... Ray Kaestner

By Sean Kelly



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


Ray Kaestner: I came to Mattel straight out of school. I was a EE major. Initially, I hired on at Mattel to do handheld games, such as electronic football, basketball, etc. then moved into the Intellivision group after a couple of years.


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


Ray Kaestner: After graduating from UCLA in 1978, I did a lot of interviewing. Most of the local companies in Southern California were defense oriented and I wasn't particularly interested in going down that path at that time. I also talked to a number of chip companies in Silicon Valley. By far, the most interesting job was the one at Mattel. I had my doubts about Mattel's long-term stability, since they had recently completed some litigation about how they were running the business and also since the toy industry in general tends to follow boom and bust cycles. However, in the final analysis, it came down to that sure sounds like it would be a lot of fun.


DP: Exactly which games did you personally program? Were you involved in programming any other games?


Ray Kaestner: In Intellivision, my games for Mattel were BurgerTime and I also did about half the programming on Masters of the Universe. After Mattel got out of the business, I worked on Diner (a Burgertime sequel) and Super Pro Hockey for INTV, who took over the Intellivision business from Mattel.


I also worked on the concept development for Super Pro Football, though I didn't do any of the programming. In handheld games, I wrote Computer Gin and World Championship Football. In addition, I also worked with championship chess player, Bruce Pandolfini, on Computer Chess.


DP: What was it like working for Mattel?


Ray Kaestner: It was a blast! The best part by far was the team that we had put together. There was lots of diversity the talents and interests of members of the group and that added a lot to the quality of the games. In fact, every year there is the annual layoff reunion party, where everyone gets together to reminisce and network and all those sorts of good things. Next year is the 10th anniversary, so there may be some special festivities planned.


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


Ray Kaestner: When things went under at Mattel, I was working on a sequel to Masters of the Universe with a lot of Escher-looking screens. After a few mutations and change in characters and story line, I was able to finish that game as Diner, a sequel to Burgertime done by INTV. When INTV bought out the rights to Intellivision, they bought the right to all the work in progress at the time. Much of the work that was fairly far along was later published by INTV, so you can see what was happening at that point. After a while, we ran out of pre-existing work, and so we ended up doing some new work and other sequels to existing games, especially the sports titles.


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?


Ray Kaestner: Boy, that sure was a complete list! I had forgotten about some of the titles you listed and didn't know about some of the others. Offhand, your list looks pretty complete and I couldn't think of any extras.


DP: Do you still own an Intellivision system?


Ray Kaestner: Of course! Since the machines tended to breakdown every so often and since I suspected that it would become increasingly difficult to get them fixed, I made sure to store away 3 or 4 Intellivisions in the attic to make sure that my kids would be able to see what I had done at Mattel. So far, I have only lost one machine, so they were a lot more reliable than I thought they would be.


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


Ray Kaestner: Of the work that I did, I would probably rank Diner as my favorite, followed closely by Burgertime. I would also rank Night Stalker pretty highly. I also played a lot of Sea Battle and would count that among my favorites.


DP: What is your line of work now?


Ray Kaestner: After Mattel went under, since there was so little commercial work around the area and no video games work anywhere at the time, I went to TRW to work on defense systems. Fortunately, I was able to get involved with some pretty fun projects using early versions of Sun Workstations and so I was able to have some fun, learning lots about GUI and all those things that are still increasing in popularity. I even designed a paint program for a government project, probably one of the only paint programs ever done specifically for the government. Since then, I've moved over to the PC business and am doing Windows work for first for Software Publishing Corporation on Harvard Graphics for Windows. I also on their InfoAlliance project, which was one of the first GUI database projects available. Unfortunately, though the market was ready for such a product, SPC was not and the product died an unfortunate death. Currently, I am at Borland working on future versions of Paradox for Windows.


DP: Lastly, Dan said I had to ask you about your "Cheeseburger Birthday Cake". What gives???


Ray Kaestner: Dan's wife was taking a cake decorating class and one day they surprised me and brought in a birthday cake shaped like a giant hamburger. Obviously the connection was Burgertime.



Computer Gin handheld Mattel released
World Championship Football handheld Mattel released
Computer Chess handheld Mattel released
Burgertime Intellivision Mattel released
Masters of the Universe: The Power of He-Man Intellivision Mattel released
Diner Intellivision Mattel released
Super Pro Hockey Intellivision INTV released
Super Pro Football (concept) Intellivision INTV released

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