Slime, the Synapse Software story part four

Welcome to the fourth part of my series of smaller articles on Synapse Software, as told through the games that defined the company. The third part can be found here.

Synapse Software co-founder and President, Ivor Wolosenko had come up with a couple of ideas for games following the publication and success of Mike Potter‘s Protector, the company’s second game. While Chicken, one of two ideas were being realized by Potter, Slime, the other was getting nowhere. Wolosenko had hired a new programmer that turned out to be nearly impossible to work with. While he managed some progress, he started having psychic experiences and believing fire was coming out of his disk drive. With the company growing and more and more people joining the operation, Wolosenko had to take on a new role, managing his hires for the better of the company. The parties separated and the game was handed over to Potter’s high school friend, 20-year-old Steve Hales.

Hales had been introduced to computers and programming during his high school years in the ’70s. He went on to work with the TRS-80 and eventually acquired an Apple II in 1978, gaining most of his 6502 programming skills by tinkering with other programmers’ software. In 1981, Hales landed his first programming job, at Starpath, developing two budget cassette games for the Atari 2600. The following year he acquired an Atari 800 and left Starpath and was introduced to Wolosenko by Potter.

With Wolosenko’s blessing, Hales spent four months working on his own original idea, Fort Apocalypse, a concept with prospects of success. The ongoing development with Slime had ground to a halt and since Synapse already had created ads and cover artwork for the game Wolosenko had to pull Hales from Fort Apocalypse and assign him to complete Slime. Whatever obscure code the first programmer had done had to be scrapped and Hales started from scratch. In collaboration with Wolosenko, Hales fairly quickly completed Slime, which was released for the Atari 400/800 around the summer of 1982.

Slime, one of Ihor Wolosenko’s ideas, was realized by Steve Haley. The game was initially released in the first part of 1982.
When Synapse Software moved to Jacuzzi Street in Richmond in August of 1982, it was re-released with revised address information (on the left ) and later a boxed version (on the right)

A slime storm is approaching and drops of deadly slime are about to fall on your ship. Create wedges to reroute the slime and destroy it in the Gamma-Tube Absorbers on the left and right. Slime not going into the absorbers causes the sea level to rise

Upon its release, Slime received mixed reviews. While some praised its clever concept, others felt that its sluggish and difficult controls detracted from the overall experience. Some even argued that the emphasis on originality came at the cost of gameplay. As a result, Slime is often considered one of the weaker entries in Synapse’s portfolio of Atari 8-bit games.

I’ll be covering Fort Apocalypse in an upcoming Quick Bits article.

Sources: Robert Dewitt’s 1983 interview with Ivor Wolosenko in Antic magazine, High Score! Expanded: The Illustrated History of Electronic Games, Wikipedia, Dadgum

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