Interview:Bob Halliday and Chase Sebor

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Bob Halliday and Chase Sebor talk about their work as contractors for Parker Brothers.

BOB HALLIDAY

GDRI: There is a Bob Halliday credited on Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? by Parker Brothers for the Sega Master System. If this was you, did you work on any other games?

BH: Yes, I was one of the software developers for the Carmen Sandiego game on the Sega Master System. The other two developers were Chase Sebor and Gary Piatt.

Chase and I also developed the software for Montezuma's Revenge, also for Parker Brothers, running on the Atari 800 system. Another game we worked on, Q*bert Word for the 800, never saw the light of day.

Chase and I worked as software consultants for Parker Brothers Toys. We were instrumental in helping Parker Brothers to build an in-house software engineering department during the heyday of Atari video game sales.

GDRI: Could you tell us more about Q*bert Word?

BH: Q*bert Word was designed intentionally as an educational game. Kind of a "Speak & Spell Meets Q*bert." As you know, in the original game, Q*bert needed to jump to each diamond in order to change all the colors of the grid from one to another. In Q*bert Word, the color changing task was eliminated in favor of jumping to letters to spell words. At the start of the round, the word to be spelled was briefly flashed to the user and then erased. The user was required to spell the word by moving Q*bert sequentially from one correct letter to the next, all the while trying to avoid all of the nasty creatures that were jumping down from the top of the pyramid. The letters themselves would not remain in static locations on the pyramid. Small sub-grids of letters would be moved to adjacent locations at semi-random intervals.

GDRI: Why was it cancelled?

BH: I'm not sure.

GDRI: Is there a copy of it anywhere?

BH: I think I threw out my only copy of Q*bert Word about 10 years ago.

GDRI: Do you remember when you were working on it?

BH: 1983.

GDRI: Who did the sound on SMS Carmen Sandiego (or any of your games, for that matter)? Would you have done that yourself?

BH: We did all the sound ourselves. As the person who had two degrees in Music Composition, I was the man in charge of all sound production for our video game efforts.

CHASE SEBOR

GDRI: There is a Chase Sebor credited on Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? by Parker Brothers for the Sega Master System. If this was you, did you work on anything else?

CS: My business at that time was a two-man partnership software service business called Base Two. My partner was my grad school crony Bob Halliday. (I was best man at his wedding.) Bob and I worked on several video games for Parker on the Atari and the Sega. Q*bert Word and Montezuma's Revenge were other titles that we programmed.

Montezuma's Revenge for Atari 800 is an interesting story. Parker bought the game title from a 16-year-old whiz kid programmer-inventor named [Robert] Jaeger. Their marketing department wanted to sell the game in cartridge form, but the code was too big. Part of the job (the hardest part) was for Bob and me to not only make the game beautiful and rich in content, but also to make the code several thousand bytes smaller because it would not fit on a 16 kB cartridge. Parker's marketing department later found out that the Atari 800 was being purchased as a computer, not just a video game system. Most buyers were also purchasing the disk drive. So in the end, they released the title on floppy disk anyway.

GDRI: I did some searching, and now I'm a little confused. Was the floppy disk version that got released done by Jaeger, or was it the same as the cartridge version? Was the cartridge version unreleased?

CS: Jaeger's version was never released. It was pre-production. The title was created by Jaeger, but coding it into a production product was done by Base Two. I thought that only the floppy disk version of our code was ever released.

GDRI: The 5200 version (which was released) seems to be the same as the A800 version.

CS: Probably just a port, as I do not recall more than one game spec.

GDRI: You say that Base Two was around until 1984, but SMS Carmen Sandiego came out in 1988.

CS: After 1984, Bob and I continued to work in technology in our current company, Venture Technologies, Inc. I do not recall if Carmen Sandiego development was done earlier than 1988 or if we performed that work as Venture Tech.

GDRI: Did Gary Piatt or the graphics staff on SMS Carmen Sandiego (Joanne Cord, Debbie Graziano) work for you, or were they under separate contracts with Parker?

CS: Gary Piatt worked for Venture Technologies, Inc., our company after 1984. Joanne Cord also worked for Venture Technologies, Inc. I do not remember Debbie Graziano (possibly a Parker Bros. employee).

We would like to thank Mr. Halliday and Mr. Sebor for their time. The Venture Technologies website can be found here.

Interview conducted via e-mail by CRV in July 2008.