When There's Something Strange In Your Commodore
May 11, 2007
My first computer was a brand new Commodore 64. It was a gift from my parents at a young age, and one of the games I was soon given for it was Activision's Ghostbusters. Based on the movie (although, at that time in my life I was only aware of and a fan of the cartoon), the game is a business simulation that features snippets of action and driving scenes. The object of the game is to build a Ghostbusters franchise and then enter the Temple of Zuul by sneaking through the legs of a bouncing Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. Ah, good times. Next Generation has a feature about the making of the game that reveals its short development time (six weeks!) and ensuing popularity.
“A typical C64 game took nine months from start to finish,” laughs David Crane, the game’s designer. “Ghostbusters took six weeks!” Crane is one of the most prolific developers of the early videogame era. Creating titles such as Little Computer People and Pitfall made him Activision’s star programmer – an intelligent and creative hit-maker whose most left-field ideas still struck gold. “I had just finished Pitfall II when we decided that the Commodore 64 had sold enough units to be a good target for third party games,” says Crane. “Tom Lopez at Activision came to me with the idea of doing a game around the Ghostbusters movie. Tom had heard of the project and, predicting its success, he had negotiated a license from the studio. It’s common for video game companies to look at scripts for films in development and try to decide if they would make a good game. In this case, Tom thought it would be big, but he first brought the idea to the design team to see what we might do with it.”
Aside from the Ghostbusters prototype developed by ZootFly, I'm still surprised that Ghostbusters hasn't made a return video game engagement. As I've said, the license is ripe for development. The original Commodore 64 version of the game was ported to just about every contemporary computer and gaming system imaginable with mixed results. The Sega Master System version actually improves upon the original somewhat, while the Nintendo Entertainment System rendition introduced some interesting elements, but with a poor visual style. Those of you who have never played the game should track it down, although it may be easier to just download this retro remake of the original C64 game for the PC.