R.I.P. Lode Runner & Douglas E. Smith :-(

417 views
Skip to first unread message

Michael "AppleWin Debugger Dev"

unread,
Sep 15, 2014, 1:24:51 PM9/15/14
to

Antoine Vignau

unread,
Sep 15, 2014, 4:42:39 PM9/15/14
to
On Monday, September 15, 2014 7:24:51 PM UTC+2, Michael "AppleWin Debugger Dev" wrote:
> Paying my respects ...
>
>
>
> https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/comp.emulators.apple2/PIOztNx1OQQ

+1

mdj

unread,
Sep 15, 2014, 10:58:01 PM9/15/14
to
On Tuesday, 16 September 2014 03:24:51 UTC+10, Michael "AppleWin Debugger Dev" wrote:
> Paying my respects ...

I learned of this just recently with much sadness. Until not so long ago, I worked at the same company as Doug. One night a while back when I was up late doing some work, I got the chance to chat to him in real time. Sadly this only happened the once - there's a fair time gap between PST and AEST.

I've redacted some irrelevant work-related chatter, but since I don't think Doug would mind, here is the transcript of my conversation with him.

Jenkins, Matthew [1:43 AM]:
It's still difficult for me to believe I work for the same organisation as the guy who wrote Lode Runner
(Hi Doug!)
Smith, Doug [1:43 AM]:
where that come from?
Jenkins, Matthew [1:44 AM]:
not sure I understand the question
Smith, Doug [1:44 AM]:
so just found out?
Jenkins, Matthew [1:45 AM]:
No. Have known for some time. Just never around in realtime, being in Brisbane
Smith, Doug [1:46 AM]:
was long time ago in another life
1982-83
Jenkins, Matthew [1:47 AM]:
I still mess around with Apple II's
Smith, Doug [1:48 AM]:
wow really?
Jenkins, Matthew [1:48 AM]:
It might be a sickness, but I love doing it
In fact, I designed a RAM card for the Apple IIe recently and presented it at a conference.
Smith, Doug [1:49 AM]:
i had an apple 1, that was signed by all orignal developers
Jenkins, Matthew [1:49 AM]:
had?
Smith, Doug [1:51 AM]:
you would have enjoyed this party 1998
_http://www.zdnet.com/news/games-of-yore-take-over-the-party-at-apple-ii-reunion/100258
Jenkins, Matthew [1:52 AM]:
Back in July - did this for fun at an Apple II nutter convention locally - http://www.flickr.com/photos/10917598@N06/9406884843/
Smith, Doug [1:53 AM]:
when was coding LR, assembly time via floppy was taking 90 mins...so i spent $2400 on a ramdisk, mimicked 2 120k floppies
took my assmebly time down to 15 mins
Jenkins, Matthew [1:54 AM]:
there was a chap on the newsgroups recently who was exploring ways of compressing LR levels and trying to make it run under ProDOS
not sure how far he got. RLE seemed like the way to go
I love the rawness and minimalism of 6502's and 64k. Sudoku for nerds I guess :-)
Smith, Doug [1:58 AM]:
no OS, just a boot address, you took over from there...
Jenkins, Matthew [2:00 AM]:
on the metal, and you can understand the whole machine
what did you assemble LR with? Merlin, SC something else ?
Smith, Doug [2:02 AM]:
merlin sounds familiar, but you are talking 30 years ago
i changed assemblers but dont remember which ones
i hadn't coded for like 10 years before got job here, but finding coding fun again
i do bunch tools we use
Jenkins, Matthew [2:04 AM]:
oh, cool
I got sick of coding for work, so I'm doing the devops thing
so tools, deployment, etc
Jenkins, Matthew [2:10 AM]:
tis difficult to understand given your background why you want to do this stuff ...
but yeah, jquery, node.js lots of fun
Smith, Doug [2:11 AM]:
the game industry got to be not fun
people used to do it for fun, not money...money just happened
now is all about money
Jenkins, Matthew [2:11 AM]:
yeah it's brutal
Smith, Doug [2:12 AM]:
and being public companies now, product is rushed before ready to meet shareholder needs
LR cost maybe $15,000 to make
I was VP at Square on my last major project and had a 3 million budget
Jenkins, Matthew [2:13 AM]:
you must've made a fair killing on LR though
or did br0derbund take most of the glory
Smith, Doug [2:14 AM]:
1983 - 2010 i only worked about 5 years, played hard
cars/boats/wifes/travel
Jenkins, Matthew [2:14 AM]:
:-)
Smith, Doug [2:15 AM]:
no i had good contract with Broderbund
10 year duration and i took 30% of their receipts
Jenkins, Matthew [2:16 AM]:
wow
hey, did you share code/art with Dan Gorlin for Choplifter ?
Smith, Doug [2:17 AM]:
lol NO
Jenkins, Matthew [2:17 AM]:
the dudes on the ground were lode runners ...
Smith, Doug [2:18 AM]:
1: there is only so much you can do in 10x12 size pixel characters
Jenkins, Matthew [2:18 AM]:
:-)
Smith, Doug [2:18 AM]:
2: his characters ran in place....
3: i hired an artist then fired them, I made sure feet didnt move once planted....
did the art myself
i spent alot of time making sure the animation cycles the feet stayed planted where landed
Jenkins, Matthew [2:20 AM]:
it's a work of art mate. so simple in concept and I got so much joy out of playing it.
so thanks :-)
Smith, Doug [2:20 AM]:
you know whole story?
getting it published was after thought, wasn't why wrote it
wrote it in fortran and pascal on the Vax computer at UW
for fun
my little nephew kept bugging for me to put it on floppy and bring home so he could play on the apple computer
so one weekend rewrote it in 6502
Jenkins, Matthew [2:22 AM]:
wow
Smith, Doug [2:22 AM]:
black and white, couple months later thought i might be able make a few bucks off it so sent it to few publishers
got rejected
so took another month or two and added color/joystick control....then sent to 5 publishers, got offers back from all them
sierra, sirius, broderbund and....forget others
when signed with broderbund, they said if we sold 10,000 copies, they would be happy
we hit million in about 14 months
Lode Runner was one of first games for Famicom (NES in japan), sold almost 2 million for that platform
Japan was 80% my market
Jenkins, Matthew [2:25 AM]:
amazing
a million on the Apple II is pretty wild too
Smith, Doug [2:26 AM]:
million was all platforms
apple was like 300,000 or so if remember right
i used to have sheet showing all platform/versions and unit's sold
after 10 years, the rights reverted back to me
so that was in 93
from 93-05, i managed the property, selling rights for platforms/regions to publishers
05, finally sold out entire property
Jenkins, Matthew [2:28 AM]:
did that hurt to do ?
Smith, Doug [2:29 AM]:
contracts were getting sparse, allowed me to be bum too much, needed to put that life behind me so no
Jenkins, Matthew [2:30 AM]:
22 years is quite a legacy
If I send over to you boxed original Apple II Lode Runner would you sign it for me ?
Smith, Doug [2:32 AM]:
you seriously have one?
Jenkins, Matthew [2:34 AM]:
yeah
Smith, Doug [2:34 AM]:
my signature sucks,
Jenkins, Matthew [2:35 AM]:
that doesn't matter
Smith, Doug [2:36 AM]:
yes i could sign it
Jenkins, Matthew [2:36 AM]:
What matters to me at least, it's a part of my life growing up - I revere you guys like you're gods :)
woudl make it very special
and so you know, I would not be selling it. just treasuring it
feel like I've made you uncomfortable now :-S
Smith, Doug [2:39 AM]:
nah
Jenkins, Matthew [2:41 AM]:
ok, well thanks doug. I will figure out how to route it back and forward through snail mail.
Smith, Doug [2:41 AM]:
i know is interoffice packages, but make sure package so doesnt get squashed
or take out contents and will fold down flat
Jenkins, Matthew [2:41 AM]:
box might not
might have to ship it in something more rigid
do you ever get the hankering to do old-school code ?
Smith, Doug [2:44 AM]:
not many platforms to do old school stuff on
Jenkins, Matthew [2:44 AM]:
yeah not current ones
Jenkins, Matthew [3:07 AM]:
I think I will retire. been great chatting with you. thanks for sharing the memories and signing LR. means a lot. I should stay up late more often :-)
Smith, Doug [3:10 AM]:
night

Michael "AppleWin Debugger Dev"

unread,
Sep 16, 2014, 12:03:07 AM9/16/14
to
On Monday, September 15, 2014 7:58:01 PM UTC-7, mdj wrote:

Wow, thanks for sharing that! That was a real treat!

> hey, did you share code/art with Dan Gorlin for Choplifter ?
> Smith, Doug [2:17 AM]: lol NO

I guess that clears up one mystery about the art and Choplifter! I noticed something was different but couldn't put my finger on it!

Chris Torrence

unread,
Sep 16, 2014, 12:08:28 AM9/16/14
to
Yes Matt, thanks for sharing! Doug seems like he was a really cool, down-to-earth guy. It sounds like he got burned out on coding & the games industry. That's a shame.
-Chris

Polymorph

unread,
Sep 16, 2014, 2:04:57 AM9/16/14
to
On Tuesday, September 16, 2014 12:58:01 PM UTC+10, mdj wrote:
<snip>
> I think I will retire. been great chatting with you. thanks for sharing the memories and signing LR. means a lot. I should stay up late more often :-)
>
> Smith, Doug [3:10 AM]:
>
> night

Hi Matt,

Thanks for sharing that, I enjoyed reading that a lot.

Two questions for you:
1. How long ago did that chat take place? (I'm guessing quite recently with your reference to Oz KFest and your RAM card)
2. Did you manage to get your copy of LR signed by Doug before he sadly passed away?

As a side question, does anyone know how Doug died? (I haven't seen the cause mentioned anywhere.) It seems unusual for him to get back into coding after so long if he knew he was ill.

R.I.P. Doug, I too played Lode Runner (and Championship LR) a lot growing up as a kid. Absolutely one of the best games of it's era, which is still *very* playable today.

Thanks,
Mike

mdj

unread,
Sep 16, 2014, 7:44:27 AM9/16/14
to
On Tuesday, 16 September 2014 16:04:57 UTC+10, Polymorph wrote:
> Hi Matt,
>
>
>
> Thanks for sharing that, I enjoyed reading that a lot.

No problem.

> Two questions for you:
>
> 1. How long ago did that chat take place? (I'm guessing quite recently with your reference to Oz KFest and your RAM card)

Several months. I think late January.

> 2. Did you manage to get your copy of LR signed by Doug before he sadly passed away?

:-(

> As a side question, does anyone know how Doug died? (I haven't seen the cause mentioned anywhere.) It seems unusual for him to get back into coding after so long if he knew he was ill.

I don't know the specifics. But I will say this. If you get the opportunity to thank people who had an impact on your life, take it. It might be your last chance, and you never know how much they might need to hear it, too.

> R.I.P. Doug, I too played Lode Runner (and Championship LR) a lot growing up as a kid. Absolutely one of the best games of it's era, which is still *very* playable today.

And the 'aperture' open/close effect between levels was legendary.

Matt

Hot Rod

unread,
Sep 16, 2014, 9:33:48 AM9/16/14
to
On Monday, September 15, 2014 12:24:51 PM UTC-5, Michael "AppleWin Debugger Dev" wrote:
> Paying my respects ...
>
>
>
> https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/comp.emulators.apple2/PIOztNx1OQQ

Very sorry to hear of this.

The pre-cursor to Lode Runner was called "Miner":
ftp://ftp.apple.asimov.net/pub/apple_II/images/games/action/miner.dsk

and is interesting to see the evolution/transformation into what became Lode Runner.

Vladimir Ivanov

unread,
Sep 16, 2014, 3:44:20 PM9/16/14
to

On Tue, 16 Sep 2014, Hot Rod wrote:

> The pre-cursor to Lode Runner was called "Miner":
> ftp://ftp.apple.asimov.net/pub/apple_II/images/games/action/miner.dsk
>
> and is interesting to see the evolution/transformation into what became Lode Runner.

Never seen that, quite the surprise. I have wondered before about Mr.
Smith's choice of tile size, and now I clearly see that 7pix wide is too
limited and 14pix would have been too wasteful.

R.I.P.

Mike Maginnis

unread,
Sep 20, 2014, 4:40:54 AM9/20/14
to
On Monday, September 15, 2014 11:24:51 AM UTC-6, Michael "AppleWin Debugger Dev" wrote:
> Paying my respects ...
>
>
>
> https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/comp.emulators.apple2/PIOztNx1OQQ

At one point in maybe late 2011/early 2012, we at Open Apple were trying to track down his contact info to see if we could convince him to join us for an interview, but ultimately came up empty. So sorry to hear this.

Respects to Doug, condolences to those who were close to him.

- m
Reply all
Reply to author
Forward
0 new messages