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Classic Games (Games) Entertainment Games

A History of Robotron 78

Posted by Soulskill
from the who-needs-three-dimensions dept.
blacklily8 writes "Gamasutra has published our history of Robotron: 2084, Eugene Jarvis' ultimate twitch-game of 1982. Robotron's frantic gameplay, intense difficulty, and elegant control scheme made it a hit in the arcade and a favorite of countless retrogamers. The illustrated article compares the game with Jarvis' earlier hit, Defender, describes its gameplay in detail, and traces its roots and impact on later games such as Smash T.V. and Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved. Robotron's gameplay may be intimidating, but never too complex to grasp — with both hands!"
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A History of Robotron

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  • Another Hard One (Score:2, Insightful)

    by LaskoVortex (1153471) on Friday August 07, 2009 @02:24AM (#28983287)
    Robotron.
  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot AT hackish DOT org> on Friday August 07, 2009 @02:49AM (#28983419)

    One of my personal interests in this era of gaming, which doesn't have a direct analog today, is the arcade->console adaptation route, and the technical, artistic, and gameplay challenges involved. I guess I've always known that such adaptations were common, but until recently I didn't really understand just how deeply such adaptations/ports were affected by the differences between special-purpose arcade hardware and generic and generally underpowered console hardware, and what sorts of heroic efforts porters went to to try to get something even vaguely like the cabinet to run on a home machine (sometimes in vain). That's probably the single thing I found most interesting about a recent book on the Atari VCS [amazon.com] that opened my eyes on that. I'd read all sorts of stuff [atariage.com] previously about the VCS (aka 2600) hardware, and different stuff about its cultural, business, and social role, but pulling the two together by looking at how the tech affects the culture and vice versa is really fascinating to me. I think ports are a particularly good lens to look at that through, because they focus sharply on how the tech affected what the designer could or couldn't do; the aforementioned book's examples of the disastrous Pac-Man port [wikipedia.org], on the one hand, and the unfaithful but interesting/successful adaptation of Star Castle [wikipedia.org] into Yars' Revenge [wikipedia.org], on the other, are particularly thought-provoking.

    So I really like that aspect of this article, tracing how Robotron was and wasn't successfully adapted to home machines, and which parts specifically of the arcade version survived the translation and were still compelling in the home version. Although we don't have nearly the same hardware limitations on home machines these days, I think we're in a way still struggling with similar issues about "what worked in the arcade, and how can we adapt it?"--- e.g. the discussion in this article of custom controllers to make the home version more authentic reminds me of our current era's custom controllers (Rock Band's peripherals being the best-selling). And, more broadly, we're trying to figure out whether platforms matter, and if so, how. The Wii has a compelling "what's different" angle for its platform, but is that a one-time, peripheral-only thing? Do the Xbox 360, PC, and PS3 have interesting differences going for them? Do physical arcade cabinets still matter?

    More generally, I think it's one way of getting at a sort of design science that's still lacking for games, and I like how this article tries to break that down. Obviously much of game design is not really "science", but other design fields still do carefully analyze existing works, try to identify which elements specifically mattered, etc.; you might be doing something that's artistic/subjective in a lot of respects, but that doesn't mean you have to do it blind. I mean, if I want to learn architecture, there are a lot of books I can buy. I can buy a book specifically on the Bauhaus style, or some sub-style of it, or one particular architect's style. But, despite their huge role in popular culture, I can't buy a book about the design style of, say, Microprose 4X games, analyzing what elements they had in common or didn't, their relationship to other games of the era, how technical aspects influenced the design and vice versa, etc., etc. As a player, I can probably tell you some stuff off the top of my head, and I think there really is a book to be written there--- or an in-depth article on the internet if you can't interest a publisher--- but nobody's written it.

    So I guess that's a long-winded way of saying: yes, more of this!

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