David Crane Activision

David Crane, top programmer for Activision, lets Christina Erskine in on the secrets behind Pitfall, Ghostbusters and his other top-selling games.

Last Year's Christmas hit in the software industry was undoubtedly Ghostbusters.

The Commodore 64 version alone sold over 100,000 units in the UK, and its use of music and speech synthesis is probably the most spectacular yet on a home micro.

We spoke to the writer and designer of Ghostbusters, David Crane, Activision's top programmer, when he visited this country from California recently, Ghostbusters was far from David's first big success - he wrote many early games for Activision on the Atari VCS machines, not to mention Pitfall and Decathlon, also available on the Commodore.

Ghostbusters was, however, the first game David programmed directly on to the Commodore - previously he had always written primarily for the Atari micros - Commodore versions coming later.

"The first time I went to see the movie in the USA - when it was breaking box office records - I had no idea that Activision was negotiating with Columbia for computer rights. It was a good thing I enjoyed the movie. A couple of weeks or so later, I was asked if I would be interested in writing a game to be based around Ghostbusters. I was interested, but the big problem was that they wanted it finished in six weeks time.

"I usually spend around eight months over a game - the first two months I work out an overall game plan and write the screens and then spend six months refining it, going over all the small details and debugging."
Ghostbusters Columbia Pictures Inc
Ghostbusters Movie Poster
© Copyright 1984 Columbia Pictures Inc.

"I was interested in Ghostbusters, but I said I didn't think I could do it on my own. So for the first time, Activision decided we could do Ghostbusters as a team effort - I could work on how the game was to look and what would be contained, but we could get others to help with the implementation and refining job."

"That evening I went to see the movie again - this time from a rather different viewpoint - and I realised I already had some screens for a game I had been playing around with that could be used in Ghostbusters. It seemed to make the job a little easier. I agreed to do it, and began burning the midnight oil from that day on."

Ghostbusters Columbia Pictures Inc
Ghostbusters Movie Photo
© Copyright 1984 Columbia Pictures Inc.