From: KIM::FXL 30-JAN-1984 02:01
Subj: The first annual Jeff Boscole Memorial letter
This letter is dedicated to Jeff Boscole, someone who wasn't afraid
of sounding obscure, to speak his mind, to be strange, to be brilliant,
to play games, and to use MAIL to its fullest. I don't remember when
he left, but it was quite a few months ago.
To anyone who cares, but especially to game designers with more clout than
FXL, and to any and all people in power at Atari (not just coin-op):
Recently I have spent an inordinate amount of time trying to instigate
improvements in royalties, designer credits, and game testing procedures. I
have had little success. I hereby apologize for all of the negative feelings
and anger that I am emanating because of this. After all, things are pretty
good here, and certainly better than at many companies. I do not however
apologize or regret my negative feelings about the recent release of the
Crystal Castles 2600 Cartridge. (In case you don't know, the cartridge was
released without the approval of the coin-op design team, or anybody else
in coin-op as far as I know).
This is pure theft!
And I do not even know who to blame for this!! It isn't the programmer, who is
about as mad (or worse) as I am about this situation. He was given a unmakable
release deadline (4 days instead of 3 weeks from when he was told). The game is
much worse because of this (according to the programmer Peter Niday). He had
no choice in the matter. Yet another unfinished, hurried, poorly tested game
from Atari. Won't we ever learn?
Games under license from other companies get reviewed by representatives of
that company (Williams and Namco specifically). But games developed in-house
are treated like they are in the public domain, while the original design team
of in-house games is treated like dirt.
This is not an isolated incident either. Atarisoft, as a matter of policy,
takes Atari Coin-op games, lets outside companies "convert" them for home
computers (like Commodore 64, Vic-20, Apple 2, TI-99 and IBM-PC), and then
produces them, all without the creative input or advice of the original design
teams (just talk to Ed Logg about Centipede, or ? about Battlezone). Atarisoft
does not ask anyone over here at coin-op for approval for the final version,
but they do show the final version of the game to someone in the legal
department. On the more positive side, there is a chance that Atarisoft will
contribute to the Engineering Product Bonus Plan in a manner similar to 2600,
5200 and 800 products. Wouldn't it be nice to have that guaranteed and in
writing? And shouldn't there be designer credits on Atarisoft products?
It's ironic that my name is on the packaging of the 2600 Crystal Castles
cart, a product which I only saw an early version of. Yet when I told people
that the message ("programmed by Franz Lanzinger") appeared in level 10 in the
coin-op version I was told to take it out, or I loose an amount of bonus to be
determined. Boy did that make me mad !!! I complained vocally, but only to be
promised that a designer credit policy would be worked on. This policy is still
"being worked on" eight months later. Now really. It's not that hard to do,
just look at movies, books, not to mention Stern, Mylstar, Simutrek, Sente,
even 2600 carts. If there were a policy right now, credits could be in in time
for the Crystal Castles kits. As it is, I am still mad about the whole thing.
Imagine Speven Spielberg directing a film, but not getting credit. How would
he feel? Are we cogs in a machine? I am not a number !!! This isn't 1984!!
(well OK, maybe it is).
While I'm at it I would like to get one more thing off my chest (right
on!!). You may know that the current "coin-op engineering product bonus plan"
(shouldn't it really be called a royalty plan ?) is out of date. The most
recent legally binding document (if it is legally binding) is dated March 26,
1982, and it expired at the end of 1983. It is my understanding by reading
that memo that the bonus plan is still in effect, but it can now be " extended,
enhanced, discontinued or otherwise modified to meet management objectives ".
In other words, Atari has the legal right to screw us any time they want.
Personally, I would feel much more secure, happy, and motivated to work hard,
if there were an updated royalty plan without a gaping loophole like that.
After all, there are plenty of precedents for people getting screwed here.
I am tired of fighting a brick wall. So I will resign myself to the facts
of life at Atari. These facts seem to be that change is virtually impossible
when suggested by a single empoyee, but mindbogglingly fast if management wants
it. And I will continue to feel bitter now and then (like right now for
How do you feel about all this? How do you feel about 40% 30% 30% (the
"golden handcuffs")? How do you feel about 1% under 10M, 2% over 10M? How do
you feel about designer credits? How do you feel about the delays in actual
payment of royalties? (I still don't have a cent for Crystal Castles, and it
has been seven months since it started to earn millions for Atari).
What can you, anyone who cares, do to make me, Joe Piscopo (oops, make that
Franz Lanzinger) feel less bitter? Well, misery loves company. Please tell me,
better yet, tell your favorite manager, supervisor, or even CEO, how you feel
about these issues. It may not change a thing, but maybe your powers of
persuasion will succeed where mine failed.
Until next year, (when I will write the second annual Jeff Boscole memorial
(the X stands for "eX trouble maker")
P.S. please send your answers to @SYS$MAIL:JUNK, or to someone in a position
to take action, best would be both.
P.P.S. If there are any inaccuracies, please let me know. The facts are to
the best of my recollection, some of it is hearsay.