One of the first companies to publicly pledge support for the platform was none other than Electronic Arts. Those who have firsthand experience with the modern Electronic Arts typically know it as a faceless corporate behemoth, infamous for absorbing, then strangling independent development teams, eliminating competition by paying for exclusive rights to major sports leagues, and workingits employees beyond the breaking point. They may be surprised to find out that EA originally had quite a different mission and philosophy. Electronic Arts’s founder, Trip Hawkins, was actually fighting against the poor treatment of programmers that he witnessed elsewhere in the industry. When he launched Electronic Arts in 1982, he envisioned an environment where developers and game designers would be treated like rock stars: promoted in major media, given generous royalties, and allowed to explore wherever their imagination and talent led them. Hawkins saw the Amiga as a groundbreaking platform, a brand new canvas that would let his developers create great new works of art. In November 1985, he took out a two-page ad in Compute! magazine that extolled the Amiga’s virtues and promised that Electronic Arts would be supporting the platform for a whole new generation of games. “I believe this machine, marketed and supported properly, should have a very significant impact on the personal computer industry,” Hawkins said prophetically in an earlier interview in the same magazine. EA’s first Amiga product, however, wasn’t a game at all, but a game development tool. Programmer Dan Silva had been working on an internal graphics editor that was code-named Prism. When the Amiga was released, he quickly reworked the program to take advantage of the new computer’s stunning graphics capabilities.
Even before it shipped, Silva was already working on the next version, which would contain many more advanced features. This program was Deluxe Paint, and it launched the careers of thousands of computer graphic artists. With a simple interface featuring a toolbar on the right-hand side of the screen, Deluxe Paint was a powerful tool that could create not only static graphics, but also animation. This made it perfect for creating images for computer and video games, and for a long time Deluxe Paint was the industry standard for creating art for this medium, much like tools such as 3D Studio Max are today. Even years later, as the PC gaming market began to eclipse the Amiga in terms of sheer size and number of titles, many game development studios still made their art using Deluxe Paint. Its native format, IFF, and animation format, IFF ANIM, are still supported by many graphics packages today. IFF ANIM files were compressed using delta encoding, resulting in smaller files. This was nearly 10 years before animation compression standards such as MPEG were released. But back in 1986, the combination of an Amiga and Deluxe Paint was unbeatable. While Adobe’s Photoshop on the Macintosh platform would eventually become the standard tool for creating two-dimensional graphic images, the Mac was still a monochrome-only computer at this point, and the PC could barely manage four colors even with a CGA graphics card. Again, the Amiga was ahead of its time. The cover art for the Deluxe Paint II box featured an image of Tutankhamen that had been created inside the program itself. This image quickly became an iconic picture in the computer graphics industry. Even Commodore recognized the power of Deluxe Paint, using the Tutankhamen image on a new full-page ad that—finally!—stated the Amiga’s advantages outright.