Tim Skelly Dies: Iconic Video Game Designer Passes Away at 69

Tim Skelly, the iconic video game designer from Cinematronics, has died at the age of 69. Skelly was known for his work on games such as “Reactor,” “Rip-Off” and “Warrior.”

Skelly’s sad passing was confirmed in a tweet from fellow designer Jonathan “Seamus” Blackley. Blackley tweeted on the night of March 2, “RIP my hero, mentor and dear friend Tim Skelly. First guy to make an arcade fighting game (in3D!), first guy to do co-op, respawning, and many more. The world is much s******* without Tim in it.” In April 2019, a post appeared on Twitter saying that Skelly was in poor health to the extent that he could no longer use social media.

Skelly Worked for Sega & Microsoft During His Storied Career

In addition to working with Cinematronics, between 1978 and 1981, Skelly also spent time working at Strata Group, Vectorbean, Gremlin and Gottlieb. It was with Gottlieb when Skelly produced “Reactor.” Later in his career, Skelly was recruited by the Sega Technical Institute and served as the art director for “Sonic the Hedgehog 2.” From there, Skelly went to work for Microsoft in the software giant’s research division.

Reactor gameplay by Jeff Lee, creator of Q*Bert, live from Galloping Ghost Arcade!Streamed live on 5/31/2017, we were fortunate to have Jeff Lee pay us an impromptu visit! — Watch live at https://www.twitch.tv/gallopingghostarcade2017-05-31T22:34:34.000Z

Skelly once said in an interview that he estimated during his time at Cinematronics his games brought the company in $53 million in net profit. During that time period, Skelly said that he was paid $60,000.


Skelly Studied Television & Film at Northwestern University

Sundance, 1979 Tim Skelly/CinematronicsRather unfinished-looking vector B&W game (with a yellow screen giving it a yellow hue), involving bouncing suns– you must try to limit their bouncing by opening holes in a 3X3 3D grid that they bounce on. You have a 9-key series of buttons to open the holes and you get a point for each sun you get to fall through. They bounce not only on the grid you can open holes in but also a similar grid above. The grid above (which you can't open holes on) will get close to the lower grid as gameplay goes on, giving you less reaction time. As you continue to make suns fall through holes, you will inch closer to a bonus bringing you up to (gasp!) 127 points. After that it seems you only have a short time to collect as many points as possible– this is really broken! Tim Skelly apparently asked Cinematronics not to release this yet, as he had several gameplay tweaks he wanted to incorporate– maybe this was one? Ugh.. at any rate, you can adjust the amount of suns you need to control at once (2, 3, or 4) and you can opt to make the grid invisible. You also have a NITRO button which fires a ball at the suns– just make sure you are firing from the square where they are bouncing. This will destroy a sun, but a new one will IMMEDIATELY appear in another place. Note the size of the suns– the smallest will try to bounce on the furthest away row of squares, the medium ones will drop to the center row, and the largest will drop to the row closest to you. Suns that bounce in near unison with others make it hard to capture multiple suns at once. Very dull strategy game, and caused serious problems with CRT monitors (they'd burn up due to carbon coating coming lose). Sorry for the sucky game, but otherwise, Happy Memorial Day, everybody! See you again soon!2019-05-27T22:09:51.000Z

Skelly was a 1973 Northwestern University graduate, where he studied film and television. Skelly said in a 1982 interview that he went to high school in Canton, Ohio, and that his school had one of the first desktop computers. During the same interview, Skelly said that he did “quite a lot of art training; in fact, I used to support myself by doing graphic design for various and sundry purposes – letterheads, logos, matchbook covers, you name it.”

In the 1982 interview, Skelly said that the job he really wanted was a position in Atari’s art department. A tribute blog to Skelly following his death notes that before his arrival at Cinematronics, the company had been known “primarily as a “pong” knock-off company.”

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