Commodore User Profile David Crane

Ever since computer games became popular, software houses have tried in vain to produce a game of a film that would sell well.

Some of the biggest names in the business have drawn a blank with this type of game. Thorn EMI couldn't pull it off with War Games and Atari are reputed to have lost millions when they paid Steven Spielberg thirty million dollars for the rights to ET.

But now the duck has been broken. The game that made the breakthrough was Ghostbusters - and it has topped all of the games charts in the UK and the USA.

The man behind the game is David Crane - America's best known computer games writer.

Crane started out in video games in 1978 writing games for Atari to run on their VCS. In those days the C64 and Vic 20 were still just a sparkle in Jack Tramiel's eye.

Steven Spielberg E.T Extra Terrestrial
E.T (the 30 million dollar game) by Atari

Now David Crane's work is almost exclusively for the C64. But his reputation in America is based on the VCS titles he wrote for Activision. Games like Pitfall I and II and Decathlon were all classics and Pitfall is reputed to have sold more than five million copies around the world. When Pitfall fever was at its height one American magazine suggested that Crane had earned more money from royalties on Pitfall than Michael Jackson had currently earned for Thriller.

Money is not a subject that Crane will be drawn on though. When I asked him how rich he was he replied that his job had made him "rich in experience". This guy has been interviewed before.

A softly spoken electrical engineer-ing graduate from Indiana, Crane refuses to take all the credit for Ghostbusters. 'The final game was the result of a group of four to five people.' 'We worked in a small room, all chipping in ideas, and discussing parts of the game. The talking bits of Ghostbusters were programmed by a separate company who specialise in speech... they are the same people who did the speech for Epyx's Impossible Mission.'

Crane is also quick to acknowledge the designers of the film. 'They came up with a film that was not only brilliant, funny, entertaining but was also ideally suited to a computer game'. 'It has lots of action but is not full of stunts'... 'Its humour is also a major advantage you can put people into situations that will be convincing but at the same time they do not need to take their situation too seriously to enjoy playing the game.'

Crane denies that their will be a Pitfall III but judging from the way his eyes lit up when I put the idea forward I think we can expect to see the continuing adventures of Pitfall Harry continuing for at least one more game.

More film games may be launched in '85. 'We have people looking at new films all the time'.

When David is not programming he likes to relax with a game of tennis. He's a real fan of the sport - and has reached a high standard in his own game. And what does he think of John MacEnroe? 'Borg is my all time favourite tennis pro'. Yep... he's definitely been interviewed before.
Michael Jackson Thriller
Thriller by Michael Jackson

Article reproduced from Commodore User magazine April 1985 edition.
Although all text appears unchanged, some photographs or images have been added or modified for aesthetic purposes.

Thank you to the following websites which were used for sourcing some images that appear in this article: