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A Personal Message to 3AD Veterans
John E. Williamson, Producer/Designer of "Spearhead"
(below the photo)

  ABOVE: John Williamson in Moscow's Red Square in early 2003 during a break from research for his company's newest computer game - "Red Mercury," an Xbox/PC game due out in the summer of 2004.


Date: January 2, 2004
Seattle, WA

Dear Spearheaders,

Your Website Staff has asked me to explain some of the background of the "Spearhead" battle simulation software and the company that produced it during 1996-98.

First, an answer to an obvious question. Why did we pick the 3rd Armored Division as the namesake and "star" of the game? You folks know enough about your history to know the reason for that. Was there a better Armored Division? We did have a former Army tanker (M1A1 gunner), Mitch Caves, who was our artist, but he was not in the 3AD. Mitch was in full agreement with our choice of Spearhead.

Our company, Zombie, Inc., is located in Seattle, WA. The city has the second highest concentration of game development studios outside of the LA area. Doesn't hurt to have Microsoft and Nintendo here. I'm currently President of Zombie, though when working on Spearhead, I was Producer & Designer. I also wrote the manual, made many of the 3D models and textures and created all the missions. One of the other artists on the project stayed with us and worked on the Spec Ops series, Disney's Atlantis, then went to California for a while and worked on Buffy and Indiana Jones games, and is back with us working on our current game.

We had a lot of fun making Spearhead, and we tried hard to make it as realistic as we could and still have it be fun. All the audio in the game is from either U.S. Army SIMNET or live-fire exercises we went to. There were a good number of conceits we had to make to make Spearhead a game, but we are proud of what we were able to include. Especially the multiplayer. Using the IVIS in multiplayer was always something I enjoyed. The multiplayer part was built on SIMNET using the guys from MAK. Based out of Boston, Mass, MAK did all the programming, Paul Cummings in particular. Zombie was responsible for all of Spearhead's art, audio, music, gameplay, and design. The texture maps for the vehicles in the game were based on HO scale models that my brother built.

Some other trivia on the game: We made a demo of a WWII submarine game using the same graphics engine for Spearhead. Complete with battleships, waves, subs and strafing airplanes. We also used it for a demo of near future warfare, called PACWAR 2025, using tank designs projected to be on the battlefield in the year 2025. Sadly the market had fallen on simulation games and neither was picked up. But we have had a good deal of success doing military first-person shooters: Spec Ops (several millions copies sold), Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six, Delta Force and our current game: Red Mercury.

I'd love to do another real, hard core tank sim, but the market has changed and more accessible games for the casual gamer are all the rage. There are some 3rd person tank games, but they are very much arcade games and not sims. Even the long successful Jane's Flight sim line from EA is gone. We thought we had the timing down perfect, when we made Spearhead. There hadn't been a good tank sim since the old M1 Abrams game from Microprose (back before texture maps). But in the same year we came out, there were two other tanks sims released. Armored Fist from Nova Logic and iM1A2 from Interactive Magic (who later published our game). All three had some very good points.

I'd love to hear any feedback or comments you folks have. I wish I could find a place that still had an inventory of Spearhead so I can send a few copies your way, but no luck. It's simply not available anywhere that I know of.

Best regards, and keep the legacy alive!

John E. Williamson
Zombie, Inc.
Studio 3
114 1/2 First Ave. South
Seattle, WA 98104

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