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Interview with Brian Eddy, January 2004


As I'm very interessted in the programming aspect of a pinball machine, I decided on 2003-10-27 to mail Brian Eddy some questions about his time at Williams as a pinball designer and coder. I was told that Brian needs some time to respond to "fan mail" and indeed he answered my mail on 2004-01-04.
More interviews with Brian Eddy and other pinball developers are available at the Schwedish Pinball Association homepage.
1996 Pinball 2001 Pinball 2001 Arctic Thunder 2002 Pinball 2003 ESPionage/Psi-Ops 2003 ESPionage/Psi-Ops Video game history

Questions and Answers

Please excuse any unperfect or rough english, it's all about the information.

Q: WPC pinball machines run with a Motorola 6809 chip, do you coded the game logic in 6809 assembler or a higher level language like C? What environment was used for coding? Do you worked with a pinball emulator on a computer? What compiler did you use? Were most of the functions taken from a Williams function library or did you use general macros?

A: It was all done in 6809 assembler except for the Pinball 2000 games which were done in C++. We worked on the actual pinball game through a PC as the host, a hardware debugger, to the pinball set up for development - no emulator. The hardware debugger allowed us to set breakpoints and see some of the internals. A PC was the host hooked up to the debugger that then ran to the pinball machine. I don't remember the compiler but I don't think it was a Motorola one. There was a general pinball library and some O/S stuff to handle the general system stuff. We had a simple multitasking system and things like diagnostics and coin handling, light and coil servicing, were all in the system. Game side stuff like controlling devices, rulesets, multiball, etc...were all done unique for each game.

Additional info from Larry DeMar at Pinball Expo 2004:
A special assembler with special directives was used to handle ROM paging. Every programmer had to stick to a programming guide line. The assembler did space optimizations like converting a "PULL D" and "RTS" to "PULL D,PC".

Q: Was coding the pinball software more a task where you just had to fullfil the requests of the designer, or could you bring your own ideas into the design?

A: This depended on the designer but most of the designers didn't know a lot about programming so the programmers tended to have a lot of input in the games. On IJ I had a lot of input and design on the ruleset. On Black Rose the designer didn't really want to change a lot from the initial design. On my designs I always got lots of input from people on and off the team. Lyman Sheats (programmer on AFM & MM) was a great player and programmer. We worked well together on the games we did and had equal input on the rule set design. On the The Shadow I did both the design and programming (with help from Mike Boon toward the end) so it was mostly me with input from a lot people playing it.

Q: (private) Do you prefer to code at day or at night?

A: I'm more of a night person...I don't do mornings very well, mainly because I stay up too late :)

Q: Your Williams history as far as I could research it:
1990-06 Pool Sharks (Software)
1990-11 Funhouse (Sound effects)
1991-02 The Machine: Bride of Pinbot (Software)
1992-07 Black Rose (Design with John Trudeau, Software)
1993-08 Indiana Jones: The Pinball Adventure (Software)
1994-11 The Shadow (!!! First complete own design !!!)
1995-12 Attack from Mars (Design)
1997-06 Medieval Madness (Design)

You started on July 10th, 1989 at Williams, first you mainly produced the software for other designers and it took nearly 4 years until you could design your own first pinball. Was it hard for you to wait such a long time to finally design your own ideas?

A: I'm impressed you got so much info. It's mostly correct. On Funhouse I did effects, on Black Rose I did the Software.

Q: How do you get your design ideas? Do they come out of nowhere, maybe under the shower, or do you do any research (friends, movies, comics, TV, sports, etc.)?

A: As with most creative things idea can come at anytime and anyplace anyway. I would keep a notebook with me and just write stuff down as it occured to me.

Q: Do you still have some pinball designs lying in your drawer?

A: Sure, I still have a lot of ideas for more pinballs.

Q: If you could go back in time would you do something differently, either in software or pinball design?

A: I don't think I would do much differently.

Q: You are currently developing console video games at Midway (Arctic Thunder and currently ESPionage). Do you miss the old pinball days at Williams, or is it just as exciting only in another way?

A: They are both exciting in different ways. Pinball was a small hardcore group of people who really loved Pinball. So it was a fun group of people to work with. Video now is much higher profile you get more consumer press and the teams are huge for AAA titles (50+ people - Vs Pinball's 6 or 7) and it cost about 10+ times more to do a Video now than it did to do a pinball. Video projects take 2+ years where you could do a pinball in 9-12 months. In Video you are not limited by a box, you have an unlimited universe which is good and bad. I look back at my pinball experience fondly and look forward to my work in Video Games. I grew up on them so I always wanted to work on them also. I'm pretty happy working on either but do miss pinball in a lot of ways and may someday do another if Stern asks and I have time.

Note: Sign this petition if you want Brian Eddy back in pinball business.

Now something about the funny stuff in Williams pinball machines:
Q: Why do you like to have cows in your pinball machines? Do you have a special relationship to cows?

A: No comment :)

Q: Will there be cows in your video games too?

A: No. There are not any left, they are all in pinball machines. :)

Q: Could you please enlighten me and explain what DOHO means or where it came from?

A: No. I would have to kill us both if I told you :)

Note: See my other special DOHO - Solving a pinball "mystery".

Q: Regarding Indiana Jones I have an idea to get the few remaining bugs fixed in the game logic. The source code could be given to a small team of the pinball community, after fixing and testing it is given back to the "Williams" person in charge for approval, and maybe it will be "officially" released as a home version or L-8. The team could sign a NDA for this. Do you think this a realistic and reasonable scenario? Do someone still have access to the Indiana Jones L-7 sourcecode? Are you still the person responsible for the IJ L-7 sourcecode, or is just another lawyer sitting on it?

A: I'd say it would be near impossible. I don't know if I would even remember how to set it all up. But the bigger problem is that it is still all owned by WMS and they have the legal right to it not me so I couldn't give it out even if I had all of it. This has been asked before but WMS hasn't allowed it to go anywhere. WMS now makes gambling devices - slot machines - which is a highly regulated business so they won't do anything that could cause trouble. Even something simple as giving the pinball community source code could backfire if someone does something bad like make a game continually swear at people or someone snuck in a free game code and it got released to the wild. I highly highly doubt anyone in the pinball community would do this but from WMS's lawyers standpoint it's not worth the risk since they have nothing to gain from it.

Thank you again Brian for your precious time.

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