RIP Douglas E. Smith
September 14, 2014 7:50 PM   Subscribe

Douglas E. Smith, creator of the classic 8-bit computer game Lode Runner, which got a second life as one of HudsonSoft's most iconic Famicom titles in Japan, has died at the age of 57.

An official mobile version of the game is available for iOS, Android and Windows Phone. Computer users can play the Apple IIGS version in a browser window.
posted by JHarris (48 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
Way back when, I assembled a home brew Apple II with bootleg ROMs - it was in a plywood case under a bad tv with a shitty keyboard - but it was great for gaming. In first year uni, the thing got set up in a residence common room and all sorts of folks played Lode Runner all hours, night and day. What a superb game.

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posted by parki at 8:01 PM on September 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


I've talked before about how great Lode Runner is. Such a great game, and so sad to hear this.

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posted by jcreigh at 8:04 PM on September 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


Has died at 57??? Sheesh. That's shockingly young.

Lode Runner was an icon of my early computer experience.

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posted by hippybear at 8:06 PM on September 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


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posted by JamesD at 8:06 PM on September 14, 2014



posted by escape from the potato planet at 8:07 PM on September 14, 2014 [5 favorites]


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posted by Mitheral at 8:08 PM on September 14, 2014


I played this game constantly on my Apple IIc, the first computer I ever owned.

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posted by SpacemanStix at 8:10 PM on September 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


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posted by Renoroc at 8:13 PM on September 14, 2014


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posted by cashman at 8:15 PM on September 14, 2014


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posted by Gary at 8:19 PM on September 14, 2014


So many hours playing, so many hours designing my own screens to stump my friends with. I picked this up again just last year and played for several days on it, trying to beat all the screens. Great fun.

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posted by Purposeful Grimace at 8:23 PM on September 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


What a bummer.

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posted by Pudhoho at 8:23 PM on September 14, 2014


My siblings and I learned MS DOS in the early 80's so we could play this game on our computer. My father brought home a PC and a stack of 5 1/4 floppy disks that said "Games". Very few games have eclipsed the enjoyment this game gave us. Just downloaded the iPad version.

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posted by loquat at 8:33 PM on September 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


My preferred platform puzzler was Jetpack, which I got to by way of comparison with Lode Runner on the NES. God, games were brutal back then.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 8:35 PM on September 14, 2014


I used to play Lode Runner constantly on my old Mac 512k. Now my 5 year-old son plays it on my iPhone. A part of me hopes that this man's will stipulates that his remains be encased in a brick wall. But regardless, I offer my dot.

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posted by wabbittwax at 8:35 PM on September 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


Way back when, I assembled a home brew Apple II with bootleg ROMs

I would love to hear more about this. I know how you'd bootleg ROMs with a writer, and I know the early Apples came with full circuit schematics, but did you actually print/etch a PCB, or was it hand-wired on a breadboard?

Considering the cost of CPUs and RAM from that era, it seems like it would have been more expensive to copy/bootleg an Apple 2, but Apples were (are, heh) pretty expensive too.
posted by loquacious at 8:55 PM on September 14, 2014


Where is our movie trilogy of Lode Runner?!
posted by asfuller at 9:00 PM on September 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


Hi Loquacious - There was an electronics store in town where you could buy the bare circuit board, and then you gathered up all the parts and chips and put it all together - bunch of soldering. Pretty much everything was off the shelf (6502, 74LS chips, etc), except of course the ROMs, so they ran a side business copying them as EEPROMs. I can't remember the store - this was in Toronto.
posted by parki at 9:10 PM on September 14, 2014 [5 favorites]


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I had some programming concepts (new language, new library) I wanted to learn when I was in uni, and so I wrote a bad Lode Runner clone to get a handle on them. It sucked, of course, but still gave me an extra appreciation for what a great and tight game he made and well-designed the levels were.
posted by barnacles at 9:15 PM on September 14, 2014


An older kid up the block had a computer, it might have been an Apple IIc, it was about 1986 or 1987. We played the crap out of that game -- Lode Runner was the only game he had, or maybe the only one he would let us play?

57 is really young. I hope he knew how many people had enjoyed his game.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:25 PM on September 14, 2014


Lode Runner was one of the first computer games I ever played, age 4 or 5 I think, on the Sega SC-3000. Still one of my all-time favourites today; a magnificent game.

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posted by Enki at 9:29 PM on September 14, 2014


I came across this while Googling, kinda interesting -- a guy trying to source parts for a complete Apple II Rev 0 (in the modern age). The RAM is much cheaper, as it would turn out :P

I'm sorry I didn't actually buy Doug's game (I don't think?) but I did try to duplicate the logo pretty exactly with a purple marker.

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posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:32 PM on September 14, 2014


One of the best games ever made in its simplicity and elegance. May the blue bricks close in on you slowly, sir.

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posted by benzenedream at 9:38 PM on September 14, 2014


Among other things, Lode Runner was the first game I ever encountered that had a level editor built in. In fact, that's one of the reasons it was so amazing. (I'm slightly disappointed the iOS version doesn't seem to include one, even as I'm psyched to find that version of it exists in the first place!).

That game is a work of pure genius that easily matches anything before or since. I'm surprised it doesn't get more mention in indie game circles.

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posted by smidgen at 10:17 PM on September 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


Man, Lode Runner. I finally got around to Double Dragon Neon (which is great, by the way, but also no Lode Runner) but this is some OG shit. After huge Skyrim and Saints Row kicks it's nice to strip away the bells and whistles and remember how little it takes to make a great game work. Lode Runner was lightning in a bottle and if it's not being taught at every even halfway decent game design schools game design schools have a ways to go.

Also, 57 was my dad's age. When I was a kid I saw that there was a silent auction for my school that he was going to and one of the things offered was a package of games that included Lode Runner. I begged him to get it for me "whatever it takes" I said. Whatever it takes for Lode Runner. Which wasn't much but I was eight and not equipped to do much more with computers than put a disk in a drive so there you go. Anyway, he hemmed and hawed but damned if he didn't come home with motherfucking Lode Runner. And a whole bunch of other games most of which was demo garbage and by the time I realized that I was also old enough not to want to ask how much he'd dropped on bringing Lode Runner home for his son.

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posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 10:20 PM on September 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


But...but...he wasn't old enough to go yet!!

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posted by MissySedai at 10:23 PM on September 14, 2014


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posted by dbiedny at 11:04 PM on September 14, 2014


This is an anecdote concerning an anecdote from a guy who told fanciful stories, but he claims to have run into "the creator of that Lode Runner game" in a bar in Vancouver BC in the mid-late 1980s who had retired from the bajillions the game made him.

I've always hoped it was true. I loved lode runner, I spent hours making my own, super-craptastic, gimmick levels.
posted by maxwelton at 11:47 PM on September 14, 2014


Curiously enough, Lode Runner for Famicom JUST hit the Wii U Virtual Console in Japan, like, today.
posted by DoctorFedora at 12:39 AM on September 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


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posted by obiwanwasabi at 1:08 AM on September 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


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posted by Smart Dalek at 1:35 AM on September 15, 2014


I haven't thought about Loderunner for a while! Played on the Apple II and then Atari. So many levels! Championship Loderunner did what it said on the tin.

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posted by asok at 1:59 AM on September 15, 2014


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The first piece of digital media that I ever owned is a copy of Lode Runner, on Apple ][ floppy disk, from 1985. 10-year-old-me used a paper punch to cut a write-enable notch on the left side, making the disk writable when inserted upside-down. This, of course, is where my custom levels are stored.
posted by rlk at 6:28 AM on September 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


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57 is too young.

I used to spend hours playing Lode Runner on my parents Mac 512. I didn't know about the app version!
posted by apricot at 6:31 AM on September 15, 2014


Great game.

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posted by destro at 6:45 AM on September 15, 2014


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posted by cytherea at 7:08 AM on September 15, 2014


loderunner and jumpman -- two games that sometimes made me want to pull the floppy outta the drive and rip it to shreds.

The Sierra remake just wasn't the same.
posted by k5.user at 7:19 AM on September 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Not a dot, but a

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posted by wenestvedt at 7:19 AM on September 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


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posted by lord_wolf at 8:18 AM on September 15, 2014


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We could design whole levels. Anyway, I also consider LodeRunner as one of the seminal games growing up. Played it for years, mainly on C64 and IIc.. Brings back so many memories not only of the game but the time and age. An icon of the early 80s.
posted by stbalbach at 8:20 AM on September 15, 2014


this was one of my very first computer games.

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posted by rebent at 8:36 AM on September 15, 2014


I feel like I spent entire summers as a kid building custom Lode Runner levels on my old Apple IIe. I can still hear the sound that you made when you drilled a hole into the blocks next to you....
posted by Jugwine at 8:46 AM on September 15, 2014


God, I loved this game on the original Mac. I spent so many hours trying to beat all the levels. So many level required perfect timing and tricky task order to avoid the baddies. Is the iPad version good?
posted by freecellwizard at 9:04 AM on September 15, 2014


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posted by chaosys at 4:36 PM on September 15, 2014


The Sierra remake just wasn't the same.

It was my first real exposure to Lode Runner, and boy was I obsessed with that game. I had it on my college PC way back in 2000 and between that, Half-Life, and Homeworld it's a wonder I ever graduated.
posted by Doleful Creature at 10:53 PM on September 15, 2014


My first exposure to Lode Runner was on an Apple IIc kept in the back room of the Christian private school I went to. There were saddening things about that place, but that Lode Runner disk wasn't one of them, and many of us got addicted to it.

A while later, I saw the game Lode Runner's Rescue, published by Synapse, available for Commodore 64, and figured, hey! I bought it.

It was COMPLETELY DIFFERENT, really nothing to do with Lode Runner at all. It was more a Crystal Castles-style isometric platformer than anything else! Sorta interesting as its own thing actually, but... it wasn't Lode Runner.

Much more recently, I got Battle Lode Runner on Wii Virtual Console, a game that, since Konami bought HudsonSoft, stands a good chance of never making it to Wii U. Let me tell you, the game gets incredibly hard. We never did finish it, although our save is still within a couple dozen levels of the end I think. I should look later....
posted by JHarris at 3:52 AM on September 16, 2014


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posted by homunculus at 7:20 PM on September 19, 2014


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posted by radwolf76 at 12:24 AM on September 21, 2014


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