Interview:Charlie Heath

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Charlie Heath worked at Parker Brothers and Activision's Boston office before starting Microsmiths with fellow PB/Activision alumnus Rex Bradford. He filled us in on that company and some of the games developed there.

GDRI: What was Microsmiths?

CH: Microsmiths was formed by Rex Bradford and myself after Activision closed its Boston Design Center. We had several other people work with us over the years, including in particular artist George Karalias and programmer Mark Lesser.

GDRI: Where did the name Microsmiths come from?

CH: I don't remember the origin of the name Microsmiths. Our logo was an anvil with a screen in the middle.

[ED: Rex Bradford had this to add: "I came up with the name Microsmiths; we contemplated doing programming tools in addition to games. (Indeed Charlie developed some Amiga tools like TxEdit.) The wizard with the anvil was something of a mixed metaphor that George Karalias came up with, but we liked it."]

GDRI: What happened to Microsmiths? When did it close?

CH: Microsmiths was incorporated for about 10 years but never grew to more than about five employees. The partners sometimes did work outside the company.

GDRI: Do you know anything about Nuvision Entertainment? Information is sparse, and Bimini Run seems to be the only game the company published. Was Microsmiths contracted to do anything else for them?

CH: Nuvision was formed by a couple of Parker Brothers people, one an executive, the other a designer/artist. They had some venture funding but got trapped in the credit crunch of 1990. We had two additional games in the pipeline almost ready to ship, one called Beanball Benny, which was an original theme (Baseball player/vigilante goes cruising around the city — streets, subways — trying to bean criminals and dodge obstacles. Modeled a bit after the old Keystone Kapers theme but advanced by a decade.), and the second, I believe a licensed property called Swamp Thing. Nuvision got caught with a bridge loan for the production of Bimini Run cartridges coming due at the same time that new credit was required to get the other two games from alpha to release and into cartridge production.

Microsmiths was under contract with Nuvision to act as the development house to program Nuvision's games. I believe the two companies combined had a chance to compete with some of the other companies such as THQ of that era if they'd gotten that second pair of games into production.

GDRI: Did Beanball Benny become this Guardian Angels [New York City-based crime stopping group] game Nuvision announced? [1]

CH: I don't know if [Nuvision president] Ron [Leong] had arranged a license for Beanball Benny, but it sounds plausible.

GDRI: Was Jack Nicklaus' Power Challenge Golf [GEN/MD] by Microsmiths?

CH: I think Power Challenge was arranged through Microsmiths. I did the coding, but it was based on the existing Microsmiths codebase.

Mr. Heath currently operates Town Websites, which provides municipal website services. We thank him for his time.

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