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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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  • Llamatron! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mccalli ( 323026 ) on Friday August 07, 2009 @03:40AM (#28983379) Homepage
    Always liked Jeff Minter's clone of it - Llamatron. Still downloadable for free, and I still play it in DOS Box now and again. To those who haven't tried it - have a quick search and give it a go.

    What depresses me is that it's hard. Very hard. Not only myself who thought that, but my friends who were playing it at the time agreed too. Having a hard game isn't depressing in itself though, so why is this one different?

    Because about a year I watched Jeff Minter, in a Google Talk about indie game development, said he wrote it to be easy. Well, thanks Jeff. That's just great. There's ten years of my gaming self-esteem down the drain...

  • Morality of Robotron (Score:5, Interesting)

    by realinvalidname ( 529939 ) on Friday August 07, 2009 @10:17AM (#28985709) Homepage

    One thing this (and many articles) overlook about Robotron is how its "bonus collection" morality sharply differed from other games of the time. Many contemporaries, especially Japanese games, used bonus point pickups as a lure to your death. For example, unless you're working from a known pattern, going after fruits in Pac Man is a great way to get yourself killed. I remember one early video game book whose intro said, succinctly, that "greed kills" in video games.

    Except in Robotron. The bonus structure for saving the family gave you 1,000 points for the first, 2,000 for the second, and so on until you maxed it out at 5,000 per save. Since you generally got a extra life at 20,000 or 25,000 points (operator setting), you could get free life with just six saves, and a second for another four. Once the counter was at 5,000, it's a sensible tradeoff to go for risky saves: the payoff in extending your game is usually worth the very real risk of dying instead. Indeed, while Namco-style games awarded free lives on very long intervals (3-4 Galaga waves, for example), and thereby valued getting through most waves safely, Robotron had a flow of fast death and rebirth, with players often earning and losing one or more lives on each wave. Provided you could earn more lives than you lost, even at a fairly low margin, you could keep going, which is why taking risks to save the humans was a winning strategy.

"Never face facts; if you do, you'll never get up in the morning." -- Marlo Thomas