For this installment of unsung heroes, I will be presenting Bill Williams, a game developer and visionary who lost his battle with Cystic Fibrosis at the early age of 38. Bill is probably most remembered for two amazing titles produced originally for the Atari 8-bit computer line: Necromancer and Alley Cat. To me, he is the author of many other brilliant and innovative designs as well, including the revolutionary abstract productions Mind Walker and Pioneer Plague for the Commodore Amiga.
Alley Cat (Atari 8-Bit Computer)
Necromancer (Atari 8-Bit Computer)
Bill started his short career in video games after learning to program in assembly language in college. His father had given him an Atari 800 on which he produced his first game, Salmon Run. Not sure if anyone would be interested in buying it or publishing it, Bill submitted it to Atari Program Exchange (APX) which distributed software through a quarterly mail order publication. APX ultimately published the game launching Bill’s career.
Salmon Run (Atari 8-Bit Computer)
Bill’s next release was probably his career highlight, at least for me it was! Necromancer was a dark tale of life and death battling an evil Necromancer (Tetragorn) who was intent on taking over a graveyard with his minions. You played the wizard Illuminar who had to (among other things) raise an army of trees (screen one) to take root over crypts containing spider eggs to break through and crush them (screen two). The final battle is between Illuminar and Tetragorn in the graveyard that is under assault (screen three).
Necromancer – The final battle!
Bill went on to create games in the 16-bit era as well, including two amazingly innovative and abstract games for the Amiga: Mind Walker and Pioneer Plague.
Mind Walker (Amiga)
Pioneer Plague (Amiga)
Bill also wrote Sinbad and the Throne of the Falcon (Amiga) and Knights of the Crystallion (Amiga) before moving onto console development for the NES (Monopoly) and SNES (Bart’s Nightmare) in 1991 and 1992 respectively. It was here however, that Bill became disenchanted with the industry due to the ever increasingly oppressive and corporate atmosphere that was taking hold. He walked away from game development in 1992 never to return to it again.
Bill Williams passed away in 1998 from Cystic Fibrosis leaving behind a small but amazing digital legacy. Bill hid the message: “MAY GOD BLESS YOU AND KEEP YOU” within the source code of Alley Cat… so RIP Bill, may the words you wrote hold true.