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(6 edits)

Sorry about all the edits; I learned a lot of stuff about some interesting history in Williams, and have been revising this post; it's worth a thorough read!

It's a funny thing, I used to live in the Chicago area; Around that time, Chicago was the hub of video game manufacture in the United states; Companies like Bally, Midway, Gottlieb, Stern and many others were based out of the Chicago area. My father worked in vending machine/coin-op service, and arcades were everywhere. it was a magical time. Being from that area, and being a young arcade enthusiast in that era, as well as having a father who worked in the industry allows me some insight into how / why SpellRazor may have come to be cancelled, so indulge me while I share some info:

The game, Berzerk (manufactured by Stern a Chicago-based company) was made in 1980. It was the first arcade game to use digitized speech, and was ridiculously expensive to implement at the time (cost about $1000 per word, in 1980, that was a LOT of money!) so, as it would have been probable to implement speech in spellrazor, the addition of Speech digitization saying the phrase, "Threat detected, seek and destroy" would have cost the developers about $5,000 (which comes to about $14,502.56 USD in today's money) quite pricey.

Judging by the graphics of the game, with it's clean lines and particle effects, it could have only been implemented as a vector game. Vector displays have been used by some arcade manufacturers in the USA (such as Atari) but Williams was not known for a color Vector display in any of their machines (which were raster based) of course, there has been recent info about a color vector prototype that was being worked on by Williams... in the timeline between the games Robotron and Blaster. Robotron was a game from 1982, which would place the timeline for this mysterious vector game anywhere from 1981 (when development on this project was possibly started) to 1983 (when Blaster was released) The vector game was going to be called "Predators" or possibly "Conquest". Although the article I link below is uncertain of the title and has pretty much ruled out the possibility of the game being called Predators, we will refer to it as "Conquest" for clarity...

Some info from the developers:

"Between Robotron and Blaster, Eugene (Jarvis) and I spent a great deal of time working on what was going to be Williams' first color vector game. There was a hardware system designed around the 68000 CPU. We built up a home-brew development system to work with the Gimix boxes and worked on the beginning of a space game." -Larry Demar

More info on this prototype including schematics photos can be found HERE

In theory, development of Spellrazor could have started prior to this, with the intention of running it on the same hardware... one of the reasons for the projects cancellation may have been due to the fate of the prototype hardware being unsuccessful or not up to the performance specs required. Another possibility could be that the basis for this vector hardware came from repurposed assets from the now-cancelled SpellRazor project, and in attempting to switch to a different CPU, found it wasn't up to par and the "Conquest" project fell apart as a result. Either that, or "Conquest" suffered from similar "side effects" that SpellRazor did, due to using similar hardware. It's highly unlikely we will ever know for sure; but it does give one insight. Also of interest is the Hardware developer who worked on the vector – R Van Ollefen. Little is known of this person, searches turn up nothing, and supposedly he worked for Williams only briefly, similar to Mr Bower, and supposedly disappeared around the same time... Are the disappearances of these two developers which happen to be around the same time frame somehow related?

Another quote from Larry regarding this:

"The hardware design (which was done by a classmate of mine that had a very short employment at Williams) was flawed and the images that were produced were fuzzy. I think he used an analog design for something that everyone else did digitally (or maybe the other way around) and had a problem with noise getting amplified that he could never solve.
In the middle of it all the hardware designer had differences with the management and left the company. At that point the project died."

Of note, many of these effects can be caused by what is known as the Bucha Effect (or Flicker Vertigo) when a person is exposed to a flashing light source somewhere in the 20hz range. It can cause Nausea, Vertigo and disorientation in exposed subjects, and epileptic fits and seizures in those who are overly sensitive or prone to seizures.

I think that post might win 'posts'. Go home everyone. It's been won. Don't waste your time here. The winner is Big-E. We're done. No, really. I can't think of anything anyone could do to top that. That is just amazing. Thanks so much!

(1 edit)

No problem; I love doing research :)

Edit to add; You should read the comments on that article I linked; Tons of info! Apparently someone had tracked down Mr. Ollefen in 2011, and supposedly: 1) he doesn't work in the electronics industry at all anymore and 2) "Doesn't remember much from back then"... Very strange...