Jon Freeman

Jon Freeman

Jon Freeman was an influential computer game industry figure of the 1980s and early 1990s. He was a co-founder of Epyx and Free Fall Associates and the spouse of game programmer, Anne Westfall. Besides founding these two companies, though he is credited with some programming, Freeman is most noted as an influential game designer.


Automated Simulations and Epyx

Freeman worked as a game designer for video game developer and publisher, Epyx, which he co-founded with Jim Connelley in 1978 as Automated Simulations.

Their first game, "Starfleet Orion", was a two-player only game developed mainly so Connelley could write off the cost of his Commodore PET computer. Freeman provided design while Connelley handled the programming in BASIC. Freeman was amazed when they actually had a finished product and they had to create a company to publish it. So, both he and Connelley, "fell into" the computer game industry by accident.

It was while with this company, still known as Automated Simulations in 1980, that Freeman met his future wife, Anne Westfall, at a computer fair.

"Starfleet Orion" was quickly followed by "Invasion Orion". What followed was a slew of very successful titles for various platforms. Freeman designed or co-designed a number of Epyx games, such as "Crush, Crumble and Chomp!" and "Rescue at Rigel".

But soon Freeman tired of what he called "office politics" and yearned to get away from the now much larger company.

Free Fall Associates

In 1981, he and his spouse left Epyx to create Free Fall Associates along with game designer Paul Reiche III.

Free Falls' first game was 1982's "Tax Dodge". A "Pac-Man" clone for the Atari home computer systems, while clever, "Tax Dodge" didn't do well due to a lack of publicity.

Soon after the disappointment of "Tax Dodge", Free Fall signed the first two development contracts with fledgling computer game publisher Electronic Arts. For their first title, inspired by sword-and-sorcery themes and the holographic chess-like game featured in "", they set to work on "Archon". Reiche and Freeman designed the game while Westfall handled the programming. Though it only had a passing resemblance to chess, Archon featured innovative gameplay and theme. Upon its release in 1984, "Archon" was a huge hit and EA asked for a sequel. "Archon" is still regarded as a seminal game in the history of computer games.

Freeman immediately set out to create the sequel, but significantly altered the gameplay, strategies and premise of the game, adding a new gameboard, new spells, new creatures and abilities to the mix. "" was also released in 1984 and received even more acclaim than the original.

Through the years, as more systems came on the market, such as the Amiga and the Atari ST, Free Fall would port these games to those systems.

Freeman also designed the game "Murder on the Zinderneuf" (1984, developed in parallel with "Archon"). Though innovative for its time, it was eclipsed by "Archon's" enormous success.

Freeman and Free Fall went on to develop other games, such as "Swords of Twilight" (1989 for the Amiga) and "Archon Ultra" (1994), but none did as well as the first two seminal games.

Eventually, Reiche left Free Fall and founded Toys for Bob, a video and computer game developer. Along the way Reiche with Fred Ford developed the highly acclaimed "Star Control" series, published by Accolade. "Star Control" is another milestone series and a significant achievement in the history of computer 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".

They just fade away...

Since these games, Free Fall has dropped from the radar of game development, though Freeman is credited with some recent development work with Square Enix. Apparently, Freeman and Westfall are still married.

External links

* [ Interview with Jon Freeman and Anne Westfall] from "Halcyon Days"
*moby developer|id=69708|name=Jon Freeman's profile
* [ List of games developed by Freeman]

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