Alan Miller (game designer)

Last updated

Alan Miller is an early game designer and programmer for the Atari 2600 who co-founded video game companies Activision and Accolade.

Game design is the art of applying design and aesthetics to create a game for entertainment or for educational, exercise, or experimental purposes. Increasingly, elements and principles of game design are also applied to other interactions, particularly virtual ones.

Atari 2600 video game console

The Atari 2600, originally sold as the Atari Video Computer System or Atari VCS until November 1982, is a home video game console from Atari, Inc. Released on September 11, 1977, it is credited with popularizing the use of microprocessor-based hardware and games contained on ROM cartridges, a format first used with the Fairchild Channel F in 1976. This contrasts with the older model of having dedicated hardware that could play only those games that were physically built into the unit. The 2600 was bundled with two joystick controllers, a conjoined pair of paddle controllers, and a game cartridge: initially Combat, and later Pac-Man.

Activision American computer- and video game publisher

Activision Publishing, Inc. is an American video game publisher based in Santa Monica. It currently serves as the publishing business for its parent company, Activision Blizzard, and consists of several subsidiary studios. As of January 2017, Activision is one of the largest third-party video game publishers in the world and was the top publisher for 2016 in the United States.



Miller studied electrical engineering and computer science at the University of California, Berkeley, graduating in 1973. [1]

Electrical engineering field of engineering that deals with electricity

Electrical engineering is a professional engineering discipline that generally deals with the study and application of electricity, electronics, and electromagnetism. This field first became an identifiable occupation in the later half of the 19th century after commercialization of the electric telegraph, the telephone, and electric power distribution and use. Subsequently, broadcasting and recording media made electronics part of daily life. The invention of the transistor, and later the integrated circuit, brought down the cost of electronics to the point they can be used in almost any household object.

Computer science study of the theoretical foundations of information and computation

Computer science is the study of processes that interact with data and that can be represented as data in the form of programs. It enables the use of algorithms to manipulate, store, and communicate digital information. A computer scientist studies the theory of computation and the practice of designing software systems.

University of California, Berkeley Public university in California, USA

The University of California, Berkeley is a public research university in the United States. Located in the city of Berkeley, it was founded in 1868 and serves as the flagship institution of the ten research universities affiliated with the University of California system. Berkeley has since grown to instruct over 40,000 students in approximately 350 undergraduate and graduate degree programs covering numerous disciplines.

Miller joined Atari, Inc. in February 1977 and was one of the first four Atari 2600 game designers. His 2600 titles include Surround , Hunt & Score , Hangman and Basketball . [2] With others, he co-authored the operating system for the Atari 400/800 computers in late 1978 and early 1979. His last game for Atari, Basketball, was one of the first ROM games for the Atari computers. Miller did not work on any Atari 2600 cartridges during his last year with Atari. [1]

Atari, Inc. Defunct American video game and home computer company

Atari, Inc. was an American video game developer and home computer company founded in 1972 by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney. Primarily responsible for the formation of the video arcade and modern video game industries, the company was closed and its assets split in 1984 as a direct result of the North American video game crash of 1983.

<i>Surround</i> (video game) 1977 video game

Surround is a video game programmed by Alan Miller and published by Atari, Inc. for the Atari Video Computer System. It was one of the nine Atari VCS launch titles released in September 1977. Surround is an unofficial port of the arcade game Blockade, released the previous year by Gremlin. As such, it is the first home console version of the game that would become widely known across many platforms as Snake. As with other early Atari games, it was licensed to Sears, which released it under the name Chase.

<i>Basketball</i> (1978 video game) 1978 basketball video game

Basketball is an Atari 2600 video game written by Alan Miller and published by Atari, Inc. in 1979. The cartridge presents a simple game of one-on-one basketball playable by one or two players, one of the few early Atari 2600 titles to have a single-player mode with an AI-controlled opponent. Miller wrote a version of Basketball for the Atari 8-bit family with improved graphics, published in 1979. That same year an arcade version similar to the computer port was released by Atari, but in black and white. The arcade game was written by Chris Downend.

In late 1979, Miller left Atari with three other programmers, David Crane, Larry Kaplan and Bob Whitehead. They were disillusioned and disappointed with Atari's refusal to give them screen credit for any of the games they worked on. With music industry executive, Jim Levy, they formed Activision, the first independent video game developer and publisher. Activision rapidly grew to US$159 million in revenue in 1983, its third year of sales. Miller acted as Vice President of Product Development and designed several of the company's first games. Among his games designed while with Activision are Checkers, Tennis , Ice Hockey , Starmaster and Robot Tank . [3] Miller experimented with implementing a 3D display for the game Checkers but due to technical limitations of both the Atari 2600 and television sets of the era, the idea was dropped. [1]

David Crane (programmer) American video game designer and programmer

David Patrick Crane is a video game designer and programmer.

Larry Kaplan is an American video game designer and programmer best known for the 1981 Atari 2600 game, Kaboom!. and for co-founding Activision.

Robert A. "Bob" Whitehead is an early game designer and programmer for the Atari 2600 who co-founded video game companies Activision and Accolade.

Miller and Whitehead thought that diversification to other platforms, such as the home computers like the Commodore 64, was essential for success. [4] Activision was resistant to this idea, so he and Whitehead left Activision in 1984 and together formed the game publisher Accolade. [1] While with his new company, he designed only one game, Law of the West for the Commodore 64. Miller started as Vice President of Product Development but in a few years rose to Chairman and CEO. [2]

Commodore 64 8-bit home computer introduced in January 1982

The Commodore 64, also known as the C64 or the CBM 64, is an 8-bit home computer introduced in January 1982 by Commodore International. It has been listed in the Guinness World Records as the highest-selling single computer model of all time, with independent estimates placing the number sold between 10 and 17 million units. Volume production started in early 1982, marketing in August for US$595. Preceded by the Commodore VIC-20 and Commodore PET, the C64 took its name from its 64 kilobytes(65,536 bytes) of RAM. With support for multicolor sprites and a custom chip for waveform generation, the C64 could create superior visuals and audio compared to systems without such custom hardware.

Infogrames North America, Inc. was an American video game developer and publisher based in San Jose, California. The company was founded as Accolade in November 1984 by Alan Miller and Bob Whitehead, who had previously co-founded Activision in October 1979.

Law of the West is a computer game for the Commodore 64, the Apple II family and the NES. It was one of Accolade's launch products and is the only game in Accolade's history to be designed by Accolade co-founder Alan Miller. Graphics were by Mimi Doggett and the music was by Ed Bogas. The game is a kind of graphical adventure game taking place in the American Old West. In Scandinavia the game was published by American Action.

After ten years at Accolade, Miller left in 1994. Ironically, Accolade hit hard times and in 1999 was purchased by Infogrames, which later changed its subsidiaries' names to Atari Inc., Atari Europe, Atari Australia, and Atari Japan respectively.

Atari, Inc. (Atari, SA subsidiary) video game developer and publisher

Atari, Inc. was founded in 1993 as GT Interactive Software Corp. In 1999, Infogrames Entertainment, SA acquired a controlling interest in GT Interactive, renaming it Infogrames, Inc. As part of Infogrames Entertainment's company-wide re-branding in May 2003, Infogrames, Inc. finally became known as Atari, Inc. On October 11, 2008, Infogrames completed its acquisition of Atari, Inc., making it a wholly owned subsidiary. On January 21, 2013, Atari, Inc. filed for bankruptcy, with President Jim Wilson stating plans to split off from parent Atari, SA.

In September 2001, Miller rejoined David Crane at Crane's company, Skyworks Technologies, a leading developer of custom branded online games (advergames) for Fortune 100 companies, where he served as Vice President of Business Development for four years. [2]

Click Health

In 1997, Miller co-founded Click Health, a pioneering publisher of health education games for children with asthma and diabetes. The games were made available for Nintendo consoles and IBM PCs. Miller served as Chairman and CEO. Clinical trials of the company's games demonstrated significant effectiveness. In a clinical trial with pediatric diabetes patients at Stanford University Medical Center and Kaiser Permanente, children who played the company's diabetes game, Packy and Marlon , experienced a 77% reduction in urgent care visits over six months, compared to children in the control group who were given a standard video game to play. The company's anti-smoking game, Rex Ronan: Experimental Surgeon , is an interactive exhibit in the Health Odyssey Museum at the Centers for Disease Control headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, played by thousands of children each year as they tour the museum.

Unable to find significant interest in distribution of the effective games through health care providers, insurers, and government agencies, Click Health closed its doors in September 2001. [1]

Related Research Articles

The video game crash of 1983 was a large-scale recession in the video game industry that occurred from 1983 to 1985, primarily in North America. The crash was attributed to several factors, including market saturation in the number of game consoles and available games, and waning interest in console games in favor of personal computers. Revenues peaked at around $3.2 billion in 1983, then fell to around $100 million by 1985. The crash was a serious event which abruptly ended what is retrospectively considered the second generation of console video gaming in North America.

<i>Kaboom!</i> (video game) video game

Kaboom! is an Activision video game published in 1981 for Atari 2600 that was designed by Larry Kaplan. David Crane coded the overlaid sprites. It was well-received and successful commercially, selling over one million cartridges by 1983.

<i>Pitfall!</i> 1982 video game

Pitfall! is a video game designed by David Crane for the Atari 2600 and released by Activision in 1982. The player controls Pitfall Harry and is tasked with collecting all the treasures in a jungle within 20 minutes while avoiding obstacles and hazards.

1980 saw the release of a number games with influential concepts, including Pac-Man, Battlezone, Crazy Climber, Mystery House, Missile Command, Space Panic, Zork I, and Olympic Decathlon. The Atari VCS grew in popularity with a port of Space Invaders and support from new developer Activision.

Imagic was an American video game developer and publisher that created games initially for the Atari 2600. Founded in 1981 by Atari, Inc. and Mattel expatriates, its best-selling titles were Atlantis, Cosmic Ark, and Demon Attack. Imagic also released games for Intellivision, ColecoVision, Atari 8-bit family, TI-99/4A, IBM PCjr, VIC-20, Commodore 64, and Magnavox Odyssey². Their Odyssey² ports of Demon Attack and Atlantis were the only third party releases for that system in America. The company never recovered from the North American video game crash of 1983 and was liquidated in 1986.

<i>Pitfall II: Lost Caverns</i> 1984 video game

Pitfall II: Lost Caverns is a platform video game originally released for the Atari 2600 by Activision in 1984, the sequel to Pitfall! (1982). Both games were designed and programmed by David Crane and star jungle explorer Pitfall Harry. Pitfall II's major additions are a much larger world with vertical scrolling, rivers to swim in, and balloons that can be grabbed to float between locations.

<i>Boxing</i> (Atari 2600) 1980 boxing video game

Boxing is an Atari 2600 video game interpretation of the sport of boxing developed by Activision programmer Bob Whitehead. The game is based on Boxer, an unreleased 1978 arcade game from Whitehead's previous employer, Atari, Inc. Boxer was written by Mike Albaugh who also wrote Drag Race for Atari, a game cloned by Activision as Dragster.

Garry Kitchen programmer

Garry Kitchen is a video game designer, programmer, and executive best known for developing games for the Atari 2600, Commodore 64, Nintendo Entertainment System, and Super Nintendo Entertainment System, as well as co-founding Absolute Entertainment with ex-Activision developers. His port of Donkey Kong for the Atari 2600 was a major hit for Coleco, selling over a million copies. His other 2600 work includes Keystone Kapers and Pressure Cooker for Activision and Space Jockey for US Games. He also wrote Garry Kitchen's Gamemaker and The Designer's Pencil for the Commodore 64.

<i>The Activision Decathlon</i> video game

The Activision Decathlon is a sports game written by David Crane for the Atari 2600 and published by Activision in 1983. It was ported to the Atari 8-bit family, Atari 5200, Commodore 64, ColecoVision and MSX platforms. Up to four players compete in the ten different events of a real-life decathlon, either in sequence or individually.

Carol Shaw is a former video game designer, notable for being one of the first female designers in the video game industry. While working at Atari, Inc. in 1978, Shaw designed the unreleased Polo game and designed 3-D Tic-Tac-Toe the same year, both for the Atari 2600. Shaw's official job title at Atari was Microprocessor Software Engineer. Later she joined Activision, where she programmed her best-known game, River Raid. According to the River Raid manual, she is also a “scholar in the field of Computer Science.”

<i>Video Chess</i> Video game

Video Chess is a chess game for the Atari 2600 programmed by Larry Wagner and Bob Whitehead and released by Atari in 1979. Both programmers later developed games for Activision.

<i>Skate Boardin</i> 1987 video game

Skate Boardin', also known as Skateboardin' and Skate Boardin': A Radical Adventure, is a video game developed by Absolute Entertainment for the Atari 2600 and published in 1987 by Activision. It was written by Absolute co-founder David Crane, creator of the hugely successful Pitfall! It is one of the first skateboarding-based video games, preceded by at least the 720° arcade game and Skate Rock for the Commodore 64, both from 1986.

Glyn Anderson has designed, programmed, and managed the production of entertainment products for video game consoles starting with the Intellivision, as well as for PCs from the early MS-DOS days to the present. A musician as well as a programmer, he also created the cross-platform sound and music driver called OminiMusic that was used on many of Activision titles between 1989 and 1992, including Ghostbusters II and Lexi-Cross.

Absolute Entertainment was an American video game publishing company. Through its development house, Imagineering, Absolute Entertainment produced titles for the Amiga, Atari 2600, Atari 7800, Sega Game Gear, Sega Mega Drive, Mega-CD, Game Boy, Nintendo Entertainment System, and Super Nintendo Entertainment System video game consoles, as well as for the PC.