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CREATED MAR.16.2002
UPDATED MAR.16.2002
THE ADVENTURE OF ODYSSEY SOFTWARE
A LOT OF WRONG TURNS LEADING TO THEIR DOWNFALL
Odyssey Software was one of a handful of American companies with a dream of making Nintendo games. The brain behind Odyssey Software was a guy called Art Cestaro, based in Boston, a computer game wiz who had been programming games out of his bedroom for years, until he renamed his own little "company", called Northstar Software, to Odyssey Software sometime in 1990, and the serious business began.

The first employee to start working at Odyssey was Lane Waters, who Art had met at some "sort of" computer club. In the beginning Odyssey Software did some Amiga games, most clones of other games, but then Art got the idea of making NES games, which would be sold to other companies, they did no manufacturing themselves.

But that time three more guys, George C. Rucker, Steve Tilton and Mike Smith, had joined the company. These three guys and Art started making what was to become their first NES game, Moon Ranger. I believe Moon Ranger was a game ported to the NES from the Amiga. It was released in 1990 at Color Dreams low-budget label, Bunch Games. The game had 4 guys involved, Art Cestaro, George C. Rucker, Mike Smith and Steve Tilton.

Odyssey Software then teamed up with American Video Entertainment to produce a range of games for them. Their first game was Deathbots, a port of Lane Waters Amiga game, which was released in 1991, ported by Art Cestaro, George C. Rucker and Mike Smith. In 1992 Odyssey had two more games ready for American Video Entertainment, and by that time Soren M. Young had joined the company. The two card games were Blackjack and Solitaire, both quite rare and sought after American Video Entertainment titles among collectors. For those interested, Soren (Søren) is actually a Danish name.

Odyssey Software went bankrupt late 1995, Art went chapter 11, and then eventually chapter 7. One of the last guys to start working at Odyssey was Jerry Normandin, he had nothing to do with the NES programming as they were history by the time he joined the company. Art Cestaro had found one of his shareware applications he wrote in 1994 and asked him to add a multimedia engine to a PC game engine Geroge C. Rucker had been working on for some time.

Jerry Normandin said: We all had big dreams then. A large company asked us to port the LaserDisk game Mad Dog over to the PC. You may still see this game in stores. The game was ahead of it's time.. Odyssey had around 20 employees working there when things were best, but the end came sooner than expected for them all, maybe mostly Art Cestaro who had to see years of work go down the drain.

I think our problem was buying a building that was too large for our budget. You should have seen this place.. it was pretty cool! We had the original LaserDisk games that we were porting downstairs (Yes it was the Arcade LaserDisk games). Ahh.. as time went on well, payments to our company were late so in turn Art went Chap 11, and then eventually Chap 7. Our name never went on the games because we wrote the games for other companys. What really killed us was the companys that never paid. Jerry Normandin continued.

Lane Waters had another point of view at the bankrupt thing. In 1995 Art had hired this guy to manage the office and he did a pretty bad job, Lane left and Odyssey went under shortly after.

The NES team had 6 dedicated people, Art Cestaro, George C. Rucker, Soren M. Young, Steve Tilton, Lane Waters and Mike Smith. They managed to release a total of 4 NES games. Art and George took care of the programming, and some graphics conversion, music making and designing, except for Deathbots which was a port of a game by Lane Waters. Lane Waters and Soren M. Young was responsible for the graphics in Blackjack and Solitaire, Steve Tilton made graphics for Moon Ranger and Mike Smith took care of music and sounds for all the released NES games.

But a few NES projects went unreleased, such as a pool game, called Robert Burns Pool, also known as CueStick. This game was a project done by Art Cestaro and George C. Rucker, to be released by American Video Entertainment and to be their last NES game, unfortunately they folded just before the game went into production. Eventhough Art had problems with getting the game fully working, it was finalised and Phil Mikkelson, the American Video Entertainment Art director, had just decided on a logo for the box. It was delayed quite a bit as Art had problems with the gravity, the balls wouldn't follow the rules. It's complex especially if there's lots of balls together. George was addicted to games and would play RPGs late into the night delaying that grueling task of making the balls work. Lane Waters said in an interview done by another NES site.

Two other games planned were Backgammon and Poker, supposedly to use the same engine as Blackjack and Solitaire. These games could've been planned for American Video Entertainment's Maxi30 cartridge which went unreleased aswell.

Besides the NES business, Odyssey Software made 3 Amiga titles, Deathbots- a berzerk clone and one of the first Odyssey titles, Byteman - a pacman clone and Jailbreak which was a clone of Breakout. All three titles were later released for the CDTV under the title, Super Games Pak, with better music and sound effects.

Odyssey Software was signed to develop games for the Atari Jaguar 64bit system back when it was announced. But the system was ahead of it's time and quickly died, it's still unknown what Odyssey had in mind to develop for the Atari Jaguar. Odyssey developed atleast one PC game, an American Laser Games Inc. game called Mad Dog, originally an Arcade laser game. But the company never got any credit for the game, their name wasn't on the box or even mentioned.

What Art Cestaro is doing today is unknown, the last bit of info I've been able to get was that he left for California in 1999. I'd like to thank Jerry Normandin for contacting me about Odyssey Software. Sources used to create this page is an interview with Phil Mikkelson (NES WORLD), Lane Waters (THE WARP ZONE) and mails from Jerry Normandin.

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