INTELLIVISION CARTRIDGE [INTV #4433]
AKA: Arctic Squares, Iceman, Duncan's Thin Ice. Voochko on Ice
Produced at Mattel Electronics (#4433)
Release version prepared by Quicksilver Software for INTV Corporation
Based on the Data East arcade game Disco No. 1
Design: Keith Robinson, Julie Hoshizaki, Monique Lujan-Bakerink
Program: Julie Hoshizaki
Graphics: Monique Lujan-Bakerink
Music thene "Carnival of the Penguins": George "The Fat Man" Sanger
Sound effects/Additional music: David Warhohl
Package Illustration: Keith Robinson
Mattel Electronics had a first-look deal with Data East for their arcade games. One day, Data East brought in a new game called Disco No.1 in which a roller-skating Disco Boy moved around a dance floor, trapping Disco Girls by skating squares around them.
Everyone agreed that the game was original and fun, but they also agreed that the theme was dated and sexist and that, technically, it probably couldn't be done for Intellivision.
Keith Robinson (TRON Solar Sailer), a fan of the game, wrote a proposal, dated May 28, 1982, for a new premise: Thin Ice. A mischievous penguin would skate around other penguins on a frozen lake. By completing squares around them, those sections of the ice would fall into the lake, dunking the victims. Between levels, a Zamboni would drive out to repair the ice.
In addition to writing the proposal, Keith programmed a demo showing that the game was feasible by limiting the skating penguin's movements to the borders of the screen's background cards.
Based on the proposal and demo, Thin Ice was given the go-ahead. After programmer Julie Hoshizaki completed the revised Lock ’n’ Chase in August, she and graphic designer Monique Lujan-Bakerink began work on the game. Everything went smoothly, except for a brief fight with someone in Marketing who wanted to change the name to Arctic Squares, a play on Arctic Circle. (He lost, but not before some literature was released to the public using that name.) The game was completed on schedule in mid-May, 1983.
While Thin Ice was in the game testing process, the Marketing department suddenly got excited about heading in a new direction. Instead of going outside the company for cartoon licenses, they wanted to start developing original characters for the games, then spinning off those characters to other products. And they wanted to start with the penguin from Thin Ice.
From June 17 to June 30, a penguin-naming contest was held, with the winning name, Duncan, submitted by David Warhohl (Mind Strike). The game officially became Duncan's Thin Ice and the cartridge size was increased from 8K to 12K so that Monique could add special animated title screens introducing Duncan and his penguin pals, Bobo, P.J., Minky and Norman.
Just as this new version was nearing completion, though, there was major upheaval in the management structure of Mattel Electronics. President Josh Denham was out, replaced by Mack Morris, who came to Mattel from Teledyne- Waterpik (and, earlier, from Breath Savers mints). Unfamiliar with video games, Morris brought in Jeff Rochlis, a former Mattel executive who had been instrumental in launching Intellivision, as a consultant. On July 15, 1983, sweeping through the Applications Software department like the Black Death through Europe, Rochlis briefly reviewed each game in development and gave it a thumbs up or down on the spot.
Luckily, he liked Thin Ice, but he thought the penguin was too cute. He ordered it replaced with a fisherman (Fishin' Sam) chopping at the ice with an ax. He also recommended changing the name to Iceman. Julie and Monique, less than thrilled, set about changing the animations.
But Rochlis's morale-crushing performance hadn't gone over well. The VP of Application Software, Gabriel Baum, told Mack Morris that Rochlis was no longer welcome in his department, and forbade Rochlis having any further direct contact with the programmers. Not long afterward, Rochlis was gone. Word was that Morris felt Rochlis was trying to grab too much power.
Once Rochlis was out, so was Fishin' Sam. Julie and Monique returned to completing Duncan's Thin Ice.
And, of course, as soon as it was done, Marketing came up with yet another brilliant idea. They had spent millions for the rights to the 1984 Winter Olympics license, yet, through bad communication, an original game using the license hadn't been developed. (An album of old sports titles was rushed into production as Go For the Gold.)
But why not change Duncan into Voochko the Wolf, the mascot for the Winter Olympics, and release Thin Ice as an official Olympics cartridge? Suddenly, with Go For the Gold, Mattel would have two official Olympics titles. The change was ordered on October 17; Duncan's Thin Ice would become Voochko on Ice. [Julie and Monique changed the "penguin pals" to Cossack dancers Ivan, Oskar, Misha and Bobo.]
Everyone connected with Thin Ice was disappointed; they had grown to love Duncan. So an unprecedented move was made: although Easter eggs in cartridges were forbidden -- you could be fired if found out -- VP Gabriel Baum gave permission for Duncan's Thin Ice to be hidden within the Voochko On Ice cartridge without Marketing's knowledge, even though it meant increasing the size from 12K to 16K. He said that if Marketing complained about the size increase, he would tell them it was necessary because of the last-minute nature of the change they had ordered. "They'll believe it," he explained, "none of them understand the technology."
[Gabriel had a low opinion of most Marketing personnel, and was particularly derisive of the deals they had made to obtain character and movie licenses. "When these people go to a meeting," he said, "they pull down their pants and walk into the room backwards."]
Julie, along with Group Leader Steve Ettinger (Hover Force), put together two versions: Voodun, in which Duncan was hidden within Voochko; and Dunvoo, in which Voochko was hidden within Duncan. Voodun was the one scheduled to go into production; Dunvoo was the version the programmers took home for themselves. To switch between Duncan and Voochko in either version, you pressed ENTER on the left hand controller, CLEAR on the right one, and pressed RESET.
But in January 1984, six months after the original Thin Ice had been completed, just as Voochko on Ice was about to manufactured, Mattel Electronics was closed down.
Finally, in 1986, INTV Corporation released Thin Ice. They went with the original 8K version -- no introduction screens, no hidden Voochko -- to save production costs. (The title screen still says "Mattel Electronics presents...") The game was introduced in the Fall 1986 INTV catalog.