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The game program was written by Dave Theurer, the programmer behind Tempest.

The hardware design was done by Dave Sherman, the genius behind the little-known game Tunnel Hunt.

The game took over 2 years to develop.

The development board was nicknamed the "Mondo Condo", referring to the immense size of the board and the towers of stacked ICs.

I, Robot started out as a 3-D driving game, something Atari had been trying to do for years but never actually accomplished until Hard Drivin'. Early on a test program was written that had a car driving over a simple polygon landscape. The idea was dropped when it became apparent the hardware was not powerful enough to generate a truly immersive driving environment.

During development the game was called Ice Castles, and PCBs were produced with this name printed on them.

Doodle City mode was added late during development.

The I, Robot cabinet was originally designed for Major Havoc. The story is that Dave shared a lab with Major Havoc's programmer and Major Havoc was behind schedule. So when I, Robot needed a cabinet, there it was.

The large custom IC on the video board is a primitive 3D accelerator -- some PCBs exist that actually have the discrete TTL equivalent of this circuit.

Atari management did not like the game, but decided to ship it anyways.

Almost 100% of the I, Robot games failed within 1 to 2 years after they were created. Several of the masked ROMs and some RAMs had a high failure rate.

The message "you have hit a black hole" is the software's way of recovering from a general mathbox failure.

I, Robot flopped at the arcades. A number of factors contributed to this, including:

  • the video game crash of '84
  • the high failure rate of the hardware (operator's don't like buying unreliable games)
  • Doodle City mode, which disappointed/confused potential players who paid 25¢ expecting to play a game
  • the complex and intimidating 3-D environment (by early 80's standards - considering that the causal gamer was accustomed to simple games like Frogger and Donkey Kong)

Around 1,000 games were produced, but due to the above problems Atari only sold around 500 of them. Rumor has it that the remaining 500 units were sent on a freighter to Japan and the crew were given instructions to dump the games into the ocean half-way there. Somewhere in the middle of the pacific lies a bunch of brand new I, Robots!