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Lode Runner [Model 11450]

Apple II 5.25 disk published 41 years ago by Broderbund Soft., Inc.

Listed in MAME

Lode Runner [Model 11450] screenshot

Lode Runner © 1983 Broderbund Soft., Inc.

Goodies for Lode Runner [Model 11450]
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GAME ID: 11450


Here is the full story of the game from one of the makers : The person most responsible for the development of Lode Runner was Doug Smith. He and I both lived with our parents in Renton, Washington, and commuted to school at the University of Washington in Seattle. Doug attempted to get into the Computer Science Department twice before settling on a Physics major. Later, I was accepted to the Computer Science Department, but guess which one of us became a millionaire. Doug eventually dropped out of college in the wake of Lode Runner's success.

The earliest version of Lode Runner was written in Fortran on the University's VAX 1. It was called 'Kong' because of its similarities to "Donkey Kong". Since developing video games was not authorized use of the University's resources, it was known as 'graph' until its completion. 'graph' would prompt the user for a function, then crap out unless the secret password was entered to play 'Kong'. The secret password became common knowledge among students, so a 'show process' command would often report 80% of the users running 'graph'.

The only co-author of 'Kong' was James Bratsanos (or something like that, I never met him). He contributed about 15% of the total man hours to the development of the Fortran version and 0% to later versions.

'Kong' worked on ASCII terminals. The bricks were solid block characters, the player was a dollar sign, and the bad guys were paragraph symbols. A paragraph symbol is basically a backwards capitol P with a double vertical line. Everyone thought they looked like cobras, and referred to them as snakes. The player bounced along rapidly and was hard to control. You had to hit the space bar to make him stop moving.

The next version was called 'Miner'. It was developed in Doug's bedroom in 6502 Assembly Language on an Apple II+ borrowed from Mark Ledbury. It was also Mark who prodded Doug to finish the game. Doug originally wanted to keep the bad guys as snakes, slithering around the screen. The most notorious 'feature' of this version is the lack of inter-square animation. Doug had stolen the four frame running man sequence from Dan Gorlin's "Choplifter" game, but still moved the man by leaps and bounds around the screen. It looked like he was ice skating.

Doug submitted 'Miner' to four video game marketing companies : Broderbund, Electronic Arts, Sirius Software and Epyx. Broderbund offered him an advance of $10000 and 23% royalties on gross sales. One of the others offered him $100000 flat. He made the right choice : Broderbund, of course. Doug blamed Sirius for leaking a copy of Miner which was widely distributed in southern California.

Broderbund gave him the advance with no strings attached other than he couldn't market it elsewhere. To get the royalties, he would have to complete the game to their satisfaction. This included the addition of inter-square animation, sound effects, and a new title page for a new name : Lode Runner. He would also have to deliver on the 150 screens he had promised.

With new incentive, Doug worked around the clock, dropping his classes for the quarter (Spring, 1983). He wasn't creative enough to think of 150 screens (he had about 30), so he let the neighborhood kids come over and design screens with the screen editor. He paid the kids on a per screen basis for every one that ended up in the final release. The game was ready by Summer of 1983.

Broderbund had an ex Walt Disney animator working in-house. For a cut of the profits, he would design a nice title page. Doug took him up on his offer. An in-house programmer, Dane Bingham, provided the Commodore C64 conversion and perhaps others. Doug worked on the conversion for the Atari 800 conversion himself. I'm not sure if he finished it. A Japanese company even made a little known arcade version with horrible sound. Doug offered James Bratsanos a flat payment for his role in the development of the Fortran version. James was surprised to receive anything at all, and accepted.

Doug's royalties started pouring in. He broke Dan Gorlin's Broderbund record of $77000 in one month royalties. The last I heard, he had grossed 2 million dollars in total royalties. Apparently, he didn't get very good tax advice, because he paid about half of it to the IRS. With his net profits, Doug bought at Porsche 911 Carrera, a Bayliner speedboat, a house in Issaquah, and a wife (as a colleague once joked).

With the money going out so fast, Doug realized that he didn't have enough to retire on. He started his own company called QAD. It stood for Quick And Dirty, but he was prepared to say Quality And Diversity if he felt someone couldn't handle the real name. He and his two partners, Chip Bulkeley and Mark Ledbury soon began another project named Ralph. It was to be one of the first video games to utilize double-hires Apple II hardware. Mark just did the graphics. Chip ended up doing more work than Doug and insisted on renegotiating their split before proceeding. The project became more and more overdue and was eventually scrapped. Doug went back to making new and improved versions of Lode Runner, his bread and butter. I haven't heard from him since.

Although Broderbund is now owned by Mattel Interactive, Mr. Smith still owns the rights to Lode Runner.


Extra life: Press [Ctrl] + [Shift] + 2 during gameplay.

Level skip: Press [Ctrl] + [Shift] + 6 during gameplay.


usa Atari 5200 (unreleased prototype)
usa Atari 7800 (unreleased prototype)
japan Nintendo Famicom (jul.31, 1984) "Lode Runner [Model HFC-LR]"
japan Sega SG-1000/SC-3000 (nov.1984) "Lode Runner [Model G-1031]"
europe Sega SG-1000 (1984) "Lode Runner"
usa Nintendo NES (sept.1987) "Lode Runner [Model NES-LO]"
usa Atari XE Game System (1987, Lode Runner)
japan Nintendo GBA (feb.21, 2003) "Lode Runner [Model AGB-P-A39J]"
japan Nintendo GBA (dec.22, 2005) "Hudson Best Collection Vol.2 - Lode Runner Collection [Model AGB-B72J-JPN]"

usa Commodore C64 (1983, Lode Runner)
usa PC [MS-DOS] (1983)
japan Sharp X1 (1984)
japan MSX (nov.1984) "Lode Runner [Model HBS-G020C]"
japan Fujitsu FM-7 (nov.1984)
usa Apple Macintosh (1984, Lode Runner)
usa Tandy Color Computer (1985) "Gold Runner"
europe Amstrad CPC (mar.1989, Lode Runner)
japan Nec PC-9801 (jul.1989) "Lode Runner Hozonban"

Arcade (1984) "Lode Runner"
usa Mobile Phone (2004)
usa Apple iPhone/iPod (dec.16, 2008)
usa Apple iPhone/iPod (mar.10, 2012) "Lode Runner-i [Model 501890227]"


Game's ROM.