Today's 'Playing Catch-Up', a new regular column which talks to notable figures in the video game business about their notorious past and intriguing present, catches up with Archon and Star Control co-creator Paul Reiche III.
Reiche is best known for having designed far too many well-received games to be best known for, beginning with one of his very first, the delectably deep combination of action and strategy known as Archon: The Light and the Dark for the Commodore 64.
The game’s success sparked a long-running string of contract work between Reiche and Electronic Arts, including World Tour Golf, Mail-Order Monsters, and a sequel to Archon, appropriately titled Archon II: Adept.
In 1989 Reiche met a gentleman named Fred Ford and, as enthusiastic developers with business sense often do, they partnered up and formed their own development studio, Toys for Bob. Together they developed Star Control and Star Control II for Accolade, the former being a solid but ultimately forgotten space simulation and the latter an epic piece of gaming literature seen on any “best games ever” list worth its ink.
Following this was a 7-year contract with Crystal Dynamics, which produced Pandemonium, The Unholy War, and The Horde, which was both the debut and swan song in Kirk “Mike Seaver” Cameron’s career as a videogame star. Reiche’s name seems to have faded from the spotlight a little since those days, leading many to wonder just what he’s been up to.
“We’ve spent the last three years working with Activision on games for younger folk,” Reiche told Gamasutra via email. Reiche’s first experience with children’s games was also his last title for Crystal Dynamics, 2000’s Disney’s 102 Dalmations: Puppies to the Rescue, a game Reiche describes as being “entirely unlike Counterstrike.” From there Reiche designed his first contracted game for Activision, 2003’s Disney’s Extreme Skate Adventure.
Reiche’s most recent release was Madagascar, published by Activision and based on this year’s DreamWorks Animation movie. “We started Madagascar 2 years ago, beginning development with little more than a vague plot outline and the directive to make a beautiful, exciting game, intended for young kids,” said Reiche. “We’re particularly proud of the game’s visual match with the film -- in particular its ‘naďve’ Rousseau-like quality, which was a basic element of the film’s art direction.”
“Activision has the smart policy of purchasing companies with whom they have a track record of cooperation and success, so we were pleased, though not entirely surprised, when they offered to purchase Toys for Bob at the end of Madagascar’s development,” Reiche explained. The acquisition has gone smoothly, and has given Toys for Bob access to share the technical and artistic aspects of other Activision studios, such as Shaba and Z-Axis.
Toys for Bob is currently developing a new title for Activision, to be announced in 2006, and if his company bio is any indication, Reiche’s future involves designing “one great game after another, forever.”
[Frank Cifaldi is a Las Vegas-based freelance author whose credits include work for Nintendo Official Magazine UK, Wired, and his own Lost Levels website.]