Free Fall Associates
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Free Fall Associates was a video game developer of the 1980s and early 1990s founded in 1981 by game designer Jon Freeman, game programmer Anne Westfall, and game designer Paul Reiche III. Westfall and Freeman are married. To start the new company, Freeman and Westfall left Epyx, the company Freeman co-founded in 1978. Free Fall Associates is best known for Archon: The Light and the Dark (1983), which was one of the first games from new publisher Electronic Arts.
Freeman, along with friend Jim Connelley, started Epyx as Automated Simulations as a vehicle to publish a game they had created together called Starfleet Orion for the Commodore PET home computer. They eventually published dozens of titles for numerous platforms, some very successful.
By 1981, however, Freeman had become frustrated with what he called "office politics" and decided to leave the company. His wife, Westfall, joined him, though she cites a desire to learn assembly language programming on the Atari 800 as a motivation. Reiche joined the duo as the company's third member.
Free Falls' first game was 1982's Tax Dodge, a maze chase for the Atari 8-bit family. According to Freeman, "Mainstream adults loved the idea, and we got written up in some major business magazines, but the market wasn't there yet".
Association with Electronic Arts
Soon Freeman made a contact that would prove pivotal for both Free Fall and the fledgling computer game publisher, Electronic Arts (EA). The same day he incorporated his company, Trip Hawkins contacted Freeman. Freeman was attracted by EA's generous attitude and the welcome windfall of development cash. Soon, Free Fall signed EA's first two development contracts.
For their first title, inspired by sword-and-sorcery themes and the holographic chess-like game featured in Star Wars, they set to work on Archon. Originally developed as a two-player only game, EA requested a one-player mode as well. Though it only had a passing resemblance to chess, Archon featured innovative gameplay and theme. Freeman and Reiche developed the game design and Westfall focused on the programming. Freeman and Reiche also developed the artwork for this first version for the Atari home systems.
Upon its release in 1984, Archon was an enormous hit. It is still regarded as a seminal game in the history of computer games.
Due to Archon's success, EA asked for a sequel. Freeman and Westfall immediately set out creating it, but significantly altered the gameplay, strategies and premise of the game, adding a new gameboard, new spells, new creatures and abilities to the mix. Archon II: Adept was also released in 1984 and received even more acclaim than the original.
Both these games were lucrative for both Free Fall and EA and were key to EA's success as a fledgling publisher. Through the years, as more systems came on the market, such as the Amiga and the Atari ST, FreeFall ported these games to those systems. The games were hits on all systems for which they were released.
Free Fall also developed a murder mystery game concurrently with the first Archon. Murder on the Zinderneuf (MotZ), with Robert Leyland, was innovative in that it generated a new plot each time it was played. Freeman says he was inspired by his favorite board game Clue. MotZ debuted a few weeks after Archon, but was eclipsed by Archon's enormous success.
Freeman and Westfall went on to develop a few more games, such as Swords of Twilight (1989) for the Amiga and Archon Ultra (1994). Sometime during this period, Reiche left for other opportunities. None of these other games did nearly as well as Free Fall's first two seminal games.
After the disappointment of their later titles, Free Fall went on to develop some online card games which were featured on Prodigy's GameTV service. These games included Simplex, Eureka, Reflection, Stop & Go, Grab and Heartless.
Free Fall Games
By 2002, Freeman and Westfall had renamed their company Free Fall Games. Their only game to date, Triplicards, was released in or around 2002.
- Interview with Jon Freeman and Anne Westfall from Halcyon Days
- Bateman, Selby (November 1984). "Free Fall Associates: The Designers Behind Archon and Archon II: Adept". Compute!'s Gazette. p. 54. Retrieved 6 July 2014.