John De Margheriti
John De Margheriti has been a significant contributor to the Australian games development industry both as a games developer and in fostering the local industry. He co-founded Micro Forté studios in 1985. Their first game “Arnies America’s Cup Challenge” or “The Official America’s Cup Sailing Simulation” was designed for the Commodore 64 and was distributed internationally by Electronic Arts.
De Margheriti began making games as high school student with his friend and Micro Forté co founder Stephen Wang. In 1985 he was an electrical engineering student at university of NSW working in a part time job in a computer store in Randwick. Here he met Gerry Gerlach representing of Armchair Entertainment, a group who wanting to capitalise on the excitement of Australia’s recent victory in the America’s Cup 12m sailing race and was looking for a studio to make a computer game. The entrepreneurial De Margheriti saw the opportunity and quickly assembled a team comprised of his friends from university Stephen Wang, Stephen Lewis and John Riedy. They created the demo in seventy-two hours using a Commodore 64 they brought on a credit card and returned on completing the demo. On having successfully got the job they were tasked with the actuality of making the game. Wang and De Margheriti had previously been designing games as bedroom coders but for this game there was a tight twelve week timeline and a very punitive contract for delivery of late work. The team endured many sleepless nights.
De Margheriti was appointed the CEO of the fledgling company which was co founded by all four friends and which they called Micro Forté punning on the “opposite” of Microsoft [developing games not business systems]. The “Micro” name also signified the use of micro computers and that they were a small group of friends each with a different “Forte” or strength. They all worked on the design and programming of the games with Steve Wang as key designer and lead programmer, Stephen Lewis as artist/programmer and John Reidy focused on resolving technical issues for memory and graphics. De Margheriti’s new father in-law consulted as an expert on 12m yacht racing for the simulation. As the studio became more settled De Margheriti was gently encouraged by the team to direct his attention away from programming toward his true strengths in a more entrepreneurial role where his business savvy helped bring Micro Forté to the attention of EA. EA was impressed that the young team were operating as a proper studio with defined roles, structures and management. In 1987 Micro Forté made “Demon Stalkers” for the Commodore 64 for EA. A sequel to “Demon Stalkers”, “Fire King” (1989) was originally commissioned by EA but later distributed through Strategic Studies Group (SSG).
Whilst his beginnings in the industry from student bedroom home coder to game developer are a familiar one, De Margheriti’s legacy is broader than just the design of games. Seeing the importance of education and training for the future of the industry in 1996 he established the not for profit Academy of Interactive Entertainment. Wishing to raise the discourse about games in Australia and create networking opportunities he launched the first Australian Game Development Conference in 1999. That year he also played a pivotal role in the establishment of the Game Developer’s Association of Australia (GDAA), a lobby group to represent the industry to the Australian Government and internationally. Committed to the growth of the Australian Games development industry De Margheriti invested his own funds to these ventures. As the landscape of games design changed in the new century De Margheriti diversified his business practice to create BigWorld, who focused on the development of middleware for the creation of Massive Multiplayer Online Worlds.
Media Coverage (PDF):
Other games developed:
Official America's Cup Sailing Simulation (1986), Demon Stalker (1987), Fire King (1989).