ASCII by Jason Scott

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Who Designed Mr. Do? —

I know, lots of things are on my plate and all of us are very busy with whatever has the emotive grip of the world on any moment on twitter, but I suddenly had this weird realization.

Who designed Mr. Do!?

This is what Mr. Do! looks like:

Animated Image of Mr. Do

Depending on how rich or poor you think of early 1980s video games, Mr. Do! is either a straight-on Dig Dug ripoff, or a brilliant reworking of some of Dig Dug’s concepts into a basically unique transformative work. It certainly had all sorts of features that its Atari/Namco-designed counterpart did not, and there was absolutely unique artistry in Mr. Do! that was a sufficient character enough to make multiple sequels (Mr. Do!’s Wild Ride, Mr. Do!’s Castle, Do! Run Run, and so on) and each of those were almost brand-new games on their own, so I hope the value of Mr. Do! isn’t called into question.

Now, make no mistake – there is plenty of information about Mr. Do! out there. Here’s some excellent entries on the game itself, maintained by a wide range of folks: The Killer List of Videogames, Exotica, and so on. There’s no question that the concept of Mr. Do and even all sorts of technical knowledge about the game has been preserved.

But seriously. We have no stories of how the game came about, no information about who came up with the concept and why, what made them choose the design elements they did… we don’t know how many people worked on this game, how the team was structured, whether Taito/Universal had a single person slaving away on this project or a pile of folks. We are utterly in the dark.

And don’t think I’m really talking about only Mr. Do! here – it’s not just what this game’s history consists of and whether it has any meaning to you or me specifically. It’s that there’s a whole raft of knowledge and history that we are going to lose about videogames, and that seems a real shame. Who were the guys behind the quick-and-dirty Crazy Kong bootleg? What about Venture by Exidy? There are so many examples of this stuff falling between the cracks.

This is why I got into the whole documentary gig in the first place – tracking down folks who unknowingly (or knowingly) influenced a lot of people but had no spotlight or recording of their side of the story around. It took a hell of a lot of time to find the ANSI artist Ebony Eyes, for example, or to make all the arrangements to interview John Madill, who was FidoNet node #2. I would have hoped that at this point, even with places like Atari hiding who did what for various videogames, to know, ultimately, who these people were. I am very afraid we have not done a good job tracking them down, and we’re going to lose this knowledge forever.

Update: So, after some luck and research, I’ve found the name of the designer: Kazutoshi Ueda. But that’s about it – I don’t have photos, interviews, writings, history, or anything else. I am sure some of this is a language gap, but still – it’s a real shame so little about him has trickled out into the world, and my point stands.

Categorised as: computer history

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  1. John H. says:

    I’ve wondered this same thing about Mr. Do! It is so much better of a game than Dig Dug. Dig Dug is a game of figuring out The Way to finish each level; Mr. Do has too much randomness for this to work, and gets hard fast enough that good strategy is needed to progress far. This and it’s loaded with game features and elements, while it doesn’t feel overcrowded. It’s one of my favorite classic arcade games, a masterpiece of the time, so it’s a shame we don’t know more about it.

    Possible leads:
    There are both SNES and Gameboy ports. If one of those has credits it might be a place to find out more. Also the last Mr. Do sequel, Neo Mr. Do, has similar gameplay to the original (although watered down a lot).

    Another game that, I think, little is known about relative to its quality is Exidy’s Pepper II, which shares similar hardware, I believe, with Venture.

  2. Jim Y. says:

    I don’t know if they ever covered Mr. Do, but Retro Gamer magazine is doing a lot of great journalism in this vein. For instance, they tracked down the creator of Pitfall and have a multi-page article about the process of programming the game, even getting into details about how he dealt with memory restrictions and things of that nature. If you don’t know about it, I definitely recommend giving the magazine a look!

  3. Jason Dyer says:

    Might as well get started, eh?

    This blog post includes an email from someone who was CEO of Universal from 1980 to 1983.

    and here is the current company website

  4. Lee K. Seitz says:

    According to the Giant List of Classic Game Programmers (, Howell Ivey was the designer (but not programmer) of Venture and a few other Exidy games. It also says Larry W. Hutcherson, Sr. was the person behind Pepper II and many other Exidy games. Unfortunately, the only Mr. Do! games listed are ports of the original coin-op.

  5. Lancaster says:

    I ran into this same issue recently with the VideoBrain Family Computer, a short-lived machine from 1977 whose aesthetic and technical design sensibilities were both insane and beautiful:

    Clearly the manufacturer had access to some nutty designer, but the computer was available almost exclusively through mail-order and the chances of tracking down anyone involved with it now are minuscule at best – even in 1981, Creative Computing hit a brick wall when trying to locate VideoBrain resources.

  6. As a journalist I had the chance of interviewing Tsuruta Michitaka, which is the designer for Bomb Jack and Solomon’s key and other stuff. He had very fond memories about Ueda-san, which had served as producer in Bomb Jack and had been previously been the mind behind Lady Bug, and the Mr. Do! series. A man obsessed by pinball bonus design. After leaving Universal and Tecmo he had been one of the founders of Atlus. Please look here to find some other info on the man: