Eric Bacher interview
By Scott Stilphen
Igor Barzilai and Eric Bacher at the 1999 Classic Gaming Expo. Photo courtesy of Steve Bender.
Q: Both yourself and Igor Barzilai currently have your own business on-line: Ebivision. How and when was Ebivision born?
Eric Bacher: Well, it's not a business. There is no money to earn so we can not use the word business. Ebivision is just a name on the cartridge and a website (Ed. The website went offline a few years ago). It's not a company. Nothing official.
The purpose was to get a name like Atari or Activision instead of putting our name on the box. And this way, all the cartridges have the same name (Ebivision) and belong to the same product line.
Q: What prompted you to choose the VCS as a platform to develop for?
Eric Bacher: That's simple: it's the first platform we had 20 years ago and we still like the games on it.
Q: What started your interest in programming for the VCS?
Eric Bacher: I was curious of how it could be programmed and after trying it, I decided to make a complete game.
Q: Do both of you work on each game (ie. are you both credited with each game)? Does one person work on sounds, the other on graphics, etc.?
Eric Bacher: In fact, I am just a programmer. My game has very simple sounds and graphics so I don't need anybody to complete it, but Igor is both a programmer and a graphic artist. So he makes the pictures for the box and the manual for all of our games.
Q: What equipment are you using to program your games on?
Eric Bacher: Only a PC to program and a Supercharger to test the game on a real VCS.
Q: Do you have a technical background (in programming)?
Eric Bacher: Yes, that's my job for 10 years now (and I started programming at home 18 years ago).
Q: To date, you have done 4 games: Alfred Challenge (debuting at 1998's World of Atari), Merlin's Walls (1st game ever to require a TV placed on its side!), Pac-Man, and Pesco. Could you describe how each game came about, the inspiration for each, any technical problems that had to be overcome in making it, any ideas that you didn't get to implement, memory size of each, how long it took to create each one, etc.?
Eric Bacher: I like climbing games very much, like Miner 2049er and Donkey Kong. That's why my first game was something similar. Pac-Man was started with an idea from Igor. He found the 'trick' of displaying the pills in white and the walls in blue. But he did not want to program the whole game, so I did it. Igor was much
more interested in doing something never done on the VCS - that's why he started Merlin's Walls. He wanted to make the first 3-D game where you can turn with any angle, not just 90 degrees (Ed.: For years Ebivision's website listed several ideas for future products, such as an interface for supporting 4 joysticks, and a guitar synth interface.. none of which ever came to fruition.). And Pesco is my version of Pac-Man, which can be sold (with no copyright infringement).
All the games are 4K. That's important because we like the challenge of doing the best we can in the minimum size. It's more important for Pac-Man, where the challenge was also to do a better version than the original one, with the same amount of memory. If I had more memory, I would have made the complete version (with intermissions, ghost eyes when eaten by Pac-Man, presentation screen...).
Q: Since the 1999 Classic Gaming Expo, your Pac-Man translation has really created some excitement in the VCS community. You mentioned possibly trying to obtain Namco's "blessing" to make a limited run of these. Any luck with that?
Eric Bacher: I did nothing on that matter due to the lack of time. Sorry for that, but this is not definitely over. I mean that, when I have more time, I will write to Namco (Ed.: Years later, Ebivision did a limited run of boxed Pac-Man carts).
Q: For those readers w/o Internet access, how can they order these games?
Eric Bacher: Same answer as previous questions: I have no time to organize the selling of the game, so they are not sold right now, but they will be available, probably through Best Electronics this year (Ed.: By the time this interview was first published, Ebivision had a deal with Hozer Video to sell copies of Merlin's Walls and Pesco. Best Electronics was continuing to sell Alfred Challenge.).
The following photos from the 1999 Classic Gaming Expo are courtesy of Steve Bender's Cyberroach website:
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