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ANTIC The Atari 8-bit Podcast

hosts: Randy Kindig, Kay Savetz, Brad Arnold
twitter: @AtariPodcast
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Mar 27, 2021

ANTIC Interview 408 - David Maynard, Electronic Arts Worms?

David Maynard created the game/simulation "Worms?" Published by Electronic Arts in 1983, it was a launch title -- one of the five initial releases from the company. David, one of EA's first employees, wrote Worms? for the Atari 8-bit in FORTH. It was later ported to the Commodore 64.

Worms is an interactive version of Paterson's Worms, a family of cellular automata devised in 1971 by Mike Paterson and John Conway. It is an unusual program, in which the player teaches wormlike creatures how to move on a hexagonal grid -- what direction to move in various situations. The worm's goal is to to grow and survive, and to capture more space on the grid than its competitors. Up to four worms could play simultaneously, with any combination of human- and computer-controlled worms.

But the program's manual didn't tell you all that straight off. In fact, here's the first thing you saw after opening the package: "You will find detailed instructions enclosed. Do not read them. Instead, sit down and get started. Don't ask how. Just start. You know how these things work... Resist them. Do not read them for a very long time. In fact, do not read them until you know how the game works... Then never read the instructions. Innocence is bliss."

David also collaborated on Cut & Paste, a word processor published by Electronic Arts in 1984.

After our interview, David sent me a binder of Worms? development documentation and source code for Atari 8-bit and Commodore 64, all of which I have scanned and are available at Internet Archive and GitHub. The originals are going to the Strong Museum of Play, at David's request.

This interview took place on March 4, 2021.

Worms? source code for Atari 8-bit and Commodore 64

Scans of printed Worms? source code

Worms? Development Notes

David's blog

Worms? at AtariMania

Michael Beeler's original Paterson's Worms paper

Martin Gardner's article in Scientific American

Darworms, Javascript version of Worms?

Darworms instructions and explanation

More Paterson's worm math

EA We See Farther poster 

This interview at YouTube