... Daniel Bass

By Sean Kelly



DP: What was your line of work before you became an Intellivision programmer?


Daniel Bass: I joined TRW right out of grad school, I was working there as a software engineer. I had started in Feb. 1981, just as the Reagan Administration came into office. The job I was supposed to work on was frozen, and there was an enormous delay in getting any kind of security clearance, so that limited what projects were available to me. As a result, I spent my first year there not accomplishing very much on a variety of small projects.


DP: How/Why did you come to work at Mattel?


Daniel Bass: In the spring of 1982, I heard on the radio of an Open House / Job Fair at Mattel Electronics, and I thought it would be a fun way to spend the afternoon -playing with their latest games and gadgets. I was not very happy about my job at TRW, but I wasn't looking to go anywhere. When I got there, I started talking to one of the managers about Dungeons & Dragons, a personal passion of mine. He was looking for some people to develop a D & D style game for the Intellivision Keyboard, the big keyboard. One thing led to another, and in a few weeks I was on board at Mattel Electronics.


DP: Exactly which games did you personally program?


Daniel Bass: Loco-Motion was the only game I programmed start to finish. I also programmed Tower of Doom but I only had the game about 80% done when Mattel Electronics went out of business. I had concentrated on the special effects and mechanics, but I hadn't put in the game play and strategy that I had had in mind. A few years later, one of the guys was contracting out with whoever it was that had bought up all the Intellivision property (was that INTV?) to finish a bunch of the games that were in development when M.E. went under. Tower of Doom was one of those games. I had since moved from California to Massachusetts, and so had not the equipment, nor time to do the completion. He got one of the other programmers to finish it up, but he didn't add any game play either, he just tidied up the loose ends so that the game had an ending and wouldn't crash.


DP: Were you involved in programming any other games?


Daniel Bass: Most games were developed by a single Game Designer, with the help of certain "specialists." There were a few graphic artists who designed most of the graphics for most of the games, a few sound people who developed most of the sound effects. However, the total game development and integration was done by a single engineer.

There was a lot of testing, feedback, and reviews amongst the game designers. A significant portion of our work week was assigned to playing other people's games to find bugs, cite improvements and o
ffer suggestions. To this end I worked on several games, but that wouldn't qualify as programming.

I also worked on several projects that just didn't go anywhere, and were dropped. The whole big keyboard project (for which I had been hired) was dropped not long after I started working there. It was deemed to be too expensive to produce, so that it would be un-saleable. Subsequently it was redesigned, and code-named "LUCKI" [pronounced 'lucky'] for Low User-Cost Keyboard Interface. I started developing a Stock Market game for the LUCKI, when, one day, the arcade version of Loco-Motion turned up next to my cubicle. I watched and played several games, and I was hooked. Literally overnight I had developed an Intellivision prototype of the arcade game, and the rest, as they say, is history


DP: What was it like working for Mattel?


Daniel Bass: It was an absolute blast! The people there were all a bunch of overgrown kids, and management encouraged us to work on having fun as hard as get-ting product out. The result was an atmosphere of great teamwork and camaraderie. Some examples:

The annual office party would be held by renting out a local video arcade and providing pizza / deli / beer / sodas and unlimited video games to all the staff and their families.

The arrival of a new piece of equipment would often lead to the impromptu creation of a new game, using the packing materials in the hall. Several of the managers in particular were particularly creative in constructing these games.

Numerous arcade machines lined the walls of the work areas, and people were encouraged to take breaks to study the games and improve our hand-eye coordination.

All of Mattel Electronics and families were invited to Disney Studios for a private pre-release screening of Tron.


DP: Can you fill us in on any 'unfinished' projects that may have been in the works when Mattel Electronics went out of business?


Daniel Bass: I'm afraid that I can't be much help here. So I'll answer a different question. Things started turning down for the entire video game market around the beginning of 1983. I finished Loco-Motion, and in the summer, started working on Tower of Doom. It was originally supposed to be a voice-optional game, and by the fall I was putting in many long hours focused on getting that going. Around October, Mattel had its first round of layoffs. About 1/3 of the staff was gone over-night. The atmosphere had become quite depressed, and I coped by becoming ever more involved with working on Tower of Doom, and blocking out what was going on around me.

In November we had the second round of layoffs, and another third of the staff was gone. It seemed like there was no hope left for the few of us that remained, but I kept plugging away at T-O-D, hoping that I'd have enough time to finish the game. Unfortunately, in January 1984, Mattel Electronics went out of business, and that was that.

So, about all I remember from that time period was how depressing things got, and how desperate I was getting, hoping that I'd be able to finish T-O-D.


DP: As game collectors, one of the biggest problems we have is finding out exactly what games are out there to be had. Do you know of any games that may be in existence that are not listed on the 'complete' listing I sent you?


Daniel Bass: I doubt I can help you here. While I enjoyed playing the games, I was never a 'walking encyclopedia' on them.


DP: Do you still own an Intellivision system?


Daniel Bass: Yes, although I never use it. Now my son Aaron (9 years old) uses it


DP: What was/is your personal favorite Intellivision game?


Daniel Bass: Now you're going to have me make enemies of all people whose games I don't mention! :-)

Well, leaving aside a personal bias for Loco-Motion and Tower of Doom, I really like Thunder Castle for its graphics and music. It is such a pleasure to look at and listen to, that you can forgive it its simple game play.

There was a pinball game I liked, but I was always more into pinball machines than arcade video games. Buzz Bombers and Thin Ice were both cute. My favorite game when I was on mental overload was Shark! Shark! I found that the colors, sound, and pace of the game was generally restful and relaxing, unlike most video games which leave you all keyed up and strung out.



Loco-Motion Intellivision Mattel released
Tower of Doom Intellivision Mattel released
"Stock Market" game Intellivision Mattel not completed

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