1985 - 10 Things You Might Not Know About GAUNTLET

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Geek Dave needs food badly...

1. Clearly Gauntlet was inspired by the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons. Atari game designer Ed Logg's son was a huge fan and for several years had been begging his dad to make a D&D video game. Logg was the co-creator of Asteroids and Centipede, but try as he might he couldn't figure out how to bring D&D to a gaming screen. Then in 1983 Atari released a game called Dandy on their Atari 800 computer system...

Looking a little bit like Boulderdash, Dandy was in fact a four player dungeon exploration style game designed by John Palevich. Using this game for his jumping in point, Logg set to work producing the arcade classic.

2. Atari were very keen on Logg's idea to produce a four player arcade game, because at the time many arcades were struggling, and because of it machine sales were down. So Atari quickly saw a great sales angle -  with four people playing simultaneously the earnings would be four times as much! Further suggestions were added early in the games development, all to maximise coin drop - the game would feature a drop-in/drop-out design, so if someone died they could immediately rejoin, or someone new could step in for them. Gauntlet would also be endless, so if the players did complete all the levels, they would be recycled first by flipping them horizontally, then vertically, then back to the beginning and repeat.

3. Development on the arcade game took almost two years, with the first character art produced on January 1st 1984...

4. During almost all of the games production it was known simply as Dungeons, but in April 1985 Logg was informed that the name was legally unavailable, and so the following month Gauntlet was born.

5. It wasn't just the title that needed changing before release. The Valkyrie was originally known as Amazon, and the Warrior was called Hulk.

6. Atari's marketing team weren't convinced about Gauntlet, so they ran a very limited test release in the Summer of 1985. This was a fairly common practice at the time, an operator would be given the cabinet for free, under the condition that they wouldn't promote it and that they'd share the coin drop numbers. Logg was sure it would be a huge success and went to check out the arcade field test for himself. When he got there he found a team of developers from SEGA taking photos of the cabinet, and extensive notes on the gameply. Atari immediately pulled the machine from the arcade and never worked with that operator again! 

7. Gauntlet was a huge success when released in October 1985, reportedly earning one San Mateo, California arcade operator $15,000 in sixteen weeks and another Canadian operator $4,500 in just nine days.

Arcade operators were quick to catch on to the coin drop buzz, meaning Atari ultimately sold a grand total of 7,848 Gauntlet video game arcade cabinets.

8.  Gauntlet is often remembered for its extensive use of speech, something quite uncommon at the time. The game had a narrator, whose voice was produced by a Texas Instruments TMS5220C speech chip. Many years later, in the January 2002 issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly, the line "Red warrior needs food badly!" was named the third best game line ever!

9. In a very rare move for an arcade game, Atari produced an animated commercial for Gauntlet which ran in cinemas. Complete with tag line "The most fun a quarter can buy"...

10. Not everybody was happy with Gauntlet's success. Remember John Palevich? He was more than a little upset that Ed Logg was credited for the Original Game Design of Gauntlet, so much so he threatened a lawsuit asserting that the original concept for the game was from his title, Dandy. The conflict was settled without any suit being filed, with Atari allegedly awarding Palevich a Gauntlet game machine as part of the settlement.

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