All in all,
was a stupid game devoid of entertainment value. But it was loaded with clever graphics stunts (I even showed the water
through pipes with little moving
) and boasted plenty of good sound effects: rumbling earthquakes, clanging metal, insistent klaxons, and so forth. I could hide behind the fact that software in those days was mostly bad. Indeed, at about the same time that we released
for the Atari HCS, somebody else released a game called
Three Mile Island
for the Apple II. This may be hard to believe, but
Three Mile Island
was considerably inferior to
. As a simulation it stank, its display was dull, its input structure was completely confusing, it had no sound effects, and the gameplay was, astoundingly, even
But I couldn't get away with such excuses. I screwed up the design of
. If I had it all to do over again, I would start my design process by asking
, "What is fun and interesting about
power plants?" The answer, of course, would be "Not much," and I would walk away from the idea of building such a game.
About six months after
was released, there was a minor
at a nuclear power plant in upstate New York, and Ted Koppel of
his show to the problems of nuclear power plant safety. As a pleasant
for the show, he sent his San Francisco area reporter, Ken Kashiwahara, to interview me. He obtained permission from Atari to interview me and we got together in a demo room on the Atari campus. Remember, this was all on a tight schedule: The decision to devote the show to nuclear power plant safety was made in the morning, and the show would air that night.
There were four of us in the demo room: Ken, his cameraman, myself, and a suspicious Atari public relations person who made sure to keep me on the straight and narrow. I was quite nervous and kept
over at the PR person for reassurance that I wasn't about to get myself
. Ken figured out what was going on and put me at ease by suggesting that, prior to the interview, we just run through the basics while the cameraman got the lighting perfect. He asked me to talk about the game and I happily obliged, losing myself in the fun of explaining all the cute features in the game. Warming to my subject, I laughed and giggled as I fought earthquakes, struggled with
, and eventually melted down the reactor. Having explained the operation of the game to him, I handed him the joystick and suggested he give it a try.
"No, thanks," Ken
. "We've got our interview."
Stunned, I stared uncomprehendingly. "But, but, aren't you going to do the interview?" I pleaded.
"We left the camera running while you were talking. You did great!"
The PR person was furious at being tricked. I grinned in admiration and tried,
, to echo the PR guy's mortification. Ken Kashiwahara sure was a smooth operator. That night,
were treated to the sight of Chris Crawford bouncing up and down in his
, laughingly pointing at the screen, and twittering in his best choirboy voice, "Oh no, Mr. Bob! Steam voiding!"