To all who posted questions, thank you. I have been back numerous times to fill in more, and I am closing out the thread as of 11:30 PM Sunday August 26. I hope I was able to answer your most pressing questions.

You can follow me on Twitter at @PitfallCreator. My team and I also hope you'll back my new Jungle Adventure Kickstarter... We are very excited to make this happen together!

Proof and more information on my new Jungle Adventure Kickstarter:

Comments: 625 • Responses: 74  • Date: 

PitfallCreator147 karma

Wow, there I am in the jungle with Pitfall Harry!

dentedcan140 karma

I'm 34, and Pitfall! was one of the most memorable games from my childhood. Thanks for the memories, even if buggy detection robbed me of a few swings I KNOW I made. Seriously, you got me grounded at least once for the tantrum that inevitably ensued.

Question: How many explorer club patches did Activision actually distribute for crossing the 20,000 point mark?

PitfallCreator94 karma

I don't know the numbers of patches given, but at one point Pitfall was receiving 14,000 submissions per week with photos of their screens. We had a department of 10 people answering letters.

[deleted]48 karma

Same here bro, 30's guy here as well. Sounds lame as fuck,but Pitfall was the only game when I was a kid that kept our alcoholic asshole uncle from fucking with my brother and I. My uncle would wanna play too, and he would get so caught up trying to play the game, that he would forget about being mad at the world and wanting to beat our asses, LOL. He would then pass out drunk, and we would pry the controller gently from his alcoholic claws, and stay up till like 3 in the morning playing lol...thanks for helping us avoid getting our asses beat by designing a badass game. I'm pretty sure you got a lot of kids in the 80's through some rough times with this beast ass game.

PitfallCreator3 karma

Wow, don't know exactly what to say, but I'm glad the game was at least some small help.

PitfallCreator107 karma

There are lots of people who still play classic games like Pitfall. They tell me that many of my games are more fun than today's games. That is always great to hear.

PitfallCreator62 karma

How many times have I played Pitfall? Thousands. The way to make a game fun is to play it over and over, tweaking the smallest game play element until it is perfect.

mikeyros48458 karma

Hi David, just wanted to express gratitude for your creations. Though my gaming experience goes as far back as Pitfall, I must say that A Boy and His Blob's concept of adventure, change of scenery, and puzzle solving contributed a lot to who I am today, specifically my love for seeing different places and exploring different landscapes.

Question, if you have time to answer... What were your main influences for the design of A Boy and His Blob?

Thanks for everything you've done for the gaming world, especially for us retro fans :).

PitfallCreator63 karma

When I explain the concept behind A Boy and His Blob, people look at me like I have been smoking something. Shape changing... Vitamin deficiencies... Evil emperors... etc. But understand that no game concept pops into the head fully formed.

I loved the idea of a shape-shifting sidekick and how he could transform into a toolkit for solving an adventure. From that idea the story evolved, and the little cute guy came into being. From there were many hours of team meetings with very creative people to flesh out the concept.

Then came the programming nightmare, but that is another story.

londonbeckett50 karma

A lot of people have been very anti-Activision ever since Robert (Bobby) Kotick took control as the CEO. I was wondering what your opinion was on Activision-Blizzard.

PitfallCreator49 karma

Yes, people certainly have strong opinions on today's Activision. Part of it is that they are the biggest player, so they are the biggest target.

Another issue is that it is hard for even the biggest publisher to let loose creatively. Game projects cost millions of dollars, so when a publisher wants to back a game they need a comfort factor. Making a game that is just like some other successful game can be comforting.

All along Kickstarter has been funding small, indie games. And that can be something of an incubator for new, original ideas. My hope is that as larger projects like mine get funded we can put the same indie effort into larger game designs.

Bunkerdunker48 karma

How much play do you still have in Activision?

PitfallCreator87 karma

If by that you mean "how am I still connected to the company?", the answer is not at all.

Bunkerdunker47 karma

So in that case, how are your feelings towards Activison nowadays?

PitfallCreator68 karma

As I say elsewhere in this AMA, I remain neutral on Activision. I have no interaction with the company, and I understand some of the business dynamics that drive their decisions, which makes it easier for me to see all sides of an issue.

[deleted]16 karma

Just out of curiosity, you say that you understand some of the business dynamics that drive their decisions. Do you think you would be taking advantage of being able to release a slightly altered version of a game each year to profit, or would you want to focus more on new IPs, or taking a few good years to make something that felt like a big, actual sequel to said game if you were still tied to Activision?

And yes, I'm obviously talking about CoD, I'm not just trying to insult the franchise, I'm genuinely interested.

PitfallCreator41 karma

My most original games came about because I design games that I like to play. So at some point I am tired of playing a certain genre, and set out to find a new one.

That was also the basis of a lot on my success. I got tired of a genre and went to a new one. By the time I was done with that game, the game players are tired of the old game too. That made my new game all the more appealing.

But that generally means I won't do sequels back-to-back. While I am returning to the jungle with Jungle Adventure it is only after a number of years - just like Pitfall II had to wait while I did other games.

IndieStatik27 karma

Hi David. First off, thanks for replying to me on Twitter. I cover the indie games scene on my YouTube channel and being that you're an icon to gaming, it meant a lot. I have to ask; why are you asking for so much money on Kickstarter? Also, at what point do you think businesses are using Kickstarter as an exploit to avoid risk associated with their business venture? It would seem that with a pedigree like yours and the connections that you have, you should be able to come up with that money no problem. I know devs who make beautiful, 3D, innovative games with a rich story for much less than that.

PitfallCreator25 karma

Believe it or not, the Kickstarter budget is real. It is a simple matter of multiplying the number of professionals needed to make the game by the number of months they have to work.

Kickstarter is not a way to avoid business risk, it is a way to put the game player back in control of what games get made. Every dime goes into making the game. So if you want this game, you back it, and I am given a budget to make the best game possible.

brickshot25 karma


How many developers were on that game? Was it just you? How about graphics and music? The rope swinging sound effect is definitely memorable! Great game. I look forward to seeing your new project!

PitfallCreator90 karma

In those days a game was made by one person. I did every pixel of graphics, every sound effect, and wrote every line of code. But that was then.

Now, game artists can draw much better than I can. Music composers can make better music. SFX specialists, etc. To make a game today requires a dozen specialists.

But because I have done it all, I can keep those professionals dancing to my tune - making the game I envision. That is the way the development process has evolved, and I evolved with it.

smaug1317 karma

Sorry if I read over it, but I didn't read anything about what the gameplay will be like exactly. So will it be really linear, or can the world become a small labyrinth? Will it be small or big levels? Will it be hard? What will the combat be like, if there is any? Will you strive for a style or just fantastic graphics?

PitfallCreator35 karma

This is probably the harshest critique given to my Kickstarter project to date. I don't show enough of what the game will be.

Here's the thing... The game is currently in the design phase. One school of thought was to design the game before bringing it to Kickstarter. And I certainly could have done that. But I have felt that overwhelmingly the coolest thing about a Kickstarter game project is that the backers get to be a fly on the wall during the process.

If that is so, then it shouldn't be limited to the production process. It should include the design process itself. I put together a design team - people whose opinions I respect - and set the stage. The actual game design work is next. I assume you want to see that process unfold as backers.

If I'm wrong, the project may not get funded. And since I have gotten so many requests for more information, I am working on some of the details. As I put them together I will put updates on the Kickstarter page.

But one thing you can count on... My emphasis will first and foremost be on game play. You will have fun playing this game or my name isn't David Crane.

dadeho61816 karma

OK David, time to fess up.

Which had the better groupies?

  1. Being a Video game designer?


  1. Semi-pro fooseball player?

PitfallCreator28 karma

Ha. Here's someone who knows that I played foosball professionally out of college. I was working as an engineer at National Semiconductor, learning about the design of integrated circuits. I would cash my weekly paycheck and get on an airplane to Seattle, Denver, Minneapolis, all over the country; play a foosball tournament until Sunday night and get home in time to go to work on Monday. I finished 64th in the world in 1975.

Foosball players never had a quarter in their pockets. You had to pay for practice time, pumping quarters into the tables. You practiced until you ran out of quarters, then vacated the table for the next guy. One of the funnier traits was that every foosball player would pay for things using whatever mix of small coins that would give the most quarters in change. If the meal was $5.87 you would give the cashier $6.12 to get a quarter back. Cash registers didn't compute the change in those days, and it blew the minds of so many fast food workers trying to figure out why someone was giving them such odd amounts.

But the question: Which were the better groupies, sweaty foosball players who slept in their clothes for an entire weekend, or young boys with the occasional 12 year old girl in the mix.

Tough choice. Where were all of the swooning coeds?

Frajer16 karma

Does it suck having the same name as the co-creator of Friends?

PitfallCreator26 karma

Well, when I went to my high school class reunion every girl in the class wanted stories about the actors. I suppose I could have lied, but no.

PitfallFan198016 karma

David, I've been a long-time fan of your work ever since I played your games on the Atari 2600. I have many questions (some of which I've had since I was a kid) and it's a privilege to finally have the chance to ask them.

You've mentioned in interviews that game design used to start with acknowledging the limitations of the platform, then building a game within those limitations. Your newest project, Jungle Adventure, seems to have much in common with the original spirit of Pitfall! and Pitfall II. Are you developing this game as you would've originally developed Pitfall if you didn't have to worry so much about the hardware limitations? In what way might this work be depart from the intent of the original Pitfall series?

PitfallCreator19 karma

(Sorry, posted outside the thread) My Jungle Adventure game does share the spirit of Pitfall. People have been asking me to "return to the jungle" for a long time. But as for technology, all technology is limited - even today. One of the things that is the most fun for me is pushing that technology to its limits. I intend to do that with Jungle Adventure as well.

AdamBertocci-Writer12 karma

The C64 "Ghostbusters" was part of my childhood in a pretty big way — thanks for that. You completely captured the fun of the movie's concept in the way that many other Ghostbusters games they've made haven't.

Did you have any input / directives from the filmmakers or studio on what they did and didn't want in the game, things they wanted that you weren't fond of (or vice versa)? Or were they hands-off?

PitfallCreator17 karma

The way to make a game based on a movie is to make a fun game that happens in the movie's universe. It is often done differently... "Let's take these items from the film and build a game around them."

The Ghostbusters C64 project began after the principal photography was finished, but before the film could be viewed. I was given the script, and started from that. Since the final edit was not yet available, the game was less driven by the film than it might have been.

I took a game that I was already working on and moved it into the Ghostbusters universe. I did this out of necessity, but it proved to be the best way to make a game from a movie. A game has to be a fun game first or it will fail.

GameTechGuy16 karma

How did you come up with the idea to include digitized speech in Ghostbusters? (If I remember correctly the speech was done by Electronic Speech Systems?) Considering that memory was at a premium did adding speech prevent you from doing anything else? (Or to put it another way, did you have to remove anything to fit the speech in?).

PitfallCreator3 karma

One of the best things about the movie Ghostbusters was the theme song. (And who 'borrowed" from whom? Ray Parker Jr. or Huey Lewis?)

So I had to put the theme song in the game. I also had to get the crowd yelling "Ghostbusters!" into the song. I figured the best place for that was the title screen. I enlisted programming help from Garry Kitchen and his crew to knock out a "follow the bouncing ball" program, and Russell Lieblich (RIP) to do the song in Commodore tones. That left the yelling.

I had created digitized speech for the C-64 Transformers (probably the first time the C-64 talked). If you played the BACK SIDE of the Transformer's disk you were told the entire story of the history of the race of Autobots. I put that tech into the Ghostbusters title page, and while you were singing along with the theme you were expected to press the space bar to shout "Ghostbusters!"

Yes, it took up some extra memory, but not very much with only 3 seconds of digitized speech. There was room on the disk and it was well worth it.

HFallada11 karma

What's something you wish you could change about the original Pitfall, either adding or taking something away?

PitfallCreator25 karma

I squeezed everything I could into the limited ROM for Pitfall. That left nothing for a player reward when beating the game. That would have been nice to add, but not worth taking out game play to fit.

PitfallCreator11 karma

My Jungle Adventure game does share the spirit of Pitfall. People have been asking me to "return to the jungle" for a long time. But as for technology, all technology is limited - even today. One of the things that is the most fun for me is pushing that technology to its limits. I intend to do that with Jungle Adventure as well.

PitfallFan198011 karma

In the Pitfall post-mortem you gave at the GDC last year, you mentioned in the Q&A (almost wistfully) that you "cheated" by using the DPC for Pitfall II. However, besides helping the game to break unheard of ground on the Atari 2600, it seemed you were trying to give the aging console a much-needed shot in the arm. Are there any regrets you have over that title?

PitfallCreator6 karma

I designed the DPC ship to give the old 2600 more life. My real regret was that even that couldn't prop to old boy up after that. The DPC chip never got used again.

Thenadamgoes11 karma

Hey, I just quit Atari to start my own company. (after learning what NOT to do there) we have our first game coming out in a few weeks.

So 30 years later, any advice those of us in an oddly similar situation?

PitfallCreator5 karma

Not a lot of parallels between then and now, but good luck with your venture.

dcfcblues10 karma

I just wanted to say Pitfall was the first game I remember playing and started my love of video games. Thanks!

PitfallCreator13 karma

You're welcome. I still make games every day, enduring the insane schedules that accompany them. But I do it to entertain. It never gets old hearing that you enjoy my games, and it makes all the hard work worth it.

gbrafford9 karma

FIRST OFF THIS IS NOT ACTIVISION OF THE MODERN ERA. Yes dave crane co-founded the company but has no ties I am aware of now to the company. Why do you deathmatch retards not get it. All the activision games of the modern era suck, its due to a lack of direction in the company itself and in the lack of originality or quality that originally Activision was founded on. So stop with the Modern Warfare questions the game is mediocre at best and only likable to mindless crowd.

I would like to start with saying I am currently a hobbist game developer that is what I am from the inspiration that your games and many of the 1980's activision visionaries created. The cutting edge programming and quality over quantity is just amazing. You and many of the talented artists of the early activision are my idols and heros.

But honestly to me your greatest achievement is Pitfall II. I love and play that game to this day. I can't quit playing it 30 years after the fact. I am so happy to finally see a sequel of sorts come to pitfall. I have waited a long time to see this even though it can't be an out and out named sequel due to the lack of vision of activision and their theft of your intellectual property. But that's just my opinion :)

I have to admit I have been tinkering with a total redo of the original pitfall II. I wanted to hear and see it with a modern computer what it would look and sound like keeping the game play exactly as it was. This kind of hobby project is just flat out tells how big a fan I am. My dream was to develop a title with you to learn how to develop the right way. But since I can't this is a great way to pitch you some important things I think you should keep true to in Jungle Adventure.

I would like to recommend that you pay close attention to gameplay first and foremost in jungle adventure. Avoid the modern way of controls that are clunky and hard to learn for the novice. Hold true to your "A player should be able to just pick up the game and play." motto you said so many years ago. If at all possible I'd love to hear pitfall II's music some how incorporated back into Jungle Adventure. It would be a great way of letting people know where this games roots came from.

I would love to some day pick brains with you about the current state of gaming and how the industry stands and where it is headed. I fear with the huge amount of first person shooters the market is again getting flooded with some really bad games and we all remeber 1985. Poor quality games almost killed the industry. I hope jungle adventure will revitalize the way games should be planned.

I would like to end by thanking you for 30 years of great times. In my life I knew of few programmers but your name was one I knew from the start and I always watched for your games because I knew it was going to be worth the price of admission with any game you were behind. Thanks Mr Crane!

PitfallCreator8 karma

Thanks for the kind words. It is for you and fans like you that I posted a Kickstarter project. You should feel some comfort in the fact that if you liked my other games you will like this one.

There seems to be so much focus on the dollar amount. That should be a non-issue. I'm not going out to buy a Ferrari, that money goes into making a professionally produced game.

As a backer you don't have to put up $900K. As a backer you pre-order a copy of the game for as little as $15. And if you spread the word so that there is enough interest, you get the benefit of a $900K project for your $15.

boringlesbian7 karma

When I was 10 and playing Pitfall on my Atari 2600, I would always run to the left of the screen. I didn't realize that I was supposed to be going right. I always wondered why other kids used to complain about the crocodiles.

Did you make it so a player could scroll left or was it something that was an accident?

PitfallCreator13 karma

That was a small bonus trick. SInce Harry was facing right, I intended for you to start that way. Those who thought out of the box learned that it was just a little easier going left. (The main reason it was easier going left was because if you died your new 'life' started at the left - past the obstacle that killed you.)

That said, I designed the game to teach you the skills you needed before you needed them. Going to the right you would learn the basic moves and gradually be forced to learn more advanced skills.

So the most successful players probably learned how to play going right, and then realized that there was an advantage to going left.

PitfallFan19807 karma

Pitfall II seems to be the unsung hero of classic gaming - almost no one I've met knew about it, even though they played Pitfall! Personally I find it to be my favorite game, perhaps even one of my favorites of all-time. Looking back, what are your thoughts about the game?

PitfallCreator11 karma

I had a lot of fun making that game. I am an electronic engineer by training and designed a custom chip to go in the cartridge. Just another example of pushing the technological boundaries.

Funny that nobody has ever asked me where the helium balloons came from in the deepest, darkest cavern. ;-)

PitfallFan19806 karma

Funny, it was explained quite well in the manual that Rhonda was inflating specimen bags on steam geysers - I suppose marketing came to the rescue on that one. I always figured the balloons looked like carnival balloons because of graphical limitations.

PitfallCreator15 karma

The best story on that was the music. Right before we published someone asked if we have the rights to the music. We had people humming the music into answering machines all over the country. Nobody knew.

When I related this story that night to my wife (a classically-trained musician), she said "Are you kidding? That song is called "Over the Waves", or "Sobre Las Olas" in its original spanish." (Pardon if I got that wrong.) She went on to name the composer and said "I might have the sheet music around here."

PitfallFan19806 karma

The concept art looks very nice. Will the final release have models that are visually more stylized like the art, or are the graphics planned to look more photorealistic?

PitfallCreator11 karma

Thanks, but you are correct - this is just concept art. It is like the "making of" on the Shrek DVD showing the iterations the characters go through before they become final. The final game will be more photorealistic. I plan to make the Jungle into an environment that sucks you in and hopefully get a visceral response from the player.

khast6 karma

Loved a few of your old C64 games, Little Computer People, Pitfall I and II, and my absolute favorite Ghostbusters game.

I know screensavers are kind of...passe, but I think it would be awesome to make a Little Computer People interactive screensaver as well.

PitfallCreator9 karma

Little Computer People was one of the most complex games ever made. Every item on the screen operated as if it was the real-world equivalent. That required animations for everything, 'brains' to make them interact with the characters, etc.

Many times I would have liked to do another product like LCP, and in fact doing it as a screen saver was one of my favorite ideas. That way the LCP could live in real time and interact with whatever you are doing on the computer.

Sadly that would be way too expensive to make. But it would be cool.

thedude376 karma

So, Pitfall II... First I must say that this was the superior Pitfall IMO. Now the questions:

Ever get 199,000 points?

Also, who wrote the music for that game? The soundtrack got me into video game music as a young lad (and pushed my general music career along), I have many thanks to give to the composer.

How did you feel regarding the bastardizing of PII (Super Pitfall! for Famicom)?

PitfallCreator6 karma

The theme music was written for the cartoon series, and I never got to meet the composer. I did the arrangement for Pitfall II, and I always thought that the composer was credited somewhere in the manual.

As for Super Pitfall, the opinions on that game tend to be very negative. But I recently was on a blog where one poster claimed it was one of his favorites. Boy was he roasted! As for me, I just look at it as just another game that had the Pitfall name slapped on it.

cozzpuch6 karma

Besides Pitfall, what game that you created are you most proud of?

PitfallCreator7 karma

Just about every game I created had something to be proud of. Grand Prix did things that were deemed impossible then (see the article in RetroGamer for a technical description). As I go through the games in my mind, I could list so many similar achievements.

On this subject I suppose I would have to quote Jerry Seinfeld, "They are all my babies and I love them all equally."

lancebohy5 karma

Hi David, I was a big fan of your Technical Wizardry Series you released on the iOS AppStore. Where are you at with those? What are the chances of getting new volumes (or updating the old ones for retina support?) I know you've got so much more to teach, please don't abandon the series! Thank you.

PitfallCreator12 karma

I will keep that in mind. I created that series so that some of the lore of those days isn't lost forever. But I spend my days making new games, not so much focusing on the past. I'll see what I can do.

WhatDoesYourHeadSay5 karma

How many times have you played the game? Also, thanks for helping make my childhood awesome.

PitfallCreator9 karma

How many times have I played Pitfall? Thousands. The way to make a game fun is to play it over and over, tweaking the smallest game play element until it is perfect.

MrTravesty5 karma

Do you ever regret leaving Activision? Did you think it was going to be as big as it is?

PitfallCreator10 karma

There were actually two Activisions, and the one I created was changing. I left right before it was sold. They have done a great job with the company, but it was time for me to leave.

djlr1815 karma

Have you played WayForward's Boy and his Blob game? Did they reach out to you at all?

PitfallCreator5 karma

I was actually involved in one attempted remake of "A Boy and His Blob" by Majesco (who bought the game license). That project didn't get published.

The WayForward game was done without my involvement. I saw the first screens in the game publications about the time that you did.

dbezborodov5 karma


PitfallCreator5 karma

I believe strongly in what I call 2.5D. That allows a more 2D game play within a 3D world. Game play often revolves around character interaction - with the world and other characters. 3D interactions are usually so sloppy that it affects game play negatively.

You used the word "responsive". I couldn't agree more.

LLv24 karma

I owned a Magnavox Odyssey2. Why didn't you port any games to that platform? You TOTALLY made the Atari a better buy.

PitfallCreator2 karma

I made Pitfall on the Odyssey. I had to learn a new game system and program in a different language to do it, but I supported the system.

But the Atari was in so many more houses that we had to concentrate most of our efforts on that.

LLv22 karma

I was kind of joking with you. The Odyssey was way behind the Atari in terms of install base. The thing that was infuriating was that the Activision games were so much better than what was being offered by either Atari or Magnavox. All I could do was watch my friends play the Activision games and drool.

Was Pitfall even released for the Odyssey? I never saw it for sale anywhere.

PitfallCreator2 karma

I'm pretty sure it was, but that was a long time ago.

I took the Odyssey apart and wired it up to a development system. And I remember writing the game. That is a question for the VIdeo Game History Museum.

MarioLGD4 karma

I still own pitfall for my 2600, I suck at it but love it How's it feel to contribute to Videogame history?

PitfallCreator10 karma

I never set out to create video game history. But in every game I make I am always looking for that thing that nobody has done before. When you do that good things happen.

kotooni4 karma

What do you think of Activision nowadays? I'm not a big fan of that company anymore, to be honest. :(

PitfallCreator12 karma

Sadly, that is a common feeling these days. I try to remain neutral.

Mojitana4 karma

Any crazy stories from old you'd like to share? What was the longest you every stayed awake coding for?

PitfallCreator11 karma

On A Boy and His Blob for the NES we did a 6 week stretch of 16 hour days. If that wasn't enough it went up to 20 hours per day in the last week and an all-nighter the night before the release.

Then we flew to Chicago to show the game at CES. In the hotel room before the show we found a bug in the game. Then another... Then another... Garry and I spend the next 3 days and nights fixing bugs at night and demonstrating the game to salesmen during the day.

Kristymiss4 karma

You played a major role on my childhood. I heart you.

PitfallCreator5 karma

Thank you. When people tell me that I know that the hard work was worth it.

PitfallFan19803 karma

I noticed that even though the manual for Pitfall II sets the game near Machu Picchu, the coordinates given in Harry's diary are about 100 km ENE of the site. Was this intentional, and if so, why?

PitfallCreator4 karma

Sorry, at some point the manual is handed off to marketing. They are more about fluff than substance. (Although the best thing they ever said about Pitfall was "It's a jungle in there!")

DalishElf3 karma

What inspired you to create the game? Or should I say, where did you get the idea for it? Thanks for this IAMA David, Pitfall is one of my all time favorite games!

PitfallCreator5 karma

There were a number of inspirations for Pitfall. Indiana Jones was out in theaters, so a jungle adventure seemed exciting. One specific inspiration came from a 1950 cartoon show called "Heckle and Jeckyl"

In their show opener, the two starring birds run through a bunch of open alligator mouths that snap shut, barely missing them. I thought that would make a nice video game obstacle.

Beyond those things, a game evolves every day when one plays it and dreams up ways to improve it. I don't know exactly how a game is going to turn out when I start - I just know that I won't be done until it is fun to play.

galu68k3 karma

  1. At the time Pitfall II was released, what computer platforms were the most "important" ones (was the C64 already more popular than Atari 400/800)?

  2. Have you used any kind of 16-bit workstation-class machines for 8-bit (2600, C64 - 1982-1984) development?

Thanks for wonderful games.

PitfallCreator4 karma

When we founded Activision we had a business plan that showed the computer business (led by the Apple II and Atari 800, plus the little Radio Shack TRS-80) growing to eventually take over the software business. We predicted that would happen 6 years into the company's history. Turns out we were right, but mostly because the video game business spiked and then crashed, leaving only the computer market.

I had worked on the Atari 800 before leaving Atari, and the C-64 came along shortly after. But really, until the computer systems got grown-up peripherals (Apple Imagewriter and Laserwriter), these computer systems were just glorified video games.

I enjoyed making games for all of those.

For development, we timeshared a large minicomputer from Digital Equipment Corporation, the PDP-11. Many years later we switched to PCs as our editor and assembly language compiler.

Slobstyle3 karma

As soon as I read the title on this post, I heard the Tarzan sound made when swinging from a vine in Pitfall! I grew up on this game and it was amazing!

My question...What have you been doing all of these years?

PitfallCreator7 karma

I have published over 100 games, written in 25 computer languages on more than 15 game consoles and systems: Console games, Online games, iPhone games, etc. And yet everybody remembers me for Pitfall! What can you do?

In 1995 Garry Kitchen and I pioneered Advergaming. It wasn't called that - the name was coined later describing what we were doing. We partnered with advertisers who paid for the games to be made, we made the games, and players got to play them for free. We found that just like commercial television, people were OK with advertising if it meant they got the games for free.

We did this because it was a new way to fund game development without handing creative control to a publisher. Unfortunately we just traded publisher control for 'client' control, but we still were able to make some great online games.

I believe that Kickstarter will be the way to fund games by gamers, for gamers. It won't replace the big publishers, but if you see a team who you can trust to make a great game that you want to play, support them.

Heartless0003 karma

Please for the love of god give us your opinion on Bobby Kotick.

PitfallCreator16 karma

You only want me to say something bad. But Bobby made a genius decision to buy Activision. The prior management (not my co-founders) had made such a mess of it that he was able to acquire the company for less than $1M. At the time I saw a valuation that said that the name alone was worth $50M - what you would have to pay to get the same recognition.

You may not agree with some of the decisions since then, but you can't argue with his vision.

GameTechGuy3 karma

I just want to say thanks for the great games back in the day. Like many my first "console" was an Atari 2600 and one of the things that was great about it were games from Activision. I had Pitfall 1/2, Gran Prix etc. Later on I had a C64 and games like Ghostbusters were truly great. (I still have some Activision Pitfall badges around here somewhere!)

Questions (answer whatever you have time for):

  • What was your/Activision's take on piracy back in those days? (For those that don't know Atari 2600 cartridges were simply ROMs and there was no copy protection/DRM. It was easy for bootleggers to clone carts/packaging/manuals). What about computers and piracy? (The C64 had rampant piracy despite disk-based copy protection, probably same for other computers).

  • What was your development method like for mid-80s computers/game systems (say C64 onwards)? Did you continue to manually draw graphics on graph paper or use drawing tools? Did you use cross-compilers or other fancy systems where you would code on a "powerful" IBM PC and cross-assemble/compile and download to a native system/console? At what point did you make the switch to C?

  • What are your thoughts on the collapse of video game market in 1983-5? Did you think the market would recover at the time? Anything memorable stands out from this period?

  • Do you think there are similarities between the crash of 83-85 and today? There are a myriad of PCs, tablets, game systems, smart phones, etc and more software (including games) available now than people can use. Do you think it is more difficult as a developer nowadays with so much choice and competition from other developers, not to mention the high video/audio production standards nowadays as compared to the 80s/90s?

Thank you again for the games - I want you to know that your games really made a difference when I was young.

PitfallCreator18 karma

Early games were pirated a little, but not much. The game cartridge contained a mask ROM that was very expensive to make, so only a large company could rip off the game. And they were too noticeable a target. Actually, you will find that some of the more coveted collectibles from those days are pirated games from the far and middle east.

We developed games on the PDP-11 until the PC AT came down in price enough to put one on each station. But drawing tools lagged computers. I drew every pixel on graph paper. But eventually our artists were using Deluxe Paint and Koala Pads. As for the switch to 'C', that came years later. The best games were always written in assembly language so that the game code was connected intimately to the hardware.

Crash similarities? No, this one is different. The worst problem the game business has today is erosion of game pricing. Apple should never have let the price of a game drop below $4.95 or so. I can spend a year making a game, surrounded by other professionals, and still have a kid play it for 10 seconds and say it isn't worth 99 cents. I want to grab that kid by the collar and ask him "Really? You got less enjoyment out of my game than a small order of fries from McDonalds!?" That is a perception that has hit the game industry hard.

snipersteve3 karma

Naming a company is hard. "Activision" is one of my favorite company names ever -- who thought of the name, is there a story behind it? (Great logo too.)

PitfallCreator4 karma

Yes, naming something can be the hardest thing!

Jim Levy came up with Activision. Active Television, great name. He is also responsible for the logo effort, including the rainbow that so meant "video game" in those days.

He is also responsible for making all of the game boxes look like they belong together. Put them on a shelf and you can immediately tell which games were by Activision.

JohnWad3 karma

OMG Pitfall!!!! That was one of the 1st games I ever played. Awesome. I truly enjoy your work.

PitfallCreator4 karma

Thanks. I have stayed active in the business all along, doing work for publishers and clients. My Kickstarter project is my way of doing a game you those of you who like my work, rather than making a game for a publisher or advertiser. Back it if you want to see it happen.

flyingcarsnow3 karma

I played the living hell out of it and later while in college, a friend had some PC Pitfall! game where you could enter the original Pitfall!

maybe it was the Mayan Adventure

Were you involved in that one?

I find it strange that I'm asking you a question over the internet given your influence over my video game experience as a kid. Many man hours were spent playing Pitfall! on Atari 2600.

PitfallCreator2 karma

I believe that Mayan Adventure, at least on the Sega (and maybe on the PC) had the entire original Pitfall game in it as an Easter Egg. I had nothing to do with that remake, except of course that my game was embedded in it.

YoungOneHiddenLife3 karma

What is your daily buisness day?

PitfallCreator10 karma

I write game code every day, often into the night, and at least a little on weekends. There are very few people who have been at it as long as I have who still write code. But I find that it is the only way to get the last little bit of game play out of a concept.

One of the reasons that so few do it is because it is not easy. Processors and consoles keep changing, and I have to master a console to make a great game. I have programmed in some 25 different programming languages and published products on more than 15 different consoles or gaming systems.

That hard work is rewarded when people tell me they enjoy playing my games. After all, I am at heart an entertainer.

Callmemaybelol3 karma

Why did they make the iPhone Pitfall app a copy of Temple Run and not something actually cool that looks like the original game?

PitfallCreator4 karma

I can't say since I was not in those discussions. But the biggest complaint about publisher-funded games are that they tend to follow a successful strategy.

Besides, I hear that it is a fun Temple Run game. Try it out.

MotorHeaded2 karma

What was working in the video game industry like in the 1980's? Did everyone wear Hawaiian shirts and have keggers on the weekends?

PitfallCreator4 karma

Some people had experiences different from mine, but at Activision we were all very dedicated to the games. We had plenty of fun, but at the office we were intensely focused.

One year the company did so well that the entire company was called to a nearby hotel meeting room (the only way to get everybody in one room). Activision's president, Jim Levy, took the podium and announced that we had all been working too hard so he was taking the entire company to Hawaii!

Every employee (plus spouse or guest) got on a plane and flew to Maui. We played beach games, tennis, and golf until we were exhausted, then went back to work.

You don't see that happen in too many companies, do you?

gbrafford2 karma

I would like to know how you felt about the Adventurer's Edition that the Atari 5200 had that was programmed by Mike Lorenze. That is probably my favorite version of Pitfall II.

PitfallCreator7 karma

Great question. As you know, most games start on one system and then get "ported" to others. Pitfall II started on the Atari 2600, and then we had to make it on the C-64 and Atari 800.

We started two programmers on those ports, Tim Shotter on the C-64 and Mike Lorenzen on the 800. Due to personal choice, Tim decided to rewrite the game from scratch using my game as a template. Mike decided to use my code, rewriting the machine-dependent sections for his target console.

Both games reached Beta at the same time. But since the C-64 code was written completely from scratch, it had the normal complement of bugs. The 800 code was mostly my code, which had been completely debugged and published, so Mike had no bugs to fix.

While the C-64 version went through a month of debugging, Mike had time to add an entire new game level. This was a great case study in how to port game code, and ended up with a superior game on the 400/800/5200.

Dogribb2 karma

Loved your games sold a ton of them and K-TEL records in 82 at a local department store

PitfallCreator2 karma

Thanks. You remind me of the day that our first batch of Activison games hit the stores. Our pictures were in the manuals in those days, and all 4 Activision designers went out to the mall to the game store.

As we walked in the door, the owner was holding one of our games that he had just unpacked. He looked at us, down at the game, back at us, and his jaw dropped. We had a great visit, and we made his store a regular outing to follow new releases as the competition heated up.

[deleted]2 karma

Just browsed your wikipedia profile... I see that you also worked on Night Trap. I actually enjoyed some of the early Sega CD titles (Night Trap, Double Switch, and the sewer-racing type game -- forget name). A couple questions:

1) Can you offer any insight into working on such a controversial game like Night Trap?

2) Thoughts on why SEGA CD (&32X) failed? I liked the platform alot.

PitfallCreator2 karma

Few people realize that Night Trap was developed for a revolutionary game system developed by Hasbro in the late 90s. The game played on a VHS tape player; the output of which went through a special set-top box. It made for the first consumer interactive video game machine (which sadly was never produced).

The game itself paid homage to any number of classic 'B' horror movies where a bunch of underdressed coeds are always walking into a dark room without turning on the lights. To my knowledge this was the first time a live-action script was written that had multiple simultaneous action threads set in a single location. The technology was top notch, the script work was incredible, and the story line was true to the genre.

The game was only controversial because the girls were somewhat underdressed (as befitting the genre). And even that was tame - they were always fully clothed.

When Hasbro cancelled the (ISIX) project, the video sat unused until the Sega CD came around. That was the first machine capable of displaying the game.

The Sega CD had a reasonable run, becoming obsolete as all PCs started to come equipped with CD drives and better video cards.

bergermeister2 karma

David - First of all, thanks for all the memories. Second of all, someone at Activision still owes me some money from all the Atari joysticks I broke in the 1500m in Activision Decathlon. Funny enough, I was just having a conversation with an old gaming buddy while watching the Olympics. We agreed that it might actually be easier to actually run the real 1500m than play that event again in Decathlon.

Thanks again David.

FilthFlarnFilth2 karma

How much did starting up Activision cost?

PitfallCreator3 karma

The VC that funded the company put in $150,000 cash and provided loans for much, much more. For that they got 3/4 of the company. If the company failed, all would be lost - including the loans. But if the company became profitable the loans would be paid back.

Everything worked out, and when all the loans were paid back the VC owned 3/4 of a $300M company for $150,000. Not bad.

Iamrandymorris2 karma

i am a bit of a hacker in spirit and as a young kid i found that if i nudged the cartridge in the atari 2600, it would create a sort of alternate version of the game. with pitfall, you could hold the button down and he would fly across the screen. was this intentional?

PitfallCreator5 karma

When you wiggle the cartridge while a game is running you cause the microprocessor to execute unknown code. If you got something useful to happen that was amazing.

I once ran the numbers on executing random code. If you randomized the code every half second you would have to wait longer than the life of the universe to get a working game. You beat the odds.

Pmonstah42 karma

What's your favorite game of all time?

PitfallCreator2 karma

Hard to answer, but in terms of sheer hours played that would either be Arcade Asteroids or Arcade Super Breakout.

Many times I would put a pot pie in the oven after work, go down to the arcade in my apartment complex, put one quarter into Asteroids and play until dinner burned to a crisp.

But nothing beat playing 'double' breakout (with two balls at a time) and clearing all screens without losing a single ball. When you did that you could move the balls around until they were both set in a pattern such that you could leave the machine and they would keep going forever on the empty screen

PitfallFan19802 karma

Have you decided on a composer yet? If not, are you going with someone who's already proven in the industry, or are you also looking at independent composers? If you're open to recommendations, one of my friends on Facebook has been working on remaking the music to Pitfall II, and even though he says it's still a rough work it sounds great to me. If you're interested, you can find it at

PitfallCreator5 karma

Still open to team members. Can't do anything out of Pitfall II (an Activision property), but I will give it a listen.

damntruth2 karma

Thanks for pitfall, provided hours of entertainment for me and my neighbor growing up. I dusted off my old Odyssey II a couple months ago and plugged it in for my kids (11, 9, 5) they lost interest in PS3 for a few weeks.

PitfallCreator3 karma

There are whole groups of classic gaming enthusiasts who still find those games to be more fun than many modern games. I attribute that to the high amount of effort we put into tweaking the game play.

A lot of that has been lost in full 3D games because it is so hard to tell how on-screen 3D characters interact and collide. Accuracy of collision plays a big role in repeatable game play.

In my modern games I use what I call 2.5D, combining the best of both 3D imaging and 2D game play. I will use that same technique in Jungle Adventure. (For those interested, I plan on explaining this in more depth - pun intended - in an update on the KS page.)

WhatCarDoYouDrive2 karma

What car do you drive?

PitfallCreator4 karma

I am 6' 5" tall, so I drive a big car. (But I won't plug the car maker.) However, since 1982 I have had the California license plate "PITFALL", so you can watch for me on the roads in Silicon Valley.

MegatronXbgol2 karma


PitfallCreator6 karma

OK, let me get completely mercenary here... You are exactly the person I am trying to reach with my Kickstarter, and the game that appeals to both you and younger gamers is the intent of the design.

Only if you, and every friend you ever played the 2600 with in the old days back my project will it become a reality.

Wudan072 karma

My son and I just read The Ultimate History of Video games and I'm always struck by someone's ballsy decision that ends up being wildly successful. When you left Atari and co-founded Activision, what was the mood like among the initial Activision group, and what is your favorite memory of that time?

PitfallCreator3 karma

It was a great time, both a lot of fun and scary at the same time. Our office was close enough to my apartment that I could walk to work and not spend gas money. I ate a whole lot of tuna sandwiches. And we lived under the cloud of wondering if the company would be out of business in less than a year.

But it was also very exciting. We were creating new ideas at a staggering pace, and advancing the state of the art of video games every day. I wouldn't trade the experience for anything.

In 2003 the IGDA awarded Activision's founders their "First Penguin" award. The award gets its name from the end of the penguin's march to the sea after the harsh winter. They are all starving, but they arrive at the edge of the cliff, stop and look down into the unknown, wondering what terrors lurk in the depths. Eventually one penguin dives in and gets first crack at the fish. If he surfaces alive, the rest jump in.

When I was up for this award I explained it to some friends. Their reaction was, "Aren't those other penguins smart to wait to see what happens to the first one!" I had to explain, "No, you don't get it. It is the FIRST penguin who is rewarded for taking a risk."

It turns out that people are either first penguins or comfortable as one of the crowd.

Xenogears2 karma

I used to play the nes Simpsons games all the time when i was a child. They were hard as hell but i loved them. Are there any stories you'd like to share related to those games?

PitfallCreator4 karma

I worked on the Simpsons games for Acclaim (developed by Imagineering, one of the fist US developers approved by Nintendo to make games on the NES). The real hard choice was whether to get involved with that franchise.

At the time The Simpsons was a little side feature on the Tracy Ullman show. It was very dark. I remember telling Garry Kitchen that if they swing even a little bit darker they will lose the TV audience. They didn't, and we got involved. And to their credit they walked that line right into the hearts of the nation.

lolwowkk11 karma

Do you have any fruit-trees in your garden? Like an appletree?

PitfallCreator3 karma

Huh... I have walnuts, kiwis, and mulberries, but no apple trees.

ivoffee1 karma

What are your favourite jellybeans?

PitfallCreator3 karma

The best part of the jellybean flavors in A Boy and His Blob is that they had to help you learn the transformations. I used puns, alliteration, and any play on words that might help you remember.

My daughter was pretty young when she first played it, and she tells me that her favorite was the banana flavor that turned the Blob into a monkey wrench. Banana? Monkey? (At her age that was really something.)