Rebecca Heineman is a remarkable game developer, hacker, author, and the world’s first e-sport champion, when she at the age of 17 years won the Atari 2600 National Space Invaders Championship in 1980.
Rebecca Heineman: “I made it possible to play female characters in Bard’s Tale III. And it wasn’t that hard to add women characters – all the arguments about how this is so hard, too much technology, too much change, and too costly. Nope, it took me like a day and a half to add female characters. And that was one of the things which people remembered about that game. Yah you can now play as a woman. All your characters – your hunters and your shield masters, they can all be any gender. I even supported none-gender, so there were 4 genders in the game: he, she, it and NAME. I actually added all the features in the game engine to be able to handled English and have proper pronounce.”
Rebecca Heineman taught herself how to program at the age of 15 by reverse engineering and memorizing the complete instruction set for Atari 2600 (which she still remembers today). She had no money and wanted to play Atari games, thus the only way to get access to the games was by reverse engineering and creating an add-on chip sets which allowed her to copy Atari 2600 games and play them on her Apple II. After winning the championship she published two books about how to beat videogames, and she also wrote articles for an electronic game magazine. In 1981, at the age of 17 (she said she was 18) Rebecca was recruited by Avalon Hill gaming company and moved to Maryland. Here she worked on the first two games Out of Control and London Blitz – which she got paid to create, which was huge step for Rebecca who had never been to college and had dropped out of high school. After 1 year she was recruited by Time Warner to work on a project called Play Cable, which was discontinued and never released. She moved back to California and through old hacker connections ended up creating Interplay together with Brian Fargo, Jay Patel, and Troy Worrell. They were all very young, and the day they formed the company they joked that none of them were old enough to buy wine to celebrate. Rebecca stayed with Interplay for 11.5 years, where she turned out games like crazy. It was during her time at Interplay that she did Mind Shadow, Tracer Sanction, Tass time in Tone town, and the Racing and Destruction set for Atari. She did many Mac games, Gameboy games, Nintendo etc. Particular impressive was her game Bard’s Tale III. While Rebecca had taking part in Bard’s Tale I and II – Bard’s Tale III was her own creation. She did the game engine, the audio, the visual, input, user interface – and all the technology and programming – and most memorable she added women characters to the game in 1987!
She left Interplay and used her money to form a new company called Logicware. Logicware published many Mac games including Tempest 2000 and Half-life, as well as build ports and drivers for Mac e.g. Mac port for Quarke II. After 4 years, she created a new company called Contraband, where focus was on new original games. Contraband was bought be Electronic Arts, and Rebecca found herself as an employee for the first time in many years. After that she began contracting again, and then ended up interviewing for both Microsoft and Apple and ended up with Microsoft, because they were fast in hiring her – only five days from interview until she had her blue badge and began working. She stayed with Microsoft for 3 years, did some work at Amazon, and then at Sony in their advanced technology group – before she together with good friends in the bay area created her latest company Olde Sküül.
In total Rebecca have created 275 games over the last 39 years in the computer game business and she is continuously adding to the number. Currently she is working on three original games which are all to be release on the gaming platform Steam from her company Olde Sküül.