Join our Discord to chat with fellow friendly gamers and our knowledgeable video game historians!

Macrocom: Revolutionaries of Form and Function

Macrocom's History

MobyGames: How did you two meet up? Where did you know each other from?

Neal White III: I met Rand while I was a Computer Science student at Georgia Tech. He was an English professor there.

Rand E. Bohrer: I THINK I met Neal through John Lee -- he's now the Director of Network Engineering at Enron Broadband. John and I had a contract to do Smartcom II for Hayes (he did the programming -- and I wrote up the endless management reports they wanted); anyway, Hayes wanted to keep John and they paid me 10 grand for him. I used the money to hire Neal who wanted to do a video game as badly as I did.

MobyGames: What roles did you and Rand play (programmer, artist, etc.) in making ICON and Seven Spirits of Ra?

Rand E. Bohrer: (We should mention Brian Rossman -- he joined us as a programmer somewhere towards the end of "Icon's" development and did a lot of work on "Seven Spirits.")

Neal White III: I was the programmer and Rand was the visionary. He wanted to tell a story first and foremost. I just wanted to do a cool, cutting edge game. Much of the reason Icon and 7 Spirits were so good is that Rand would drive me beyond my limits. I cannot count the number of times Rand would come up with an incredible, impossible idea. I'd tell him there was no way to do it, but I'd keep thinking about it and he'd keep pushing me. Eventually, I'd come up with some way of doing it. He didn't care how hard it was; often he had no idea how impossible his suggestion was. But he pushed me and that's what mattered.

Rand E. Bohrer: Well, I had this overblown idea that video games would evolve into the "ART FORM OF THE 21st CENTURY" -- and Neal seemed able to get the impossible -- more than 130 colors -- out of a 4 color CGA card. I figured he could pretty near do the impossible. So I tried to do "real" mythology in the games -- the Norse Ring Cycle in "Quest for the Ring" and the Osiris resurrection myth in "Seven Spirits."

Neal White III: ICON was way ahead of its time. We had colorful graphics, we had loads of monsters. We had a story and decent music, considering the hardware available. The monsters were all unique, in the style of D&D. When designing a level, you would specify the number of monsters, the terrain types they could travel across, and ranges of attributes. For example, bats might have a maximum speed of 15-30 units. Each bat would get a different random max speed in that range. We had a bunch of attributes like, health, aggression, damage, etc. The monsters were placed randomly, so every game was different. Thanks to the idea of terrain types, the monsters were always placed reasonably well. For example, alligators were always placed in water or swamp areas. We did things back in 1984 that many games still don’t do today.

MobyGames: What other projects had the both of you, either jointly or separately, worked on prior to ICON?

Neal White III: I had done some contract programming on a soil analysis program written in Apple II basic. This was for Macrocom, before Rand took out a third mortgage, bought the company and turned it into a gaming company.

Rand E. Bohrer: Trying to teach engineers writing and literature at Geogia Tech wasn't fun. And I found out I LIKED working with programmers!!! At first, there was the Hayes Smartcom project and the agricultural software project. But I had always wanted to do a video game. And Neal did too. I hadn't given up my day job -- working at Tech -- and somehow how I was supposed to raise money for the game development.

Continued: ICON: Architecting the graphics

Table of Contents: Macrocom: Revolutionaries of Form and Function