On this page, you'll learn a little about the people behind the 2600 Connection.
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Dan Skelton

Dan Skelton has a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from Tulane University and is a computer programmer by profession, currently a PeopleSoft developer. His background includes everything from mainframe engineering applications (heavily structured development methodology with ironclad requirements) to real-time radio-positioning software in machine language (the only documentation: schematic blueprints and chip spec sheets).

In 1983, he quit his job at a power company to develop games for the Commodore 64 computer. He designed and developed two titles for Cygnus Software, later Interstel Inc., "Stinger" and "Quizam!"

"Stinger" was a shoot-em-up in outer space, where the player fended off attacks from space bees, hornets, wasps, scorpions, and even earwigs, in a quest to locate the hive of the Queen Bee. It sported ten levels of play and over 50 different animated antagonists.

"Quizam!" was a computer trivia game with a colorful onscreen board similar to "Trivial Pursuit," where the player disposed of out-of-control satellites whose access codes had been corrupted and replaced with trivia questions. Sporting eight different game boards (try packing that in a cardboard box) and a program to allow the user to write their own question discs, there was another major twist only possible on a computer: how quickly the player answered a question determined how far his game piece would move on the next turn. So a player could time the answer to land directly on a satellite and attempt its disposal. No random dice rolls in this game.

"Quizam!" was distributed for about a year by Electronic Arts under its affiliated labels program, and was translated by Interstel to the Apple II, Atari ST, and Amiga platforms. It was favorably reviewed in the computer press of the time, including "Run," "Ahoy," "Gazette," "Computer Shopper," "Power/Play," "Family Computing," "Info," and "Computer Gaming World."

Two neat graphic tricks in "Quizam!" were directly inspired by study of the Atari 2600. On the main screen, the game title is displayed in a rolling rainbow, formed by rewriting a color register as the raster scrolls down the screen, but offset by one row each frame so the color "rolls" up. Since the C-64 only has 16 colors, compatible colors are interspersed to give the illusion of a blended rainbow. The second trick occurs when a player has gathered all eight satellites for disposal. A C-64 multicolor sprite is limited by hardware to 4 colors. By rewriting a color register as the raster scans downscreen, the game features a single C-64 sprite with 10 different colors.

Dan also developed the sound effects and music for the Commodore 64 translation of Interstel's most popular game, "Star Fleet I."

Although abandoning game development as a profession, Dan began to amass a sizeable collection of antique videogames, with the main focus on the Atari 2600. Finding out about 2600 Connection, he immediately purchased all of the back issues and started to design some graphics used in the magazine to this day, including the faceplate on the front page and column headers such as the Letters section. He has written several articles for the 2600 Connection, including "Ewok Adventure Prototype Found!" and "Remembering The GameLine." He developed and hosted a contest for the Connection wherein readers were challenged to identify a multitude of graphic characters from many different 2600 games.

In the 2600 collecting community, his greatest claim to fame is as a member of the CyberPuNKS. The last to join the team that developed "Stella Gets a New Brain," he initially offered to create the user's manual for the package based on the old Starpath rulebooks. That role expanded to include the memorable cover graphic, a takeoff on an old zombie movie poster, and, yes, that's his hand emerging from the ground holding the Starpath Supercharger.

A quick aside here is in order to answer a question, sometimes raised as an objection, regarding the graphics he developed in the Stella package for the games "Sword of Saros," "Survival Island," and "Sweat!" Some online critics have questioned whether the graphics were intentionally fraudulent, or at best, misrepresented. Dan's response is that those graphics were an honest attempt to complete the fine work performed by the game designers, whose excellent games were simply dumped in a fire sale as Starpath folded. It always seemed to him that these games--especially the two completed titles--deserved better, that they should have received the same care and consideration afforded to the earlier releases. And since the Stella collection had the approval of the copyright owners, it seemed that this would be the last possible chance to develop artwork that could be considered legitimate, since this was a sanctioned re-release of the games. Nobody asked him to do it; it was a personal tribute to the Starpath designers, and the farthest thing from his mind was any intent to mislead.

The "Sword of Saros" artwork incorporates graphics developed, but not used, for the Starpath game "Dragonslayer." The graphics for "Survival Island" and "Sweat" were completely original works by Dan. Keeping with the incomplete nature of "Sweat," its cover graphic is the simplest of the three.

Within the CyberPuNKS, Dan also developed the "digital history" materials on the Stella disc, and realized that the extra space on the disc could be used to preserve materials related to the GCE Vectrex, since the Stella project was a non-profit endeavor. The color Vectrex overlays included on that package were the result of his many hours of scanning and pixel-by-pixel hand cleanup. Dan went on to design the cover art for the "Stella At 20" videotapes, and worked on CyberPuNKS proposals related to the 2600.

Dan lives with his wife and son in Louisiana. Both his house and his videogame collection survived Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Gustav intact. 


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