Budge says he became interested in computers while obtaining a PhD at UC Berkeley. He purchased an Apple II and began writing games. He enjoyed it so much that he dropped out of school and became a game programmer. Budge's first game was a Pong clone, called Penny Arcade, which he wrote using his own custom graphics routines. He traded the completed game to Apple Computer for a Centronics printer. By 1981 his reputation was such that BYTE wrote in its review of Budge's Tranquility Base, a Lunar Lander clone, that "Consistently excellent graphics are a trademark of Bill Budge's games". Budge marketed his games commercially with a floppy disk drive salesman who traveled from store to store; he and the salesman agreed to split profits of selling his games 50/50. Budge was shocked when he got his first check for USD$7,000.
Budge does not enjoy playing video games, and described having to play pinball for months while developing Pinball Construction Set as "sheer torture". He more enjoyed writing fast graphics libraries for game programmers. Budge said "I wasn't that interested in playing or designing games. My real love was in writing fast graphics code. It occurred to me that creating tools for others to make games was a way for me to indulge my interest in programming without having to make games." and "The way I got started was by not trying to do anything original at all. I wanted to learn how to write videogames. I ... just went to arcades and copied the games that I saw."
Raster Blaster and Pinball Construction Set
Budge first became interested in writing a pinball game while working for Apple in 1981. There was a pinball craze going on among the engineers there and it occurred to him that a pinball game would be a fun programming challenge. At that point he wrote Raster Blaster, which presented some significant challenges under the Apple II. Things like physics and collision detection were brutally difficult with the limited facilities of the Apple II's 1 MHz 6502 processor.
From this initial pinball game, it was a small step to writing an entire construction set. Budge notes that it also required him to write a mini-paint program, a mini sound editor and save/load systems. Some of the components he already had, which he developed for Raster Blaster.
After writing Raster Blaster, Budge founded his own company, BudgeCo, taking over the responsibility of what his publishers were doing. He printed copies of his games and put them in a Ziploc bag with a photocopy of the game's instructions.
By 1983, however, the computer game publishing arena had become too complex for Budge, who did not really want to be an entrepreneur. When he was approached by Electronic Arts (EA) founder Trip Hawkins (whom he had met when they both worked at Apple) to publish his games, he discussed the idea with Steve Wozniak and willingly signed on. With EA's distribution, Pinball Construction Set eventually sold 300,000 copies over all platforms. Budge's name became well-known among gamers, because of EA's "rockstar" promotion of game designers (other designers who received similar treatment were Dan Bunten, Anne Westfall, and Jon Freeman).
EA marketed Budge and other early EA developers like rock stars, with publicity photographs by Norman Seeff, an appearance by Budge on The Computer Chronicles with Hawkins, and author tours to computer and department stores.
Budge wrote MousePaint, which was a program for the Apple II similar to the Macintosh program MacPaint. MousePaint was bundled with an AppleMouse II and interface card for the Apple II. Apple Computer released the mouse and software in May 1984.
BYTE's reviewer stated in December 1984 that he made far fewer errors when using an Apple Mouse with MousePaint than with a KoalaPad and its software. He found that MousePaint was easier to use and more efficient, and predicted that the mouse would receive more software support than the pad.
After Pinball Construction Set, Budge attempted to create a Construction Set Construction Set but abandoned the idea after determining that it was too complex a concept. Royalties meant that he did not have to work, and EA eventually gave up asking Budge for another project. Always more interested in tools than games, he created the 3-D Graphics Tool, a program that allowed rudimentary creation of wire-frame graphical images for use in games or other applications.
Shortly afterward, Budge went to go work for 3DO, creating a 3D engine for Blade Force. He remained with the company for nine years until its demise in 2003. Budge returned to EA but stayed for less than two years. He joined Sony Computer Entertainment in 2004 as Lead Tools Programmer. Budge left Sony after six years for Google in 2010.
- Interview with Budge from The Tower of Pin
- An interview with Budge from Halcyon Days
- Moore, Robin (May 1981). "Tranquility Base". BYTE. p. 112. Retrieved 18 October 2013.
- Darling, Sharon (February 1985). "Birth of a Computer Game". Compute!. p. 48. Retrieved 6 October 2013.
- Maher, Jimmy (2013-02-01). "The Pinball Wizard". The Digital Antiquarian. Retrieved 10 July 2014.
- GameSpy Hall of Fame from GameSpy
- Apple II Mouse Card at Folklore.org
- Peripherals, cont. at Apple2History.org
- Eldred, Eric (1984-12). "Artistic Tools for the Apple II Family". BYTE. pp. A8. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
- Kelly, Kevin. "DICE 2011: Bill Budge Pioneer Award Panel". G4tv.com. Archived from the original on 17 July 2012.
- 2008 Tech Emmy Winners from Kotaku.com
- "ACADEMY OF INTERACTIVE ARTS & SCIENCES NAMES BILL BUDGE AS ITS SECOND PIONEER AWARD RECIPIENT". January 21, 2011. Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences. Retrieved 29 January 2011.