Keith Zabalaoui started in the industry writing Akalabeth with Richard Garriott. His second game was Ultima: Escape from Mt. Drash for Sierra On-Line, Inc in 1983, and he was involved with programming Ultima II: Revenge of the Enchantress.
In 1989, John Anderson introduced Keith to Advanced Squad Leader and larger scale boardgames such as The Atlantic Wall. Tired of trying remember all the rules and hit tables, Keith worked up a prototype on his Macintosh Plus. It was a hit and two of his gaming buddies agreed to help make it a full-blown game. Together, they formed Atomic Games.
Keith worked as lead programmer and game system designer, while Larry Merkel did AI and combat, and Ed Rains handled the historical research. Although they had different visions, they worked together on the four V for Victory games, earning a Game of the Year award from Strategy Plus magazine.
The three later split ways. Larry and Ed remained in their aerospace careers while Keith incorporated Atomic Games becoming its president and chief designer. Atomic cranked out three more games in the World at War series for The Avalon Hill Game Company.
In 1994, Microsoft came calling. They were about to launch their new games group and wanted the credibility Atomic could offer. They also saw the potential in Atomic's new product Close Combat. Atomic released 3 Close Combat titles through Microsoft after which they partnered with Mattel, who had recently acquired the venerable SSI.
Two more games followed in the Close Combat series and Atomic secured a contract with Mattel to do an adaptation of David Drake's Hammer's Slammers science fiction series. Unfortunately, Mattel decided to sell their computer games unit which prompted the cancellation of all new development.
The following years saw Atomic Games reduced to a skeleton staff until the United States Marine Corps contracted with them to modify the Close Combat games for use as a modern-day tactical trainer. This work led to other government contracts and the development of a relationship with Destineer Studios, who eventually purchased Atomic Games in 2005.
Keith is now living in Texas and working on a book.
Last updated: Jan 28, 2008