Keith, thank you so much for not kicking off, and forcing this message into posthumous land. So often we don't get the chance to say how we feel about someone until they're gone, which is too late. Thankfully you did me the courtesy of staying alive and giving me a chance to write this post.
My first contact with you was at Expo 2000. Yeah, that one. Well, despite the problems with that show, there happened to be a Dr. Who on the floor, and you put on a CLINIC of how to DESTROY ALL HUMANS that might challenge you on that game. You could not miss the side ramp. BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! You crushed the game. Some were agog, some in awe, I think you may have gotten some applause. It was great. Later on I tried that game and fumbled my way through epic ineptitude on my way to shameful embarrassment. What you did though, besides crushing my dreams of pinball wizard glory, was show me how a world class player performs the magical wizardry so many of us try to achieve.
Later I learned that you and Lyman Sheats used to have daily duels on games to test their playability. I would have loved to be able to sit in and watch two masters lighting up the newest offering and working out kinks and developing ideas to make it better. What a job to have! So I think you also made other designers' work even better not only from your own brilliance writing code, but also your ability to execute gameplay that either reveals a shine or a break that needs to be fixed.
Timing proved providential with the release of Simpsons. I had saved up the $4500 or so for a NIB game (that I bought to put on route), and when Simpsons Pinball Party was announced with you on code I was all in, no questions asked. Wow, did you not disappoint! What a fantastic marvel that team created. The best thing I can say about Simps is that it ties Twilight Zone for my #1 favored game ever. I still have yet to see SDMEWM, had to sell mine and I don't know of any others in town, but the mini wizard lock-a-ball +1 is genius. I never completed that one either, but I LOVED that ruleset. I hope to reacquire that game someday.
Then there's LotR. Another inspired, phenomenal ruleset that I just cannot grow tired of. With Valinor out there on the horizon, waiting, beckoning, taunting, encouraging...I made it there once. Destroy the ring, there and back again and valinor all in one game?! Are you kidding me? Another masterpiece.
And here's another game that is oft overlooked, underappreciated, yet is another masterfully designed and programmed gem: ELVIS. This is a great "sleeper" that should have already awakened like the giant robots in Captain America comic books. Made before the "tier" system the game has all the features it should with the code to back up a great Ritchie design. With ENCORE and a graceland tour at the end...yet another home run.
On a personal note, I've had a few ideas about lighting effects and other stuff I emailed you that seemed to make it into some of your games, and that is something I can't really brag about, but it's awesome to me.
I'll stop now, even though I could go on and on about how you specifically have made my hobby so much better for being here. So if you don't mind, let's not have any more heart attacks or anything that could even remotely have a chance to take you off the good ship earth. You have made my life just a bit more fun and I'd like that to continue for a while, if you don't mind.
THANK YOU FOR ALL THE JOY YOU HAVE GIVEN ME!
PS: the super cynical stuff was for comic relief, I'm sure you knew that already but others...