Q-Bits From my Personal Collection – Bill Budge’s Space Album and Trilogy of Games

Welcome to another Quick Bits article. Graphics has always been a driving force in games and for many, it not only represented the capabilities of the technology of the underlying hardware but also was a testament to the programmer who made it all happen in code. This was a time before graphics were done by dedicated artists using dedicated tools. What you saw on screen was the labor of the programmer and not many, in the early years, became as profound as Bill Budge. I’m thinking of doing a write-up on Budge at some point, this will just be a short one covering some of his first published titles.

In 1980 Bill Budge had seven small games released by California Pacific Computer Company. The games, more or less all playable tech demos, showcased Budge’s ability to craft impressive fast Hi-Res graphics and would come to herald him as one of the most renowned programmers in the fledgling industry. Budge, a graduate student in Computer Science at the University of California, Berkley, had acquired an Apple II in 1978 and quickly dove head first into 6502 assembly language. Not before long, he had pulled Steve Wozniak‘s Breakout game, which shipped with nearly every Apple II computer, apart, to see if he could make it play as fast and smooth as its coin-op counterpart.

At Kip’s Bar and Restaurant in Berkeley, a Pong machine had been installed. While the simple game had seen its fair share of clones over the years, it inspired Budge to write his own clone in the Apple II’s Hi-Res mode. Rather quickly he realized that the available graphics routines for the Hi-Res mode were slow and started crafting his own graphics routines allowing for a much faster and smoother experience.
When finished, Budge submitted the game to Apple Computers as Penny arcade. Apple agreed to publish it for The Apple Tapes, cassettes with introductory programs included with most new Apple II computers sold. In return Budge received a Centronics printer along with recognition and admiration from new Apple II owners, though his name was mistyped in the credits.

Budge, while still a student at Berkeley, decided to continue to write games with the hope they would put a few dollars in his pockets. The aspiration didn’t come from the love of playing games but from the technical challenge of writing fast graphics code, mimicking the fast gameplay dedicated hardware of video arcade games allowed. Further developing his tools and routines Budge created a number of smaller games, most clones of already proven concepts from the arcade.
In 1980, a friend of Budge introduced him to Al Remmers of California Pacific Computer Company who was traveling the area selling software to local computer stores. Remmers impressed by Budge’s creations believed he could sell the games and a publishing deal, splitting the profits 50/50, was agreed upon.

Budge’s small games were compiled into two compilations, Bill Budge’s Trilogy of Games and Bill Budge’s Space Album, and released by California Pacific for the Apple II in 1980. The first month Budge received a check for $7.000, solidifying the fact that there indeed was serious money to be made creating games.

Bill Budge’s Space Album, a compilation of four small space-themed arcade games was published by California Pacific for the Apple II in 1980

The Space Album included Asteroid, a clone of the arcade game with the same name, Death Star, an impressive 3D trench shooter, Tail Gunner, and Solar Shootout, a 2-player game in the spirit of the classic mainframe game Spacewar!

Bill Budge’s Trilogy of Games, a compilation of three small arcade games was published by California Pacific for the Apple II in 1980

The Trilogy of Games included Space War, a 2-player game in the spirit of the classic mainframe game Spacewar!, Night Driver, and Pinball, a flipper pinball game featuring spinners, posts, and chutes

Budge dropped out of college, and in 1980 for a short period of time joined Apple Computers where he became interested in creating a computerized pinball game. In 1981, to help other aspiring developers create fast-paced graphics for their games, he packaged some of his graphics routines and tools together as Bill Budge’s 3-D Graphics System which also was published by California Pacific. Budge’s pinball endeavor resulted in the game Raster Blaster for which he founded his own company, BudgeCo to distribute it but that’s all a story for another day.

Sources: Wikipedia, Halcyon Days, The Digital Antiquarian…

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