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Classic Games (Games) Entertainment Games

A History of Robotron 78

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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  • Why two joysticks (Score:4, Informative)

    by Jim Hall ( 2985 ) on Friday August 07, 2009 @07:36AM (#28984479) Homepage

    The article doesn't mention why there were two joysticks for the game: one to control movement, the other to control direction of fire. So you could travel in one direction while firing in another. Great freedom of movement that made the game very popular because it was such a diversion from most other games.

    This is probably one of the coolest bits of trivia from the era: Jarvis had been in an accident, [] and his arm was in a cast when they started work on the game. It would have been impossible for him to work on the game with a typical "stick and button" approach and he decided the dual-stick design made it easier for him to design and play the game.

    [...] The dual joystick control design resulted from two experiences in Jarvis's life: an automobile accident and playing Berzerk. Prior to beginning development, Jarvis injured his right hand in an accident--his hand was still in a cast when he returned to work, which prevented him from using a traditional joystick with a button. While in rehabilitation, he thought of Berzerk. Though Jarvis enjoyed the game and similar titles, he was dissatisfied with the control scheme; Berzerk used a single joystick to move the on-screen character and a button to fire the weapon, which would shoot the same direction the character was facing. Jarvis noticed that if the button was held down, the character would remain stationary and the joystick could be used to fire in any direction. This method of play inspired Jarvis to add a second joystick dedicated to aiming the direction projectiles were shot.[10] Jarvis and DeMar created a prototype using a Stargate system board and two Atari 2600 controllers attached to a control panel. In retrospect, Jarvis considers the design a contradiction that blends "incredible freedom of movement" with ease of use.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 07, 2009 @07:43AM (#28984523)

    "While i really tried back in the day to get into Robotron and its sister Defender, I just never could "get the groove"." - by hairyfeet (841228) bassbeast1968&gmail,com> on Friday August 07, @04:49AM (#28983649)

    Man - this brings back memories: These are the things that got me "into" computers, circa 1980 - 1983 or thereabouts... I loved "DEFENDER", but I liked Robotron 2084 a lot too (&, I still have them, on my PC, via "Williams Arcade Games for the PC", which still runs on Windows, just fine, even though I bought it in 1996 or so @ MicroCenter Atlanta, which I lived down the street from on in those days)...


    LMAO (now, I wasn't back then, when this all "went down") - I was playing DEFENDER for a few months by then, & had played it so much w/ my friends in competition (for the "ALL-TIME HIGH SCORE" chart, where I used "DOC" as my signature on highscores (my friends called me this as a nickname, lol), & not just the daily one) that this certain day @ an arcade I had the machine "owned", & got to 1 million++ scores... I thend found out, you CANNOT DIE!

    The machine gives you yet another free life once you cross 1 million++ score ranges, & even when you die? Yes, you got another life - bug in the program!

    At some point, it got bogus just staying alive & I made a deal with my friend, to watch the machine while I went home & ate lunch - he could get better @ the game, for free, because of this - so naturally? He "goes with it"...

    (I then drove home & thought about how to work around this, w/out unplugging the machine)...

    I came back 1/2 hour later, & my buddy's still "rocking the planet" (since he cannot die, he loves it, lol) having fun & lets me back on... by this point??

    The attendant sees us playing w/out end & comes over, along w/ the owner (I think) & says "We broke the machine" & they called cops, & I just said "Look: Once you get over 1 million++ scores? The machine keeps letting you stay alive, & just gives you another life when you die even..." & they laughed. I did figure out HOW to stop that though: KEEP HITTING HYPERSPACE!

    (Which functioned on somekind of RND command, as to how often you SURVIVED hyperspacing/beaming out-back into the game)

    Eventually??? I killed myself, by hyperspace deaths (in other words, it was the ONLY WAY YOU DIED & DID NOT WIN ANOTHER LIFE) ... the only way around the bug in DEFENDER I found, back in 1983-1984 iirc... as to the dates.

    It just goes to show you that computers, even back then? Could get you into trouble, or too close to it, without having done a thing wrong, lol...


    P.S.=> ROBOTRON 2084 was, imo @ least, HARDER than DEFENDER though... apk

  • by raju1kabir ( 251972 ) on Friday August 07, 2009 @10:25AM (#28985765) Homepage
    Just googled it... it was Berzerk. Could have sworn it was Robotron. Oh well.
  • Re:Another Hard One (Score:2, Informative)

    by tuffy ( 10202 ) on Friday August 07, 2009 @12:38PM (#28987333) Homepage Journal

    Did anybody ever make a home version of Pleiades or does it run on MAME?

    It runs in MAME under the name "Pleiads" because that's what comes up on the screen.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 07, 2009 @02:13PM (#28988543)

    Eventually??? I killed myself, by hyperspace deaths (in other words, it was the ONLY WAY YOU DIED & DID NOT WIN ANOTHER LIFE) ... the only way around the bug in DEFENDER I found, back in 1983-1984 iirc... as to the dates.

    Yep, that's exactly how it worked.

    Here's an explanation of the Defender infinite life bug [], that you encountered, complete with disassembly of the relevant code.

  • by Mad-Bassist ( 944409 ) on Friday August 07, 2009 @02:37PM (#28988917) Homepage

    Actually, Defender was a continuation of the Williams pinball machines as far as sound effects went. They used a separate CPU (a 6809 I believe) that ran a set of sound routines that Eugene Jarvis created that were brilliant. The game running on the main CPU would set a flag on the sound CPU to begin the next sound effect, which was done by an digital-to-analog converter tied to the second CPU. Defender also had a power switch under the front of the console, much like a pinball machine!

    Many of the sounds on Defender and Robotron came from the classic pinball game Firepower, which was also difficult and ate quarters, but it was so good, we kept feeding it, desperately trying to trigger the killer multiball countdown. You can find this machine in the Visual Pinball/PinMAME arena.

    Gottlieb came close, Atari was great, Namco was classic, but nothing could touch the excitement of Williams' late 70's pinball and early 80's videogames.

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