You were forwarded to me as one of the last employees that was around
when Tengen was doing NES titles. Dave O'Riva, Ed Logg and Jose Erazo are also still
around from then. (Everyone else is working elsewhere although we have leads on
several of them.)
You're the programmer of Super Sprint, did you do everything yourself
No, I did the game programming in 6502 assembler (and was the second
programmer, taking up the job after the original programmer left without
finishing. There was not much to work from when I started.) The new
graphics were done by Greg Williams. Several others helped (Steve Woita
was one, with data generation for the tracks so the drone cars behaved. A
coin-op person, Hal Canon, did the audio. Jim Blum and Dave Sheppard did
the tools.) We did most of the work on Atari Mega 2's that we bought from
the "other" Atari.
Was Super Sprint the only NES game you programmed?
Super Sprint was the main game. I also started on the second RBI before
changing to a producer role working with our outside developers.
Remember who coded the extremely cool Tengen Tetris? It's gotta be
the best Tetris port ever, shame about the license problems which
meant that it was taken off the shelves
Ed Logg... as I mentioned above. Ed is probably more famous for Asteroids,
Centipede and Gauntlet coin-ops and has recently led the team that did
Gretzky Hockey, SF Rush and Rush 2 for N64.
Btw, how long was Tengen Tetris sold? a few weeks or months?
At most a couple of months.
A few Tengen titles were never released, such as Police Academy,
Cyberball and Airball, just to name a few. Remember why these weren't
Yes. Police Academy just never came together despite two different
programmers starting it. Cyberball and Airball were more a sales and
marketing call. They didn't feel that we could sell enough. Airball also
required a custom cartridge that was more expensive at the time and
required gearing-up a manufacturing line.
Personally I've been quite interested in the "Police Academy" game,
which type of game was it? did a full version exist?
There were two different versions...neither were anywhere close to
complete. The first attempt had several static graphic screens of the
major characters displayed, one after the other, and then went to example
bonus levels (run the cursor around, since there was no character yet,
collecting donuts...cups of coffee...etc.) It was even shown at CES. The
second attempt was more a traditional side-scrolling, 'Super Mario', type
game. One level was partially done then it was decided that it was not
going to be unique enough (or fun enough.)
How/why did you start making NES games?
Me myself or the company? The answer to both is that there was a
tremendous sales opportunity back then.
How many worked in Tengen's NES game division?
This started out as just a few game testers, someone to run the division, a
marketing person and a sales force of three. The first three games; RBI,
PacMan and Gauntlet, came from Atari Games' coin-op programming teams.
Shortly after, a Tengen-only development team was added: a tools
programmer, a game programmer and an artist and they did Super Sprint. It
grew to about 40 at its peak.
Were there any game ideas which never turned into a game? Do you
Yes...I can't reveal them because they're still the company's intellectual
Did Tengen have a lot of lawsuits filed against them, from Nintendo,
when they decided to scrap their license? Why did they decided to
make "unlicensed" games anyway?
I won't go into this too much. There was one lawsuit concerning the
Nintendo cartridge security in general and one lawsuit with respect to 8
bit NES Tetris.
Which game was the best selling title?
If you count all the versions, the best selling 8 bit NES title was the RBI
series of the Tengen manufactured games. PacMan, that we licensed from
Namco, is the overall single best seller although Gauntlet did impressive
Did Tengen have a lot of problems with the lockout chip? (I know
American Video Entertainment did).
Did tengen ever think about doing SNES games (Color Dreams managed to
code a Super Nintendo game called Super Noah's Ark, using the
We did do SNES games after Time Warner bought us. We brought out Super RBI
and Primal Rage on the SNES, for example.
Which game was the last one to be released by Tengen (R.B.I. Baseball 3?)
Nov. of '93 was the last Tengen product out since we were bought by Time
Warner spring of '94. The last game done by then Tengen's internal staff
was RBI Baseball '94 on the Genesis. We also shipped several licensed titles.
Are there any Tengen NES games with bugs discovered after the
I prefer to call them "features" and there were a few. I don't remember
any major problems though. This was probably due to the fact that we put
200 man hours of test into all our cartridge product. If a serious bug was
found, and fixed, during testing, we'd reset the clock and play another 200
man hours. We kept doing this until we saw no serious bugs.
Most of Tengen's NES division are kept in boxes at Midway, dev kits, manuals, protos and such.
Although most, if not all, protos left are either erased or the EPROMS have been reused for
other stuff and the dev kits are pretty beat up.
I might also add that Midway still owns the copyrights for the Tengen NES games and they will
sue anyone, they catch, copying them.