We asked former Unexpected Development programmer David Brickhill if he could share some information about that company.
Unexpected Development was a small game development shop in San Francisco concentrating mostly on handheld games for the Nintendo Game Boy and later for the Sega Game Gear. It was started by one of the last real old-school game development gurus, Cary Hammer, in about 1990, but I'm not sure exactly when. Cary was one of the first console game developers, making some of the original content for the Atari 2600. Unexpected Development was his baby, and each employee was carefully screened to share Cary's passion for games, technical skills, and multi-functional abilities: we had no full-time designers. Each programmer and artist was expected to design the game as it was made. The eventual closure of Unexpected Development (in roughly 1997 or 1998, or right around the time that PlayStation 1 was peaking) was a milepost marking the transition to the "new" game industry run by large, consolidated companies. It's very sad, really.
It was my very first job in the industry, starting in 1993. I moved here (to SF) from Virginia at my own expense to take a shot at the job. Without question, it was the most fun work environment I've ever experienced. My role there was as the sole programmer on two Game Boy games (SeaQuest DSV and Beethoven's 2nd). Each "team" was two people, a programmer and an artist. All programming was in Z80 assembly language. Cary really made something special there, and all of us who worked there owe Cary for giving us a chance.
I lost touch with Cary years ago. I think he's doing web development now, but I'm not sure.
Our thanks to Mr. Brickhill, who currently works at Lucasfilm.
Interview conducted via e-mail by CRV in June 2007.