one of two released games by the company.
Eric Hammond’s second game, Maze Craze Construction Set, released by Data Trek, Inc. in 1983 for the Apple II
Hammond joined Lucasfilm Games in 1989 to work on sound effects creation and music composition, another of his favorite areas.
Sources: The Dot Eaters, Infoworld May 1983, Abandonware France, Softline Nov. 1982, Library Technology Guides, John Williams…